An Open Letter to the Internally Displaced Peoples of Nigeria

I read in this report that 86% of displaced peoples in Northern Nigeria, approximately 1.2 million people, are currently afraid of going back to their home towns and villages in Northeast Nigeria. This letter was written to these people, in response.

To the People in Northeast Nigeria, Beloved by Christ:

Hello. You may never know me; and I may never know you. Living halfway across the world from you, I have not experienced your culture, and I do not truly know the world you live in.

I will not pretend that I understand the pain you have experienced; I cannot.

I look at pictures of your children, and I cry at their gaunt, fragile bodies.
I hear about the land you once inhabited, your homestead, where you once grew your wheat, making a living. I have heard that those people, those locusts with human flesh on, stole it, stole it all, after stealing the lives of your loved ones– those who tried to escape.

I hear about these things. But how could I ever know them? It seems trite, even insulting, to write such a letter to you.

So much, so many has been stolen from you. Your fathers. Your mothers. Your children. Your lovers. Your husbands, your wives. Your innocence. Your homes and villages, wrecked by these locusts with human skin on.

And the miles you walked, ran, and hid to get away. As scorching as the heat that once made Hagar cry out in the desert, you walked your weary bodies across the highest of temperatures to get away from those locusts– those men who rob, and kill, and destroy.

You may have almost died… maybe some of those closest to you did die. I could never be able to understand this feeling: the horror you experienced as they slipped away.

All I can do is cry, when I think about it. Cry for you, cry for them. Cry for the pain that now keeps you awake at night.

By now, millions of people, in the same predicament as you, have found some sort of shelter. An internally displaced people’s camp, a friend’s house. Maybe even an old school building, one similar to the one your children learned in, before it was all taken away.

Maybe you have been there for one week. Maybe it’s been six months; maybe it’s been whole years, since you once saw your homeland. And they want you to go back.

The government, who, for many of you, did nothing to protect you, and nothing to disarm your enemies– they now say it is okay to go home.

I cannot imagine how you feel; I know that probably everybody feels something different. But according to this report, it says that most of you are afraid. Afraid of the known; afraid of the unknown. Afraid of the past; afraid of the present. Afraid of the future.

Friend, if this is where you are, I want to encourage you.

I know that I could never fathom the many atrocities you have been forced to experience.

But there was a time in my life, where much of what I held dear was stolen, too.
Food did not enter my mouth. My “homeland” of friends had to be left. For a time, I felt I had lost my own family.

The details of this story are for another day. I went through the most painful, heartbreaking time of my life, and let me tell you: I was a desert. I was dry bones. At times, I literally lacked even water; my own hands would not give it.

Fear enclosed me on all sides. I was afraid of the past happening again, and was afraid of what my future would hold. Friend, I was terrified.

But this is the Truth: even when I did not, could not see Him, Jesus Christ– the Lord of Heaven and Earth– was working for my good. Even when I felt, even when I was, alone, He was there, with me, in the darkness, chaos, and confusion.

When I was thirsting, spiritually and physically, Jesus quenched my thirst with His Promise: “I will never, never fail you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, NIV).

hebrews 13.5-6.JPG

Hebrews 13:5-6, NIV

Friend, His Presence, according to Hebrews 13:5-6, makes Him your Helper. The Hand you hold during this trial, this storm. And when you are on the other side of this?

I pray that you will be saying, “Because He is near me, I will not fear.”

 

Jesus is Your Helper. Sounds trite, doesn’t it?
Especially coming from the mouth of a person who doesn’t know the first thing about your tragedy.

But I do know about mine.

It’s been three years later, and I can promise you this: If you place your trust in Jesus Christ, none of this will be wasted.

And He, being Your Good Shepherd, will give you life. Life, abundantly.

joel 2.25-26 finalHe will restore back all of what those locusts stole. He will restore you.

So, don’t be afraid. Be wise. Be cautious. But, with Christ on your side,

Don’t be afraid.



We are praying for you. You matter; You are Loved.

I want to bless you, by praying for you, here.

“Dear Jesus, Thank You for each and every one of these people. Thank You for keeping them alive.
Please let them hear, today, of Your Unfailing Love.
Please help them to dream again. Help them to flourish, and restore ALL that these locusts stole from them.

In Jesus’ Name we pray,

Amen.”

Again, we love you.
Yours in Prayer to Christ,
Annalee (of ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY)


“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame.”

(Joel 2:25-26, NKJV)



Jesus came, that we might have Life, and have it abundantly.
In fact, He paid the ultimate price for us to have eternal life.

Learn more about this God, who lost everything, that we might gain everything in Him, here.

 

Please continue praying for those who have been internally displaced from their homes, in Northeast Nigeria.

We are called to be Jesus’ Hands and Feet, being the practical way others can claim that Jesus is their Helper. You may find a great resource for charities to give to that are currently involved in aiding IDPs in the Boko Haram insurgency, here.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!

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Being Honest with God

Today, to be honest, I am hurting. I am in pain. I am angry. I am grieved.

“Indifference is no reaction at all.” Today, that quote stood out at church. Studying the story of Jonah, Jonah 1:1 says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.'” What was Jonah’s response? Anger.

