It is a tragedy to report this, but report it I must: Kristoff St. John, an actor from the soap opera “The Young & The Restless,” has passed away at the age of 52 from what many are saying is an overdose of alcohol. Continue reading
On October 30th, 2018, a Baptist missionary named Charles Wesco was killed in the country of Cameroun after moving there with his wife and 8 kids only two weeks prior. He was shot in the head in an area where there was much fighting between separatists.
Upon his death, Charles’ wife, Stephanie, wrote: “My Precious husband, Charles, is now
with the Savior he adored and faithfully served for many years… His life focus was seeking to cause others to love Jesus and serve him. My prayer is that somehow someway Jesus will be glorified through my Precious Charles’ death and that God will not let his death have been in vain. He is receiving the Martyrs crown from his Lord. My heart is broken. I want to wake up from a horrific nightmare. Please pray for us.”
Men and women all over the world are dying for our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Charles died for the One he loved, and he is not the only one. In such a place of violence, innocent people, Christian and non-Christian, are dying every day—like the approximately 12 people who passed away after Boko Haram attacked two cities and one displaced people’s camp near the town of Maiduguri. “They killed nine people in Bulaburin, two people in Dalori, and one in Kofa and looted food supplies before setting them on fire,” according to the reporter.
We know that all of this non-stop, incessant violence in both situations is satanic in origin. Christ said that “wars and rumors of wars” would happen more and more, as we see His return approaching (Matthew 24:6).
This does not quiet the pain that Mrs. Wesco, or the families of the 12 who passed, though. Those who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior are one in body; when one part of the body hurts, the whole body hurts. Their pain is deep, and as brothers and sisters in Christ, we must keep their pain in mind and lift them up to Christ in prayer. These precious loved ones have died for the Savior; “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalm 116:15, KJV).
This post is dedicated to Charles Wesco. May He rest in the arms of His Savior, and may His family be strengthened in Christ’s Love during this time.
Do you know Jesus?
Charles Wesco did not die to merely propagate a religion; He was not a salesman. He loved Jesus, and lived to share Christ with the world. Learn more about Jesus, what He has done and why it matters at all, here.
Please pray for…
- The Wesco family. As they mourn the death of their beloved husband and father, may the Church step in and help provide them with financial, emotional, and spiritual support.
- The countless people hurting after Boko Haram’s attacks. Pray that Christ would bring those who are hurting to Himself if they do not know Him yet; if they do know Him, may they know His Comfort, Strength, and Love deeply in and through this situation.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NIV)
Thank you for your prayers and support.
It is with a sad heart that I report that Eugene Peterson, who created the Message Version of the Bible, passed away on October 22nd after battling dementia and heart failure. Thomas Keating, a Christian monk, also passed away on October 22nd, 2018.
While many do not agree/believe in Peterson’s paraphrased version of the Bible, He is still an important part of many people’s lives and in Christian culture as a whole. Thomas Keating did much for the Christian community as well.
Please take a moment this week and pray for their friends, family, and loved ones. Thank you, brothers Eugene and Thomas, for all you have done.
Read more about the Jesus Christ, the God Peterson served, here.
Claire Wineland, a young woman with cystic fibrosis, past September 2nd at the age of 21.
Claire was a cystic fibrosis activist who was very popular on social media, and I was a YouTube follower of hers. She lived life knowing that she would die “faster than everyone else,” yet did not let that stop her from living. While I don’t know about if she had a relationship with Christ, I pray that she did know Christ—and that her family and loved ones do come to know Him.
Rest in Peace, Claire. May we live life as daringly as you did.
“Death is inevitable, living a life you are proud of is something you can control.”
As I read my Bible this new, January morning, I came across a passage that speaks of much suffering: Matthew 26, the days (and nights) leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
I read of how Jesus’ death was foretold by Himself, and it dawned on me: Jesus lived life knowing He was going to suffer greatly, and die.
