Urgent Prayer Request: Justice in Austin, Texas Bombings

Please pray over Austin, Texas, where there have been four separate, yet extremely similar bombs that have gone off in the city.

So far, two people have passed away from these bombings: one 39 year old man on March 2nd, and one 17 year old boy on March 12th.

Three other people have been injured in the attacks, including the one that occured just yesterday at 8:30 PM. Police officers still do not know who this bomber could be– and they don’t know, for sure, if these bombings are connected, but strongly suspect that they are, because of obvious evidence.

These bombings seem to be growing in complexity, which is very concerning to Austin police officers. Let’s pray that this bomber either turns themselves in, or that the ATP (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) and local law enforcement is able to find this dangerous person/group of people.

 


Do you know Jesus?

Even through the heinous nature of these crimes, the fact is that Jesus Loves this person/these people, and “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Whoever you are, and whatever you have done, Christ Loves you– and, as long as you are alive on this earth, it is never to late to turn to Him for salvation. That is the beauty of God’s grace through Jesus Christ.

Learn more about how to spend eternity with this amazing, Loving God, here.


Please pray (you can find the prayer sheet, here)…

  • That this person/these people would come to know Christ, and would turn themselves in.
  • That these people are brought to Justice, and that Christ would lead, guide, and help police officers to find the perpetrators.
  • For the safety of those in Austin, Texas.
  • For the Chibok girls, and their safe return. You can find many of their names and pictures here.

 

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The Boko Haram: Finding Unmerited Mercy & Unbelievable Forgiveness

They lied. It was four o’clock in the morning in Baga, Nigeria, and, drowsy from sleep, the men in each household were told to get up and follow Boko Haram members outside so that they “could explain everything.” As 14 shaking men followed the terrorists into the brush, they were told to lie on the ground. What they had hoped for– “an explanation,” anything to acknowledge that they were human beings, too– was all for nought. Continue reading

Child Soldiers: Precious in the Eyes of Christ

There are countless children and teenagers being forced into the Sharia-law enforcing Boko Haram. On December 25th, it was reported that one 13 year old girl was forced into Boko Haram by her father, who was also apart of the terrorist group. Being apart of this group did not spare her from deadly violence, though; members asked the girl– and eventually forced her– to be a suicide bomber with two other young girls in the city of Kano, Nigeria. Leaving her suicide vest behind in the taxi she rode, this young girl narrowly escaped certain death, being injured in the leg by the blast caused by the two other suicide bombers.

Continue reading

Joy Amidst the Pain: Meditating on the Real Reason for Christmas

This coming February, Nigerians will line up at the polls to vote for their next president– or to reinstate their current president, Goodluck Jonathan. The APC (All Progressives Congress) is making sure promises that if their candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, wins the election, there will be such change that 2014 will be their “last Christmas in bondage.” Problems such as lowering oil prices, the devaluation of the naira (the country’s form of currency), government and military corruption, and the Boko Haram’s terrorist insurgency have caused Nigerians to lose confidence in Nigeria’s social and government institutions. Amidst such major problems, it can be hard– almost impossible– to have a joyous Christmas in Nigeria, especially in Northern regions.

This Christmas, countless Nigerians are grieving their loved ones, suffering economic downturns, and living as displaced people in places such as Maiduguri, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger. Because of the government’s failure to serve their people, Nigerians are outraged and looking for any ounce of hope to get them through this depressing holiday season. Yet, among reports of worsening developments, there is a cause for joy: the true meaning of Christmas, Christ’s birth, expresses that God has become Immanuel, or “God with Us.” Continue reading

Corruption in the Nigerian Church: Confronting Sin

There is no end in sight to the corruption found in Nigeria.
The extent of the corruption was expressed by the Deputy National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria:

“Corruption has eaten so deep into the society that it is no just about politicians alone. In the church, you have to almost always pray with one eye opened because in some of the places, even some ushers and finance people steal the offerings. It is terrible.”

