More Than an Afterthought | The Stories of 7 Chibok Girls

It’s been 1331 days since the Chibok school girls were kidnapped.

1331 days ago, 276 school girls, on the precipice of going onto higher education, were kidnapped, stolen instead of supplies (source).

But for all this, these young women– 113 freed, and 163 still within Boko Haram’s clutches– are more than numbers. They are more than percentages, more than statistics, and more than a headline in a news story. They can be these things (being quote more than numbersaware of the numbers and statistics and news stories is not wrong), but they are more than these things.

Think of all of the numbers, all of the statistics, you are apart of. Perhaps an illness makes you a statistic. Or a job, or an interest, or a life experience. Even just who you are can label you, and make you a number to be calculated.

But to Jesus, you are more than a number. You are more than an afterthought. To Jesus, you– and each and every one of these kidnapped girls– are deeply and perfectly Loved.

I deeply believe that these wonderful girls’ stories deserve to be told– making them more than just a number, and celebrating their lives as a testament to Jesus’ Love and creativity in making them. While one cannot relay the stories of each and every one of these girls, I have strived to learn what I can about some of these different girls, sharing just a little bit of their story here with you as a resource for prayer.



 

lydia final 1Lydia Pogu: Lydia is also one of the Chibok girls who were able to become free, by jumping from a moving vehicle of Boko Haram’s soon after she was kidnapped. After running away from Boko Haram, Lydia was reached out to by the Jubilee Campaign centered in Virginia, which connected them to Mountain Mission School in Grundy, Virginia, in 2014. Lydia later attended Canyonville Christian Academy in 2016, where the US Government covered her full tuition to the private Christian academy (source). She planned to go to Southeastern University in Florida this past fall; I assume that is where she currently is. Lydia was able to meet US President Donald Trump on June 27th, 2017, along with her friend and fellow “Chibok girl,” Joy Bishara. You can see the picture, here. According to People Magazine, Lydia would like to become a lawyer, to help those who have no voice (source).

Sa'aSa’a: Sa’a (a pseudonym she uses for her safety) spoke to NPR almost a year ago about her story, how she got free, and what she is doing now. Now most likely 21 years old, Sa’a jumped from another moving vehicle of Boko Haram’s, along with her friend. After both her and her friend got help from a nearby shepherd, they were taken back to their families. US Congressman Christ Smith came to Nigeria to learn about what happened; after hearing Sa’a’s friend’s story, Smith told Sa’a’s friend that she should come to America to study, because she was not safe to study in the area where she currently was. Sa’a’s friend did not want to study abroad without her; and while Sa’a was terrified of going back to school at first, she decided to go with her friend, after being encouraged to study in the USA. She had planned to start college in January of 2017, and I assume that is where she is at, now. She told NPR that she wants to study medicine.

lugwaLugwa Sanda: Lugwa Sanda was one of the 21 girls who were initially freed in a high-up negotiation, that took place in October of 2016. She was brought by the Nigerian government to the Women Development Center, by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs, to be rehabilitated and re-integrated into society. When told that she, and others, were going to go to Abti Academy– a school close to where Boko Haram has recently staged attacks– Lugwa protested by trying to take her own life. She drank a huge amount of a household chemical named Jik during the night. Although she suffered damage to her bodily organs, Lugwa is still alive, and was taken to the hospital belonging to the Deparment of Security Services in Abuja, Nigeria (source). Upon researching how she is doing now, I have yet to find anything. If any details emerge, I will try to keep you updated.

rebeccaRebecca Mallum: Rebecca Mallum is one of the 21 Chibok girls who were freed on October 13th, 2016. Rebecca, a Christian young woman, was/is also apart of the same rehabilitation/re-integration program that Lugwa is currently apart of. Last Christmas, Rebecca Mallum was able to see her loved ones, and told CNN that she feels both “beautiful and grateful” for being able to be free, and for being able to see her family, once again (source).

debbie 2Debbie: Although her last name has not been made public, Debbie was one of the 57 Chibok girls who ran away from Boko Haram early on in the Chibok school girls’ kidnapping. After becoming free, Debbie was sponsored by a charity program in Nigeria to go to a prestigious, American International high school in Washington D.C. She went with her friend and fellow Chibok girl, who goes by the name of Grace. Debbie spent her junior and senior years of high school there, and Debbie graduated from her prestigious international high school in the summer of 2017.

graceGrace: Grace was also one of the 57 Chibok school girls who fled from their captors soon after their kidnapping. Along with Debbie, Grace attended a prestigious, American International high school in Washington, D.C. for her junior and senior (11th and 12th grade) years. She graduated from this high school in the summer of 2017, as well, and gained recognition for being “The Most Hardworking Student” in her English as a Second Language Class, Reading Level 3 (source).

joyJoy Bishara: Much like Lydia Pogu, Joy Bishara also fled Boko Haram by jumping off of a moving vehicle. She was also able to go to school in the US with Lydia, through help from the Jubilee Campaign. She attended both a school in Grundy, Virginia, as well as a Canyonville Christian Academy in 2016, from which she graduated high school. She is now going to Southeastern University to study for becoming a doctor. “What I want to do is save lives,” she told People Magazine, here.



