Wait for the Beauty

Hey friends. I hope you all are doing well! Today, as you might already know, is Saint Patrick’s Day.

Oddly enough, I didn’t know it was Saint Patrick’s Day until I came to my computer to start writing this blog, and saw the Google Doodle for today. As I clicked on the Google Doodle, I found information on Saint Patrick that many people do not know—information with a striking similarity to that of the Chibok girls.

As you all probably know, the Chibok school girls were kidnapped from their boarding school during the time that they were going to take their exams. These teenage girls, anywhere from probably 15-18 years of age, had their physical freedom taken away from them; 112 still remain in captivity, today.

Well, contrary to what many people commonly think about St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland was actually not Irish at all—in fact, he was British. But, at the age of 16, Patrick was kidnapped by Irish raiders, where he lived for six years. As History.com puts it, “During this time, he worked as a shepherd, outdoors and away from people. Lonely and afraid, he turned to his religion for solace, becoming a devout Christian.”1

When one strips away the mythology and fame of Saint Patrick, he was simply a young man who was ripped away from his family, undergoing extreme hardship in a land he had never been in, before. But, it seems that this seemingly barren, horrible part of his life served a huge purpose. History.com goes on to say that “It is also believed that Patrick first began to dream of converting the Irish people to Christianity during his captivity.” According to St. Patrick’s writings, St. Patrick stated that God gave him two visions: one to leave Ireland after being there for 6 years, and then, later, one to return to Ireland to do Catholic missional work there as a priest.1

This man, having lived through much terror, heartbreak, and confusion, was used by Christ to bring the Gospel to the mainly pagan nation of Ireland (many say that it was St. Patrick who used a three-leaf clover to describe and explain the trinity to those He shared the Gospel with—something we as people still hang on to today as a “good-luck” charm). Christ exchanged even the worst of St. Patrick’s ashes for beauty: sharing the Gospel, and seeing people become saved.

There are both striking and obvious similarities between the life of St. Patrick and the countless number of people who are taken captive every single day (including, of course, the Chibok girls). These innocent people do not deserve what has happened to them; the great suffering they have undergone seems to be too much to bear.

But, even throughout all the suffering and heartache, could it be that this pain has a purpose?

And do we believe that Jesus can, somehow, in His own ways and timing, exchange our ashes for beauty?

This was the idea I was thinking of when sitting in church this past Wednesday, during a midweek service. I jotted down some notes from the sermon, here they are:

beauty 2.jpg

“’I [God] will trade your ashes for beauty.’

You’re not the only one waiting for beauty.

I will bring good out of this—trust Me.”

 

Friends, what is the pain, the heartache, the hardship that you or your loved ones PAIN PURPOSEare facing, right now? I can’t help but imagine the pain, frustration, fear, despair, and helplessness these kidnapped young women and their families feel, being kept apart, and not knowing where the ones they love most are.

Joseph suffered through it. And today, on St. Patrick’s Day, I have learned that St. Patrick, too, was stolen like property.

But, through it all, Jesus was faithful. And as the watching world looks upon the Chibok girls, it is my confident Hope that Jesus is (and will be) faithful in His every promise concerning these beautiful young women.

Christ did bring beauty from ashes. And this is what He yearns to do, for you.

So, this is my encouragement for you, friend: wait for the beauty. Ask Jesus to fill you afresh with the Holy Spirit, whose fruit includes patience; ask Him to help you to “wait upon Him.” There are a huge number of blessings and promises concerning waiting on Jesus’ work in your life . I exhort you to read, receive, and cling to them like the air you breathe.

wait on the Lord

Promises in the Waiting (copyright Annalee Hoover 2017)

Most of all, ask Him to fill you with Joy in His Presence, as you realize He is always with you; ask Him to show you the beauty that is already all around you, and rooted in who He is.

Jesus will come through, my friend. Rest in this promise, and wait for the beauty.

