Do I Fight Back?

Nik takes listeners to the bush of Sudan as he explores the timeless words of Jesus – “a new commandment I give you – love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you”. Nik takes an in-depth dive into the Biblical practices of believers in perescution from a Muslim background as they navigate following Jesus when their persecutors are at their breakfast table.

Is He Worth It?

Inspired by the movie “The Insanity of God”, Nik and Anthony sit down with Erskin to get the behind-the-scenes story of Erskin and Nik’s powerful new song, “Is He Worth It”.

Totally Rethinking Missions

In this episode, Nik looks back at 37 years of overseas work and wonders – “did we go about it the wrong way?” Listen in as he shares that if he were to start over, why he would start with the “HOW” of missions before the “WHERE”.

Redefining Christmas Part 2

Redefining Christmas (Part 2)

As Nik Ripken continues this series on rediscovering the Biblical account of the Christmas narrative, he challenges listeners to ask “Imagine you were a parent, or Jesus, in this story”. Understanding the context of Christmas allows us to discover how we apply the birth of Jesus to our lives and theology.

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In this episode of the Witness and Persecution podcast, Nik Ripken and Anthony Ball discuss the biblical story of Christmas and how it should impact our understanding of persecution. They begin by sharing Nik’s recent experience of being bitten by a spider and the subsequent infection and hospitalization he had to endure. They then delve into the topic of redefining Christmas through the eyes of believers in persecution.

Unpacking the Christmas Story

Nik Ripken dives into redefining Christmas through the lens of believers in persecution. He emphasizes the need to understand the biblical narrative of Jesus’ birth and how it differs from how we often celebrate and worship during the holiday season. Nik encourages listeners to reflect on the profound impact the Christmas story would have had on the parents in Bethlehem and the surrounding territories. He poses thought-provoking questions, such as how parents would feel towards Jesus in this narrative, considering the loss of their own children due to Herod’s orders.

Lessons from Unwise Wise Men

Nik discusses the role of the wise men in the Christmas story and highlights the importance of seeking God’s wisdom. He draws attention to the fact that the wise men, though knowledgeable, were unwise in their dealings with Herod and the religious leaders of the time. This leads to a discussion on the significance of discerning where God is working and for how long, as persecutors can use this information to target believers. By examining the actions of the wise men, listeners are encouraged to reflect on their pursuit of wisdom and discernment in their faith journey.

Writing Ourselves into the Text

Nik encourages listeners to imagine themselves as characters in the Christmas story, particularly as parents in Bethlehem. He emphasizes the unimaginable horror and grief that would have been experienced by these parents, knowing that their children were killed because of Jesus’ birth.

Challenging Traditional Narratives

Nik addresses the common practice of combining the narratives of the wise men from Matthew 2 and the shepherds from Luke 2. He highlights the importance of recognizing the distinct timelines and events in each account. By challenging traditional narratives, Nik encourages listeners to engage with the text and ask questions that deepen their understanding of the Christmas story. He emphasizes the need to be aware of the historical and cultural context to grasp the true significance of Jesus’ birth.

Lessons for Today

The episode concludes with a call to action for listeners to reevaluate their understanding of Christmas and its implications for their witness as believers. By learning from the experiences of believers in persecution, we can gain a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice Jesus made and the challenges faced by those who follow him. Nik Ripken reminds listeners that the Christmas story is not just a historical event but a powerful reminder of the cost of discipleship and the need to lay our lives on the altar for God’s purposes.

This episode serves as a reminder that Christmas is not just a time of celebration, but an opportunity to deepen our commitment to Christ and share his message with the world.

Redefining Christmas

The Israeli and Palestinian Conflict: A Call for a Biblical Response

While the Israeli and Palestinian conflict rages, Nik Ripken records a special episode to address what this conflict is, and what it is not. Nik pushes listeners to maintain, and express, a Christian worldview that forces us to read the Bible, seek God’s face, and step out in faith to fulfill the Great Commission in the hard places.

