Today, I watched the Christian inspirational movie, “Mary and Joseph.” It is the story of how Mary and Joseph’s friends, Rebekah and Elijah, struggle with Rebekah’s family’s death at the hands of one of Herod’s soldiers. It was interesting because many Christian movies focus solely on Christ, but this movie was focused more on Mary and Joseph (especially Joseph). Continue reading
“Conflict within, conflict without.” These are the words that best describe the state of affairs in Benue State, Nigeria. Though not brought up on this blog before, the volatile conditions in Benue State, which dub it “The Benue Crisis,” are not conditions to be overlooked.
What is the Benue Crisis?
In 2011, Fulani Herdsmen—a nomadic people group, known for being pastoralists— started grazing in areas where indigenous peoples, such as the Igbos and Idomas (located in Benue) lived. In what started a war between the two peoples, the people of Benue complained that Fulani Herdsmen coming to their land caused damage to their crops and worsened the health of their drinking water1. While this issue is only the tip of the iceberg (there is fierce ethnic and religious divides between the two peoples, as well2), it was this issue that broke the camel’s back. Enraged after Benue rejected grazing land for the Herdsmen3, Fulani Herdsmen killed 73 people at the beginning of this year in Benue, while rioting and committing arson in their towns and villages. Approximately 40,000 people have been displaced from the violence, and this crisis has made the Fulani Herdsmen Nigeria’s new biggest internal security threat.4
Reading of the sudden surge of violence, I’m filled with a sense of sadness. Nigeria has already been ripped to pieces by Boko Haram; the last thing it needs is fighting between fellow Nigerians, which breaks up whatever little amount of Unity there is. Yet, as I reflected on this news, it reminded me of another horrible thing, quite similar (but worse than) disunity within a nation: disunity and dissension within the body of Christ.
When the Church Hurts
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” King David wrote in Psalm 133:1. The Bible is chalk full of scripture on the importance of Peace and Unity within the Church body, worldwide, as a whole—and it is obvious from Scripture that such unity leads to Love, growth, and a strengthened Church. Yet, for reasons rooted both in the flesh and in the powers of darkness, the worldwide Church is more fractured than ever, filled with “backbiters” and all kinds of evil.
This kind of evil is especially sad. People expect this kind of behavior from the world around them, since it does not know Christ. But dissension and anger in the Church, along with gossiping and other sins, can catch a person off-guard and severely wound one’s heart and soul. When someone is hurt by sin in a place where they are supposed to be genuinely loved, it can cause one to turn on the Church—and Jesus– forever.
And honestly, who would blame them? When Jesus’ church looks and acts just like the world around it, providing no real love or shelter for those who are in desperate need of it (all of us), it makes sense for a person to leave. But, while it is easy to leave broken relationships and try to find another church to belong to— be it another local church, the world-wide Church, or turning on Christ entirely—it is obviously not Jesus’ desire. So, how is the Christian supposed to navigate hurt or disagreement when such things take place?
Peace Through Christ
First, we must start with the foundation: Peace with God. Ephesians 2 reads:
“8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.”
(Ephesians 2:8-16, NIV)
In context, Paul the Apostle was telling the church in Ephesus that those who were once separated by ethnicity and religious background (for, Jews were taught to stay away from Gentiles, and even Gentile converts to Judaism couldn’t come as close in the temple as Jews5) were now one in Jesus Christ. Think of it—wait, we don’t have to, because it’s Truth! – people of every ethnicity, socio-economic status, skin color, culture, political stance, and even religious upbringing, upon believing in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, become ONE! Parts of ONE Body, baptized by ONE baptism, looking at ONE Hope—Jesus Christ Himself (Ephesians 4:4-6). This Truth changes everything.
This is not just some radical theology, or a truth-filled ideal. This is real. But how does it affect us, personally, on a day to day basis?
As Steven J. Cole so wisely asserts, “Being at peace with God is the foundation for peace with others.”5 To look for peace between people, one must first look to the cross.