Now, I understand: No one wants to read a post about Christ’s death and suffering on New Years Day, a day chalk full of new life, new beginnings, and new hope. Yet, it is Jesus who said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24, NLT). It is in Christ’s death, and resurrection, that we as humankind can have any sort of Hope for a truly new life, at all.
At the same time, as people are celebrating the New Year, they are also plagued with the realities of living another day on planet Earth: Boko Haram has ravaged tens of thousands of people’s lives, including the parents of the 113 captive remaining Chibok schoolgirls. A news report from last night even read that 5,247 Muslims have been killed by Boko Haram in the past four years, alone (source).
It’s with these things in mind, that I wanted to share what Christ had me read, today.
- In Matthew 26, the passage begins immediately with Jesus foretelling his death, and then with the High Priests plotting “to arrest Jesus in a sly way” and kill Him (Matthew 26:1-4, NIV). Afraid of the people, these Pharisees planned to kill Jesus after the Feast, so the people would not start a riot (Matthew 26:5). It boggles my mind to know that Jesus knew the thoughts and intents of the High Priests, completely. Not only did Jesus know He was going to die, soon; He knew the violent, murderous thoughts of those who were going to do it.
Jesus was hated, and He knew it more than anyone else on the planet.
- Next, a woman comes to anoint Jesus’ head with extremely expensive perfume (Matthew 26:7). Jesus knew that she did this precious thing to anoint Him for his burial, and it was something Christ honored (Matthew 26:10-13). But His disciples did not. Looking at the woman’s actions with disdain, Jesus’ disciples complained to Him: “‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘this perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor’” (Matthew 26:9). John 12:1-8 records that Judas Iscariot was the one to have said this– “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6, NIV). Not only did Jesus’ disciples really take in that He was going to die soon; Judas was a completely fake friend. Those closest to Jesus did not understand much of what was going on, and in the case of Judas, one of those closest to Jesus was a traitor filled only with the love of money– a “love” that caused Judas to eventually betray Jesus over to death (Matthew 26:15).
Jesus knew how it felt to be completely misunderstood, and surrounded by fake love.
- During the last supper, recorded in Matthew 26:17-30, Jesus had his last meal with the same friends that He had spent three years with: friends that He Loved dearly, “to the end” (John 13:1, NIV). Yet, during a time that should have been filled with warmth and comfort, Jesus said one thing that filled the entire room with tension and sadness. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me” (Matthew 26:21). Can’t you imagine it? An abrupt silence filling the room; the disciples looking on their Rabbi and Lord with pain, then to one another– and to themselves– with sadness and suspicion. Think of the pain you as a disciple would feel, as you suddenly see each of your friends as being able to kill the One who told you to follow Him. Their sad replies in verse 26 were apt: “Surely not I, Lord?” Judas’ reply was different. “Surely not I, Rabbi?”, refusing to call Him Lord. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus replied (John 13:27, NIV).
Jesus then spent the rest of the night telling His disciples of a new covenant, that would be orchestrated by His own death. While it was a horrible, painful thing to bring up, Jesus was not afraid to do so.
Jesus had much conflict in His life, and knew how it felt to have to face it head on.
- Then, in Matthew 26:33-35, Jesus had to look at His beloved friend, Simon Peter, and painfully tell him that through all of Simon Peter’s good intentions and loyalty, Simon Peter would end up denying his close bond with Jesus (Matthew 26:34). Yet, Jesus picked Simon Peter to follow Him, with all this in mind.
More than any other human, Jesus knew how it felt to have friends that go back on their word.
- Jesus’ next words in Gethsemane would be striking. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Filled with deep, desperate pain, Jesus needed His friends to stay close to Him and pray for Him, more than ever. But they didn’t. Close to Jesus, yet fallen asleep, Jesus’ disciples left Him deeply alone, even when physically close to those who knew Him best.
Jesus felt the heavy sorrow of being alone, even amidst a crowd of friends.
