Encouraging Yourself in the Lord

Everything in the world seemed to be against him. King David, in 1 Samuel 30, having been raided by the Amalekites, was about to be the object of his army’s wrath, as they all lamented having their women and children kidnapped. Blaming King David for the raid, his men were poised for attack, ready to kill him. Continue reading

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Part 2 of 2: Staying Near the River of Living Water

Find part one of this message here!

If I am honest, I a lot of the time do not run straight to Jesus to fill me up– and a lot of the time, I foolishly blame Him for the lack of fulfillment I feel in those other “cisterns.” It’s hard, because many different desires we have are Godly, and God-given; yet, they can become our “all in all” so quickly. What causes us to turn from Christ so quickly (or come to Him last)? Continue reading

He Wins the War: Hope for the Weary

Over a month ago– on February 5th, 2018—two people were burnt alive in Alau-Kofa village, which is in close proximity to Borno state’s capitol of Maiduguri. This horrific information has come just as the military has said that Boko Haram has been defeated1.

“Saying they have been completely defeated is pushing it too far,” Major General Nicholas Rogers has said concerning the fight against Boko Haram1.The government and military has said much, but things and events have said otherwise, to the anger of those fighting for the Chibok girls—and now, also for the Dapchi girls.

Just yesterday, March 13th, people at the center of the #BringBackOurGirls movement declared that the Nigerian government has 7 days to find and free the 110 “Dapchi” girls, or face “a lawsuit on the grounds of criminal negligence.”2 Obviously, the world is demanding the truth, and real action.

But what if those things never come? What if, for all our striving and demands, our actions and best laid plans, these girls are not freed in our time frame, and Boko Haram continues to at least look like they are definitely winning the war? These are hard, pressing times. Times where the Nigerian military does not want to perform aerial attacks, for fear of killing the very girls people are demanding they save. They are weary of trying to find and apprehend Abubukar Shekau, leader of one faction of Boko Haram, because he is using these precious people as human shields1.

Human. Shields.
Innocent young women and men, their lives put on the line so that these wicked people can live, and continue to do evil.

As I was thinking about this—about how horrific and unjust it all is—one thought came to mind: Jesus knows exactly what these people are going through.

You see, as far-fetched as it all sounds, Jesus was our human shield.

For sinful people who were indifferent or hateful towards Him, “…he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV). Jesus took the blow we, evil sinners, deserved. He took upon Himself the wrath of God, so that we—the ones who have brought it on in the first place—could live3.

Jesus did all of this—only, He didn’t do it because He was forced to, as these innocent people are being made to. He did it of His own free will, choosing to completely obey His Heavenly Father.

I might get hate because of this; I know how racy it made be to compare a normal, everyday person to the leader of such an evil terrorist organization as Boko Haram. But answer me this: Is there such a thing as “big sins” and “small sins,”—that is, is there sins that are more damning than others?

Not just according to us, and not according to society—not even to Christian culture. But biblically?

There is one sin that can never be forgiven, and that is to reject Jesus Christ as one’s Personal Lord and Savior. But other than that, while sins that vary and differ based upon their consequences and who they hurt, I believe James 2:10 says, “If you have committed one sin you are guilty of all.” All sins are equally heinous, as John Piper has said4.

Bottom line: Jesus knows exactly how these hostages feel.
He knows exactly how every outraged mother, father, brother, son, daughter, and sister feels. How the incredibly frustrated, discouraged, angered members of Bring Back Our Girls feels.
He knows my discouragement—and yours, too.

He sees the bloodshed, the tears, the dirt and sin. He hears the cries, the screams; the silence of brokenness.

He hears your sighs, listens to every prayer. Yet, nothing has seemed to change—for the better, at least.

Friend, as everything seems to be getting worse, I have one final question for you: Do you trust the God, who took on the wrath and anger of God the Father upon Himself, to save and free you? Do you trust that He is good, and has good for you, even in this pain?

Look to Calvary, and know two things: Jesus Loves you. And He is in control.

 

As sin abounds, hearts continue to break, and demands are made in this sometimes hellacious world, I encourage you to look to Calvary amidst your much-needed prayers, demands, and actions. I encourage you to remember, no matter how it all ends up: satan may be “winning battles,” but Jesus has won the war.

He wins. May that carry you through. ❤


Do you know Jesus?

“Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.”
(Isaiah 53:4, NIV)

On all accounts—from how people viewed Jesus, to the actual pain and suffering God put upon Him, Jesus suffered the worst pain of any person, ever. But why?

Isaiah 53 goes on to say, “By His wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). “How?” You might ask?

These are two HUGE questions; and while I am only a human being, I would love to help you find and understand the answers. Read more about these questions, here.


Please pray for (you can get prayer sheets, here):

  • Wisdom for the Nigerian government, as they work on freeing the “Chibok” and “Dapchi” girls. President Buhari wants to negotiate with Boko Haram for the girls’ release; please pray that he would turn to Christ, and would be led of Him.
  • The “Chibok girls.” Pray that Christ brings them home soon.
  • The “Dapchi girls.” Pray that the government listens to activists, and works to bring them home, soon, too.
  • Those praying and protesting for these girls’ release; that they, we, would trust in Jesus alone, and would allow Him to strengthen us.
  • That Boko Haram would be crushed, and all “human shields” set free.

 

Thank you for your prayers!!!

1 https://www.news24.com/Africa/News/boko-haram-kills-two-as-military-says-group-defeated-20180205

2 http://www.africanews.com/2018/03/14/nigerian-gov-t-given-7-days-to-bring-back-chibok-dapchi-girls-or-face-charges//

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-cup-consumed-for-us

https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/are-all-sins-equal-before-god

 

Victory in Christ: An Open Letter to Sa’a

Sa’a, a twenty year old girl from Chibok, Nigeria, was around 18 years old when she was just one of the 276 young women Boko Haram kidnapped on April 14th, 2014. Jumping from the bed of one of Boko Haram’s trucks as it sped away into the night, Sa’a barely escaped with her friend.

Now free, Sa’a (a name used to protect her real identity) is studying in the US, along with the very same friend who escaped alongside her. Interviewed by NPR, Sa’a also wrote a statement, and was brought before a congressional panel on Africa and human rights, represented by chairman Chris Smith.

Although she is physically free from the clutches of Boko Haram, she remembers her classmates, and all those displaced, back in Nigeria, and has brought great glory to Christ, in all her recounting of her horrible ordeal.

Jesus Christ has used this beautiful young woman, and her story, to greatly encourage me in Him. I pray that, if given the opportunity, she would be encouraged in Him through this letter, as well.


Dear Sa’a,

Hello! My name is Annalee, and I am from the western United States. I received the honor of learning about your personal story, concerning Boko Haram, both through your interview on NPR, and through a news article posted on a press-release distributor. As I read, and heard, your story, Jesus Christ stirred in me and led me to create this letter to you.

Sa’a, as I read your story, I was filled with both pain, for you and those in Northern Nigeria, as well as encouragement. I wanted to encourage you; but I don’t want to write you merely fluffy words. I wanted to encourage you in Christ, and by His Word. I pray I am able to do so, here.

Sa’a, I praise Jesus, that by Him, you are very brave. Christ has gotten you through so much, and, as a poet named John Newton, once said in the song “Amazing Grace,”

Tis Grace has brought us safe thus far,
and Grace will lead us home.

While your current circumstances still may hurt, I want to encourage you with this verse, found in Romans 8. “But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us” (Romans 8:37, NCV).

Sa’a, as you look to the future, I know that you probably also look toward the past, at times. You must think about the classmates you love that have not escaped, yet; and the millions of people who have been displaced, harmed, and even killed by Boko Haram. Sa’a, I am so sorry for this. Please, my dear friend, know that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV). It is during the most heartbreaking times that Jesus is working, moving, and opening His arms wide to you, for Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). I pray you would receive that Comfort.

Finally, Sa’a, I wanted to encourage you with this. What your classmates have gone through, and still are going through, is unthinkable.

The injustice is outrageous. So many feel, and think, that no one hears them. Their hearts are sometimes lonely. Hopeless. Sad.

But, even in this state, we have this sure Hope: we know that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, and He is coming back, again (Hebrews 6).

On that cross, the power of sin– and the power of death, that seems so overwhelming– was conquered. “For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57, NLT).

It is Christ’s Victory that makes us spiritually free and alive, as Christ says.

 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?'”
(John 11:25-26, NIV)

And, that is the complete Truth– no matter where we find ourselves. In Christ, we have the Victory. In that, I pray you would find true Hope, Rest, and Comfort.