Did someone gossip or lie about you? Look to the cross.
Did someone not invite you to a function you thought you’d be invited to? Look to the cross.
Has a difference in opinions or personal convictions (over a MINOR issue of faith) made you hard-hearted and divisive toward a fellow brother or sister? Look to the cross.
Has someone done something inconceivable to you, and you don’t know if you’re ever going to be able to forgive them? Look to the cross.
Listen: Jesus is the One who initiated reconciliation with you. He reached out first.
Not because of what you have done—but because of Who. He. Is.
So, my friend, my family in Christ: forgive. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Do not count someone’s sin against them, forever. (1 Corinthians 13:5)
In the midst of differences in opinion over non-essentials, give room for grace—and love them anyway. (Romans 14:1-4)
And– if safe and wise to do so– let the Power of Jesus’ Love and Forgiveness, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, allow you to reconcile.
Let me be clear. I am not condoning that a person in a harmful or unsafe situation should stay in that situation— not all forgiveness leads to the complete restoration of a relationship.
But I am saying this: We, as Believers in Christ, belong to each other. As people heading to Heaven, we will know each other, forever. And truly Loving each other—getting through our hurts and disagreements, and still Loving each other after it all– is going to be the boldest, realest witness to Christ that the world will ever see. Hatred is not a political problem or even a religious problem, at least in the ordinary way religion is viewed. Hatred is a heart problem—and only Jesus can change hearts.
In a world where division and hatred is the norm, the world needs this witness now, more than ever. The Salvation, Love, and Peace of Christ is the ONLY true solution to such division as the Benue Crisis. Let’s pray that together, as the Church is strengthened in Love, that the Gospel would be shared—and that even more hearts would be changed: For He Himself is our Peace.
This post is dedicated to Deputy Heath Gumm, who was killed by a gunshot wound after responding to an assault-in-progress in Adams County, Colorado. It is dedicated to every peace officer dedicated to protecting society as a whole. Thank you, Deputy Gumm; thank you, America’s Peace Officers.
Do you know Jesus?
It’s one of the first lessons people come to understand as children: Hatred and violence are undeniable parts of our world. No matter where a person grows up, they soon learn the hard truth that this world is tough, and people are mean.
While people fight for love and peace, they have never gained the final victory over it. But Jesus Christ has. “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Ephesians 2:14-16). This passage is speaking about Peace between ethnically born Jews, and “Gentiles”—everyone who isn’t a Jew. In giving us Peace with God, Christ Himself has brought Peace to ALL people by His death on the Cross.
Jesus Christ gave us Peace with God. Removing the need to perfectly obey the law, we are given Peace with God instead through Jesus’ death on the cross. This is the true and lasting Peace that we need—and one day, Christ will come back to reign over the Earth, “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9:7). Learn about this God-Man, who offers us lasting Peace with God and with one another, here.
- For any fractures within the Church. From hurt in the local church body to disdain and hatred between some denominations of Christianity, pray for Love and Unity, as Christ did (John 17:20-24). Reflect on your life—is there anyone you need to make Peace with? Make that Peace today.
- That Believers all over the world—both in Benue, and those as missionaries in Northern Nigeria—would extend the Gospel, Grace, Love, and Peace of God to both Fulani Herdsmen, and the indigenous people within the nation. Pray that these ministries would be built up, strengthened in knowledge of the Word and in Love, and given all they need to shine brightly during this dark time!
- That those in the Benue Crisis would seek God, and in doing so, would come to know Christ. “…God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:27).
Sources & References:
Many of you have already heard about the horrific shooting that occurred on Sunday night, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
For those of you who have not, on Sunday night, a man shot at a crowd of 22,000 people who were attending a Country Music Festival from his hotel window. 59 people and counting passed away, while over 520 were injured according to the New York Times.