Luke 1:49 says, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.”

“for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.”
(Luke 1:49, NIV)

Researching each of these amazing young women’s stories filled me with awe, wonder, and tears of both joy and pain for them. My heart wrenches for young women like Lugwa Sanda, who are still reeling in deep fear and PTSD from their past experience with Boko Haram, wanting never to re-live that horrific tragedy, again. While there is no doubt that each of these young women have a lot of healing ahead of them, it has been absolutely crazy to me that Jesus has sustained them to live another day, even after all that has happened to them. It encourages me to pray for them– and to see the ways Jesus is restoring me and moving in my own life. I pray it has done the same for you.

Please continue praying for these young women, and please pray for the 269 other Chibok girls whose stories I have yet to know and tell here, on this blog. After all, “Our God is an awesome God,” and He can, most certainly, do anything.



Do you know Jesus?

You are not an afterthought to Jesus. In fact, you were the reason He came down to earth.

Christ knows your story. I’d even venture to say He knows it better than you do. Christ did not just die for the whole of humanity; He died for you, personally.
Whether you know Him personally right now or not, His Perfect Love for you remains the same, and He longs to have a relationship with you that is both close and personal, a relationship that brings Him Glory, and you wholeness.

Jesus Loves you perfectly, deeply, and uniquely– and He proved it on the cross. Learn more about what Jesus did– and how much He Loves you– here.



Please pray for…

  • Debbie. Please pray for the season of life she is in right now; that she would make Jesus her Lord and Savior, and follow Him where He leads her. Pray she would experience Jesus’ Love and Healing in her, and her family’s, lives.
  • Grace (the girl spoken about in this post). Please pray that she would draw near to Jesus, and would let Him heal the places within her and her family’s hearts, minds, and souls that are seemingly irreparably broken.
  • Lydia Pogu. Please pray that she would know Jesus, and that He would light her heart on fire for loving those around her, by sharing the Gospel. Pray for blessings in her studies, and for wholeness for her and her family.
  • Joy Bishara. Please pray that she, too, would follow Jesus, and that He would use her to save the lives of many others, as she has said she desires. Please pray for her studies at Southeastern University, and that Jesus would help her and her family through any problems she is experiencing.
  • Lugwa Sanda. After trying to take her own life, please pray for Lugwa Sanda’s healing and wholeness– mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Pray that Jesus would conquer the darkness and demons trying to pull Lugwa down, and that He would use her mightily for His Kingdom. Pray she and her family would be blessed with Love, Courage, and Support from those around her, as she continues to heal and recover.
  • Rebecca Mallum. Please pray that she continues to heal, and is able to continue to see and be with her family and loved ones. May Jesus bless this beautiful young lady, inside and out!
  • Sa’a. That Sa’a would come to know Jesus, and that her dreams of helping others by studying medicine would be able to be fulfilled, if He wills for that to happen. Please pray for her  and her family’s own healing, as well.
  • For the rest of the Chibok girls, in all. Pray that those in captivity would be free, soon; and that those free would find the freedom, healing, and courage to share their own stories, as these seven girls have.

May these girls never stop dreaming.
Thank you for your prayers!!!

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Need for Revival: Know Jesus, Know Peace

Especially at this time of the year, the world promotes “Peace on Earth.” From hearing “Silent Night” in commercials to viewing the warm, bright Christmas lights being hung up– usually in the days following Thanksgiving– all over the streets and buildings, the whole world advocates for a time of restoration, reconciliation, and peace.

But, if you have been on this earth for any amount of time, you realize that this is not the case. Actually, it is quite the opposite.

We want Peace so much because we know how chaos feels. And though the Nigerian public has put up a front, saying that there is more Peace than ever in Northern Nigeria, the truth is that Boko Haram perpetrated at least two more attacks in the past couple of weeks, causing the deaths of 50 and 60 people, respectively (source).

Not only are the attacks from Boko Haram resurgent; according to this report, approximately 235 people in Nigeria have been killed by Boko Haram in 2017, by the Bachama ethnic group, and by militias and indigenous groups causing wars between one another.

Simply put, in Nigeria– especially in Northern Nigeria– there is little to no “Peace on Earth.”

 

Over and over again, human beings have tried their best to be as righteous as they can be; aiming for true World Peace, but gravely missing the mark. We want reconciliation, wholeness, and healing. We don’t only want it; we need it. Desperately. But, age after age, we cannot do it ourselves.

Friend, this is the exact reason for why Jesus came.

A World at War

2,000 years ago, Jesus came into this world on what has been described by much of today’s culture as a perfect, silent, holy night. While this is somewhat true– in that it was definitely Holy, a day foretold by the prophets– I do not believe Jesus was born into a wonderful, peace-filled environment. In fact, the Bible describes it as something much different.

