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!

The Battle plans of the Enemy (And How We Can Avoid Them)

In (late) observance of Veteran’s Day, I was led to write about the “schemes of the enemy”– otherwise known as satan’s battle plans. Enjoy– and stay close to our Loving Jesus!



 

Do you remember, or have you heard about, the Jonestown Massacre that happened in 1978? Without over-spiritualizing the concept of satan’s devices and plans– and without making it something that merely puts fear into people, rather than soberness, encouragement and power– I read a deeply disturbing article about a survivor of Jim Jones’ cult. This event was something that really struck my heart with its heaviness.

For those of you who may not know about the Jonestown Massacre, a deranged, yet incredibly Charismatic man named Jim Jones led a mass following of some 1400 people in a cult which was called “The Peoples Temple Christian Church.” As the cult turned more and more sinister, he led his faithful following to an isolated existence in the rainforest of Guyana, a country in Southern America. He called the isolated compound, “Jonestown.”

jonestown massacre

As Jim Jones, who was reportedly secretly addicted to amphetamines, continued to lead his cult, he would stage “suicide rehearsals,” telling the people of the compound that “they” (the outside world/American government) were coming to torture and kill Jones’ followers “because [his followers] had chosen the ‘socialist track'” (source). Deceiving and terrorizing the people using even the Bible, Jones coerced his followers into “revolutionary suicide,” by having them drink cyanide-laced kool-aid (an event which created the casual, insensitive phrase, “Don’t drink the kool-aid”). Jones went through with the the mass suicide on November 18th, 1978, when at last someone– Californian congressman Leo Ryan– came to investigate claims that Jones’ followers were held against their will at the compound (source). 900 people, including 276 children, were killed; Congressman Leo Ryan was murdered by those close to Jones, as well (source).

In her book, “Jonestown Lullaby,” Teri Buford O’shea describes her experience within the cult in a collection of photographs and poems. (The Atlantic had a chilling interview with O’shea about her experiences, which I encourage you to read if you want to study more of the Jonestown Massacre.) Reading this article, it dawned on me how incredulous, somber, and diabolically evil Jones’ actions were– and how the enemy works in such a similar way to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).

When the Enemy Attacks

The apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 2:11, said, “…we are not unaware of [the devil’s] schemes,” and Ephesians 6:11 tells us to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (more about the armor of God in this post.) It is important to understand his battle plans, so that Believers do not fall prey. But, what are the enemy’s devices?

Here are some to think about:

  • satan deceives. This is his primary tactic; in fact, Jesus Himself said that “he is the father of lies,” and that lying is his natural way of speaking (John 8:44). Just like Jim Jones, satan deceives people into thinking that they know the truth, when actually, they are believing a lie that could lead them to hell (if they don’t repent and make Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior).
  • satan perverts. In the words of Harold S. Martin, satan constantly “battles for the soul of the sinner and the life of the saint.” satan even uses, twists, and perverts good creation, including the Bible– the Word of God itself– to propagate his own evil plans. We can see him doing this in the life of Jesus, when Jesus was tempted for forty days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).
  • satan distracts us. More than ever, we live in a world full of distractions– distractions that can easily lead us away from Christ.
    Mark 4 describes a person that, upon hearing the Gospel, is distracted and taken away by the cares of this life. On a daily basis, satan distracts us from pursuing Jesus and His Kingdom using the same cares of this life: worries about finances, popular thoughts and philosophies, partying, and anything else he can use against us.
  • satan tempts. Just as Jim Jones lured people into the Peoples Temple cult using false promises of a utopia where everyone was equal, satan uses our desires (even good and natural desires!) to tempt us to sin. This is especially true of sexual immorality (having sex outside of God’s plan for marriage between one man, and one woman), but can be true of anything in our lives. After all, I have heard something be said to the effect of sin being “fulfilling God-created desires outside of God’s perfect will and plan for them.”
  • satan accuses. satan has a similar strategy: having led the Believer into temptation, he immediately turns around, heaping guilt and condemnation upon the sinner. satan would LOVE to have Believers continuously falling into temptation, and wallowing in guilt and condemnation for it. But we, as Believers, are not under false guilt and condemnation (Romans 8:1)!
  • satan manipulates & degrades. Using deceit, Jim Jones manipulated his followers into believing that everyone outside of their cult was out to get them. In doing so, he degraded and enslaved his followers to himself. satan would love to do the same, and does all of the time.
  • satan puts evil thoughts in our minds. Speaking lies into our ears, satan is behind many, if not most of the evil thoughts that can come into our minds. I want to be careful here, and say that we have our own sinful nature– not every sinful, wrong, evil, dark thought or action we have is straight from satan himself. However, he can definitely be a driving force behind such things, as Harold S. Martin writes here.
  • satan intimidates us. Jim Jones caused his listeners to become so afraid that many saw no other way out than the suicide he was commanding of them.
    No matter who you are, we are all susceptible to fear at differing degrees. Again, filling our minds with doubt and lies, satan loves to discredit God’s promises to fight for and take care of us. Ultimately, satan wants us bound up and wound up in fear and worry, clinging to fear instead of Christ.
  • satan divides us. Many militias have used the age-old tactic to divide and conquer its enemies. satan absolutely hates those who trust in and follow Jesus, and as such, he spends much of his time trying to divide and pit Christians against one another– and watches in glee as we do it to ourselves.
    He divides us using envy, deceit, gossip, bitterness, unrighteous anger, and especially unforgiveness. The Apostle Paul writes about this in Hebrews: “Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many” (Hebrews 12:15, NLT).
    The dividing effects of these sinful actions are why it is SO important to obey God’s Word on loving one another. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).
  • satan isolates us. Division and isolation go hand in hand. Like Jim Jones did when he took 1400 of his followers to a compound in Guyana, away from the rest of the world, satan wants us isolated from other Believers. At the core, a person who is isolated from others– especially isolated from other Believers– is easy for satan to destroy, and that is why he employs this strategy. Biblical, Godly community is something ALL Believers need; without it, we are very susceptible to being successfully attacked  by the enemy of our souls.