This shooting is the deadliest in US history. But just a week ago, Brunette Chapel Church of Christ suffered a shooting in Antioch, Tennessee, caused by the gunman wanting to seek vengeance for the Charleston, South Carolina shooting that happened in 2015.
It reminds me of the passage found in Luke 21.
“And when you hear of wars and insurrections, don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place first, but the end won’t follow immediately.” Then he added, “Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes, and there will be famines and plagues in many lands, and there will be terrifying things and great miraculous signs from heaven.”
(Luke 21:9-11, NLT)
The fact that the Bible is clear about increasing violence– and violent people, as seen in 2 Timothy 3– does not make its reality any easier to bear.
The “dog-eat-dog,” “eye-for-an-eye” vengeful attitude of this world is not new; in fact, the idea of getting vengeance is as old as sin nature, itself.
In the Old Testament, this idea of justice is found in Exodus 21:23-27, where any injury is told to be recompensed by inflicting the same injury onto the criminal who committed the crime.
“But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
(Exodus 21:23-25, NASB)
Isn’t this how all of us think, in our sinful flesh?
And, if I may suggest it ever so carefully, it is the way we feel about any personal or social injustice we experience.
Especially ones like these– where the victims were innocent, and the perpetrators calculated their attacks in a cold-blooded, evil way. What are we to do, when our hearts become nothing short of smashed to pieces, and we are forced to live with the baggage that such trauma brings?
This is the state that mankind was in after the Fall of Genesis 3; and this is the state of affairs Jesus stepped into. Mankind dealing ruthlessly with one another, getting both mad and “even” with those who wronged them.
What did Jesus say to His Followers?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
(Matthew 5:38-42, NIV)
What is Jesus saying here? Is Jesus commanding His followers to be wimpy doormats, wearing contrived smiles as they are deeply hurt by others? Not so. The Amplified Version of the Bible gives a little more insight:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth [punishment that fits the offense].’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person [who insults you or violates your rights]; but whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other toward him also [simply ignore insignificant insults or trivial losses and do not bother to retaliate—maintain your dignity, your self-respect, your poise]. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also [for the Lord repays the offender]. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.”
(Matthew 5:38-42, AMP)
Jesus was not talking about letting oneself stay in a dangerous, abusive situation, all in the name of Forgiveness and Peace. Jesus is commanding, as God Himself (as He is not saying “Thus saith the Lord,” but rather, “I say to you”), that His Disciples be ones that leave the vengeance and retaliation to Him.
Please listen. I am not at all trying to diminish the demonic, terrifying event that forever changed thousands of lives Sunday night. I am not trying to say that, because Jesus asks His followers to forgive and put vengeance in His Hands, that the church, school, club, and festival shootings in America, as well as the violence going on in Northern Nigeria, are somehow less heinous. These are not “small offenses.” That would be nothing short of insanely inconsiderate. The blood has spurted. The tears have flowed. And millions, even billions of people on this earth are going through all sorts of trauma that is not their fault.
But instead of trying to get even, I pray that we would look to the cross.
A place where the most innocent, perfect man’s blood, spurted (John 19:34).
Where cold-blooded, evil men, blinded by their own self-righteous pride, planned to kill this most innocent of men (Matthew 26:3-4).
Where the sins of you and I fell upon Him (Isaiah 53:5)–
And where Christ did not recant, or come down off the cross, like He could have (Matthew 26:53).
Instead, “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots” (Luke 23:34, NIV).
I don’t think Jesus asks us to somehow lessen or justify the hurt we have gone through, in order to forgive and let go. That would not be true forgiveness.
Jesus looked EVERYTHING that was done to Him, in the eye, and chose, in obedience to His Heavenly Father, to forgive.
The pain and heartbreak is overwhelming right now. I can’t help but look at the blood being spilled in Northern Nigeria, where little girls are being used as sex slaves and human bombs, without being outraged… and I can’t look at the pictures of the carnage in Las Vegas, or Charleston, or Florida, or Antioch in Tennessee without crying, knowing that these people now must live with what they have experienced.