  • For one, Jesus’ birth happened in a stable, and there was no room for Mary, Joseph, or Jesus in an inn (Luke 2). He was not born into a world of luxury or possessions; immediately, he faced the elements.
  • Although this part of Christ’s birth is not usually told, and definitely not celebrated, Jesus’ birth caused a genocide of all male babies his age in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:13-18). Jesus’ earliest years were ones spent on the run, avoiding being murdered by the earthly king Herod, who felt threatened by the prophecy of “a King of the Jews.”

From the start, Jesus was not brought into a world of ease; he was brought into the world very much like those suffering horrific circumstances: on the run, amidst much despair, murder, and human war-mongering.

Think of it: Jesus’ whole life was to be spent as the ultimate sacrifice for humanity’s sin (1 John 2:2). He was ultimately born to save us from our sins. His entire earthly life and ministry was to end in a bloody, unbelievably and indescribably painful death. Because of this, Jesus knows– more than any other human– of the depth of sin, and the depth of the war that naturally ensues because of it.

But Jesus’ sacrifice is also apart of the reason He is known as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Prophets, like Isaiah, foretold that the Messiah would cause there to be “Peace on Earth,” where “the lion [would] lay down with the lamb” (Isaiah 11:6).

Many cite this as the reason for why Jesus is not the Messiah. “If Jesus is the Messiah,” people ask, “then why is there still war?” What people fail to understand is that the Messiah was prophesied as coming two times, one time to save all of humanity and provide a way for them to know God the Father, and another to judge humanity and usher in His Kingdom of Peace (for more on this concept, I encourage you to watch this video).

The True Path to Peace

Though it has become somewhat of a cliche, it is still true: Know Jesus, Know Peace, no Jesus, no Peace. Jesus came to save those who believe on Him from God’s wrath, by being the sacrifice needed; without Him, peoples will be judged according to their own actions– and will always come up short (Romans 3:23).

 

The Peace the world needs can only come from knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 14:6). One cannot expect Peace and Reconciliation any other way than God’s way.

So, with this in mind, please pray for revival in Nigeria. Not just one of intense spiritual experiences, but one of coming back to adherence to the Bible, and of coming to know Jesus for the first time– or coming back to Him as their First Love, as Revelation 2:4 states.

And as we focus on praying for Peace, please ask Jesus to search your own heart, and for Him to show you where there is a lack of relational Peace, be it with Him or with others.
Ultimately, let us praise Jesus for granting us His Grace and Peace, through the Cross, the Ultimate Act of Reconciliation– and for the Peace He will one day bring.



Do you know Jesus?

A common greeting in the New Testament is “Grace and Peace to You.” It expresses that only by Grace, through Faith, are we able to receive salvation– and the Peace beyond understanding it brings. Are you resting in Jesus’ Grace and Peace, today?

Meet the God who– in perfect Love for you– came down to Earth, to bring you His free gift of Salvation and Peace, here.


Please pray for…

  • The salvation of those in Nigeria– especially those in Northern Nigeria, which is mostly muslim and indigenous in their religion.
  • For Peace. With Jesus as their King, please pray that Peace would begin to form and shape whole communities, as Christ calls all to reconciliation with Himself, and with others.
  • For Peace in your life and mine, personally. That we and others would know Jesus– and that we would live out bringing His Peace to others in every part of our lives.
  • For last, but not least, the Chibok girls– those found in the very midst of the warfare. Please pray for breakthrough for the 113 still missing– and the 163 who are still healing from their trauma. Please pray that Jesus would save, help, and protect them all, this holiday season.

 

Thank You for your prayers– Grace & Peace to you!

Thank You: An (Apologetically Late) Letter to Veterans & The Members of Our Military

This past Saturday, amazing people– people who served in unthinkable wars, and survived some of the world’s most brutal trauma– were celebrated, during Veteran’s Day.

But, honestly and sadly, as much as I hate to admit it, Veteran’s Day was not a holiday that I held in the forefront of my mind– at all. Reading BeautyBeyondBone’s post on how this holiday was basically ignored, I felt both convicted for not truly observing this holiday, and inspired to, once again, write on warfare in honor of Veteran’s Day, all at once.

But what was I to write?

After prayer and the Holy Spirit showing a couple of things to me, I believe I am led to write a short post of appreciation for all of my fellow Americans in the military, while also praying for their safety according to Psalm 91. Here it is.


 

Dear Fellow Americans in the Military– and those who are now out of it as Veterans,

From the deepest part of my heart, thank you. Thank you for mustering up the courage, bravery, and seflessness to do such a thing as put your lives out on the line for our freedom: freedom to speak our opinions, freedom to pursue the lifestyles and careers we want, and most importantly, the freedom to worship.

We all know that in other places in the world, Christians are not allowed to even openly believe in Jesus and His Work on the cross, much less meet together to celebrate, worship, and learn from Him through the Word being taught by pastors and teachers. It amazes me that Christ would plant me in America, born in the west, so that I might know Him from an early age, and grow in my relationship and walk with Him with little to no persecution. He could have planted me, planted us, in so many other places, all around the world, but He didn’t.

