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From the book The Book that Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi, quotes from pages 133-136. Crane put some sections in red.
Relate this to the news I got today from the U.S. that no one at the recent job expo signed up for any of the job requests of the Sub-Saharan Africa. His personal observation/opinion (and he makes it clear it’s just that) is that the current Ebola epidemic figured in big time. Or the news that greeted the one family when they arrived in the USA to help do training for a southern church, “Surprise, they’ve all been cancelled because maybe you have Ebloa.” And they live in Benin, which is located 1,000 miles from the closest Ebola affected country! In the providence of God, while in Southern Sudan this past weekend, I began to read a book I bought months ago, the one by Mangalwadi from which I quote below. I am over halfway through it, and I would venture to say at this point it will end up being my favorite read of 2014. I wish I could make my kids read it. I could wish every high school senior had to read it. It is a MUST read.
The quotes below come from chapter 8 which is entitled “Heroism: How Did a Defeated Messiah Conquer Rome?” I love how he opens it up. “What defines a hero? Is a hero the man who dies while saving people from a burning building? Or the person who dies while blowing up a building filled with ordinary people? Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) explained ‘whoe’er excels in what we prize, appears a hero in our eyes.’ What is heroic in a given culture depends on what is valued by that culture.”
Who are the heroes in the USA now? Perhaps the governors and other civic and media leaders who are in the limelight calling for an all-out effort to “KEEP AMERICA SAFE!”
In Dec. 1520, Luther was asked whether he would be willing to appear before Emperor Charles to be tried for heresy. Jan Hus (1369-1415), the Czech reformer, and others of Luther’s predecessors, had been burned at the stake in spite of the Church’s assurance of a safe passage. Luther had not yet been given such assurance. Here is how he answered:
“You ask me what I shall do if I am called by the emperor. I will go even if I am too sick to stand on my feet. If Caesar calls me, God calls me. If violence is used, as it may well be, I commend my cause to God. He lives and reigns who saved the three youths from the fiery furnace of the king of Babylon, and if He will not save me, my head is worth nothing compared with Christ. This is no time to think of safety. I must take care that the gospel is not brought into contempt by our fear to confess and seal our teaching with our blood.”
Luther did not know that he was inaugurating a new era, unleashing a new source of power, redefining heroism, or contending for a new source of civilizational authority.
Classical heroism clashed with the Bible because while the former valued power, Christ’s heroism prized truth. Other kingdoms fostered heroic deeds by cultivating racial, geographic, linguistic, religious, class, or caste pride and hatred. Jesus made LOVE the supreme value of the kingdom of God. This love was no sentimentalism. It went beyond loving one’s neighbors as oneself. Its supreme manifestation was the cross: sacrificing oneself for others, including one’s enemies.
As masses sat meditating on the meaning of the cross, it changed Western consciousness from within. A brutal, triumphant knight could no longer be an inspiring Christian hero. He was the very opposite of a crucified, humiliated Messiah who died so that others may live. The Bible ensured that heroism took on a new meaning. Heroism now meant a robust faith that refuses to bow before evil and falsehood. A faith that triumphs over Satan’s ultimate weapon, the fear of death. It involves a surrender to God that authorizes God to sacrifice you for others’ benefit. This was the heroism of Wycliffe, Hus, Luther, Tyndale, Calvin, Knox, and those who followed them to create the modern world.
They were not supermen. They were people like us—fallible, with feet of clay. They made their mistakes. Luther justified crushing the peasants’ revolt. Many Lutherans did not tolerate the Anabaptists. They were children of an intolerant and brutal medieval age. Yet, they became pioneers of the modern world because they also transcended their age. They ushered in the greatest revolution of the second millennium—a revolution that, among other things, turned heroes into self-sacrificing servants.
We have witnessed many painful things through the last 30 years overseas. These include famine, civil war, demonic possession, alongside internationally ingrained racism that defies imagination.
Yet it could that $10,000 has caused the most pain?
But is not about money. It is about who sets the agenda for God’s people. Those early years in Somalia were horrific as we buried scores of children, witnessed an abuse of women which became the norm, and encountered an environment that was potentially worse when we left than when we arrived. As our ministry grew in Somalia, believers from all over the world responded spontaneously to the need. Sometimes as much as $10,000 a month was given to this ministry from unexpected places around the globe. Such sacrifice became the norm.
Then Black Hawk went down.