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The ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine has captured the attention of the world, and as believers, it is crucial for us to approach this issue with a biblical perspective. In this podcast, we will delve into a thought-provoking conversation between Nik Ripken and Anthony Ball, where they discuss the conflict and the need for a Christ-centered response. Drawing from their experiences and insights gained from believers in persecution, we will explore the importance of grace, truth, and love in navigating this complex situation.

Understanding the Current Situation

The conversation begins by acknowledging the severity of the conflict, with Nik Ripken highlighting the horrors committed by both sides. However, he emphasizes that as followers of Christ, our response should not mirror the secular world but should be rooted in the teachings of Jesus. It is essential to differentiate between the role of governments and militaries and the eternal perspective that believers should adopt.

A Biblical Worldview

The conversation prompts us to reflect on how we form our worldview. Nik encourages listeners to resist being swayed by political ideologies and instead seek a biblical perspective. He reminds us that our ultimate goal is to emulate Jesus and His teachings, which call for love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. This challenges us to examine our hearts and align our responses with the character of Christ.

The Power of Love and Reconciliation

Nik Ripken shares a powerful story of a believer who risked his life to protect Jewish children, despite being raised to hate and destroy them. This exemplifies the transformative power of love and the potential for reconciliation between Jews and Palestinians. It serves as a reminder that our mission as believers is to change lives, sow seeds of love, and trust in God’s timing for the harvest.

Avoiding a Western or Old Testament Mentality

The conversation cautions against adopting a Western or Old Testament mindset when approaching the conflict. While it is natural to feel anger or frustration, Nik reminds us that the Kingdom of God operates differently. Our response should not be driven by vengeance or violence but should reflect the teachings of Jesus. This challenges us to seek a Christ-centered perspective that transcends cultural and historical biases.

The Urgency of the Great Commission

The conversation highlights the staggering number of people worldwide who have little to no access to the Gospel. With 2.8 to 3 billion individuals lacking exposure to Scripture, songs, and missionaries, it is evident that the Great Commission remains unfinished. Nik Ripken emphasizes the importance of praying for the salvation of these souls and actively engaging in sharing the Gospel, rather than solely focusing on our own salvation.

“It’s time to fully accept and embrace the truth that God loves Jews, Arabs, Palestinians, Hindus, Chinese Muslims, Buddhists, Americans, Europeans equally.”

Praying for the Salvation of Others

The podcast addresses the misconception that the conflict in the Middle East is a sign of the impending end times. While acknowledging the significance of biblical prophecies, Nik reminds us that our prayers should not solely revolve around our own salvation or the second coming of Christ. Instead, we should pray for the salvation of those who have yet to hear the Gospel, recognizing the urgency of reaching the lost.

By embracing the teachings of Jesus and seeking His heart for all people, we can contribute to a more Christ-centered approach to the conflict and the world at large. Let us be agents of grace, truth, and love as we navigate these complex issues and strive to fulfill the Great Commission.

Redefining Christmas

Redefining Christmas

Did you know that the wise men of the Bible were ultimately unwise men? Their story isn’t a children’s story set in an elaborate Christmas pageant. It’s a story of persecution when Jesus was just a toddler. It’s a story that features drama and the genocidal slaughter of children. Christians living in the West have developed a faith narrative that represents the culture in which we live. Nik begins a multi-part series to learn how believers in persecution get the Christmas story right.

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The Wise Men

In the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the glittering lights. There are festive decorations and the excitement of exchanging lavish gifts. However, Nik Ripken urges us to look beyond the commercialized version of Christmas and reflect on the profound message the biblical narrative conveys.

When we think of the Christmas story, we see a manger, wise men bearing gifts, and a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes. But as Ripken points out, the narrative extends far beyond the idyllic scenes depicted in nativity scenes.

Ripken draws attention to the lesser-known and often overlooked part of the Christmas story. Herod was a killer. The story is a tale of persecution and the genocidal slaughter of innocent children. Nik invites believers to revisit the biblical account. He encourages us to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges and sacrifices woven into the narrative.