 

Ultimately, using these devices, and others like them, satan wants us bound; believing lies; steeped in sin; and hopeless beyond repair. In short, he wants us dead. Dead in our sin, dead physically, and deadened in our relationship with God.

The slaughter, much like the mass suicide (murder) of the innocent but gravely misled Peoples’ Temple followers, is heartwrenching. But, we are not defenseless.

Good, Good Leader

Jesus has given us spiritual armor, armor that protects us from the wiles of the enemy– you can read about those in this post. But, reflecting on the Jonestown Massacre, there is one beautiful, comforting truth to remember: in the Jonestown Massacre, those misled followers of Jim Jones had a deranged, selfish, evil “shepherd” to guide them to their deaths.

But it is not so, with us, Believers in Jesus. As said before here, Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). He comes that we might have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10); and when we submit to Him, He leads us into verdant pastures, and by quiet streams, along right paths for His Namesake (Psalm 23:2-3).

The Truth? Jesus and satan are NOT equal in nature or power. Jesus is God; satan is not, no matter how hard he tries to be. satan needs Jesus’ permission to do what he wants in the life of the Believer; and Jesus does not allow anything to happen that He cannot turn around for His Glory, and our Good.

Our God is for us. He is not a lie; all through the darkness, He is in control.

So, be sober and vigilant. But, do not be afraid. For Jesus has said, “… ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you'” (Hebrews 13:5).

And for Jesus, our Good, Good Leader, that promise never has been– nor will it ever be– broken.
We can trust our Leader, guys, no matter what the enemy says or does. And our Leader wins in the end. 

May that be a comfort, and an amazing encouragement of victory, for all of us.

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
(Romans 8:37, NLT)



Do you know Jesus?

Therefore Jesus said again, Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.’
(John 10:7-9, NIV)

Jesus is not only good shepherd or leader; He is the Good Shepherd. And He alone is the way to actually know God the Father.

So, let me ask you this: Do you, you yourself, personally know Jesus as your Lord and Savior? Learn more about Jesus Christ– and why He must be your Lord and Savior, for you to know God the Father– here.


Please pray for…

  • Believers all around the world who are currently undergoing spiritual warfare. Please pray that they would be sober and vigilant, and would know the enemy’s schemes against them.
  • Unity in the church. Please pray against the backbiting, the envy, unrighteous anger, gossip, and all other malice. We need each other! Pray this especially over your local fellowship.
  • For those who are fighting in physical war zones… that both their enemy and our army would know Jesus.
  • For, last but definitely not least, the Chibok girls who have not been found. Please pray that the Nigerian military, and anyone else, would be able to free them through negotiations, or however Jesus decides.

 

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.

 

The Noble Soldier

This post is dedicated to the four American green berets that lost their lives fighting terror in Tongo Tongo, Niger, along with the countless men and women who give their lives every day in the military.

On October 4th, 2017, four soldiers from the United States were killed in a fire fight between US/Nigerien soldiers and ISIS. In the firefight, one soldier named Sargent La David Johnson, was separated from the rest of the team. After the fight had ended, it took an extra 48 hours to find his body, to bring it back to Dover Air Force Base on October 7th.

This sad, sad news reminds me that it is not only civilians that are suffering in this insurgency, that has now spread to most of the Middle East and Africa. Be it Boko Haram, or ISIS (they are one in the same– Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015), this insurgency is killing hundreds of innocent soldiers, soldiers who have given their lives so that Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaeda are vanquished.

