“The Insanity Of God: A True Story Of Faith Resurrected” By Nik Ripken

“Once again, I realized how woefully unprepared and ill equipped Ruth and I tried to do what we did in the horn of Africa. We had landed in Mogadishu, the capital of a militant Muslim country in the midst of a brutal civil war without knowing a thing about: 1) living in a setting of persecution, 2) being a witness to people who knew nothing of Jesus and were hostile to the information, 3) teaching new believers how to survive in a hostile culture. We had never imagined the insanity of evil that we would encounter in Somaliland, and we had certainly not been trained to deal with it. …”~Nik Ripken

Hope 103.2 ~ Nik and Ruth Ripken talk about their experiences over in Somaliland

“Spiritual Rhythm: Part 1- Summer-‘Love Will Keep Us Together'” By Mark Buchanan (2)

Here we go with Mark Buchanan’s Spiritual Rhythm: Being With Jesus Every Season Of Your Soul ~

First Summer

Many people experience a summertime of the heart right after conversion.

Zechariah 8 is a vivid description of a city-Zion-when God comes near. Here is a few verses, from Eugene Peterson’s The Message: “God’s message: ‘I’ve come back to Zion, I’ve moved to Jerusalem…. Old men and old women will come back to Jerusalem, sit on benches on the steets and spin tales, move around safely with their canes-a good city to grow old in. And boys and girls will fill the public parks, laughing and playing-a good city to grow up in…. People and their leaders will come from all over to see what’s going on. The leaders will confer with one another, “Shouldn’t we try to get in on this? Get in on God’s blessings? Pray to God …? What’s keeping us? Let‘s go!”‘”

Most people come to Christ exactly the way Zechariah describes it. They witness a vibrant church or household of Christian’s, or meet just one man or woman fully alive. They see life as it was meant to be, with God at the center. They confer with someone, maybe themselves, and say, “Why miss out on this? Let’s  go!” And, getting up and going, they typically go straightaway into summertime. Everything is right. Everything is bright. Everything works. The old has gone; the new has come.

A few weeks after I came to Christ at age twenty-one, I went on a fishing trip with a group of guys from the church. I had never before been among men who, when they gathered, didn’t speak in lewd, demeaning ways about women or turn the air blue with cussing, who didn’t guzzle beer until they got blue-eyed and slurry-mouthed. I didn’t think that men like that existed. And now I’d spent a whole weekend in the company of six or eight such men, who began and ended each day with Scripture reading,  who spoke lovingly of their wives, who honored one another, who told and laughed at jokes that were clean. I came back and, trying to describe it to Cheryl, broke down and wept with utter joy.

In that season, I heard God crystal clear. I could almost see Him. Every conversation I had-with fellow believers, with nonbelievers-was holy. Every Scripture was a revelation. God was, as the child’s prayer has it, in my seeing, in my hearing, in my speaking, and in my understanding. He was tangibly growing fruit in my life. The world seemed light and bright and full of color, and warm all the time.

Maybe you know exactly what I’m talking about. Typically the first big disappointment in our Christian lives is when that initial summertime turns cool and grey. A dampness of complacency creeps into our bones. Icy winds of doubt chill us. Spiritual abundance becomes barrenness.

And we are dismayed.

But we learn that other springs and summers are coming, and each becomes a foretaste of that endless summer, the kingdom of God in its fullness. (pgs. 115-116)

As I struggle to remember the intimate details when I was a child due partly because of age, partly because I was in a horrifying car accident when I just turned 18, I remember the point of my initial salvation experience.  (*initial salvation  experience-I believe once saved always saved, but that individual saved from sin doesn’t go voluntarily and purposely into sin and feel no remorse over his sin so that the individual is forever spiritually lost)

When I received the gift of salvation on my physical birthday, I’ve learned throughout the years and my intial experience that despite how much I try, how much money I make in order to repay that priceless gift, no matter how much service I do, I will always come up vastly short of repaying what Jesus Christ has done for me-allow me into heaven where I can see Christ Jesus, His Father, and the Holy Spirit as we sit down at a banquet table specially prepared for us.

Although, this much I do remember, that my first few years of my salvation was just as Mark Buchanan describes in the part called First Summer, for I remember walking down the steps of my childhood church and saw a vision of that which I was spared from-visions of that big red demon surrounded by the lake of fire. My little 7 year old mind was scared of Satan only to overpowered by the One who could set me free, for I knew if I didn’t accept God over Satan my eternal punishment would be far worse. Thankfully I now joined a team that was going to win as I was overcome by excitement of my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Like a child waiting for the neighborhood ice cream truck that makes its way around the neighborhood, I was ready to meet Christ Jesus. I waited, and waited, and waited. However, the ice cream truck didn’t come my way, disappointed that there was a cold winter breeze marking the end of summer. I thought that I missed it. After a few physical years of coming close like I could here the ice cream truck repetitive and wordless song getting louder and louder, I almost gave up hope. Hope that has my Savior alongside with me for eternity. But wait, I see summertime of the heart again! Like a telescope’s view, it gives me hope again. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hope for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV).