The familiar story of the wise men takes on a new dimension when viewed through the lens of persecution. Instead of being characters in a children’s pageant, these men were courageous individuals navigating a perilous journey to find and honor the newborn King. The gifts they brought were not mere tokens of celebration; they were symbolic offerings recognizing the divine significance of the child.

Unwrapping the True Meaning of Christmas

Nik Ripken encourages Christians in the West to break free from cultural trappings. Consumerism often shapes our perception of the Christmas narrative. In our modern context, Christmas has become synonymous with extravagant gift-giving, feasts, and celebrations. Yet, Ripken reminds us that the heart of the Christmas message lies in selfless giving.

Contrary to the popular notion of receiving expensive gifts, Ripken emphasizes that Jesus is the central figure who received gifts in the biblical account. The wise men, recognizing the divine nature of the child, presented gold, frankincense, and myrrh—a gesture of profound significance.

The challenge for believers, according to Ripken, is to shift our focus from receiving to giving. Christmas, he argues, is not about accumulating material possessions but about offering our gifts and talents to God. Just as the wise men presented their valuable treasures, we can give of ourselves in service, compassion, and love.

Ripken’s message serves as a poignant reminder that the true meaning of Christmas transcends the glittering exterior of the season. It beckons us to reflect on the sacrificial nature of love and to emulate the example set by the wise men—individuals who, despite the challenges they faced, sought to honor and worship the King.

Nik Ripken’s Challenge for a Purposeful Christmas

As we navigate the holiday season, Nik Ripken’s perspective challenges us to reevaluate our priorities and embrace the spirit of giving. The real gift of Christmas, he asserts, is not found in the extravagance of presents under the tree but in the selfless offering of our hearts, talents, and resources to God and those in need.

Nik encourages us to embark on this Christmas season with a renewed understanding of the biblical narrative. May we be inspired by the wise men’s example, remembering that the most meaningful gifts are those given with love and humility. Our gifts mirror the ultimate gift of love: the birth of Jesus Christ.

Who Are You Fighting For?

Who Are You Fighting Over?

In this episode, Nik recounts his time amongst believers in persecution in China. Nik comes to discover how believers in persecution keep their eyes focused on the important things of the Kingdom. Who gets to share Jesus with the lost?

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Faith Under Fire for Believers in Persecution

In a world marked by comfort and convenience, where religious freedoms are often taken for granted, it takes a journey into the heart of adversity to truly understand the depth of one’s faith. Nik recounts his time amongst believers facing persecution in China. This episode shows a stark contrast between the resilience of those who endure persecution and the passive attitude in Western Christianity.

Nik’s teaches us about a remarkable aspect of the Chinese Christian community – a community where believers face imprisonment for spreading the message of Christ. As he details the lives of these resilient individuals, he teaches us about a striking gender dynamic that challenges preconceived notions about the roles of men and women in the church.

The women in China play a crucial role as church planters. It’s a role that comes with a heavy price – three months of imprisonment. In a society where women are often stereotyped and confined to traditional roles, these brave souls defy expectations. They willingly embrace the risks associated with sharing the gospel.

Contrary to this, Nik highlights a passive attitude prevalent in Western Christianity. In many Western societies, religious freedom is the norm, and believers can practice their faith without fear of persecution. Yet, this comfort often breeds complacency, and the willingness to endure hardship for the sake of evangelizing is scarce.

The stark difference in the level of commitment becomes evident when comparing the imprisonment terms for male and female church planters in China. While women face a relatively short three-month sentence, their male counterparts endure a staggering three years behind bars. This discrepancy is not just a reflection of the Chinese legal system but a testament to the unwavering dedication of these men, who are willing to sacrifice years of their lives for the sake of the Kingdom.

Would You Trade Freedom for the Gospel?

Nik’s narrative raises a challenging question for Western believers: How many would be willing to go to jail for evangelizing? In a society where individual rights are paramount, the idea of voluntarily giving up freedom for the sake of sharing one’s faith seems inconceivable for many.

