I read Insanity of God by Nik Ripken.
This book is shocking.
It is challenging.
It is frustratingly beautiful.
It is one of the most life-changing books I have read.
I, originally, checked it out from our library and read it as fast as I could before it had to go back, only to discover that I actually already owned it. *sigh*
I often times get books as they come available on Kindle for free and then forget them.
Isn't that horrible?
I wish I could figure out a way to catalog them so that the ones I have don't get lost in the shuffle. Which is what obviously happened here.
Anyway, this book.
It begins with this guy from KY and his wife deciding to take the Bible at face value and they go to Africa. Ending up in Somalia, they spent six or seven years doing relief work during the late 90's, right about the same time the storyline of Black Hawk Down unfolded. After about six or seven years, the Ripkens left Somalia, heartbroken and completely unsure of what, if anything, they had accomplished. This story is told in part one of the book. It is captivating and challenging but then comes part two.
In my opinion, part two is what makes this book worth reading. Nik Ripken, the author, embarks on a journey - a research project. Totally broken from his experiences in Somalia, he tries to figure out how people suffer for their belief in Jesus, how they actually survive imprisonment, persecution, and not only survive it but thrive. In seeking these answers, he crosses the globe from KY to Europe, then to Asia, and then I believe circles back to Africa. What he discovers is that the people that he talks to, who have been persecuted for their faith, they come out on the other side, often times decades later, with a faith that is deeper, stronger, and surer.
It left me wondering what the point of my life is. I haven't ever, not once, had to read the Bible in secret, I haven't ever, not once, had to hide my faith in Jesus for fear of my life, livelihood, or the lives of those that I love most. I was raised on a different branding of Christianity than the one that I see in the Bible and the one I see in books like this one, and it makes me wonder, what exactly is the point of my belief in Jesus? To just save me from hell? To make me a better person? To help me be, stay, or become healthy, wealthy, wise, comfortable, happy...? If that were the entire point of the Bible, would it be so polarizing? Why would there still be suffering and hard days and things that were beyond my ability to handle?
What if God's purpose in sending Jesus was to do something so radical, something so huge, that it was worth my dying for to share that with someone else? That it was worth losing everything for?
What would be worth that?
The only thing I can think of, the only thing that I would be willing to give up everything for and suffer for would be love. Total, all-encompassing love. If I knew that my husband's life or my children's lives were at stake, there would be nothing that would be too great for me to lay down. I would gladly give up anything for them to have a chance at life.
That right there is a small glimpse of what God did for the world.
The sin problem is too deep for it to be a self-resolving fix. We as humans are full of sin, whereas He is holy and pure. Something had to happen to regarding our sin problem(s), something drastic and dramatic. Our hearts are consumed with ourselves and we are incapable of fixing that. We cannot make up for our self-centeredness any more than a two-year-old can think rationally when it is hungry and tired. We need someone to come in and change us from the inside out. In short, we need a new heart, a new spirit. God promised to do just that. So roughly 2000+ years ago, God sent His Son as a tiny baby and that Son lived a perfect, sinless life. Then He launched a ministry that shook the world starting with just twelve men, one of whom betrayed Him. He then proceeded to lay down His life, and became sin. In that moment, He who was sinless, became sin, so that (don't you LOVE the so that?) so that you and I have hope. In that moment He took the wrath that was due to us. (Anyone else so overwhelmed by their own failures, their own sin, that the truth in these passages just offers you hope to anchor your soul to? Grab onto that with both hands!)
He was willing to give up everything just to redeem the lives of those that He loves.
But, see the problem is this. He doesn't just love me that much. He doesn't just love my husband, my kids, my family, and friends and neighbors that much. He doesn't just love my city, my state, my country, or my continent that much.
He loves the entire world that much.
And He redeems us so that we can then reach out and connect to others. To love them and live life with them and to share our single greatest hope with them.
Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God. The Messiah. The Son of God.
So, why don't I tell more people about this? I am not sure what is going to have to change in my life, but something will. I cannot read a book like that and still be the same person I was beforehand. I cannot just be content to read my Bible each day and not hold my life up to it, letting it sift me like a sieve.