Do you know Jesus?

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-5, NIV)

Think about it. Your rabbi, your friend, and your leader, Jesus Christ, warns you that He will die soon. That you all will scatter. That He will rise again (Matthew 16:21). How would you feel? What would you say?

There is no doubt that sorrow, panic, and a deep disturbance would fill your heart. There is no doubt that the disciples of Christ were confused, angry, frustrated, and, most of all, filled with grief.

As they saw Christ crucified in agonizing fashion, the One they loved looked defeated. Struck by men, this man who claimed He was God died (John 10:30), and His followers did not understand (John 12:16). Although He foretold His resurrection, Jesus Christ’s death seemed to be the Ultimate Defeat to those closest to Him.

But, Jesus Christ could not be defeated. On the third day, He rose again. Learn more about– and meet– the One who was victorious, here!



Dear Father God,

Father God, I praise You, and I thank You, for all You have done, all You are doing, and all You will do. You are unstoppable, Father God; Your resurrection proves it!

I thank You, Father God, for every person You have created; You have declared Your Glory to all people, Father. Father God, I just praise You for Sa’a, and for her being just one of the countless people You have shown Yourself to. You are Holy, Father God… and You have given everything, to free Sa’a, and to show her You are near. You are amazing, Father God!

I pray right now, in Jesus’ Name, Father God, that dear Sa’a would be comforted by Your Holy Spirit during this horrible time. Please give Sa’a Yourself as her Strength, and draw her close to You. Dear Father God, please delight her as she seeks You, more and more, and show her Your face through all of the grief and darkness.

Father God, I praise You and I thank You for Sa’a’s unnamed friend. Dear Father, I pray that this young woman would know You as her Lord and Savior, if she doesn’t already. Father, You are “a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1); I pray that You would show this to Sa’a’s friend. Please strengthen her, Father God, and restore/give to this young woman everything the enemy has tried to rob her of, and destroy.

Father God, I praise You for all people who have been touched, hurt, and otherwise affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. Please bring them to know You, and show them the Justice, Peace, and physical Salvation that they need, Father God. 

Father God, please protect those men, and women, who are taking a stand against Boko Haram, and are giving their lives to defeat Boko Haram. Please show them that You are the One and Only God, Father God, Lord Jesus; protect them from their spiritual enemy, Lord Jesus. Comfort them with the fact that You win. 

Father God, I pray over the 219 young girls who are still missing, and the thousands more who were not apart of the Chibok Schoolgirls kidnapping. Please strengthen them, Father God; give them great Courage and Peace, and keep their eyes on You (Psalm 31:24; Isaiah 26:3). Please move, in and through these camps, to bring all men— even Boko Haram members– to You. 

In all, Father God, please reassure Your People that You are ruling and reigning over their every experience. Thank You for dying the death we deserved, that we might know You, and have Victory in You. Praise You, Father God! I thank You for ALL of this. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”

Please continue to pray for Sa’a, her friend, and all those who have been deeply affected by Boko Haram– free, and captive. Thank you! 

The Baga Massacre: A Voice for the Voiceless

As of today, January 21st, 18 days have passed since the town of Baga, Nigeria was razed, where 2,000 of it’s innocent men, women, and children were mercilessly massacred. As Boko Haram’s bloodiest raid to date, most of its victims were women, children, and the elderly who could not escape the terrorists’ rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles. As people ran, swam, and hid for their lives, thousands upon thousands drowned in nearby Lake Chad, where the body count was so high that soldiers stopped counting.

Continue reading

Giving Back their Names: Getting to the Heart of the Story

After reading horrific news reports surrounding the lives of 219 girls from Chibok, Nigeria– and countless more, from all over both the Northern and Southern regions of Nigeria– I am filled with an angry, bitter grief.

Continue reading

A Call to Remember

According to CNN, the Boko Haram has kidnapped 185 more women, boys and girls and killed 32 from the town of Gumsuri, Nigeria. This news comes in light of reports that the Boko Haram has been cruelly killing elderly people from the Gwoza area.

There are no words to describe the horror of such reports. There are no words to express the frustration and the disappointment felt by this news. Each new wave of reports heralding such corruption and nightmarish sin can easily cause the observer to lose hope.

Yet, there is a call to stand firm in the fight to bring the Chibok girls, as well as these new kidnappees, back home. Continue reading