In this way, Nik uncovers the resilience and unyielding determination of believers facing persecution. Their focus remains unwaveringly fixed on the crucial mission of the Kingdom – sharing Jesus with the lost. In the face of imprisonment, these Christians do not waver or compromise. Instead, they stand as beacons of unwavering faith, undeterred by the adversities that surround them.

The Chinese believers’ dedication challenges the status quo of Western Christianity. The emphasis on comfort often overshadows the urgency of spreading the gospel. Nik prompts believers in the West to reevaluate our commitment to the core principles of the faith.

Rethinking Persecution

Perhaps the challenge lies in redefining the understanding of persecution. In the West, persecution might not manifest in the form of imprisonment or physical harm. It may take on subtler forms. It could be the fear of social ostracization, the loss of reputation, or professional setbacks. Nik asks believers to reflect on the depth of our commitment. He asks us about the extent to which we are willing to endure discomfort for the sake of the gospel.

Furthermore, the gender dynamic revealed in Nik’s account challenges prevailing stereotypes about the role of women in the church. In China, these women are not confined to the sidelines. They are on the frontlines, fearlessly planting churches and spreading the message of hope. This challenges Western believers to reassess their views on gender roles within the church and recognize the diverse gifts and callings that both men and women bring to the table.

In conclusion, Nik’s recounting of his time amongst believers in persecution in China offers a profound glimpse into a world where faith is not just a Sunday ritual but a courageous and sacrificial way of life. It compels Western believers to reassess their priorities and challenges them to confront the realities of a world where sharing the gospel comes at a significant cost. The question lingers: In the face of adversity, where does our focus lie – on the trivialities of comfort, or on the eternal significance of sharing Jesus with the lost?

Trauma and Soul Care: Part Two

Trauma and Soul Care: Part Two

Last week, Nik and Ruth talked about “best practices” for how to provide counseling and soul care to workers. These are typically people who have experienced the depths of human depravity. This week, learn more how you can apply these lessons to missionaries serving in the hardest places of the world.

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Keep Worship and Business Separate

In the demanding world of missionary work, Nik and Ruth emphasize the importance of maintaining a clear separation between worship and business. This suggests a delicate balance. Missionaries must acknowledge the administrative challenges while ensuring they do not overshadow the primary spiritual mission.

Missionaries must be intentional about setting aside time for worship, reflection, and communion with a higher purpose. By compartmentalizing these aspects, they can prevent burnout and ensure that the spiritual foundation remains strong.

Recognize the Importance of Mentoring

Nik recommends giving and receiving mentorship within the church community. Missionaries face unique challenges that often require guidance from those who have walked a similar path. Specifically, mentoring provides a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and fostering a supportive network within the church.

Missionaries, both seasoned and new, should actively engage in mentorship relationships. This not only aids in personal and professional growth but also creates a sense of solidarity within the community.

Use Confidential Channels for Support

Nik and Ruth recommend that missionaries use confidential channels to seek support. If you’re overseas and grappling with the difficulty of your mission, consider emailing question@nikripken.com. For example, you can even specify “For Nik Only” or “For Ruth Only,” which provides a discreet avenue for unloading and discussing challenges.

This initiative not only acknowledges the sensitivity of the work missionaries undertake but also respects the need for privacy. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a necessary step towards maintaining emotional and mental well-being.

Seek Prayer and Direction

Nik and Ruth invite missionaries in need of support to reach out for prayer and guidance. In the face of adversity, prayer can be a source of strength and solace. Moreover, the Ripkens are willing to guide and point missionaries in the right direction. This can be a lifeline in challenging circumstances.

Navigate Missionary Work

In missionary work where individuals confront the extremes of human experience, the lessons from Nik and Ruth offer a roadmap for sustaining the soul. Keeping worship and business separate, recognizing the value of mentoring, and providing confidential channels for support are all important. They all contribute to the holistic well-being of missionaries.