In Revelation 19, Jesus is called “Faithful and True,” the One who will rain down divine judgment and war (Revelation 19:11). This Mighty Warrior, Jesus, once called an ordinary man– one just like you and me– to fight for the liberation of Israel. His name was Gideon.
Gideon was scared at the thought of fighting against those who were oppressing Israel, the Midianites. But, in the midst of this man’s doubts, fears, and weaknesses, God said this.

The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.
(Judges 6:12, NIV)

Whether you believe in Jesus or not, dear friend, I pray you would understand that Jesus is not a religion. He is a person; a person who deeply Loves and Cares about you. Every anxiety, every fiery trial full of gun fights, and every moment of PTSD-like memories you have, Jesus is right there, waiting for you to call on Him as Lord and Savior, for help. Please do not refuse His Help. For, with Him alone as your Lord and Savior, you have the ultimate victory.

I pray that this has blessed, and encouraged you. I wanted to bless you, by praying Psalm 91 over you.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

     Please bring these men and women to come to know You, so that they might rest in Your Shadow, and call you their Refuge and Fortress.
Please help them to trust in You when they are afraid (Psalm 56:3).

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.

     Please save them from falling into temptation, and the traps of their physical and spiritual enemies.

He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

     Jesus, please cover these active men and women with Your Feathers.
When all of the fighting and memories get to be too much, please be their refuge.
Please show Your Faithfulness to them– for it is great, Father God.

You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

     As they are in the middle of the worst of the worst, Lord Jesus, I pray that You would protect and safeguard each man and woman who is fighting. I pray for amazing miracles, Jesus, to happen on the battlefield– miracles that will speak even to their enemies of who You are, so that all might come to know You!

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.

     Please give these men and women the faith to call upon You as their Refuge, dear Jesus.
     Remove the lies and fears that their own minds and their enemies give them; make them strong and bold in You.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

     Dear Jesus,
     Do amazing things before the eyes of these men, women, and the people they are fighting to protect. Do supernatural, awe-inspiring things in their midst, so that they will know that You are LORD alone.

14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

     Dear Jesus,
     Please bring back these men and women safely! Over EVERYTHING, dear Jesus, may they know You alone as their Lord and Savior!
I pray that they would have a humongous testimony of Your Faithfulness and Help in their lives, Jesus. May they call upon You, and always rely upon Your Love for them and Your blood– nothing else. 

     Please help those who are struggling with what has happened to them– who feel it is impossible to reconcile the fact that You are a Good, Loving God, with the things they have seen. In their doubt and anger, may You show Yourself to be real to them, despite their questions.

     Thank You, Lord Jesus. 

     In Jesus’ Name I pray,
     Amen!

You are all very Loved by Jesus, and by those who are calling upon Christ for you.
Thank you, again, for your service.

With Love, in Christ,
Annalee



Do you know Jesus?

This same God– this “Mighty Warrior,” called the “Lion of Judah” (Revelation 5:5) — is also called “The Lamb that was slain, for the sins of the world” (John 1:29; Revelation 13:8). But why did Jesus have to die? Why did He willingly become a man, to be sacrificed for your sin and mine? Read more about Jesus– and why He did what He did– here.

 

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
(John 15:13, NIV)

Thank a Veteran or member of your military for their service, today. Thank you for your love and prayers!!!

Please pray for Naomi Adamu…

Hello Friends,
After reading this article, I am asking that people would pray for Naomi Adamu, and five other freed Chibok girls who are currently going through painful physical and financial situations.

These six classmates carry physical wounds from their time in captivity that have not yet been treated. The American University of Nigeria and the Nigerian government made an agreement that the Chibok girls’ tuition and medical bills would be paid for; yet, their medical bills have not yet been touched, causing much extreme pain for Naomi Adamu, and her five fellow classmates.

Asking others to pray about this, one person suggested that the Church both there in Nigeria, and around the world, should try to step in and help pay, if not fully pay, for their medical bills, as the Church has a calling. “Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone–especially to those in the family of faith” (Galatians 6:10). It is now my prayer that Christ would lead the Church at large (including myself), as well as the local church in Nigeria, to assist and help these freed girls; perhaps, in giving them relief, they will come to know Christ in His goodness and kindness. So, I am asking for possible ideas on how to help the women, how to transfer funds to these women specifically, or how to otherwise relieve their pain. Any ideas are welcome!

Please, more than anything, pray for these beloved young women. Their lives have been a living hell for more than 3 years now, and they need all of the help, love, support and care they can get.

With Love,

Annalee



Do you know Jesus?

Christians do not just “give,” or “do good,” because they have to, or just because it is morally right.
We give because God first gave to us– not only did Christ give us the breath in our lungs, He gave us Himself, dying on the cross for our sins, so that we might know Him forever.

This incredibly generous God is the One we worship, the One we adore. Learn more about Him, His generosity, and His Love, here.

Love: the Greatest Form of Warfare

(This started being written on the morning of Monday, November 6th.)