This kind of corruption can be seen as shocking, but it comes as no surprise to those who know the signs of the end times. This kind of corruption was warned against in the last days, as found in 2 Timothy 3:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
(2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Although it may come as no surprise, it is saddening and a cause for anger, none the less. The level of corruption in Nigeria’s government has been frustrating throughout the ordeal concerning the Chibok girls’ abduction; to learn that it has spread to Holy places– the very meeting places of the body of Christ– expresses that sin and corruption are indeed like a virus that quickly spreads without reflection and repentance. Continue reading

Viewing the Statistics: Praying for our Enemies

The statistics are heartbreaking. According to estimations made by the Council on Foreign Relations, approximately 1 million Nigerians have been displaced and robbed of their livelihoods by the terrorist group Boko Haram since November 2013. Not only have millions lost their businesses, farms, and homes, but over 10,000 men, women, and children have lost their lives– callously targeted and slaughtered by the Boko Haram (BH)– because they have refused to take part in their barbaric, demonically evil actions of violence. These statistics have given cause for the BH’s violence to be compared to ISIS’s violence, with only approximately 400 more violent deaths caused by ISIS in the past year.

When reading such statistics, it can be easy to stop there, shocked by the numbers and disturbed by the masses of people lost. It can be easy to study graphs and shake our heads, disconcerted by the sharp increases in violence seen starting in 2014. In the midst of these numbers, though, we must not forget that Christ is a God who knows every one of the people affected, hurt, and killed by the Boko Haram; these people are not just statistics to our Lord, but are fully and intimately known by their Creator. Every person counted in these statistics have names, stories, and loved ones; for every person killed, there are people mourning their loss. Our God is near to every soul robbed of it’s joy, every injured body, and every grieving heart; not only this, but countless men and women who put their trust in our Lord now reside with Him in heaven, emptied of all their temporal pain, full of the eternal joy of Christ.

In sight of eternity, there are many prayers said for those mourning and in loss, while many prayers are being prayed against the members of the Boko Haram. Many have lashed out at the members of the Boko Haram (and ISIS, for their violent acts have caused even more pain), breathing out curses and prayers for their destruction. Yet, it’s important to ask what Christ would do in such a situation– or, to look back on what He did do, as He looked out at the masses cheering for His death. His response was one of pure love.

“When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.” 
(Luke 23:33-34, NASB)

Our Lord did not need to die for us, nor was He truly ever at our mercy. No; instead, Christ gave himself willingly (as seen in John 10:17-18), knowing that only by His wounds all of us would be healed. He looked at those who zealously pounded nails into His hands and feet with nothing but love and forgiveness, asking the Father to forgive all of us, “for [we] did not know what [we were] doing” (John 10:18, “we” and “we were” mine). I say “we” because Jesus also died for all people today, for us; Jesus died for every sin (of every sinner) ever committed (2 Corinthians 5:14). This solid truth means that every bit of evil we’ve ever committed against another– even the sins we commit against ourselves– have nailed Jesus to that tree. The simple, hard to swallow truth is this: Every sin, “big” and “small,” “justified” and “unfair” alike, has not only harmed and killed ourselves or those whom we’ve sinned against, but have actually killed Christ. This truth changes those who believe it at the very core of themselves, forever.

Searching God’s word, those who are changed by Christ’s love find that they must take up Christ’s way of interacting with those who persecute them: “If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them” (Luke 6:29, NIV). This philosophy seems to make no human sense; it speaks of giving our all to the Love of Christ, allowing others to treat us harshly while we respond with going the extra mile to Love our enemy. Not only does it make no human sense, it is not humanly possible without the Lord Himself living in us, as Jesus stated in John 15: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5, NIV).

Yet, with Christ, all things, including truly Loving our enemy, are possible (Matthew 19:26). With Christ, we have the ability to look at statistics, view the horrendous damage, and respond with humble, loving prayers for our enemies, knowing that Christ died for them too– and we are no better than them, but have also hurt and killed Christ ourselves. For “they do not know what they do” to the souls, hearts, minds, and bodies of those whom they harm and murder; they have not yet discovered that they are only hurting Christ. We must remember that we don’t truly fight against flesh and blood, but “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV). In short, we are not merely fighting against the members of the Boko Haram; we are fighting against the evil that fuels their violent acts, a spiritual element that these men have no idea they are being devoured by themselves. These men must come to the end of themselves, only so that Christ can welcome them with His nail-scarred hands opened wide, something they need as much as their victims do.