Missionaries are not immune to the toll that their challenging work can take on their mental, emotional, and spiritual health. By heeding these lessons, workers can navigate the depths with resilience, finding solace in worship, strength in mentorship, and confidential support when needed. Nik and Ruth commit to being a source of prayer and direction. This exemplifies the spirit of community and care that is essential for those serving in the hardest places of the world.

Trauma and Soul Care: Part One

Trauma and Soul Care: Part One

After Nik and Ruth had spent significant time in Somalia – witnessing horrific tragedies like war, abuse, and starvation – they learned and developed “best practices” for how to provide counseling and soul care to workers who had experienced the depths of human depravity. How can we apply these lessons to missionaries serving in the hardest places of the world?

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How to Heal from Emotional Trauma

Emotional trauma can leave deep scars on our hearts and minds, making it challenging to find a path toward healing and recovery. While there are various therapeutic approaches and coping mechanisms available, Nik Ripken teaches us a unique perspective on healing from emotional trauma through a strong connection with one’s faith in Christ and drawing inspiration from the Old Testament.

Faith can be a powerful source of strength and comfort when dealing with emotional trauma. A strong walk with Jesus and a personal relationship with Him can provide solace, hope, and guidance during the darkest of times.

Biblical Narratives: Genesis through Acts

One key aspect of this faith-based approach is the choice of biblical stories to draw inspiration from. Rather than focusing solely on the New Testament (Romans through Revelation), we can gain valuable insights from the Old Testament (Genesis through Acts). The Old Testament narratives are full of stories featuring resilience, faith, and hope amidst adversity.

Genesis: Joseph’s Journey of Forgiveness

In Genesis, we find the story of Joseph, who endured betrayal and hardship but ultimately forgave his brothers. This narrative teaches us the power of forgiveness in healing emotional wounds. Letting go of anger and resentment can be a crucial step toward healing.

Exodus: The Israelites’ Redemption

The story of the Israelites’ redemption from slavery in Egypt is a powerful one. It reminds us that God can bring deliverance from even the most oppressive circumstances. This narrative instills hope that our own emotional bondage can be broken.

Job: Finding Purpose in Suffering

The Book of Job illustrates the concept of finding purpose in suffering. Through his trials, Job learned to trust God’s sovereignty even in the midst of pain. This teaches us that, in our own trauma, we can find purpose and meaning.

Psalms: Pouring Out Our Hearts

The Psalms provide a rich source of comfort and expression of emotions. They teach us the value of pouring out our hearts to God in times of distress, knowing that He listens and cares for us.

Acts: The Early Church’s Resilience

In the Book of Acts, we witness the early church’s resilience in the face of persecution and adversity. Their unwavering faith and commitment to their mission show us the importance of community and purpose in healing.

According to Nik, the Old Testament better reflects the hardships that missionaries often face when they go to challenging and dangerous places to spread the message of Christ.

Celebrate Missionary Departures and Returns

Hosting celebrations for missionary spouses when they leave for and return from the mission field is a wonderful idea. It’s something that Ruth Ripken has hosted for Nik many times over the years. These gatherings can serve multiple purposes, including boosting morale and aiding in the healing process for missionary workers who may have experienced trauma during their missions. Here’s why such celebrations are valuable.

Recognition and Appreciation: Hosting a celebration for departing missionaries is a way to recognize and appreciate their dedication and sacrifice. It shows that their work is valued, which can be especially important when they’ve faced challenges and hardships in the field.

Emotional Support: Leaving and returning from the mission field can be emotionally taxing. Celebrations provide a supportive environment where missionaries can connect with loved ones and fellow believers who understand their unique experiences and challenges.

Joyful Transition: Celebrations before departure can help ease the transition from home life to mission work. It allows missionaries to leave on a positive note, surrounded by love and encouragement.

Healing and Reintegration: For returning missionaries who may have encountered trauma or challenging situations, celebrations can be part of the healing and reintegration process. It helps them reconnect with their home culture and support system.

Morale Boost: Celebrations provide a morale boost for missionary couples and their families. Knowing that they have a network of friends and supporters cheering them on can be a source of strength during their mission and upon their return.