But, followers, vengeance is the LORD’s. We are not to retaliate, even against the most heinous abuses. We are to lay our arms down, and do our fighting in prayer– prayer for the victims, and, if I may be so bold, for the perpetrator, as well (Ephesians 6:12; Luke 6:28).
I get it. Everything within us wants the man who shot these people to burn in hell, as we do those who have perpetrated such evil and violence in Nigeria, for good reason.
But, I pray, in all of this, that we would choose to turn in our pain, not to violence, but to Jesus.
Because, only He, this Mighty, Compassionate God, can render true justice– and heal the wounds.
“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
(Romans 12:19, NIV)
“[Jesus] did not recant; [He] didn’t take it back.” — “Loved My Heart to Death, by Shane & Shane. Watch the music video here.
This blogpost is in tribute to every person who passed away in the Las Vegas Mass Shooting. Our prayers, love, and support are with them and all of their loved ones. To support the victims of this shooting, please donate to this GoFundMe Page (not at all affiliated or set up by ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY.)
Do you know Jesus?
When talking about the wrath of God, many people today would say, “How could a Loving God dish out wrath on humankind?”
But, in light of such horrific events as this mass shooting, or, in the horrific event of Boko Haram kidnapping and abusing young women, it becomes clear that the wages of sin– even the smallest of sins– is death (Romans 6:23).
Jesus didn’t begrudgingly go to the cross, to pay for your sin. Hebrews 12:2 says that, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame…”.
But the joy was NOT hanging on that cross; we, those who are able to have a personal relationship with Jesus, God Himself, were that Joy.
Jesus didn’t have to die for your sins, and take on the just wrath of God the Father– but He did it, willingly. That is how much He Loves you.
Learn more about the One and Only True God, wrapped in Human flesh, who is crazy about you, here.
Please pray with me…
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for forgiving us. When we were against You, You were So Loving to us that You died the worst death possible, and took on the wrath of God that we deserved. Jesus, we pray over ourselves. Each and every heart that is hurting, to some to degree, as they have watched the violence, injustice, and sorrow unfold: Jesus, You see it all, every tear, every sigh, every scream.
We pray over these people, who have lost their beloved friends, husbands, wives, lovers, sisters, brothers, mothers, and fathers. We pray over each survivor of this attack. Lord Jesus, please comfort these hearts with the fact that true Justice belongs to You– and that You are near to them, in this time (Psalm 34:18).
We want this man to pay, and pay eternally. We want those who have done such incredulous things to pay heartily for what they have done. Thank You, Jesus, for giving us the emotion of anger– but it becomes sin so quickly, Lord Jesus. Jesus, we know that You do not want us to retaliate, or let this anger become something sinful. Help us to take our pain to You, and to not let it burn over into sin, our own lives and the lives of others.
Lord Jesus, we pray against anyone who somehow wants to commit similar actions as these men have. We pray against the demonic powers and principalities in this world that drive such evil and violence in these last days. Dear Jesus, please help us to be faithful Peacemakers in a world that loves violence. Help us to be real, and to offer real, lasting Hope to others that can only be found in You.
Dear Jesus, we pray against the corruption going on in Nigeria. In Your Name, we pray that You would bring perpetrators to the ground, and humble them. May the perpetrators of all of these crimes come to You, Jesus.
Please come back, soon.
In Jesus’ Name we pray,
It was the last place anyone imagined it would happen. And yet, it did: in the middle of an Internally Displaced Peoples Camp in Yola, Nigeria, a bomb was detonated, killing seven children and forever changing the lives of countless others. Once seen as a refuge for upwards of 1,000 displaced people, the Malkohi IDP camp spent all of September 11th, 2015 evacuating people from their “home away from home.”