- “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will‘” (Matthew 26:39, NIV).
Jesus knew how it felt to grapple with the Father’s will for His Life, more than any other person on Earth.
- And then, with His disciples sleeping, Jesus saw His betrayer coming up to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:45-46). With a kiss from Judas, and with Peter attacking a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus (John 18:10), Jesus knew the pain and chaos of being “kissed” to His Face, but hated secretly.
He knew how it felt to be surrounded by fallen, sinful mankind.
- He was arrested by hateful men, though He did nothing wrong (Matthew 26:51-56). He was completely deserted by His closest friends in His darkest time of need (Matthew 26:56). One of his best friends, Peter, did deny even knowing Him (Matthew 26:69-75). He was unfairly prosecuted by corrupt men in power (Matthew 26:57-67).
Then He died. Not a quick death, nor a painless one. He died the most painful, yet slow death one could ever imagine, not only physically, but spiritually (1). He was slapped and punched; He was mocked as “King of the Jews,” and men so devalued Him that they gambled for His clothing (Matthew 26:67; Luke 23:37; Matthew 27:35).
Jesus knows how it feels to be marginalized, de-humanized, abused, and humiliated.
- He knows how it feels to suffer: to be dehydrated, exhausted, bruised and beaten. He knows how it feels to sweat drops of blood and have his flesh cut and torn to ribbons. He knows how it feels to be killed. Killed by awful, evil men, touting His murder as proof of their righteousness before God.
Jesus knows how it feels to be wrongly murdered– having family and loved ones to grieve in His absence (Mark 16).
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus Christ) who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin” (“Jesus Christ” in parentheses, mine). This list of Jesus’ life could go on and on. In fact, I encourage you to take some time today, and read of Jesus’ Life with this goal in mind: To focus on what He went through, and how He understands where you are in life. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, and whatever you’re going through, God not only knows from watching you go through it; He, Jesus Christ, knows because He lived it, personally. Jesus does not only know what you are going through; He, the God of All Comfort, wants to comfort, love, guide, and help you through it (Psalm 68:19).
Jesus knows you. He Loves you. And, from the smallest hurt or pain to death itself, He completely understands what you are going through. He wants to help you through it.
As Muslims and Christians alike are being murdered by Boko Haram, let us pray that those who are Muslim realize who Jesus truly is: That He is truly God, perfect in Holiness, and truly man, entering into their world. And that, most of all, His death and resurrection are not just proof of His deity, but proof of His Love for them. It is in His death alone that they can have new, eternal life (John 12:24).
Do you know Jesus?
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
(John 12:24, NLT)
In Matthew 26, as Jesus is kissed by Judas and arrested, His disciple Simon Peter takes out a sword, and lops the ear off of one of the soldiers arresting Jesus.
Instead of applauding Simon Peter for trying to protect Him, Jesus rebukes Simon Peter.
“‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?'”
(Matthew 26:52-53, NIV)
The Truth is, Jesus did not have to suffer these things. At any moment, He could have stopped His suffering, forsaking God the Father’s plan for human redemption. But He didn’t.
Jesus suffered, and died, willingly— that you and I might be able to know Him personally, and be saved from eternal damnation (2 Thessalonians 1), all because He Loves You.
Learn more about this God, who chose to suffer and die for you and I, here.
Please pray for…
- Those suffering from Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, and Chad.
- Muslims, that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the One who understands it all.
Thank you for your prayers!
Nigeria has been hurting, as of late. On Wednesday, January 25th, Boko Haram militants overtook a military camp in the program “Operation Lafiya Dole,” the counter-insurgency effort created by the Nigerian army. Three soldiers were killed, while arms and ammunition were stolen.
As all of this took place, a new interview came out, from Thomson Reuters, interviewing the mother of a Boko Haram soldier. The interview was both insightful and heartbreaking, as the mother of this Boko Haram member shared her story. The woman, named Falta, is the mother of a BH member named Mamman Nur. As the mastermind of the U.N. Headquarters bombing in Abuja, which took place in 2011, Mamman is reportedly responsible for the death of at least 23 people.