It is Monday morning, and all I can do right now is sit here and cry.

Cry over and about the shooting that happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the First Baptist Church.

The 26 victims who passed away ranged in ages from 5-72 years old, according to CNN. Approximately 20 other people were wounded. There is practically no one who was not affected in some way, shape or form by the shooting, in such a small town as Sutherland Springs.

The regular pastor was away with his wife, and a visiting pastor came to preach at the church. He passed away in the shooting; as did the regular pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

Among the dead were eight people, apart of the same family, spanning across three generations and including a pregnant woman and her three children (source).

No one in the church left unharmed.

I sit here crying, not just because of the sheer horror of all of this, but because these congregants came to this church on a Sunday morning, to worship Jesus and to fellowship with one another. Because it struck deep, and held some of the same similarities to my own church.

There was a visiting pastor at the church I visited, yesterday. There were about 50-70 congregants in the service. The regular pastor and his wife were in a different city, guest-pastoring there.

As we lifted up holy hands and sang together in worship, and as chuckled with each other through the funny parts of the service, the Pastor taught us one thing: God is Love; and Love is the highest form of warfare.

It is patient. It is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others. It 
is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It always perseveres. Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

The kind of Love Jesus has for us is Agape Love. This kind of Love is sacred, and selfless. Loving without ever expecting Love in return. This kind of Love is not a cuddly, warm, fuzzy feeling. Neither is it only an impulse. It is an action. It is a choice, to be made daily.

It wages war on the self, or as the Bible calls it, “the flesh,” which wants self-gratification at any cost to those around itself. It wages war on the enemy, satan, and on his schemes to steal, kill, and destroy others through sin, deceit and spiritual attacks. Without this type of love, knowing everything in the world, having the greatest amount of faith, and doing even the most extremely selfless things, amounts to… well… nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Jesus wins the war; Jesus, God, is Love, as 1 John 4:8 states (again, not the warm, fuzzy, super-tolerant ‘Love’; but the life-changing, transforming, in-your-face bold and beautiful kind of Love, that does not delight in evil or sin, but delights in the truth.). And, because Jesus is Love, Love will always win. 

Over the apathy. Over the self-centeredness. Over the hurt, the pain, the anger and insult and tragedy. The horror. Love never fails.

Friends, Beloved, if we must get something right, let’s get Love right. Especially between our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Matthew 5, and 1 John 4, say:

“‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says,”You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
‘Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.'”
(Matthew 5:21-26, NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
(1 John 4:19-21, NIV)

That last passage, in 1 John 4, is super convicting, because the word “to hate” in the greek can also mean “love less,” or “esteem less.” In other words, if you do not care more for, and esteem your brothers and sisters in Christ as more than you do for yourself, you cannot truly Love God.

Harsh words, I know.
But in the wake of this horrific, horrific tragedy, I believe they must be said.
Because life is too short to not live a life of Real Love: for God and for others.

a life of real love

As 1 Peter 4 puts it, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8, NIV).

There is a town in deep distress, right now. And many are right; people need to change. But please, let’s hold off on the politics and the scrutiny, if only for a day. Because wherever you stand on the political spectrum, if you are a true Believer in Jesus Christ, you know that politics cannot truly save people; only Jesus Christ truly can.

Instead of politicizing this tragedy right now, or making it about another gun law gone wrong, let us just sit. And cry, with them, and for them, as they face the most pressing loss they may have ever encountered. Let us love our hurting, reeling brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs, Texas, right now, in the form of prayer, and of anything else we can give.

And let’s get Love right. Because truly, throughout all of our lives, He will win in the end.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:15, NIV)



Do you know Jesus?

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine (Matthew 18:12-13).
I couldn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
Still You give Yourself away;
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!”
(Reckless Love, Bethel Music ft. Steffany Gretzinger)

Though this is just a song, it expresses the kind of Love Jesus has for us. 1 John 4:9-10 says, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 

Jesus, God the Son, gave His Life, and God the Father gave His Son, so that we might have a chance to be with God forever. Learn more about this reckless Love– and what Jesus has done for you, in His Reckless Love– here.


Please pray…

  • For the members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Please pray for the victims’ families, as they are laid low in deep grief, right now.
  • For the churches all around the globe who have gone through the same thing, whether it would be because of ISIS, lone-gunmen, and/or the attacks of the enemy. Please pray that we would all stay united in Christ, and that we would pray for one another.
  • For those who are feeling lost, alone, suicidal, homicidal, and are generally in a low point of their lives. This gunman was a violent man; please pray that men and women like him would come to know Christ before something like this can happen again.
  • It has been reported that the gunmen spent a year in jail for domestic violence, by violently shaking his young son and abusing his wife on multiple occasions; but none of this information was relayed to police, which could have caused the ability for the shooter to obtain a gun.
    Please pray for those who relay this information, and for any guilt that any person could have over not doing their job. Please pray that they would come to Christ, and would forgive themselves for any way they could have caused this.
  • Pray for anyone in general who could have felt this way before, as well.