Shared Stories and Reflection: These gatherings offer a platform for missionaries to share their experiences and insights with others. It allows for reflection on the mission work and the impact it had, further contributing to the healing process.

Trauma and Tragedy on the Mission Field

Trauma and Tragedy on the Mission Field

In part one of a two-part series, Nik Ripken reveals his deeply personal journey of various traumas in life, ministry, and missions. How do you stay on the mission field, remain in your ministry, or keep your family when you walk through the unthinkable? Nik challenges listeners to understand how being obedient to go to the edge of lostness can bring intense suffering and trauma. God still redeems and uses these for His glory.

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Growing Up in a Broken Home

The brokenness of his family led Nik Ripken on a quest for meaning and stability.

One of the most transformative moments in Nik’s life occurred during what should have been a blissful time: his honeymoon with his new wife, Ruth. Little did he know that this period of celebration would become a profound spiritual turning point. Nik’s mother chose this moment to inform him that she was leaving his father.

Nik realized that God’s call to ministry and missions was not just about geographical locations or distant peoples. It was also about the brokenness within his own family and the need for reconciliation and redemption.

Malaria on the Mission Field

During their time in Malawi, Nik and his family faced a health crisis. Malaria had infiltrated their lives, causing severe illness and endangering their mission work. Recognizing the gravity of the situation, Nik’s doctor took the initiative to contact their mission leaders.

He took the initiative and called our mission leaders in Malawi. “If you don’t get this family out, especially the husband and wife, you’re going to lose them.” They called us back down to the capital city where there was no malaria. They moved us in two weeks, and in less than two months, they gave us a choice to either move back to America, or to South Africa where there was no malaria. We certainly did not want to move back to America, because Africa had won our hearts. Without knowing much about it, we said that we’ll go to South Africa. The first year we were there… we were sick the whole year.

Nik Ripken and his family did not want to return to the United States. Thus, they decided to move to South Africa, where malaria was less prevalent. The transition had its own set of challenges.

“Learning a second language while you’re sick is not something I’d suggest for the faint of heart,” Nik remarked.

Over time, the Ripken family regained their health and strength. Their persistence and unwavering faith allowed them to overcome the health challenges that had initially plagued their mission in South Africa.

Despite the setbacks, Nik Ripken and his family remained steadfast in their dedication to the mission field. Their experience with malaria and other health issues only served to strengthen their resolve to spread the message of hope and redemption in Africa.

Nik Struggled with Racism

Nik Ripken embarked on his missionary career with the belief that Western Christianity was the definitive and superior path to salvation. However, these initial convictions came from a troubling upbringing marked by racial prejudice.

I was raised a racist. In our area, the way we talked about black people, that was just in my DNA. I realized, that in South Africa, if I did not crucify the racism that was in the depths of my soul and my being, that God would have no more use for us.

Nik carried racism so deeply rooted that it had become a part of his identity. The way he spoke about people of different races reflected the biases that he had learned at an early age.

Confronting Racism

Nik Ripken’s journey towards confronting his own racism took a significant turn when he and his family moved to South Africa, a country marred by the apartheid system. It was a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination. He began to see the impact of racism on a deeply divided society.

Those eight years addressed that racism. When I saw racism out of control with a PhD, I realized that’s what I carried with me to Africa. That’s why I thought it was my job to tell Africans what to do.

Nik Ripken acknowledged that his initial approach to missionary work came from a misguided belief in the superiority of Western Christianity. He realized that he needed to embrace a more inclusive and respectful approach that honored local cultures and beliefs. He recognized that his previous approach had been akin to apartheid, a form of subtle imperialism where he imposed his Western views on African communities.

You have to come to Christ. Then you have to build a building… then you have to get a pastor. Then you have to elect deacons… then you have to translate the Baptist hymnal to sing. And that was just apartheid with love behind it. I’m afraid that’s the pattern in a lot of places.

Nik Ripken’s transformation required humility and a willingness to learn from the people he sought to serve. He learned to respect local customs and work collaboratively with communities.