“He’ll bind up the broken-hearted/
Oh He will, yes He will/
He’ll set captives free from darkness, Oh He will, oh He will/
He’ll breathe hope into the hopeless, help a restless soul be still/
Oh-ohh, oh-ohh, He will, He will.”2

(“Oh He Will,” by Ellie Holcomb: Watch the video, here)

wait beauty

This post is dedicated to those who were kidnapped in Oyo state, Nigeria. Please pray for their soon return.


Do you know Jesus?

Jesus has done all that is needed for us to have eternal life with Him, enjoying and celebrating a personal, transforming relationship with Jesus. Learn more about this amazing, Joy-bringing God, and how you can have a personal relationship with Him, here.


Please pray for (get your prayer sheet here):

  • The soon return of the Chibok school girls. May there be a breakthrough, and a pouring out of these people from Boko Haram captivity.
  • The soon return of the Dapchi girls. May they not be forgotten!!!
  • The family members and loved ones of these women.
  • Those currently in sex and human trafficking; that they would be freed, in Jesus’ Name!
  • Jesus to comfort and show Himself faithful to these people, who are watching and waiting for Him. Pray they would trust Him and His timing.

 Thank you for your prayers!!!

1 https://www.history.com/topics/st-patricks-day/who-was-saint-patrick

2 https://genius.com/Ellie-holcomb-he-will-lyrics

 

Advertisements

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.

 

IMPORTANT NEWS! Maryam: The Story of Redemption & Restoration

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin. In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
(Luke 15:9-10, NIV)

Jesus has a passion for every single person (John 3:16). He desires that all of them come to know Him as their Lord and Savior (2 Peter 3:9). Christ’s deep Love is for each and every individual person, no matter who they are, what they have been through, or what they have done.

Over two years ago, 276 young women were kidnapped, in the dead of night, by Boko Haram. Though it sparked a worldwide campaign, called #BringBackOurGirls, it has not been until recent months that 24 young women were freed/escaped Boko Haram captivity. This is one of the amazing, precious young women, dearly loved by Jesus, to be freed.

But, while there is rejoicing over her physical release, there is even greater rejoicing, in heaven, over those who have been spiritually freed.

Please pray for Maryam, that she would know Christ, and would be completely and totally freed, by knowing Christ as her Lord and Savior.

Christ does not just care about numbers; in fact, Christ does not look at the outer shell, at all. He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He Loves You, personally, and passionately.

To learn more about the God who Loves YOU personally, please click here.


Important News:

It has been announced, with great, amazing, unspeakable joy, that one more Chibok schoolgirl has been freed!

chibok-girl-maryam-ali-maiyanga

Maryam Ali Maiyanga, and her 10-month-old, Ali, after being freed from Boko Haram captivity (source).

Maryam Ali Maiyanga has been found, and freed, by the Nigerian government, on Saturday, November 5th, 2016!

Troops found Maryam, and her 10 month-old son, Ali, as they were screened after escaping Boko Haram’s stronghold in the Sambisa Forest, in Pulka, Borno State with help from the Nigerian military. Though the Chibok girls were the most high-profile case of Boko Haram’s kidnappings, Boko Haram has kidnapped hundreds– maybe even thousands– of men, women, and children from their homes, keeping them under lock and guard for years. Many, seemingly including Maryam, are either already muslim, or have converted to Islam in Boko Haram captivity– which may be out of fear, or brainwashing.

Maryam’s 10-month-old son, Ali, was claimed to have been fathered by a Boko Haram commander, whom she was either “married off” to, or coerced into having sex with. The child looks well, and will no doubt receive medical care, along with Maryam, from the Nigerian government.

Some of facts may seem horrific… but, while the trauma caused by these events remains, Maryam is physically freeand that is a cause for celebration.

While this is an amazing, joyous event, “there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10, NIV). If there is rejoicing over this young woman’s physical freedom, think of the rejoicing over her spiritual freedom, as she comes to Christ!

Jesus has freed many, both physically and spiritually, from the clutches of Boko Haram, and islam. Jesus is in the business of redemption, and restoration!!! Praise Him!!!