The extent of Boko Haram’s terrorism has not stopped there. In Kolofata, Cameroon, 9 people were left dead after three suicide bombers detonated their explosives. Being near to a market, the suicide bombings terrorized possibly hundreds of people, causing them to live in the fear and anxiety that Boko Haram’s surprise attacks can bring. Yet, Though Boko Haram’s attacks continue to bring terror and grief to Nigeria and its surrounding nations, there is cause for hope: since the beginning of 2015, the Nigerian army, as well as the 8,700 strong multinational army, made up of forces from Nigeria and surrounding countries, have pushed Boko Haram out of many of their strongholds, including much of the Sambisa Forest. It was reported that “scores of Boko Haram militants” have surrendered, in what Vanguard newspaper reported as “mass panic and hysteria among their erstwhile colleagues” as they gave up their guns and traded them for cuffs. These men are men who have raped and terrorized hundreds, if not thousands of innocent women and children– men whose hands have killed, plundered, and kidnapped– and they now lie bound, shaking with terror and dread themselves.
Praying for Those Behind the Flag
The men behind the black, militant flag of Boko Haram have caused the deep sorrow, grief, and heavy darkness that has marred millions in Nigeria for the past five years. Radicalized by Muslim imams (teachers), these men have been brainwashed, sometimes from an early age, to believe that heaven can be obtained by shedding the blood of “infidels” (nonbelievers)– and sometimes, even their own blood. Suicide bombers, perhaps one of the saddest parts of Islam, can be any age or gender, and are usually young or easily manipulated. These pitiful souls are told that their “martyrdom” will ensure them a place in “Jannah,” the islamic version of heaven. Others are completely coerced; told that they will be murdered if they don’t become a suicide bomber, they have little to no choice but to follow their cowardly leaders/oppressors’ commands. Recently, many suicide bombers have been girls as young as 10 years old— one of the most vulnerable people groups involved in this horrific insurgency. Old or young, male or female, these brainwashed bombers and their leaders are in need of more than just arrest; they are in deep need of prayer.
The dark spiritual climate of being apart of such a demonic operation as Boko Haram can easily anger a person, causing them to ask Jesus for His divine Justice– and this is not wrong. They want those who have severely injured them to pay for it; when the perpetrator does not, they feel wronged and are embittered all the more. However, Jesus wants His followers to do things differently.
The Courage to Forgive
Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, who wrote almost half of the New Testament, was once a terrorist and persecutor of Christians– until Jesus changed His life (read Acts 7-9 for his story). Though Boko Haram is a ruthless and truly satanic terrorist organization, it is full of men and women who do not know the Love of Jesus Christ. In response to the evil so many have had to endure, Jesus calls His disciples to do something most would find completely impossible. As illogical as it may sound, Jesus has called those who follow Him to forgive their perpetrators, as seen in a passage called “the Lord’s Prayer.”
“This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.”
(Matthew 6: 9-10, 12, NIV)
In light of the horrific acts Boko Haram has perpetrated in and around Nigeria, Jesus’ command here can seem nothing short of deeply insulting. Yet, Jesus’ words speak of great Truth: forgiving others affects a person’s fellowship with Him. To know what it truly is to forgive, one must look at the cross.
Forgiveness in Light of the Cross
The truth is, forgiveness is not merely “overlooking” an offense or calling what happened “okay.” God did not merely “overlook” or call our sin “okay”; in fact, He hates sin, and as a God of Justice, gave mankind what our willful decision to disobey Him was: death, and eternal separation from Him. Yet, He is a God of forgiveness and mercy, taking no pleasure “in the death of the wicked,” but wanting them to “turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23, NIV). Therefore, He did what only a supremely Merciful and Just God could do: take upon Himself our sin and its consequential curse, by dying on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). In this way, He was able to forgive those who believe on Him for the sin that separated them from Him. Truly, forgiveness is looking at the sin for all it is, and choosing to not let it control a victim or what they think of those who wronged them. It is only in forgiveness that a person is set free to truly Love those who have hated them.