Let me encourage you! Let us True Life Christians not give up hope to soon, for it will be to our detriment if we do, not to enjoy that endless summertime of the heart with our Savior, Jesus Christ!

“How Do You Measure Your Spiritual Growth?”~Mark Buchanan

Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger

“The Insanity Of God: A True Story Of Faith Resurrected” By Nik Ripken

“… Now in a safe place and surrounded by loving people, I forced myself to deal with the questions: ‘Can God truly overcome evil? Is love really more powerful than hate? How can a person maintain even a small hope in a dark place? How is it possible for faith to survive in a place like Somaliland? How can someone live the abundant, victorious life that Jesus promised in our world’s hardest places? Can Christianity work outside of Western, dressed up, well ordered nations? If so, how?'”~Nik Ripken

Nik Ripken’s Rhetorical Question: Is Persecution A Bad Thing?

“Cold-Case Christianity” By J. Warner Wallace

“… Criminal cases involve the highest legal standard. They require juries to a decision that is beyond a reasonable doubt. … The decisions that juries make are often a matter of life or death for the defendants who are accused. If the standard is appropriate for important cases involving temporal matters of life and death, it is reasonable to apply the standard to the case that will determine our eternal life or death. …”~J. Warner Wallace

“The Rich, Robust Evidential History For Christianity”~J. Warner Wallace

“Spiritual Rhythm: Part 1- Summer-‘Love Will Keep Us Together'” By Mark Buchanan (1)

If you love ’70s music, then you can remember the title of this song: “Love Will Keep Us Together” by none other than Captain and Tennille. For it is this song that will serve as the title of chapter 5. Yet the reason I begin with “Summer” is because where I’m from (USA)  it feels like summer even though the calendar year says we have less than a week before summer officially hits. However, I am not so foolish to believe that it is summer all the way around the world. Like in New Zealand or Australia it is turning a bit nippy, where the beginning of jackets and sweaters are to be seen on people. Where there located it feels like winter. However, sometimes you experience winter outside, but spiritually, you feel like it is summer, like everything you touch, the places you go, you seem to succeed. It can move into your physical life to, as emotions, your mental state of mind are all on the up. Conversely, you can experience a rough dry spot spiritually which makes your day dull, frustrating, and given to sinful anger (not righteous anger Matthew 21:12-17) as it is beautiful summer day outside.

I encourage you to take a look at Running With Christ… to see my personal story of Being With Jesus Every Season Of Your Soul. So here we go with  Part 1: (chp. 5 and 6); he labels it by chapter. Chapter 5 contains Summer; chapter 6 contains things that you  would most likely do in summer called Summer Activities. Let us get started with the first quote:

“… If I am not careful, my nostalgia for the summer of ’75 spoils all the rest. It was my perfect summer. It was my endless summer (only it ended). It was my died-and-gone-to-heaven summer.

The Heart In Summer

Which in some ways is what summer is: a foretaste of heaven. It’s a rehearsal of paradise, a preview of the promised land.

The book of Revelation describes the kingdom of God in its fullness, and it’s a good place to begin understanding what the heart in summer feels like: ‘On each side of the river stood the tree of life bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are the healing of the nations’ (Revelation 22:2). Endless summer.

The sign of summer’s endlessness is an amazing tree~singular, one tree, according to the grammatical logic~that stands on both sides of the river and bears ‘twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.’ In God’s kingdom, the progression of months remains intact~one through twelve~but the cycle of seasons ends. Each month simply flows into another month of fruit-bearing sunshine and warmth.

Jesus explicitly equates the kingdom of God with summertime. …” (page 112)

Heaven is the words that Jesus spoke of in His revelation to the Apostle John, once John wrote it down to be delivered to the seven churches, and to all True Life Christians both then and now, and to everyone who have ears to hear. Most Bibles in the USA have what is to be considered titles after a section of verses; Revelation 22:1-5 is one of the last in the Bible to contain this. In fact, Revelation 22:1-5 is the section titled, The River of Life. I have a sneaky suspicion that all life in heaven is going to have no water or sea like we see down on earth, but all those who will see the new earth will have Jesus, The River of Life, which there will be no need for water as we currently know it (Revelation 21:1-3).

But reflect for a moment on the connection He (Jesus) makes between summer and the kingdom. What do we associate with summer? Fruit, warmth, light, rest, play, wonder, festival, joy, reunion, holidays (vacations). All, Jesus implies are kingdom experiences. The kingdom of heaven, Jesus told us in story upon story, is a banquet, a homecoming, a festival. The writer of Hebrews says the kingdom is the true Sabbath, a sustained and restoring rest, a full and final reprieve from life’s misery and drudgery and loss.

In the heart’s summertime, we experience all of this-vitality, connectedness, rest. It abounds in fruitfulness, warmth, and shade. There’s ample daylight, and we find sheer delight in God and what He’s made. It’s the diametric opposite of winter. In winter, God is like an enemy, friends become strangers, and death and darkness saddle up close. But summer flips that: God and others draw immediately near, light and life surround us, and night and mourning flee away. Darkness seems like a tacky rumor, death a feeble opponent.

