I will be forever grateful for a few things from this year’s 21-day fast. First of all, I will never forget the way my church embraced God’s calling to come together and fast. Men and women, boys and girls, of all ages, all walks of life, took a step of faith from their comfort zones and decided to fast from something in order to fast for something. I have heard stories of marriages reconciled, bodies healed, financial miracles, and deep and profound steps deeper in one’s faith and trust in God. There is truly something powerful that happens when we decrease the distractions and increase our time with God. Having a unified church family that was walking through this corporate journey in their own individual and personal way was beautiful and humbling to watch. Our church family will truly never be the same again.
As will our home never be the same. Words can’t express what it is like to see a 7 year old excited for a fast and counting down the days for it to begin, as well as daily sharing words of encouragement like, “Dad, only two and a quarter more days left!”. I am a proud pastor as I have witnessed some beautiful things in our church this month, but words can’t express what it is like to have such a supportive family each running after God in their own uniquely called way.
As we were beginning this year’s church-wide fast, I felt the Lord lay a book upon my heart that was to be my guide throughout these past three weeks. It was a book that had been recommended by a dear friend a few years back that has sat in my “to read” pile for over a year. I had recently completed another book that a friend had given me over Christmas break, so I was in need of a new book to read this month.
Before I mention the book by name, let me warn you with one of the reviews listed at the front of the book. “[This] is one of those rare books you’ll want to give to everyone you know. But you may feel the need to apologize to those you give it to…”. I can honestly say that I feel the need to apologize to anyone who picks up this book on the account of how profoundly it has shaken me.
I honestly do not even know who wrote the book. It has a pseudonym of Nik Ripken on the cover, but he admits that is not his real name. Throughout the entirety of the book he goes to great lengths to mask his true identity, and the identity of those discussed in the book for reasons that become painfully clear as you turn the pages. I have a suspicion that the friend who suggested the book to me may know him personally, but now after reading the book I am hesitant to uncover his true identity.
I believe one of the things that I will remember most from this year’s January fast, and perhaps the one thing that I will forever be most grateful for as well, was my time spent crying over the pages of The Insanity of God. It is a book that I hesitate to even describe, but also feel the obligation to warn anyone who may begin to turn its pages on their own.
This is not a book for the feeble hearted. It is not a feel good, encouraging and uplifting Amazon best seller that you’ll be posting quotes from on Instagram with your cup of coffee strategically placed next to your highlighters. No, this is a book that will take you to depths of your spiritual walk that you did not know exist and be ashamed to talk about with even to your closest of friends. Each day as I read a few more chapters I found myself unable to even to speak to God at times and just sat there with this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach as my eyes were open to the insanity of God and what believers are paying for their faith across the globe.
I had always heard missionary stories in church growing up. My mom went on a short-term mission’s trip to China, so I thought I was aware of the cost to follow Christ for some, as I was grateful for the freedoms that I had here in America. As “Dr. Nik Ripken” chronicled his decades of serving, traveling, and ministering to the persecuted church I realized just how little I knew. There were times when I would try and share stories with my wife, but felt inadequate to be the messenger of such truths. At times, when I would share, I often found myself unable to complete the excerpt without being overcome by tears. Yes, it is a book that warrants the warning I found before I turned to the first page.
But it also a message that I believe every believer needs to hear. God has done so many miraculous things in our church, my family, and in my life over these past 21 days. But I will forever be grateful for the companionship of The Insanity of God and how its stories and challenging truths ripped me from the comfort of Middle-America and opened my heart to the truth of what God is doing around the world. The book challenges you that the true enemy is lostness and,
“…the primary cause of ‘religious persecution’ in the world is people surrendering their hearts and lives to Jesus”;
that means the only way to stop persecution would be for people to stop coming to know Jesus, and if they did come to know Jesus to not share their faith with others. Dr. Ripken’s words still send a chill to my heart when he states, “Perhaps the better question should not be: ‘Why are others persecuted?’ Perhaps the better question is: ‘ Why are we not?”
If these statements are confusing or upsetting, then you may, like me, want to let the book sit on your book shelf for just a little longer. But, if you believe that God is stirring you to a radically different life, and you believe that Jesus is worth it, may God be with you as you delve deep into “The Insanity of God”.[:]