Our team was not very far away from that tragic event. Many young American Rangers lost their lives. Possibly more than 700 Somalis were killed. It was a horrible time. In such an environment, episodes as these were not unexpected, though this particular event broke our hearts and had unforeseen consequences. Immediately after “Black Hawk Down,” gifts to our ministry from believers and churches around the world went from $10,000 a month to $100. I was shocked, confused, and then hurt. For the first time in my life I understood clearly who sets the agenda for the church, for the bride of Jesus Christ. Perhaps I was naïve, as I believed that the church received her marching orders from the Bible and the Holy Spirit.
The truth was, and is, who sets the agenda for the church in the West is most often Fox News and CNN.
Believe you me I am not picking a fight! Well, maybe I am, but I want to pick the right fight. Can we pause a moment and ask ourselves, who sets the agenda for the people of God? Where do you get your information? What sources influence the decisions made by the church, where it goes and what it does? Please hear my heart as I speak through tears and hurt. Seldom do we as a church spend a great deal of time in prayer and Bible study before deciding where to go and what to do in regard to ministry. Is the church, across denominational lines, gathering together, informing one another, breaking bread together, reading our Bibles, and then deciding where the Holy Spirit would have us go both across the street and across the globe?
Or are we turning on the television, tuning in Fox News or CNN and then rushing to the famine of the week, involving ourselves in stopping human trafficking, or being inundated by the next civil war with the ensuing images of yet more women and children at risk? From where does the church get her agenda?
It’s not about the $10,000. It’s about the need for the people of God kneeling before the throne of God seeking the will of God that haunts me.
Many followers of Jesus are unaware of one of the lesser-known benefits concerning persecution. Persecution is a reflection of a great harvest. One of the fastest ways to discover where an unexpected harvest is taking place globally is to watch and listen for persecution. One of the principles of persecution is that often the bad guys know when God is up to something long before the church is even aware. This is a sad fact. Often the church, especially the church in the West, is not expecting God to do the unexpected; so we are unaware when God shows up in an outside of the formal church manner. Satan is so fearful of any unusual activity of the Holy Spirit that he is always on his guard; ready to hinder and harm any unusual activity of God.
Satan is fearfully watching for the activity of God; more so than the church.
Many believers in the West, especially pastors, say to me that persecution is coming to America. When I ask them to elaborate on their statements, they talk about their stances on abortion and homosexuality in an ever-increasing liberal governmental and cultural environment as evidence to a growing hostility toward Christianity. Is this what the church in the West wants to be known for? Is it our social stances that define us? Are our conservative social stances concerning homosexuality and abortion defining for who is a follower of Jesus? Is there not a fatal flaw in such an interpretation?
Conservative Christianity’s stance in opposition to homosexuality and abortion is the same stance you would find in Saudi Arabia.
One must stand firm in regard to social issues in an ever-increasing non-biblical environment. Yet we cannot be defined by social stances that are in harmony with some of the most conservative Islamic countries on the planet. Believers in persecution can avoid being persecuted if they simply leave two things alone. If they will leave Jesus alone and witness alone they can avoid persecution. But they refuse. They insist on picking up Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they refuse to keep Him to themselves. Let’s be honest; in much of the world if one simply accepts Jesus as their ” Lord and Savior,” keeping Him privately to yourself, then you can die at an old age in your sleep. If one refuses to pick up and witness then they can live in relative safety as a Christian in places as hostile as Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Where there is a great harvest there is great persecution. And you can flip that around; where there is little harvest, little witness, there is little persecution.
Social stances are a lot safer. Social stances can increase your audience both politically and religiously. Social stances are important. Yet social stances do not make one a follower of Jesus; just ask a follower of Islam in Saudi Arabia.
What should define us? It’s two things. We have decided to follow Jesus and we have, secondly, determined that we will never keep Him to ourselves.
The title of our first book, The Insanity of God, has caused trouble for itself. Many people, especially those of us of a more mature age, feel that the title implies that God Himself is insane. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many who have been concerned about the title have implied that it was chosen purely for marketing purposes. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The longer that one is, generationally, within Christianity the more they cease to look at the kingdom of God from a point of view of one who is outside of that kingdom. To those, when one talks about a God who would give his only Son to die on a cross, this would be the act of someone who is insane. What God would do such a thing? When we are asked about where we have gone and what we have done the last 30 years, talking about being salt and light in places like Somalia the stares and comments we receive question our sanity. We have been told that we are crazy.
