Bestselling author Nik Ripken, a leading expert on Christians in persecution, especially in Muslim contexts, will release his first devotional this fall, The Insanity of Sacrifice: A 90-Day Devotional. Nik is known for his bestselling book The Insanity of God, which was also turned into a full-length documentary a few years ago. He has been mentored by believers in persecution throughout his 30-year missionary career. This devotional offers to help readers align their hearts with God’s and see the role sacrifice plays in the life of every follower of Jesus Christ.
CCM: What prompted you to write this devotional? Who did you write it for?
Nik: The center for worship and witness in our world is in homes. “Sacrifice” was written to assist families and singles as they center worship in their homes. The number one request that Ruth and I receive is to develop resources to help parents center worship in family settings. We wrote “The Insanity of Sacrifice” praying that families will share truths from the Bible and Christ’s stories around the table as they share meals with family, friends and their neighbors.
CCM: The Insanity of God has been an impactful. What has most surprised you about how God has worked through it?
Nik: After listening and learning from believers undergoing persecution, we knew that we had to write The Insanity of God in order to give believers in persecution their voice back. They needed to become our teachers and mentors. Often the persecutors will say, “Your story will die with you in this prison cell, or in this room where you are under house arrest, or in this insane asylum where we have chained you.” More than that, we knew that believers in persecution have earned the right to be our teachers, reminding us that resurrection follows crucifixion. Yet what has surprised us the most is the number of people who, through reading The Insanity of God, allowed the Holy Spirit to bring them to salvation through Christ’s story found in the stories of believers in persecution. It has led, often, to a greater witness. A 93-year-old man told Ruth and me that, after reading The Insanity of God, he vowed to God that he would share Christ with at least one person a day. He has kept that promise. The international impact of this book has been a great surprise and encouragement.
CCM: How do you hope readers grow from using it for 90 days?
Nik: Our prayer is two-fold: One, “Sacrifice” will drive people to a life of devotion centered in Bible study and prayer, they will begin and end their day in the presence of Almighty God and they will model for their children, where appropriate, how time with the Father is the center of all time.
Two, we pray that Western Christianity will be reminded that sacrifice is not a cross to bear but a joy to accept. Sacrifice in the Western context is negative where it should be one of positive joy, a place of honor and our acceptable offering to God. Hopefully this book will lead people to sacrifice their time, because they love Jesus, and therefore cross the street and cross the oceans with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
CCM: What have you learned about sacrifice through your years on the mission field and in your research on the persecuted church? What does the Western church need to learn about sacrifice?
Nik: Believers in persecution often say to us, “Never have we felt so close to Jesus as when our faith was costing us something.” Running from sacrifice is running from Jesus. Avoiding the crucifixions that life brings is to miss the resurrection that follows. According to many, what Ruth, our sons, and I have experienced on the mission field is something to honor but not to emulate. They applaud our service, but their body language begs God not to ask the same of them!
Honestly, as we think back on our 35 years and overseas service, our reflections are those of joy and a wish that we could start all over, finding another 35 years in which to walk with Jesus internationally. When we look at a global map reflecting on the 86 countries that we have visited, our chief emotion is one of joy, happiness and a deep desire to start all over again. The question that we continue to ask our churches is, “When did it become okay to die for one’s country while no longer okay to die for one’s Christ?” Sacrifice is a joy when it is framed by eternity.
CCM: How can this resource be used to help families in corporate worship?
Nik: The Insanity of Sacrifice is not a tool that one uses to fill the slot in one’s devotional life. It is a spiritual resource that ushers people into the presence of God. It dares to ask (rather than “What can God do for me?”) “What does God demand of me this day?” This book invites the reader, and listeners, to interact with the Almighty. It dares to believe that everything that God has ever done he is still doing and that the Bible is to be read in present-active tense.
Often, we get caught up in the activities of God: Can Jonah be swallowed by a big fish, can the mouths of lions be closed or can demons be cast out? This book deals with the nature of God, who he is, and what is demanded of us as we stand or kneel in his presence. It is a conversational starter between singles and their God, couples as they build their spiritual lives together and parents introducing their children to the kingdom of God.
CCM: How does (or how should) sacrifice play a role in the life of every follower of Jesus?
Nik: Sacrifice is spiritual bodybuilding. It expresses one’s faith for today while building one’s soul to serve more powerfully tomorrow. The suffering that we have learned sitting at the feet of believers in persecution could be likened to the hours, months and years spent practicing the piano in order to give a concert. It is all those repetitions professional athletes endure in order to become the superb athletes necessary to play a sport as a career. It’s labor pains that precede the birth of a prayed-for child. There is nothing cheap about grace with sacrifice being part of our offering to God.
CCM: How do you hope this devotional challenges readers in their walk with the Lord?
Nik: As already stated, we pray that this book will lead people to Christ. Second, we pray that this book will assist families and singles as they worship Almighty God. Third, we pray that this book will lead to a bold witness that crosses the street and crosses the oceans. This journey begins, perhaps, through shared meals around our tables with our families and those outside the kingdom of God.