Redemption, not Retribution
In the world, this type of reaction to those who so vehemently hate and hurt their victims is unheard of; yet, Christ’s disciples are called to do this very thing. Instead of retribution, Jesus wants redemption; instead of “an eye for an eye,” Jesus calls His followers to respond to hatred and persecution– no matter the depth– with Love (Matthew 5:38-48). This feat of overcoming hurt with blessing is no small one; in fact, it can not be done without Jesus. Without Christ, a person cannot truly forgive and love their persecutors. They may strive to, but it takes Jesus’ Spirit to genuinely change them from the inside out: to see their offenders as the correctly-judged, horrendous, wicked people that they are– but also as people who are ignorantly and pitifully desperate for Jesus.
Paul was changed by the Power and Love of Christ. His hands persecuted Christ’s people; yet, in Christ’s hands, He became the man He was meant to be. The hands of the members of Boko Haram are stained red; but, in the power of Christ’s forgiveness, they too can be cleaned. As one escapee from the Chibok kidnapping once said, “I forgive Boko Haram for what they have done and I pray God forgives them too.” Oh, how they need it.
The men, women, and children of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin have been victims of grave and disgusting injustice, perpetrated by the hand of Boko Haram, and arrested members have gotten what they deserve. Yet, it is not in their punishment that victims will find healing. Rather, offender and victim can only be healed by looking to the cross– and more importantly, by looking to the One who once hung there. Truly, it is by His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5b, NIV).
Do you know Jesus?
“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
(John 1:11, NIV)
Though Jesus, God Himself, came to save the very world He created, it did not recognize Him; not only did it not recognize Him; His very people, the Jews, rejected Him– the One they had called “Hosanna!” to only days before.
He was wrongly condemned, flogged, and hung on a cross. Mockingly hailed “King of the Jews” and killed in the most torturous way possible, Jesus had every reason to abandon His mission and retaliate against those who viciously murdered Him. But He didn’t.
No; instead, while hanging on the cross, Christ said some of the most poignant words ever said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). In perfect Love, Jesus saw those whose sin He became: all of mankind throughout every generation, past, present, and future; and asked the Father to forgive them– knowing that it was through His suffering, death and resurrection alone that such a prayer would be answered (1 John 2:2; Ephesians 1:7-8).
Jesus died for all of mankind: from the religious person to the murderer, no one is outside of Christ’s unfailing Love– or His ability to save. Meet your Forgiver here.
*You may print out this prayer in Google Docs.
(pray along, or simply use it as a guide):
Lord Jesus, You alone know the pain and heart of every human being on this planet. You know that apart from You, our hearts are “deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” a thing that no one can truly understand but You (Jeremiah 17:9). Lord King Jesus, we all know that You are the only reason we are able to live; there is nothing we can do (or not do) to spare us from your righteous judgment. It is You alone who chose us; it is You alone who drew us to You by Your Love; and it is You alone who has saved our souls. Whether on this earth, or in eternity, You chose us to Live, and Live abundantly in You (John 10:10; John 15:4). Jesus, we thank You that You died for our Life; we thank You that by Your wounds, we were healed (Isaiah 53:5).
Jesus, we lift up the men and women of Nigeria to You. Only You know the pain and grief in their hearts; not only do You know it, but You have gone through it Yourself (Isaiah 53:4). Lord Jesus, we pray now for those who have been unimaginably hurt. Jesus, You alone know how isolating and unsearchable our grief and suffering can be (Proverbs 14:10), and Jesus, we pray that those who are grieving and hurting emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually would ask you into their hearts, and would be met by You right where they are at. Jesus, as our “Wonderful Counselor” and “God of all Comfort,” we pray that You would indeed comfort and hold Your precious children. Let them find their healing in You; King Jesus, hold their hands and provide them with people who will hold their hands, too. In this moment, Lord Jesus, we pray Your Spirit would be known, felt, and praised by all those hurting in Nigeria, that they might praise You as the God who Heals them (Exodus 15:26).
