The Insanity of Sacrifice

“Coming out of an environment of debilitating persecution and death in the Horn of Africa, we set out to visit other believers in similar settings to discover for ourselves if Jesus was trustworthy. Is Jesus able to accomplish in the Somalias, the Afghanistans, and the Syrias (and in every other place!) of today what He did among the Roman Empire of His day? Was His resurrection simply an isolated historical event –or is that same resurrection power available to those who walk with this Living Jesus today?

Within a brief time, we were given the opportunity to travel the world and learn from brother and sisters in Christ who had survived —and who were continuing to survive—in settings of severe persecution. Over the next decade, we visited more than seventy-two countries, and interviewed more than six hundred followers of Jesus who live in environments of persecution and the possibility of imminent death. Much to our amazement, we discovered that these fellow followers of Jesus were not merely surviving —they were thriving in their faith. And God was blessing them in remarkable and startling ways.

What we learned were life lessons from believers living in persecution, who are living out the resurrection —even today. Our search through countries revealed dramatic testimonies of believers who have come to know God intimately as a faithful friend —a friend who calls us to a life of sacrifice modeled after His own.

This matter of sacrifice is a challenge for all of us. And we will be wise to approach any conversation about it with a spirit of humility and prayer. It is our sincere hope that, through the stories contained in these devotions, God will change all of us. It is our prayer that God will give you a heart for the world. It is our desire that you will embrace the privilege of sacrificing for His glory.

God, we are so thankful for Your sacrifice that allows us to know You as Father, Savior, and Lord. God, we recognize that You have sacrificed Your Son for us. And we wonder if maybe that sacrifice should be the end of the story.

But You invite us to join You in sacrifice.

Why is our sacrifice still needed? Following You is so much harder than simply studying about You. Please give us courage as You call us forward.”

Excerpt from The Insanity of Sacrifice, A 90 Day Devotional by Nik Ripken with Barry Stricker, p. 6 – 7

Other recommended books by Nik Ripken:

The Insanity of God

The Insanity of Obedience

Please pray for an abundance of God’s grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to be with those suffering persecution and the possibility of imminent death, in many nations today, for the cause of Christ. Do not forget them. May God fulfill every desire for good works that are in your heart and the desire for resurrection power.

Carl

Insight Into Christian Persecution

Jean-Léon_Gérôme_-_The_Christian_Martyrs'_Last_Prayer_-_Walters_37113

Not many years ago our knowledge of Christian persecution was based on what the Roman Empire did to Christians and random acts of violence that happened in some far off land. ISIS changed all of that. Their videos showed the killing of Christians in the Middle East.  With that in mind, I wanted to share the findings of Nik Ripken who has researched persecution in over 60 countries by talking to those who have survived persecution.  Following are his thoughts.

“Persecution is a negative reaction to the incarnate presence of Jesus among His people. The negative reaction can take many forms and it can come from many different sources. Persecution can come from society as a whole, from the government, from an ideological entity, or from families and individuals. Persecution may be overt (open) or covert (hidden). It can be physical or psychological. Persecution can be actual or merely threatened. Regardless of its form, however, THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF PERSECUTION IS TO SILENCE WITNESS. AT ITS WORST, PERSECUTION DENIES PEOPLE ACCESS TO JESUS.”

“As strange (and as horrifying) as it sounds, we came to realize that believers could be unwittingly complicity with the persecutors by simply refusing to share their faith.  Just like persecution, the refusal to share the faith denies people access to Jesus. It was a startling thought to realize that the persecutor’s use of violence to inhibit the faith and the believer’s refusal to speak openly of Jesus yield the same result. In both cases, people are denied access to Jesus. How tragic that the silence of believers could yield the same result as the violence of persecutors! On the other hand, when we share our faith boldly and refuse to silence our witness, we are powerfully identifying with believers in persecution.”

When we witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we identify with those in chains. When we refuse to witness, we identify with those who place the chains on followers of Jesus.”

–Nik Ripken – The Insanity of Obedience (Emphasis mine)

These quotes are some of Mr. Ripken’s insights from his extensive research on the persecuted church. It is startling to realize that when we don’t share our faith, we are having the effect Satan desires, by persecuting the believers in Jesus Christ. We are preventing access to Jesus.  

Reflect on that today.

May you walk in Holy Spirit power today to be a living witness for Jesus Christ.

Carl

Five Christian Categories

compass-1814661__340

In the book, Insanity of Obedience, author Nik Ripken,  lists five Christian categories by  Paul Marshall.  Mr. Ripken has served as a missionary in several African countries including Sudan. He has spent a significant number of years meeting with persecuted Christians around the globe to document their experience and expand the church’s understanding of persecution. I heartily recommend this book and his first book, Insanity of God.

The term “Christian” is used in various ways in different cultures and, as a result, is sometimes hard to define. These categories are not perfect but help us to get a handle on a definition. Please review the list and see which category you fit into.

1. “Census Christians are people who, if asked about their religion, would say, “Christian.” This designation might not relate at all to anything that these people believe or practice. Often, this is a cultural answer. If asked about their religion in certain geographic areas, for example, many people might answer, “Of course I’m a Christian. Isn’t everybody?” These people, according to Marshall, are “census Christians”. On a census, these people would check the “Christian” box.  What the designation actually means is anybody’s guess.”

2. “Member Christians claim some sort of identification with a particular Christian institution or organization. Again, this does not mean that these people necessarily participate or even show up at their church. These people simply have some sort of personal connection with a church and they identify themselves with that church. They might say, “I am Catholic,” or “I am Baptist,” or “I am Methodist.”

3.”Practicing Christians actually participate in the life of a church. They typically attend worship services. In some fashion, these people are involved in the forms and rituals of the faith. Often their connection with the church is limited to weddings, baptisms, and funerals.”

4.”Believers (or Committed Believers) are people for whom the Christian faith is central and shaping. These Christians strive to live out their faith and communicate their faith to others. To use the language of the evangelical world, the people have a personal relationship with Jesus. Often they will use the language of John 3 and talk about being “born again”.

5.”Hidden Christians are people who believe secretly. Fearful of persecution, these people keep their faith to themselves. In some settings, these believers might keep their faith secret from government officials and employers.  In other settings, they might keep their faith secret from even family members and friends. These believers might not even experience specifics acts of outward persecution, but the fear of persecution has caused their faith to be completely inward. For the most part, their faith, though real, is hidden. In most cases, they have not “joined” a church, though this might be an artificial measurement since, in many settings, there is no official institutional church to join.”

Did you fit in anywhere?  We hope so. If you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Savior, we would love to send you some literature if you would send us your address.

The articles on this blog are geared to the encouragement and exhortation of the Believers (or Committed Believers) and Hidden Christians. Of course, everyone is welcome and we hope all deepen their walk with God through Jesus Christ.  Thank you for your time. May God bless you!!

“Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord know those who are His,” and “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord abstain from wickedness.” (2 Timothy 2:19)

Carl