In light of this, please pray that the members of the Boko Haram would see and know the Love of Christ– perhaps, even through those men and women whom they are persecuting. Pray for Abubukar Shekau, the leader of the Boko Haram, that He would see and understand that He is truly killing Christ; pray His heart would be softened and that He’d hear the gospel in a whole new way, and that He’d know Christ as His Lord and Savior. Pray for those in captivity, that Christ would use them to bring the love and gospel of Christ to those who need Him. Pray for the thousands upon thousands of men and women whom Christ is near to, that they’d feel His comfort and near Presence.

Because truly, these men need to hear the message of Christ just as much as their victims do.

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)

Caught in the Crossfire: Peace for Believers in the Middle of Chaos

Monday, December 1st, it was reported that a police base in Damaturu was attacked by the Boko Haram, being ruthlessly raided and bombed by BH members seeking to make Damaturu apart of its Islamic Caliphate. The men, women and children of Damaturu have left their homes for fear of being bombed or shot at, cowering in the brush with no one to defend them.

While such a nightmare goes on, another attack on the Grand Mosque in Kano, Nigeria killed at least 120 people, after the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, encouraged Nigerians to fight against the Boko Haram. Those who escaped the bomb blasts were shot at by Boko Haram members, some barely escaping with their lives, obtaining second and third degree burns that will take months to really heal.

In such a time, where chaos has become the norm and fear fills the weary hearts and minds of people all over Northern Nigeria, peace is a foreign concept, one almost scoffed at by those who have witnessed such heinous crimes. Young and old alike have spent countless nights awake, frightened by violent sounds of war, ready to flee at any moment. In such a time as this, fear seems to be the only emotion one can feel, and peace seems to be no more than an idealistic daydream.

Yet, in times of such shock, pain, and extreme fear, there is true hope for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus freely gives us peace whenever we may need it, no matter the circumstance:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

As Christ so lovingly promises, He does not give to us as the world gives– with strings attached, temporally or sparingly; Christ’s gifts– among them, His amazing gift of peace to His followers– are 100% sure, eternally abundant, and completely free. Those of His children who are suffering can “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present [their] requests to God,” while the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV “their” mine). Those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior have unlimited amounts of peace completely available to them as they look to Him for all that they need; because Christ knows what we need, and can fulfill every empty place in our lives, we as believers will never be found wanting any good thing, as stated in Psalm 34:10. His unfailing Love is bigger than any act of evil; in all things, we are “more than conquerors through Him who love[s] us” (Romans 8:37, NIV, “loves” mine). Because of all this, we as believers can “run with perseverance,” as stated in Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

But for those who do not know Jesus Christ, peace is far off. For those being attacked in such bombings as the Grand Mosque bombing in Kano, true peace has never been felt and impossible to find. In such dark times, the knowledge that there is no real light for nonbelievers fills me with pain and deep compassion. They need to know the Light. They need to feel His warmth during such times of pain and trial. At a time where nothing in the world makes sense, they need to know that they are incredibly loved and can be made new by the Creator of the Universe– not because they are faithful followers or have done “just the right things,” but “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV). They need to know that He is not unapproachable in times of distress, but is quite the opposite:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore [we can] draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV, “we can” mine)

At the core of it all, fear is a lie. But for those who don’t know the Truth, peace is nowhere in sight; whether they be Muslim, atheist, or any other religion or creed, those who do not know the Prince of Peace have never and will never know the peace they so need. If that is not a reason for earnest prayer, I don’t know what is.


Because of all of this, please pray for those who do not know Christ in Northern Nigeria. Pray that the Lord, who is the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3, NIV), would comfort our fellow brothers and sisters, so that He may use them to share the gospel with those who do not know Him. Pray that His peace that surpasses all understanding would guard our brothers and sisters in Christ; pray also that the Lord would “strengthen [them] and protect [them] from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Pray for the Nigerian military, that the Lord would strengthen them to fight back against the Boko Haram well; pray also for our brothers and sisters in captivity, that the Lord would use them to witness to members of the Boko Haram within the camps.

God is faithful to bring our brothers and sisters peace, no matter the evil they face. Let us praise Him!