The title, The Insanity of God, was a result of a lot of perspiration in seeking God’s title for the book. About seven of us struggled for weeks over this title. Finally the day came when we had to come up with a title. For hours we talked about titles that included words like “sheep among wolves, the foolishness of God,” and other biblically based, well–used themes. We had possibly 10 poster-sized sheets of paper posted around the room. We knew there was a title “out there” that God wanted us to use, but we were having difficulty placing our fingers on the pulse of God.
Finally we took a break to clear our heads and to start over again.
Walking back into the room my eyes were drawn to the many sheets of paper and the dozens of titles and subtitles posted about the room. I thought about all the conversations we had had concerning the content of this ministry. Without thinking I looked at our friends who had struggled alongside of us for most of a morning and said to them, ” everything we have talked about today represents from God’s word and our experiences the insanity of God.”
Our literary agent, a man sent from the throne of God, slapped his hand on the table in front of him and said, ” God has given us His title.”
From the world’s point of view the cross of Jesus will always be a stumbling block. From the world’s point of view God does not come and die, God comes to control and destroy. From the world’s point of view, if we were God, we would act from a position of power, not from a stance of love and humility. Today, as throughout all of history, a God who “so loves the world that he gave his only begotten son” is an act of insanity.
For those of us who know Jesus, we want to model such insanity to all the peoples of the world because it is an insanity motivated by love, sacrifice, and obedience. It is an insanity motivated by going not staying. It is an insanity motivated by giving not receiving. It is how the world looks at God. This should be how the world looks at us.
Join the insanity.
Daily we hear reports about violence against Christians all around the globe. But how does this affect us as believers in America? During the first week in November, we will take the opportunity to seek God for nationwide spiritual awakening as we learn from and uplift our brothers and sisters who are suffering for their faith in Christ.
This hour-long concert of prayer broadcast consists of teaching by Nik Ripken, author of The Insanity Of God, interviews with ministry leaders, music by Meredith Andrews and prayers from our studio prayer team made up of students at the Moody Bible Institute. The goal of this hour is to bridge our need for awakening with the experience of those awakened by persecution as we cry out for a new work of the Holy Spirit in America.
For more information about the OneCry movement, visit www.OneCry.com.
Listen to the program.
With the modern missionary movement shifting into high gear, attempting to access unreached peoples, it is advisable to pause and ask, “What are the obstacles to giving a viable Christian witness to those who have never heard?” New buzz words abound as the AD 2000 movement, and others, lead the evangelical community to look through the “10/40 window,” striving for a “church” for every people group by the year 2000.
Looking at the obstacles to reaching the unreached will move mission personnel beyond sticking pins in maps, gaining institutional satisfaction from the initial command to “Go.” “Going” is substantially easier than “staying,” developing a viable long-term Christ-like presence among those who have yet to hear clearly, especially where many are openly hostile to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Recognizing the hindrances that would allow the Gospel to take root among unreached peoples will enable mission agencies, churches and missionaries to plan means overcoming these obstacles.
What are some of those obstacles, not necessarily in their order of importance?
It was 16 years ago when I watched my 16-year-old son die in Nairobi, Kenya, as a result of a severe asthma attack.
His death on an Easter morning wounded the hearts of an entire community.
People asked me, How can God allow your son to die on Easter? You were only seeking to serve and praise Him among peoples unreached and untouched with the Gospel. How can a father handle watching his son die long before his child’s dreams could be realized?
I imagine God’s thoughts when Jesus died on the cross could have been similar to this:
My Son was a skilled carpenter, but I knew that He was made for something more than shaping wood with His hands. He was made for shaping lives with His words, with a touch or even with His tears.
His life’s work was that of doing the miraculous — He healed the sick, fed thousands, allowed those without worth and unclean to touch Him and to be touched by Him.
He could weep over the death of a friend and almost in the midst of a sob call him from the grave to life again. People were enamored with the miraculous things He said and did. A few people began to discern that it wasn’t what He did that was miraculous.
The real truth, they began to discover, was not that He did miracles but that He was The Miracle.
Others feared what they did not understand. I saw my Son arrested and ridiculed. Their spit ran down His face, their jeers rang in His ears and their tools of torture caused blood to disfigure His countenance.
Cheers from the days before when He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey turned to the jeering of a mob as they watched my Son drag His own cross up to a hill of death, where they raised His mutilated body, nailed upon a wooden cross, to the sky.
Today, I watched my son die.
The political and religious leaders of His day thought this was the end of the threat. Those who had followed Him believed their hope was dead, so they denied they had ever known Him. Both sides deeply believed this was the end of the story, this death, this killing of My son — once praised, now once and for all, crucified to death.