So summertime’s a taste of the kingdom. It’s savoring a morsel of heaven, sweet and brief, where God is fully present, shines His light day and night. Fresh fruit is in season twelve months of the year. Reunion and retreat alternate.

How do you know you’re in summer? Simply, things flow. Your life seems marked by effortlessness. Fruit comes easily Joy rises naturally. Light shines everywhere. You have energy to spare. Most seasons of our hearts demand something from us, some sacrifice, some labor, some deep wrenching adjustment.  But summer just wants to give and give.  It’s only demand is that we surrender to it, bask in it. Spiritual insight hangs plump from low branches. It’s easy to nourish ourselves, warm ourselves,  refresh ourselves. In our hearts’ summertime, God seems giddy with beneficence, prodigal with welcome. Every other day He’s serving up the fattened calf and throwing a Mexican fiesta for no good reason except, it’s Tuesday.

There is not much here not to like. It’s as good an apprenticeship as I know.” (pages 113-114)

True! Here, there is not much to like as we will spend the rest of eternity being in the presence of God enjoying bountiful fruit like no other. However, my adolescent years (before I turned 18) was as close to heaven as described in the previous passage: How do you know you’re in summer? Simply, things flow. Yes, my adolescent life was mostly a summer experience of the heart. Sure, I had some set backs, like getting diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, broke the lower half of my right leg days before I went for my driver’s test, and some other experiences, but my heart, my soul experienced summertime.

My physical ailments were nothing to what I can say were my spiritual growth during the time frame of about 5 years. Of most significance was my calling to what I thought was a pastor for the adolescent youth. God let me pursue my dreams of being an adolescent pastor for 5 years, getting awards all along the way, which I turned to His glory.

Shortly after turning 18, my life would experience a winter of the soul; by the calendar year it was the beginning of summer. I specifically labeled this “Spiritual Rhythm: Part 1- Summer-‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ By Mark Buchanan (1)”. Look out for “Spiritual Rythm: Part 1 Summer-‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ By Mark Buchanan (2)”.

“How Do You Measure Your Spiritual Growth?”~Mark Buchanan

~Darren Beattie, The Soul Blogger

“The Insanity Of God: A True Story Of Faith Resurrected” By Nik Ripken

” … Painfully I began to relived vivid memories of dark and discouraging times when I felt anger, frustration, and despair. I began to understand when I had often survived the insanity of Somaliland by pushing my questions and struggles out of sight. One way to deal with impossible things is simply not to think of them. I realized that I’ve done that for years. In the moment there wasn’t enough time to figure these things out. I guess I suspected there would be sometime in the future, and now, suddenly and clearly, I understood that this was that time. …”~Nik Ripken

Nik Ripken Speaking About Somalia~Open Doors USA

“Cold-Case Christianity” By J. Warner Wallace

“… If there are food reasons why God might permit evil in this life such as the preservation of free will and the ability to love genuinely concerns about His failure to act are unreasonable. Doubts about God’s existence based on the problem of evil may have emotional appeal, but they lack rational foundation because reasonable expectations do in fact exist. …”~J. Warner Wallace

“Why Would God Allow A Rapist To Exerxise His Free Will But Deny The Free Will Of The Victim?”~J. Warner Wallace

“The Insanity Of God: A True Story Of Faith Resurrected” By Nik Ripken

“A NEW PATH: We instinctively knew that things would be drastically different now. We were painfully aware of how much had changed and how much more we had changed. It was a truism, but we understood what it meant to say that we could never really go back home again. Even so, the grace and care of God’s people, our family, found a place. Our alma mater invited me and Ruth a place for us to live and serve during our furlough year. That opportunity would put us close to family and provide us with meaningful work. Being on this campus and with people that we loved so dearly, eased our adjustment and aided in our healing. …”~Nik Ripken

Nik Ripken Talks In Liberty University Convocation

“Cold-Case Christianity” By J. Warner Wallace

“… At best, we can say God hasn’t stopped evil yet. But God has all of eternity to react in this regard. Our eternal life provides the context for God to deal justly with those who choose hate and perform acts of evil. God is powerful enough to stop evil completely, and He does care about justice. But as an eternal being, He may choose to take care of it on an eternal timeline. …”~ J. Warner Wallace

“The Problem Of Evil: The Power To Draw And The Role Of Justice”~J. Warner Wallace

“The Insanity Of God: A True Story Of Faith Resurrected” By Nik Ripken

“… It was clear that we were coming to the end of some kind. There had been so much loss and pain. As we returned to America, the questions would not let me rest. Was it worth it or not? Aren’t those 50,000 people we fed everyday eventually going to die anyway? What could we have done differently? What should we have done differently? Can faith in Jesus survive let alone thrive in such a hostile place? And where do we go now, and what do we do next? Tim’s death had changed us. After all that we’d been through, we wondered if we were still willing to risk ourselves and our family to do what God had called us to do? …”~Nik Ripken

“Is Jesus Worth It?”~Nik Ripken Speaking In Front Of Sugar Creek Baptist Church