The Insanity of Sacrifice by Nik Ripken — Book Review

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways. This is the Lord’s declaration.”  Isaiah 55:8

I have thoroughly enjoyed this 90 day devotional.  It is not only biblically sound, it is challenging.  I have already used some of the daily readings for openings at our church committees and Bible studies.  In fact, I liked it so much that I have already ordered a previous book by Nik Ripken, “The Insanity of God”  from our local library.

Ripken’s point is that God’s ways are so different from ours that what he asks of us might actually be considered insane, by human standards.  God is different, and we, as His followers, should also be different.  We are called to love the world and sacrifice for its’ people in a way that is extravagant and outlandish.  Can you do this?

Maybe you think you’re not qualified.  Well, think again.  God takes pleasure in calling people who are inadequate.  You may be unqualified — but God is able and He wants you to be part of His work in the world.

Through his writing Ripken seeks to lead readers to:

  • Consider the story of God encountered in Scripture
  • Learn that God is still very much at work today
  • Give voice to God’s clear demand for obedience that applies to EVERY PERSON who follows Jesus — yes, that means you and me!

VERDICT:  Definitely 5 stars.  I highly recommend it.

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

The Insanity of Sacrifice

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

What is Sabbath for you?

Then he (Jesus) said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Mark 2:27

The verse above is a response given by Jesus when the Pharisees accused his disciples of doing what was “unlawful” on the Sabbath.  Their offense was plucking heads of grain (technically harvesting), and this was considered work and forbidden.  However, Jesus reminds his listeners that the Sabbath was created for the benefit of humankind — the many rules and regulations were added later by men in an attempt to define what a day of rest should mean.

The word Sabbath literally means “to cease.”  You might think of it as a sort of reset button.  Just as your computer sometimes freezes up and needs to shut down and be restarted, humans need a cue to stop and refocus.  The demands of weekly living pile up– we become overwhelmed and distracted.  We need to reboot and get our focus back, and that focus should be on God, the One who created and sustains us.

Naturally that means a Sabbath should include worship.  What kind of worship is up to you.  I’m a liturgical person, but not everyone is.  Maybe the worship style that suits you is more contemporary.  It really doesn’t matter, as long as it slows you down and puts God back in His proper position in your life.  Afterwards, well, once again, we relax and recharge in different ways.  I like to curl up with a good book, but for some people that’s “work.”  I have friends who find it relaxing to garden, but that’s a chore to me.  Some might enjoy going hiking, where they see God in the beauty of creation;  others feel their heart soaring when they listen to music.  Maybe you just want to cook and enjoy a wonderful meal with friends or family.  God made each of us differently, and it’s okay to enjoy the Sabbath rest in our own way.  Maybe your weekly Sabbath can’t even occur on Sunday.  That’s okay too.

God doesn’t need anything from us.  He’s God, after all.  It’s we who need to stop, to worship, to rest and remember why we’re here and to whom we belong.  Don’t neglect the Sabbath.  It’s a gift from God and he created it just for you!

For more on the Sabbath see this post:

Martin Luther on the Sabbath

Martin Luther on Fasting

Of fasting I say this: It is right to fast frequently in order to subdue and control the body. For when the stomach is full, the body does not serve for preaching, for praying, for studying, or for doing anything else that is good. Under such circumstances God’s Word cannot remain. But one should not fast with a view to meriting something by it as by a good work. (SL 19, 1017)


No commandment of the Church, no law of any order, can enhance the value of fasting, watching, and labor as means of re- pressing or mortifying the flesh and its lusts. . . . For the body is not given us for us to kill its natural life and work but merely to kill its wantonness. . . . On the other hand, care must be taken lest a lazy indifference to such suppression of the flesh grow out of this freedom; for the roguish Adam is exceedingly tricky in pleading the ruin of body and mind (as a reason for indulging his wanton desires). (SL 10, 1353f)

From Luther’s Works, St. Louis edition

My earlier post on fasting, encouraged me to look up what Martin Luther said about the topic. For what Luther said on other topics see these posts:

Martin Luther on Serving Others

Martin Luther on Married Love

Martin Luther on Growing Our Gifts

Taking A Break

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Daniel” 9:3

Fasting is an ancient Christian tradition, but one we seldom use today.  However, it occurs to me that a fast can be a way of “taking a break” or resting from our usual activities.  The point, of course is to use our time of fasting to grow spiritually.

You may think of fasting as giving up food, or certain foods for a set time.  Some Christians choose to fast during Lent, and give up coffee, soda or desserts.  This can certainly have some health benefits, and can serve as a reminder that Lent is a season of repentance.

But there are many other ways to fast.  If you attend a Via de Cristo retreat weekend, you will be asked to put away your phone, and leave other electronic devices at home.  This allows the participants to focus on God and spiritual matters, laying everyday concerns aside for a few days.  Some people also choose to fast from phones and screens for certain hours every day, so that they can pray, meditate or just slow down and be still.

If you’re an avid reader, as I am, you can decide to fast from secular reading for a while.  You can fast from television, video games, or anything else that distracts you from your spiritual life, or tempts you to sin.  You can fast from eating out or recreational shopping and use the time and money you save to volunteer or donate to a worthwhile charity.

Almost any fast you undertake will cause some discomfort– but in another post, I talked about the fact that the times we grow generally are uncomfortable ( Are you Comfortable?)

Christians aren’t called to sit still.  We’re called to go.  Fasting can be a way to see what going somewhere different might look like.  It can be a way of retiring from the rat race for a while and seeing the real race that Paul spoke about in the book of 2 Timothy:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

So, think about this idea.  Take a break from something.  It may change your whole life!

