Love: the Greatest Form of Warfare

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one in the church left unharmed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

a life of real love

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

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

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

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

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



Do you know Jesus?

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

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

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


Please pray…

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

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

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St. Philips’ Church Shooting

Injustice. It is everywhere, in the huge and in the small. Sunday morning, it visited a church in Southeast Nigeria.

Imagine. Your closely known brothers and sisters in Jesus meet with you like they do every Sunday, at your local church.

These are people that you hopefully do life with. People you worship Christ with. People who wrestle with the difficult things with you.
People you eat with, cry with, and laugh with. People you love.

And then– gunmen enter the building that houses the Church. Men, looking for one person, barge in, and kill these people. People you love. The sanctuary becomes a place of violence; a place of joy quickly becomes a place of bloodshed, a place where you lost those closest to you.

This Sunday morning, August 6th, 2017, St. Philips Catholic Church was attacked by men who are in the drug-trafficking business of southeast Nigeria. 11 churchgoers were killed when these men started shooting randomly inside the church, in pursuit of someone they thought was in the church building. He was not there (source).

Today, it was not just St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anambra state that suffered damage. It was not torn down architecture; it was a group of people, united in Christ– the true meaning of “the Church”– that passed away, and are now in the presence of their Lord and Savior.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, Jesus gives, through the writer of Hebrews, a very encouragingsnippet command– not one to be dreaded, or merely “checked off a list,” but joyfully done.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

Today, the concept of church is too often seen as a corporation, or somewhere one goes to only on special holidays. But Christ had a very different design for the worldwide Church: it is His bride, and it is meant to be a safe place– a place where much of the process of discipleship and sanctification takes place, as Christ-followers seek to do life together, pursuing Christ all the more.

Though this is not always what happens, it is the goal. Like the early church of Antioch in Acts 11, the church is not just a building or a money-making system… it is a group of Believers in Christ, the One, True, Living God, living lives of Love and generosity to bless those around them (Galatians 6:10). During the famine in Jerusalem, the church of Antioch– the first church of gentile believers– generously gave of their own money to help the church in Judea, after a church member in Antioch named Agabus prophesied that there would be a famine in Jerusalem (you can read more about it here). Christ’s Love had so welled up in their hearts that their entire lives were changed; it was no longer about what one could gain from the church, but how one could generously give to those in need in the Church.

snippet2

In this, two beautiful truths are found: We, as Christians, need consistent time with one another; and that the church is not supposed to look like the world, but the Church is supposed to love the world, as Christ did.

It is with all of this in mind, and an extremely heavy heart, that I write about what happened in Southeast Nigeria, Sunday. A group of men and women who believed in Christ were killed on Sunday, together. And it is with care, yet firm encouragement, that I write to my brothers and sisters in Christ: Do not forsake the fellowship of the saints.

You may have been scarred by the church.
You may have never been in a church where you felt like you belonged, and were loved.
You may be of the persuasion that you can walk this walk, alone, without a church body to love and help you (and visa versa).

But friends, I am here to tell you the Truth of the matter: I do not want to disregard the fact that you may have been hurt or jaded by your church experiences. But though you may be extremely scarred, and though you may have been tossed aside by some in the Church, you cannot walk this walk alone. You need deep fellowship with Christ, and with other Christians.snippet three

For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV). Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we need each other. I pray, as I pray for these brothers and sisters in Southeast Nigeria, that you– and everyone else reading– would come to know Christ, and would come to know the joy of being in fellowship with one another.

As this body of believers is suffering the deep loss of their loved ones, may they be our loved ones too. Our Jesus never promised a life without the pain of injustice (John 16:33)– but he did promise us fellowship with Himself, and command that we do life with the people He has given us. May we receive His gift of other believers, gladly; and may we pray for, and mourn with, those in Southeast Nigeria who have lost these loved ones.

“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. …Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:5, 15, NIV)



Do you know Jesus?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33, NIV)

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things in this life is relationships with other human beings; but, without a doubt, the most wonderful thing in this life is having a personal relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You may be thinking, “A person can have a relationship with God, without having Jesus in the picture.” But, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
(John 14:6. NIV).

Jesus came to earth, as God-in-human-flesh, to provide sinful mankind with the one way to know God the Father personally. Learn more about Jesus, and why He came to earth to fulfill this mission, by going here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for the people You have put in our lives, near and far from us. Thank You for the Church at large. Thank You for Loving us, and helping us to love others.

Dear Jesus,
We pray in Your Name over all things that have happened in Southeast Nigeria, at St. Philip’s Catholic Church. Please hold the members of this church body close to Your Heart; please comfort them, and guide them as they grieve.

We pray for an end to the violence and destruction in Nigeria– and know that it can only come through all people coming to know You. Without You, Jesus, there is no Peace– please help us to share Your Gospel, and please bring us all closer to You.

Thank You for each person who knows You, Lord– please bring back the Chibok girls, as well as the thousands of others who are still in captivity. Please move mightily in their midst.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!!!

Prayer Request: House on the Rock Church Burned Down

Imagine: Your home church, the place where you have spent and “done” life with one another in Christ, goes up in flames. The rafters come down. The sanctuary is no longer there.

This very thing is happened today in Southern Nigeria, in the capitol of Abuja, to House on the Rock Church. It is leaving behind a displaced body of Christ– still intact, but without a place to worship. The source of the fire is not yet known (source).

This place burning down is not the end of the Church– because in reality, according to scripture, the Church is a body of Believers, not just a building.

“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
16 Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
17 Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.”
(Matthew 16:15-20, NIV)

The people, like a family, make up the Church. But like a family without a home, this body of Believers and their servant-leader, pastor Paul Adefarasin, are without their meeting place.

Our God, Jesus Christ, is a God who hears prayer. Will you pray with me, over this pastor, and the congregation?

“Dear Lord Jesus,
You are God alone, and You are Sovereign over all that is happening right now. Thank You for who You are. 
Dear  Jesus,
We pray over our brothers and sisters within House on the Rock Church. As their Church Building burns down, and as Pastor Adefarasin does not know what to do, we pray that You would be with this grieving church family. Please continue to keep the Church, as a body of Believers, together… and please grant them a new place to meet and be with each other.

Hold their hurting hearts, Jesus. 
In Your Name we pray,
Amen.”

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