King Jesus, we pray over those who have been through the atrocities perpetrated by Boko Haram specifically. We pray, Lord Jesus, that they would run to You for refuge and healing; we pray that as they continue to run to You, You would help and enable them to live out Your will for their lives: to forgive and pray for their persecutors. Jesus, we know that this seems impossible to do, but we also know that NOTHING is impossible with You (Matthew 19:26). Jesus, as our brothers and sisters choose to “forgive their debtors,” we pray You would heal up their broken hearts, that their forgiveness would be true and full, as You have forgiven us. Lord Jesus, bless them for this difficult, but ultimately, right decision to trust and obey You, and set them free from the bondage refusing to forgive can bring, that they might love You and everyone around them– even their persecutors– as You have Loved us.
Jesus, touch the persecutors of our brethren with Your Love. Your apostle Paul hated You, King Jesus, but You never stopped Loving and drawing Him to You. As You changed Saul to Paul by Your Power, we now pray that You would change and bring muslims to You, especially those in Boko Haram. Lord Jesus, use Your people in captivity– and even Your people who will be martyred for You– to share Your Gospel of Love, Salvation, Forgiveness, and Peace with those who are killing, raping, kidnapping, and pillaging them. Jesus, plant seeds in their hearts, and Lord, soften their hearts and minds by Your Power and Love, that those seeds would be sown to all of them coming to You. We pray that You would raise up leaders in Boko Haram’s ranks, to both bring Boko Haram to the dust, and to bring the individuals that are in it to You; Jesus, show us Your Glory and Power in such a way, that all men might know and praise You, especially those farthest away from You right now, keeping and torturing those who love You.
Lastly, King Jesus, we pray You would have Your hand and Your Loving Eye on the hundreds of thousands of people kidnapped/in captivity. King Jesus, we pray that, if it’s Your will, You would show those combating Boko Haram where those who are kidnapped are. Jesus, if it’d be Your will, we pray new details would come forth about where the Chibok girls are; we pray that You would keep them safe, and would grant them not only physical freedom, but spiritual freedom as they all come to know You. Jesus, we pray You would fill your children in captivity with Love, Power, and a Sound Mind, that they might be Your witnesses, captive or free. “Set the captives free,” and encourage the hearts of those in captivity, as You have promised to do– in Your will, Your way, and Your timing (Luke 4:18; Psalm 42).
Lord Jesus, more than anything, we pray You would bring those who do not know You to You. Let them know that they are chosen by You; remove whatever is in the way, that may be keeping them from You. Lord Jesus, from the “bad” to the “good,” forgive them and show them Yourself– for truly, in our sin, none of us knew what we were doing (Luke 23:34).
We thank You and we praise You for all of this, Lord Jesus. It is in Your Name we pray all of it. Amen.
*You may print out this prayer in Google Docs.
Edit: During the writing of this post, the Lord revealed one thing to me: while I was faithful in writing about many different prayer needs in Nigeria, Africa, and the people of it, I’ve been silent– both online and, sadly, in real life– on the many CRAZY, SIMPLY AWE-INSPIRING things Christ has done over the past year or so, especially in the last few months!!! Here I’ve been, praying for the freedom of the Chibok girls and the many other captives of the Boko Haram, but I haven’t spent time REJOICING in the fact that nearly 700 WOMEN AND GIRLS HAVE BEEN RESCUED BY THE NIGERIAN MILITARY FROM BOKO HARAM!!! This freedom is beautiful– more beautiful than one could express with words, though I pray the Lord gives me the words to sufficiently express it. Take some time today to PRAISE JESUS FOR THE AMAZING WAYS HE HAS ANSWERED PRAYER!!! Praise Him! Hallelujah!
The fights, long-held grievances and under-the-breath comments erupted into a riot like a domestic natural gas explosion. While the community seemed fine enough on the surface, just as natural gas has little to no visible qualities, one could sense the tension in the air: in the hot, arid heat of April, the scent– and sense– of violence could be noticeably felt and smelt. Continue reading
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