 

Please Write This Down

“When he (the king) takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left.”  Deuteronomy 17:18-19

If you go on a Via de Cristo weekend, you will hear a number of talks, some given by pastors, and some by lay people.  When the speaker makes a point that is very important to remember, they will pause and say, “please write this down.” Then they repeat it, slowly, until everyone has had time to add it to their notes. The point is to alert the listeners to pay attention, and remember what is being said.

In the verses above, God tells the kings he expects them to write down his law in their own hand for the same reason.  Writing something down is a way of emphasizing its’ importance.  God wanted every king to take time out of the busy life of a monarch to read His Word in its’ entirety.  He wanted them to remember it, and live by it.  It was worth taking the time to do this.

Sad to say, these days, even we lay people fail to make time for reading the Word of God and writing it down.  After all, if we want a verse, we can just google it (I’m criticizing myself here, because I do this all the time.)  We may be faithful Christians who listen to readings each week in our worship service, but do we build Bible reading into our daily schedule?  Do we write down any of those words?  Do we know the Bible so well, that we can repeat parts of it by heart?

We’re busy people, and we have fancy Bibles and technological tools to “manage” the Scripture.  That’s not a substitute for reading, pondering and even at times, writing it down.  The Bible should be written on our hearts. It’s the only way we’ll have true rest in God. Spend time with God’s Word everyday.  Please write that down!

For more on reading the Bible see these posts:

Martin Luther on Reading the Bible

Spiritual Reading

For more on Lutheran Via de Cristo see these posts:

What is Via de Cristo?

Remembering My Via De Cristo Weekend

Cursillo/ViaDeCristo/3day weekends

 

A Sabbath Poem

From the book, This Day by Wendell Berry:

2002 #X

Teach me work that honors Thy work,

the true economies of goods and words,

to make my arts compatible

with the songs of the local birds.

 

Teach me patience beyond work

and, beyond patience, the blest

Sabbath of Thy unresting love

which lights all things and gives rest.

 

New Every Morning compiled by Phil Barfoot–Book Review

I truly enjoyed this new 365 day devotional, created by music ministry professional and composer,  Phil Barfoot.  There are a host of different contributors, mainly worship leaders or worship ministers from churches around the country.  The entries are not categorized in any way, but each one encourages the reader to examine their understanding of worship.  Musicians and choir members will definitely want a copy!

Every daily reading consists of a short section of scripture, a personal reflection and a prayer.  What I appreciated most was the inclusion of several questions geared toward encouraging some deeper thought on the topic  This devotional encourages the reader to spend some time relating the message of the devotion to their own faith life and journey.

VERDICT:  5 Stars.  I’ve already recommended it to my husband for possible use with our Board of Elders, as they are in charge of planning our worship services.  I can also easily imagine using it as part of the opening of our Adult Sunday School Class

If you would like to purchase this book, follow the link below:

New Every Morning

 

 

The Lutheran Ladies received a free copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review – Disclaimer pursuant to FTC 16 CFR Part 255

 

 

Come Holy Spirit!

I came across the words to the hymn below in my devotional reading this morning. It was written by Samuel Longfellow (1819-1892), the younger brother of the more famous poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  He was educated at the Harvard Divinity School and served as a Unitarian pastor for many years.  It pleads for the rest and calm that can only be given by the Holy Spirit.

A Time for Everything

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”  Ecclesiastes 3:1

God meant us to lead a balanced life.  After He created the heavens and the earth, He set aside a day of rest.  He didn’t do this because He needed to rest — He’s God!  He did it to remind us that we need to rest.  In the book of Deuteronomy, certain times of the year are aside to celebrate and remember what God has done — Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles.  The book of Leviticus designates a “jubilee year” (every 50th year) when even the fields are to lie fallow.  Human beings need a mixture of waking and sleeping, working and resting, exercising and relaxing, to remain healthy.

These days we seem to have forgotten God’s plan.  Computers and cell phones keep up connected to work every moment of the day.  Studies reveal that about 1/3 of us don’t get enough sleep, and 1/2 of us don’t take all of our paid vacation days in a given year.

Of course, some seasons of life are naturally busier than others.  My life today, as a retiree, allows me much more free time than I had as a working mother of two.  However, even during those busy times, we need to keep a balance.  We need to set boundaries.  We need to prioritize and learn to focus on the things that are truly “needful.”

Jesus, the perfect man, was able to do this.  He led a busy life teaching, preaching and healing.  He allowed Himself to be interrupted by that which was truly urgent;  but He also made time for prayer, rest and being alone with His Father.  It is not easy, and we’ll never manage as well as He did, but it is possible.

Robert Fulghum in his essay, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, put it this way:

“Learn some and think some
And draw and paint and sing and dance
And play and work everyday some.”

Keep your life in balance.  Be discerning.  Take time for the needful things.

For more on the book of Ecclesiastes, see these posts:

Ecclesiastes Chapter 3–What Stands Out

God Moments in Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 3:3

 

Rest in Humility

Men sigh for the wings of a dove, that they may fly away and be at Rest. But flying away will not help us. ‘The Kingdom of God is WITHIN YOU.’ We aspire to the top to look for Rest; it lies at the  bottom. Water rests only when it gets to the lowest place.”

 

                                                                                  Rev Prof Henry Drummond (1850- 1897), Scottish evangelist, biologist, writer and lecturer.

In other words, seek humility!