There is still much to be done. This young girl, along with countless others, still has much healing to experience. But, let’s praise Jesus for all He has done, is doing, and will do, in the hearts of captives, refugees, Boko Haram members, and the Nigerian military.

Please pray  that Maryam would come to know Jesus, and receive true healing!



Please join me in prayer:

Dear Jesus,

I praise You, that each and every person on this Earth, right now, matters deeply to you– not to mention those who have passed away, and those who you know are still to be born (Psalm 116:15; 139).

Jesus, we thank You for Your amazing, amazing Love. Thank You for looking at all of us, and declaring us worthy to die for, so that we might be with you, forever.

Dear Jesus, You know Maryam Ali Maiyanga . You saw her, being formed in her mother’s womb, before she was even born. You foresaw every day of her life.

You knew she would be kidnapped, taken, from her family, her loved ones, and her home, to experience the immense bondage perpetrated by Boko Haram.
But Jesus, we know that You are bigger than even the most wicked, deplorable evil. We know that Your Love, shown to us in Yourself on the cross, can break into even the hardest, evil, darkest heart– or the most wounded, broken, confused of hearts– and bring them to truly know You.

Dear Jesus, I pray in Your Name that You would release Maryam from any and all bondage that she is left in. Dear Jesus, please show Maryam that true freedom is found in YOU– and that she only needs to accept Your free gift of Salvation to experience true healing, breakthrough, and a personal relationship with You, God Himself.

Jesus, we pray over the army commander that fathered Maryam’s child. If he is still alive, and wherever he is, please break through his heart, and show him what truly pleasing you looks like: loving you, and loving others. I pray for new, eternal life even for this man, and for all members of Boko Haram.

Jesus, I also pray over Maryam’s son, Ali. 
Dear Jesus, I pray that, though this little boy was born under horrific circumstances, You would restore and redeem his life, to bring you glory and praise. Please bring this young, little guy to you, and show him, and everyone around, that he is not only identified by his past or even this tragic state of affairs– or even by the fact that his father’s blood flows through his veins– but that his identity lies in and by YOU, and the fact that we are all COMPLETELY new creations in You, with Your blood flowing through our spiritual veins, when we accept You into our lives and hearts, as Lord and Savior.

Please, dear Jesus, show Yourself in this situation to Maryam, and to everyone, around her. I thank You for this, Father God. 

In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.

Please continue praying for Maryam, her family, and her story. Please also pray for the Nigerian military, and for their continued success!

Thank you!

“By His Wounds, We are Healed”

Quite recently, Cameroonian soldiers were able to rescue hundreds of men, women, and children during a raid on the town of Achigachia in March of 2016. As streams of these people– after months, even years of captivity– are leaving the brush and forests that entrapped them, they horrifically may not have visible wounds, but are leaving with deep, traumatic scars that can bind them for life (source).

This rescue is something to truly celebrate; and this victory should not be downplayed, whatsoever. Yet, while the physical freedom of hundreds has been won, there remains unfathomable spiritual bondage for each and every one of them: trauma from extreme violence; ruthless religious persecution for those who refused to give up their faith in Christ; sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse; and horrific physical damage to their bodies and minds. Sadly, this is only the beginning of the reasons for the profound damage done to their souls. Yet, even in the midst of this unimaginable pain, there is hope for healing. Continue reading

“Hephzibah”: Women in the Eyes of Christ

The Nigerian military’s gunshots sounded like salvation. Like the sunrise after a stormy night, The gunshots and news of a quickly advancing group of soldiers filled captives in the Boko Haram camp with a mixture of confusion and fear, but most of all, joy– as Boko Haram terrorists were quickly sapped of their power and, in turn, their captives were filled with the strength to move. These captives, mainly women with children (both born and “adopted” alike, as many are orphans), had what only could’ve been divine strength as they boarded packed rescue vehicles or carried their malnourished children, walking in the military’s tire tracks. Continue reading