I love you, friends. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Spiritual Armor: Protecting Oneself for the Fight

In the past two blog posts, “The Noble Soldier” and “The Army with the Afterlife in Mind,”  I have been discussing the concept of how the military here on earth– especially the militaries fighting ISIS and radical islamic terrorism– are very much like “The Lord’s Army,” all Christ Followers who are seeking to glorify Christ and fight evil, darkness, sin, and oppression by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But through writing these posts, one thing came to the forefront of my mind: with what does the Christian soldier fight with, in the battle against darkness? I felt it important to 1) address the reality and importance of the enemy’s schemes in our lives, and 2) express what the Bible says about how we fight back.

The Christian Life: A Battleground

Many Christians today, especially in the West, see their discipleship to Christ as something they do on Sundays, or whenever they meet for church. Because Christianity can be, as of now, openly practiced in the United States of America, many Christians do not take their walk with Christ seriously. They see their walks in this life as more of a playground, instead of a battleground. (This is not, of course, stating that to have fun and enjoy life is sinful, or unwise– everything has been given to us by Jesus for our enjoyment, 1 Timothy 6:17).

But, nothing could be further from the truth. Without using scare tactics to freak out Christians about the enemy, the truth is that there is an enemy of our souls.battleground

Here is what the Bible says about the enemy of our souls, satan.

Knowing Our Enemy

It is important to note that not everything bad that happens in our lives is directly from satan’s scheming; much of the time, it is also our sin and it’s consequences, or the result of living in a broken world, one riddled by sin (1 Peter 4:15; Romans 8:19-23).

But, every good soldier must have a good understanding of the enemy they are fighting. The Bible says:

  • He (satan) fell from his place in heaven because of pride, wanting to be God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
  • He can come deceitfully, under the guise even of an “angel of light”
    • And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
  • He comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)
    • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John  10:10)
  • He tempts humanity, even Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
  • He incites humanity.
    • “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21)
  • He is “The Accuser of the Brethren,” accusing us night and day, bringing false guilt and condemnation. (Revelation 12:7-10)
  • He prowls around, like a lion (not as a lion), looking to see whom He can deceive and destroy.
    • Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Think about that last point. satan prowls around– not as the Lion (as in the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ), but like a lion, a false and cowardly imitation of Christ. Cowardly as he is, satan prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
The definition of “devour” is “to consume destructively.” This definition provides a wake-up call for Believers: You have an enemy that, though he cannot touch your salvation, wants to destroy your life, your testimony to Christ, and your walk with Christ.

With such a formidable enemy ready to attack us, what can the Christian do to defend themselves, as well as to attack the enemy?

Ephesians 6 is full of scripture about spiritual warfare, but James 4:7 uncovers one powerful way a Christian can cause satan to literally run away.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
(James 4:7, NIV)

It’s simple, yet it involves us humbling ourselves before Christ, and doing His Will (therefore rejecting the devil). When we do this, the enemy has no other choice than submit to Christto flee from us!

Fighting The Enemy

It is in this humble submission to our Loving Jesus that Ephesians 6 encourages us to stand firm and strong against the enemy.

Ephesians 6 starts out this way: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth‘” (Ephesians 6:1-3). What is the common thread here? Submission! In submitting to those who are higher up and/or leading you, your relationship and spiritual life flourishes. 

Diving into Ephesians 6:10, submitting to Christ and to those He has placed over your life, Paul discusses the many different ways a Believer can stay strong against the enemy’s attacks, discussed below (I am using this Bible Study guide as my main resource for this portion of the Blogpost.):

  • The belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14)
    • The belt of truth keeps one’s sword-carrier and the rest of their armor intact (source). Without Truth, the rest of a person’s spiritual armor is in grave danger of falling off!
    • Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one gets to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). Without Jesus as the Truth, everything else in a person’s life is in danger.
  • The breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)
    • The breastplate protected one’s abdomen and vital organs. Without righteousness, the enemy can go straight for the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. — causing catastrophic damage in the spiritual life of a person. 
    • 1 Corinthians 1:30 states, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Jesus Christ is, for the Believer, Righteousness. Without Him, we have no life, and are subject to death, much like a person who has wounded his vital organs.
  • “Feet Fitted with the Readiness that Comes from the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15)
    • The feet are some of the most delicate parts of the body, especially when it comes to their undersides/the sole of the foot. In the middle of the battle, one needs shoes that provide protection from debris, and allow the fighter to focus on the battle at hand. 
    • When we are focused on Jesus, and on sharing His Gospel with those around us, we are given a firm foundation, ready to fight and protected from the many distractions of life.
  • The Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16)
    • The Shield of Faith is not just something one puts on; one needs to wield their shield of faith, especially as the enemy shoots his fiery darts of discouragement, doubt, fear, and temptation. Believing Jesus’ promises can help us “curve” these fiery darts!
    • Psalm 3:3 proclaims that Jesus is our Shield: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. It has been said that it does not matter how much faith you have, as much as it matters where you put that faith in. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1). Trusting in Jesus as our Shield and Promise-Keeper keeps us safe from satan’s attacks.
  • The Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)
    • The helmet can mean life or death for those in the middle of warfare, as the brain is the most vital organ of the body. When one keeps Jesus’ sacrifice at the forefront of their minds, it protects their minds from distractions and discouragements (source).
    • Jesus is our Savior, the One who has saved us! Keeping our eyes and thoughts on Jesus protects us from the evil one.
  • The Sword of the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)
    • The Sword of the Word of God, held by the belt of Truth, is the way to fight back against the enemy of our souls.
    • Think about it: the more we know the Word of God, the more we know the promises of God; the more we are focused on Jesus and spreading His Gospel; and the more we are rooted in the Truth, that Jesus is our Righteousness! Learning how to yield the Sword of God is crucial to our spiritual health. More than this, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1).
  • The Cloak of Zeal (Isaiah 59:17)
    • While not mentioned in Ephesians 6, the cloak of zeal is mentioned in Isaiah 59:17, which says, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” Our zeal and passion for Jesus can keep us from even the worst of outside conditions, just as cloak protected one against the outside elements. Like a coat, today, zeal keeps a soldier performing at their peak.
    • Our zeal must be based on right knowledge; many people have zeal today, but it is based in something evil or sinful. It was Jesus’ zeal to obey the Father and be the propitiation for our sins that saved us; when we base our zeal on Jesus and sharing His Gospel, no one can put that flame out!