In the interview, Falta, who calls herself “an old woman,” reports that she was forced to live in the Sambisa Forest with Mamman, his three wives, and his children, claiming that she had no one else to take care of her (source). She also stated that while she continually “tried to talk her son out of joining Boko Haram,” he became more and more involved (source). Taken back out of the enclave by the Nigerian military after a 2015 raid of the Sambisa Forest, Falta is still reportedly in a government safe house, not having any other caretaker.
This interview is difficult to read, because it sheds light on the fact that these murderous, cowardly, evil militants have families who love and care for them. But that is not the only reason. Falta’s remarks describing her stay in the Sambisa Forest, a place known for its Boko Haram hideout– and therefore, it’s symbolic darkness and oppression– were disturbing. In the interview, Falta said that “life in Sambisa was quite comfortable” (source). Complete with their own house, in which Falta had her own room, the enclave also had its own supply vans to deliver food and clothing to those within it, as well as its own doctor, nurses and hospital “to tend to the ill” (source). Surrounded by her grandchildren, Falta described a life that seemed to be pretty luxurious for living in a terrorist camp.
For all of its comfort, the fact that it is still an evil place is what makes her entire testimony disturbing. And yet, this apparent dark oasis in Northeastern Nigeria is not only captivating in that many of its captives have actual physical bondage on; but in that, over time, many captives who stay there run the risk of getting comfortable, and making it their “new normal.” This can be seen in the case of over 100 Chibok schoolgirls, whom reportedly “do not want to go back” (source). If this horrific report is true, these Chibok school girls have been both psychologically and spiritually brainwashed into staying captive to their “husbands.”
In reality, while many are not bound by physical chains or physical, evil people, they lie spiritually imprisoned. The worst part of all? They do not see their chains for the horrendous evil that they are. Heartbreakingly, people stay enslaved all of their lives: to lies, to addictions, and ultimately, to the bondage of sin and death.
Even the Apostle Paul spoke about this carnal trap in Romans 7.
In probably one of the most relatable, down to earth passages of Scripture, the Apostle Paul becomes honest about his struggle with sin. But while so much of the world likes their bondage, He, knowing the true freedom found in Christ, sees and knows the sin in his life for what it is: slavery (Romans 7:23).
But, for the Believer, there is incredible Hope. While the believer still struggles with sin, they are completely set free from the old law, and from the eternal condemnation humanity’s sin creates.
Meanwhile, the world, because it is blinded to the Gospel of Christ, has no choice but to continue on living within their chains (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin, and it’s bondage-creating nature; but not until they choose to know and accept Christ are their eyes opened. “But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16, NLT).
Isaiah 62 Prayer Ministry wrote in this article about how Jesus, through the Gospel, literally frees people spiritually. The chains of the Believer are gone; they have been set free (Romans 6:18), and are now able to know God, and obey His commands– not because they have to, but out of a genuine heart of praise.
There are many who have even this freedom in Christ, spiritually– the freedom to be victorious over the sin in their lives, by obeying and submitting to Him– and yet, they use their freedom to find new chains to wear: pleasing people instead of Christ, and spending their lives living in the same prison cells of sin, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, and lust. There are those on the other hand, who also wear new chains– chains of unbelief when it comes to Grace; legalism; and self-condemnation. Many people deal with both types of bondage. Both of these “groups” of people have the chance to leave this bondage, but either won’t, out of rebellion and pride– or don’t even understand how bound they really are.
This is not what Christ wants for anyone, and that definitely includes Believers. Instead, Christ calls His Children to be “Freedom Fighters,” men, women, and children who walk in the glorious freedom from both sin and legalism. Christ desires His Followers to walk in the Light (1 John 1:7). This cannot be done if Christ Followers refuse to step into the Light of Christ, either because of sin, or dead religion.