And here was everyone’s mistake, their misunderstanding. They believed that crucifixion was the end of the story, that death ended all things — the threat to the reigning government and the people’s hopes for an earthly Messiah.
Everyone was wrong. My Son was not to be defined by the waving palm leaves of the adoring multitude or by the shouts of the jeering crowd. Neither would He be defined by a crucifixion.
There was more to come — more to the story. This was my plan. The crucifixion by man was a prelude to the resurrection by the Father. I allowed and watched my Son die, to be crucified, to demonstrate my love and forgiveness for all people, for all times.
But I am not only a Father of love, I am a Father of power.
And while my love allowed for the crucifixion of my Son, my power would not allow Him to stay dead because I had determined that crucifixion was just the prelude to the resurrection.
For my family, the anniversary of my son’s death at Easter brings this bittersweet reminder — There is no shortcut, no easy way out, no way to avoid wounds made inevitable by living in a broken, imperfect world.
Like God’s Son, my son died way too young and, at least for a season, for unacceptable reasons.
But my family knows that this earthly life is just a prelude to the eternal life we can have through and with Christ. Jesus’ crucifixion was for a moment in time. His resurrection is forever.
John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” RSV
After the fall of the Soviet Union, it was my opportunity and blessing to enter many of the countries of the former USSR and sit at the feet of many believers, while listening to their stories of faith which were often surrounded by seasons of severe persecution. It was as if my Bible was exploding in present active tense. I was interviewing, in my lifetime, Daniel in the lion’s den and Ezekiel defying and defeating the wicked Queen. I was being introduced to a faith which believed what God has always done, He is still doing!
I had interviewed a very godly, older gentleman. This pastor had been imprisoned and tortured. His beloved wife died while he was incarcerated. He talked about God’s sustaining power in the midst of persecution and suffering-yet he sternly suggested that no one should desire persecution but simply accept whatever God sends their way.
The next day I was in another home interviewing a brother in Christ whose father was severely tortured in prison. At 7 am, over breakfast he was telling me his Bible-like journey with Jesus. Before we could finish breakfast, the door opened and the older pastor from the day before entered the house. I was interviewing this 2nd pastor in the home of workers from America. They were very gracious in hosting me and in the setting up of many godly interviews. I greeted the older pastor, asking him what his agenda was for today. He replied he was off to a new area, of his central European country, to evangelize and attempt to plant a church. He further told me he had come to the house to pick up someone to help him. I certainly expected him to leave the house with the man from the West or the man and his wife. I was shocked by whom he was taking with him.
He was taking the 13-year-old son of this family from America. His parents were too busy to go.
I interviewed the 2nd believing brother until late in the evening. Almost at dark time the front door opened and in came the old pastor with a dirt-stained, scratched and bleeding, 13-year-old boy from the West. Without hesitation this boy exclaimed to his mother and father,
“You won’t believe what happened! I went with pastor today to a new area and he asked me to share my testimony. After we talked some of the people got so angry they threw stones at us and one of them hit me on the head and caused me to bleed a little bit. But after these hateful people left, and many of these villagers saw how we loved even those who cursed, beat and stoned us, many of them gave their lives to Jesus, they were baptized, and we started a church today!”
And suddenly I realized what real discipleship entails. Real discipleship is taking us, our children, other people’s children (when the adults are unable and unwilling to go) and extending the kingdom of God in the toughest of places. What this older pastor gave to the 13-year-old American boy on this day was a genealogy of faith which he, himself can reproduce for generation after generation. The 13-year-old can now lead his friends, possibly his parents, and, someday his own children on this exciting journey called faith in Jesus. He learned from that persecuted older pastor some hard lessons; faith comes with a price. He learned from a godly, former imprisoned pastor the price which has to be paid to see scores of people and multiple families come into the kingdom of God. He learned the joy of suffering with the end result of churches being planted in the homes of others.
This 13-year-old boy had modeled for him that day a faith which is bigger than a mob and more enduring than a rock to his head. I wished he could have learned these lessons and blessings from his own father. I wish it had been his parents who had introduced him to the challenges which come by walking with this Savior. Yet this old man knew who to take with him, who was willing to be discipled, and whose heart was tender enough to forgive even those who attempted to stone him. This old man learned from Jesus and these were lessons too hard-earned not to pass them on to the next generation.
2 Tim 2:1-7 “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier on service gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to satisfy the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will grant you understanding in everything.” RSV