Make no joke; our enemy is a formidable one. But, with submitting to Christ; putting on Jesus as our Righteousness and Truth; resting in His Salvation and Gospel; and growing in Faith in Him and zeal for Him, nothing the enemy does can keep us from walking in Christ’s victory.

christ's victory

As important to our spiritual walk as the clothes a soldier wears on a daily basis, I pray that we would put on our spiritual armor. May we walk close to Jesus, our Commander, in the midst of this fight. For, unlike an earthly commander, Jesus is with us– always.



Do you know Jesus?

Are you wounded, today?
Has the fight of life you are in seemingly decimated you?
Even when we are too weak to stand, Jesus is right there, ready and waiting to lift us up, and strengthen us, just as David said in Psalm 3: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (Psalm 3:3).

In these times, we can call to Jesus for Refuge, and rest under His Loving Care (1 Peter 5:7). Because Jesus is not just our military Commander, barking out orders; He is our Loving Father, deeply interested in every detail of our lives (Psalm 37:23).

Learn about this Powerful, Loving, God– Jesus Christ– and just how much He Loves you, here.



Please pray for…

  • The Chibok girls; as of today, there are 113 of them still in captivity. Please pray for a breakthrough in their hearts, minds and lives!
  • Those who are on the physical front lines, including soldiers, aid workers, and members of vigilante groups, especially in Nigeria. Please pray that they would all come to know Jesus, and would fight under His ultimate Lead and Protection.
  • Those who are on the spiritual front lines, including missionaries, clergymen, and every Christian involved in the daily fight against evil (which is all of us, in some form or fashion!). Please pray for protection, wisdom, guidance, discernment, and boldness as they fight the good fight of faith.
  • The members of Boko Haram, deeply influenced by evil and falsehood. Please pray that Jesus would bring even these men to trust in Him, and would turn their lives around for His Glory, just like Saul (also known as Paul) (Acts 9).
  • For the continued protection and sustaining of those who are caught in this evil crossfire.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!

The Army with the Afterlife in Mind

I read this news report, heralding the news from Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, that “the fight against Boko Haram insurgents is coming to an end.” In the report, Abubukar states “the outcome of our offensive operations showed that the fight against Boko Haram is gradually coming to an end; this, however does not mean that we should rest on our oars.” Such an amazing report can only enlighten the soul; whether or not it is completely true, the fact that significant progress is made is something to celebrate.

This celebration comes amidst recounting the horrors of Boko Haram, and all that the citizens of Northern Nigeria have been through. The New York Times did an article focusing on 18 girls who were kidnapped, and subsequently made to go on suicide missions.

As each of these young women shared their stories, it became real: the heaviness of the suicide belts on their hips; the false promises of heaven for pushing a detonator; and the IMMENSE amounts of courage– and honestly, grace from God– that it took to turn themselves in instead of following Boko Haram’s orders.

For one girl, her little brother was also made to go on a suicide mission. He was too young at the time to understand what really was going on. He was driven away on a motorbike with Boko Haram’s members; she said he never came back. Instead, the men who drove off with him came back cheering at their “success” (source).

Whether or not Sadique Abubakar’s statement is true only time and events will tell; many are already going against his words, citing many suicide bombings in the last several months including three that made headlines. But amidst this immense loss, the chief of Air Staff’s words come like a refreshing breeze in a hot, hot desert. It is a Hope for weary soldiers, continually fighting the good fight against evil and oppression.