Like William Wilberforce, the famed abilitionist from the 1700-1800s, Believers must become painfully aware of bondage and oppression; but, to do this, they first must see their own chains, and let Christ set them free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NIV)
There are hundreds of captives in the Sambisa Forest, who have gotten comfortable, or scared, and do not want to live outside– even if it means they never see their loved ones, or breathe the air of freedom, ever again. Just like so many in the Sambisa Forest, many do not see their need for freedom– or are simply afraid to give Christ, the One who will free them, control.
But, it is for freedom that Christ has set Believers free. So, whether it would be fighting Boko Haram, or fighting any other type of spiritual bondage, may Believers give Christ the control– and let Him make them more and more into the Fighters for Freedom He has called them to be. 🔹
Do you know Jesus?
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”
(Romans 8:1, NIV)
Dead religion– the rituals, rules, and the mentality that one must “earn their way to heaven” by doing “good deeds” is a sad, broken way of life.
In the Old Testament, every rule, and every ritual, pointed to The Messiah– they were shadows of the real thing, to put it one way (Colossians 2:17).
How silly would it be, if a person kept loving someone’s shadow when the actual person is standing in front of them? Yet, this is how many treat Jesus.
The Truth is, those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are not under the “law of Sin and Death ” anymore… They are under the law of the Spirit, completely free from condemnation to have a personal relationship with the God who gave it all to have them (Romans 8:1-2; Romans 5:8).
The time is up for shadows. Meet the “real thing,” the God who sets us free, here.
Please pray with me…
“Dear Father God,
Thank You for the Nigerian military, and all that You have done through them to defeat Boko Haram. We know it is not without sacrifice. Please hold the family members of the soldiers killed in the line of duty.
Thank You for showing us all what is happening in Northern Nigeria, and how there are many people who, for some reason or another, are wanting to stay in captivity.
We pray, in the Mighty Name of Jesus, that You would open the eyes of the blind and unbelieving, who are staying imprisoned without even knowing about it. Please open their eyes to their condition, and bring them to know You.
We pray for the Believers in these camps, who also do not want to leave. In the Name of Jesus, please open their eyes to the freedom that awaits them. Please open up the way for them, so that they can become free, soon, too.
We pray in general for those Believers who may be physically free, but are still in some sort of bondage. Show us all where You want to free us; and may we submit to You, and Your will in our lives.
Please free the captives, and continue to lead us to You.
In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”
Thank you for your continued prayers!
On Sunday, November 1st, a sad text message confirmed surprising news in Nigeria. “Hi Ameh,” it read, “want to inform you that we just lost our President, Jessy this afternoon. She died after battling heart-related disease for years. It is a sad loss to NANP and we pray God to give her family and 15-year-old daughter the fortitude to bear the loss.”
“Who is Jessy, and what is the NANP?” one might ask. The answers are surprising and shocking, in and of themselves: “Jessy” is a woman named Oluchi, otherwise known as Jessica Elvis; and, sadly, the organization she was president of is the National Association of Nigerian Prostitutes, an organization working to legalize prostitution and better the lives of prostitutes in Nigeria.
Thirsty for the Living Water
Though prostitution is illegal in Nigeria, the sex trade, and the NANP, are flourishing. Women as young as 16 either willingly join the trade; or, are unknowingly trapped and forcefully coerced into prostitution by strangers– and even sometimes by family. These women become apart of the scum of society; and even though the late Jessica Elvis implied that sex workers are not prostitutes, but “friends of the society,”  their trade, whether chosen or forced upon them, degrades and ruins their lives, and the lives of their “customers.” This evil organization, and the sinful practices it stands for, express not only the rapidly declining moral state of the nation, but one Truth: the nation and its Northern inhabitants are not only thirsty for physical water and relief, but all of Nigeria is thirsty for “the Living Water” that never runs out: the person of Jesus Christ. Continue reading