This post is also available as a podcast: https://anchor.fm/teague-mckamey/episodes/The-Insanity-of-God-e1lmr3e
I recently finished reading The Insanity of God: A True Story of Faith Resurrected by Nik Ripken. Ripken describes how the Lord called him to Himself and into missions. I loved Ripken’s description of how the Lord called him. While working one night, Ripken heard the Lord say, “Nik, are you ready to stop running and serve me?” Ripken believed God was calling him to salvation and into ministry in the same moment.
Various circumstances led Ripken to conclude he was to pursue foreign missions. Ripken’s account about being interviewed by a missions board is priceless:
“When they asked me…when I had received my call, I looked around the meeting room and simply said, ‘I read Matthew 28.’ They thought that maybe I had misunderstood the question. They patiently explained that a special calling was required before someone could go out into the world and do this kind of work. I was not trying to be clever or disrespectful, but I responded, ‘No, you don’t understand. I read Matthew 28 where Jesus told his followers, “GO!” So I’m here trying to go.’”
Some might find Ripken’s perspective laughably simple. Yet we might also laugh at the apostles who responded to Jesus with similar simplicity. Sometimes we become too wise for the foolishness of God (1 Cor. 1:25).
Ripken and his family lived and ministered in Somalia for 10 years. At the end of 10 years, radical Muslims had killed the few Christians they knew. Most of the infrastructure was destroyed by civil war. Thousands of people starved to death every day. They left feeling completely dispirited. Ripken said he was unsure if God could even exist in a place like Somalia, let alone save anyone living there.
Ripken and his family went to Somalia expecting to lead people to Jesus. When they left, they hadn’t led anyone to Jesus and felt like failures. Ripken decided to start interviewing persecuted Christians in other countries to see if he could learn more effective ways to minister to people living under persecution. This search took him to Russia, Ukraine, eastern Europe, China, and other places. After 15 years of meeting with persecuted Christians, Ripken says, “What we discovered…wasn’t so much a strategy, a method, or a plan. Rather, it was a Person. We found Jesus—and we found that Jesus is very much alive and well in the twenty-first century.” What a fantastic conclusion!
In a short post, I cannot do justice to the many stories Ripken tells about persecuted believers. So I will just relate one that blew me away. A man in a communist country in eastern Europe said his father, a pastor, was arrested. Each morning, one of the guards would spread his own waste on the toast he served to the pastor. The emotional and psychological impact of this was worse than physical abuse.
After *years* of pressure to deny Christ and swear allegiance to the state, guards tied the pastor to a pole and told him if he didn’t renounce his faith he would be shot. He refused. Much to his shock, they untied him (cursing and insulting him all the while), led him to the prison gate, and threw him out without any explanation. He then found his way home and began preaching again.
One Sunday, a few months after his release, an elderly woman asked him for help finding medicine for her son who was diabetic and dying. When the pastor obtained the medicine, the elderly woman arranged for him to bring it to her son and asked that the pastor pray for him as well. On the day he came to see her son, he walked in and realized her son was the man who spread his excrement on his toast every morning!
The pastor prayed silently in his heart, “Oh, Lord! Do not let me fail you now!” He forgave his former tormentor, provided the medicine, and prayed for him—all without any hint of how he knew him. The pastor and his family were deeply affected when they saw how deep God’s grace is and how deeply they were called to participate in extending that grace. It permanently changed all their lives.
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For it is by grace we have been saved through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift from God, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 one of my favorite verses. When I knew that God was calling me to be a Pastor it was on a retreat called Walk to Emmaus, and there at the altar for hours I knew what our Lord was calling me to do.
Amen. It is so important to wait on the Lord and listen…