In the same vein of thinking, Christians, especially those continuing to experience hard trials, have the Hope that one day, the pain they are going through will be over with, either upon passing away, or upon the time of Jesus’ return. Think about it: whatever you, as a Believer and Follower of Jesus Christ, are going through, right now; whatever is the content of your pain, your sighs, and your suffering; you not only have the promise that Jesus will be with you, in and through it. You also have the sure promise that one day, “every tear will be wiped away” (Revelation 21:2-4).

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.'”
(Revelation 21:3-4, NIV)

 

All Christians know that their time in heaven will be like paradise; and the day His Kingdom comes is closer now, more than ever (2 Timothy 3). It’s anticipation that fills us with the urgency to tell other people about Christ.

Revelation 21 describes Heaven amazingly. Obviously, Heaven is absolutely gorgeous, something that we can only imagine until Jesus allows us to see it ourselves after death or upon His return. In all, the New Jerusalem– heaven on earth– is 1,400 miles wide, high, and long. But it’s grandeur not the only thing that makes Heaven so beautiful.

God’s Presence is Paradise

But there is perhaps one special, beautiful thing that makes heaven, heaven. Many people focus on the presence of angels in heaven, imagining heaven to be a place of white, fluffy clouds, and angels playing melodious harps. But it is SO much more than this! Heaven will be re-created, as well as Earth– and Believers will be given a new, resurrected body, as Jesus dwells with them (Revelation 21:3).

revelation 21.2-4 true

What does this all mean? Ponder the importance of having a sun, a moon, and, for the Believer, a place of worship. Sure, we can worship anywhere we want as Believers; but the place of worship is where one meets with God. These verses are saying that in Heaven, God’s Presence with His Children is all we need. So it is, here; but God will dwell with His People, and God’s glory will be made most manifest, like never before. It is the magnitude of God’s Presence that makes Heaven, Heaven.

 

The Kingdom of Heaven is Near

In a mysterious way, that I admit I do not still quite understand, we are to ask Jesus to bring His Kingdom and Rule to earth (Matthew 6:10). The mind-blowing part: He does this through us! We, Believers in Jesus Christ, are able to experience the Presence of God in this moment– and are being used by Jesus to bring His Kingdom– “The Kingdom of Heaven”– to earth, starting now.

Jesus is with us, now; and, one day, we will live in the Presence of God, void of sin, pain, and death (Revelations 21:27). We will be given resurrected bodies, just like Jesus, and will live in a new Heaven on a new Earth (1 Corinthians 15).

We can be told these things, over and over again. But do they actually shape the way we live on a daily basis? 
Does the fact that all sin, and its consequences, will be banished away, give us realchange the way we live Hope and Comfort?
Does the fact that we will be given new, resurrected bodies, and a new Heaven and earth, make us look at the world around us, differently?
Does the fact that we will be with Jesus, in unhindered fellowship, give you Peace about your future?
And lastly, does the fact that time is running out– and that Heaven is real– give you an urgency about bringing others to Jesus?

With all of these beautiful promises of God in mind, we must live our lives with a sense of urgency, leading as many people as possible to know Jesus, and to enter into His Rest. The struggle is almost over; for those who believe in Jesus, this is a huge relief. But, for those who do not know Jesus, there is a sense of mockery and/or dread in their hearts…

Just as the soldiers fighting in Nigeria, Niger and Chad are fighting the war on terrorism, so are the people of God fighting evil. As we await the end of this war on evil, and struggle almost overanticipate a time of true Peace and complete Newness, we have a sure Hope: “the war is over soon.” Not only this, but we have a Commander who will see us through– one who has already secured the victory! On that day when this world and everything in it passes away, may we have lived in the power of the Holy Spirit in such a way that our Great, Loving Commander says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).



“Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.”
(Acts 1:9-12, NIV)

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”
(Acts 7:55, NIV)

So many people today ask the question, “How can I get to heaven?”
Doing good things comes to mind; attending a place of worship, reading holy texts, and generally “being a good person” is usually the world’s answer to such a question.

But if this were true, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross– and His resurrection three days later, followed by His ascension to heaven– is entirely useless.

The Truth is, nothing we can do– no matter how “good” or “moral” it may be– can “get us to heaven.” Believing in Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior, is the ONLY way.

Find out more about Jesus, and why His death and resurrection were completely needed, here.



Please pray for…

  • For the Chibok school girls. As 113 of them are in physical bondage, and countless others are reeling from the PTSD and trauma they have experienced, that they would run to, and come to know Jesus– and that He would set them free.
  • The militaries of Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Benin, as well as the rest of the world’s armies fighting terrorism and evil. Please pray that these men and women would come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and would not only be in an earthly army, but in the LORD’s army.
  • Those Christians, especially missionaries and those traveling to share the Gospel, for strength, that they might put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6; this will be spoken about in future posts.). That they would continue to fight evil on all fronts.
  • For those who are being persecuted. “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:3). Please pray that Jesus continues to keep them strong in His Love, and that they would not turn away from Him!
  • For ourselves; those around us that are going through deep personal trial and anguish, that Jesus would bring them His Hope, Comfort, and most importantly, that His Presence in their lives would make them strong in Him.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. Jesus bless you all.