These men and women are not just numbers and statistics. Behind every fallen soldier is a mother left without a son; a man left without his best friend; and a wife or husband left without their spouse. Millions– millions of people outside of those directly attacked by Boko Haram– have lost their fighting loved ones to Boko Haram. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Internally Displaced Peoples of Nigeria

I read in this report that 86% of displaced peoples in Northern Nigeria, approximately 1.2 million people, are currently afraid of going back to their home towns and villages in Northeast Nigeria. This letter was written to these people, in response.

To the People in Northeast Nigeria, Beloved by Christ:

Hello. You may never know me; and I may never know you. Living halfway across the world from you, I have not experienced your culture, and I do not truly know the world you live in.

I will not pretend that I understand the pain you have experienced; I cannot.

I look at pictures of your children, and I cry at their gaunt, fragile bodies.
I hear about the land you once inhabited, your homestead, where you once grew your wheat, making a living. I have heard that those people, those locusts with human flesh on, stole it, stole it all, after stealing the lives of your loved ones– those who tried to escape.

I hear about these things. But how could I ever know them? It seems trite, even insulting, to write such a letter to you.

So much, so many has been stolen from you. Your fathers. Your mothers. Your children. Your lovers. Your husbands, your wives. Your innocence. Your homes and villages, wrecked by these locusts with human skin on.

And the miles you walked, ran, and hid to get away. As scorching as the heat that once made Hagar cry out in the desert, you walked your weary bodies across the highest of temperatures to get away from those locusts– those men who rob, and kill, and destroy.

You may have almost died… maybe some of those closest to you did die. I could never be able to understand this feeling: the horror you experienced as they slipped away.

All I can do is cry, when I think about it. Cry for you, cry for them. Cry for the pain that now keeps you awake at night.

By now, millions of people, in the same predicament as you, have found some sort of shelter. An internally displaced people’s camp, a friend’s house. Maybe even an old school building, one similar to the one your children learned in, before it was all taken away.

Maybe you have been there for one week. Maybe it’s been six months; maybe it’s been whole years, since you once saw your homeland. And they want you to go back.

The government, who, for many of you, did nothing to protect you, and nothing to disarm your enemies– they now say it is okay to go home.

I cannot imagine how you feel; I know that probably everybody feels something different. But according to this report, it says that most of you are afraid. Afraid of the known; afraid of the unknown. Afraid of the past; afraid of the present. Afraid of the future.

Friend, if this is where you are, I want to encourage you.

I know that I could never fathom the many atrocities you have been forced to experience.

But there was a time in my life, where much of what I held dear was stolen, too.
Food did not enter my mouth. My “homeland” of friends had to be left. For a time, I felt I had lost my own family.

The details of this story are for another day. I went through the most painful, heartbreaking time of my life, and let me tell you: I was a desert. I was dry bones. At times, I literally lacked even water; my own hands would not give it.

Fear enclosed me on all sides. I was afraid of the past happening again, and was afraid of what my future would hold. Friend, I was terrified.

But this is the Truth: even when I did not, could not see Him, Jesus Christ– the Lord of Heaven and Earth– was working for my good. Even when I felt, even when I was, alone, He was there, with me, in the darkness, chaos, and confusion.

When I was thirsting, spiritually and physically, Jesus quenched my thirst with His Promise: “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV).

hebrews 13.5-6.JPG

Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV

Friend, His Presence, according to Hebrews 13:5-6, makes Him your Helper. The Hand you hold during this trial, this storm. And when you are on the other side of this?

I pray that you will be saying, “Because He is near me, I will not fear.”

 

Jesus is Your Helper. Sounds trite, doesn’t it?
Especially coming from the mouth of a person who doesn’t know the first thing about your tragedy.

But I do know about mine.

It’s been three years later, and I can promise you this: If you place your trust in Jesus Christ, none of this will be wasted.

And He, being Your Good Shepherd, will give you life. Life, abundantly.

joel 2.25-26 finalHe will restore back all of what those locusts stole. He will restore you.

So, don’t be afraid. Be wise. Be cautious. But, with Christ on your side,

Don’t be afraid.



We are praying for you. You matter; You are Loved.

I want to bless you, by praying for you, here.

“Dear Jesus, Thank You for each and every one of these people. Thank You for keeping them alive.
Please let them hear, today, of Your Unfailing Love.
Please help them to dream again. Help them to flourish, and restore ALL that these locusts stole from them.

In Jesus’ Name we pray,

Amen.”

Again, we love you.
Yours in Prayer to Christ,
Annalee (of ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY)


“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.”

(Joel 2:25-26, NKJV)



Jesus came, that we might have Life, and have it abundantly.
In fact, He paid the ultimate price for us to have eternal life.

Learn more about this God, who lost everything, that we might gain everything in Him, here.

 

Please continue praying for those who have been internally displaced from their homes, in Northeast Nigeria.

We are called to be Jesus’ Hands and Feet, being the practical way others can claim that Jesus is their Helper. You may find a great resource for charities to give to that are currently involved in aiding IDPs in the Boko Haram insurgency, here.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!