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
(Jonah 1:3, NIV)

Jonah had a reason for his anger. The people of Nineveh were evil– the embodiment of evil, in fact– so much so that “it’s wickedness has come up before [God]” (Jonah 1:1). Jonah’s anger turned into something toxic, as the Pastor commented today (read Chapters 3-4 to see his anger take a turn for the worst). But it brought up the concept of being “real” with God. Of coming to Him with everything– even when “everything” includes screaming at him, and/or crying out in pain.

Honesty with Christ

There are still 113 Chibok girls who are not free. While news reports could be wrong, many say that some of these 113 Chibok girls have said they do not want to come home. This hurts. To know that 113 young women may be so brainwashed, that freedom for

14639822_574546066089764_9189681808964260463_n

Rejoice Sanki, one of the 113 Chibok girls who need to be freed.

them looks worse than their bondage, breaks my heart. I pray that it isn’t true… that what keeps these young women from freedom and healing is not their own will.

But it could be true. And it is okay to come to Christ with this pain, anger, frustration, and longing for these remaining Chibok girls to become free.

In fact, in the Psalms, King David regularly cried out to Christ.

 

 

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. 10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. 11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. 12 I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. 13 For I hear many whispering, ‘Terror on every side!’ They conspire against me and plot to take my life.”
(Psalm 31:9-13, NIV)

Not too many have felt what King David felt. Theologians and Bible Readers alike speculate that this Psalm was written as David was narrowly escaping assassination attempts by Israel’s king at the time, King Saul (source). “In distress,” King David was overcome by sorrow and grief, and did not hold back in crying out to Christ about his situation. But he did not stay there.

From Pain to Praise

While crying out to Jesus about his struggles and anguish, King David drew close to Christ; and, it was in this honest encounter recorded in Psalm 31, that King David’s heart, mind, and perspective were transformed by the Lord. This can be seen in verse 14, as King David’s tone changes.

But I trust in you, LordI say, ‘You are my God.’ …Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. 22 In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’
Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. 23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. 24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
(Psalm 31:14, 21-24)

It is obvious that as King David ran to Christ for help, he found it. While we do not know if his circumstances really changed for the better, this is the Hope for all people who put their trust in Jesus; He will never let them be put to shame for seeking Him.

There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5, NIV). And, when it comes down to the honest truth, even when that joy doesn’t come, the Comfort and Joy of coming to Christ in the pain is our Strength.

113 Chibok girls still remain in bondage. This horrific Truth is cause for much pain, but approaching Christ in this pain makes all the difference. In our pain, may He hear our prayers, and may these precious young women come home soon.

This post is dedicated to the 113 young Chibok girls who are still not freed, as well as those in Mosul, which is modern-day Nineveh.



Do you know Jesus?

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
(Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Some people may see Jesus as some distant, feeling-less deity– yet, as one Pastor has said, He is anything but.

He can be grieved. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Matthew 23:37, NIV)

He wept. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35, NIV)

He sings with Joy. “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

He cares deeply for every detail of the Believer’s life.The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23, NIV)

Jesus is not some distant deity, or a made-up man. He is real, alive, and He deeply loves you. Learn more about who Jesus is, and why He came to earth, here.


Please pray…

For the remaining 113 Chibok girls who are still in bondage. Please pray that what has been said about the remaining girls is not true.

Please pray that if the news reports are true, that Jesus would reach and save these young women. 

Please pray for those in Mosul, Iraq. Iraqi soldiers are trying to push out ISIS. Please pray that they would have Christ’s favor, and that members of ISIS would be defeated– so that they can come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Please pray for Annalee, the writer of ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY. Pray that I would continue to be effective in this ministry, by the power of the Holy Spirit– and that I would be faithful in my service to the Lord, even when it hurts. Thank you.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

21 CHIBOK GIRLS FREE!!!

Two years ago, the 218 Chibok school girls who remained in captivity, after 57 had fled, seemed, in the world’s eyes, to be a lost cause.

There were reports of their parents dying from heartache, and Boko Haram attacks. The girls were nowhere to be found, and false reports of hope for their release broke the hearts waiting to see their loved ones, again.

Boko Haram closed in on Chibok. Raids and massacres all over Northern Nigeria were had. As Boko Haram raised their black flag over Chibok, candle-light vigils for the Chibok girls seemed useless. As one article, from that time, said, “…few Chibok residents believe all the schoolgirls will ever return home.”

It sounds like the sorrow felt in verse 4, of Isaiah 62. Called “Desolate,” and “Deserted,” Israel cried out for Christ to redeem them. But, amidst all the pain, Christ’s Promise was clear: No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married.”

 

Even after all the bloodshed,
Even after all of the pain,
the tears,
the seemingly irrevocable death,

Jesus brought life.

 

Isaiah 62 Prayer Ministry is overjoyed to announce that 21 of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls have been freed, today, on October 13th, 2016!!!

After countless prayers, many tears, and 84 blog posts, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Swiss government made a deal with Boko Haram, allowing 21 of these precious young women to go FREE.

“Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives be rescued from the fierce? But this is what the Lord says: ‘Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save.”
(Isaiah 49:24-25, NIV)

The names of the 21 Chibok girls are: Mary Usman Bulama, Jummai John, Blessing Abana, Lugwa Sanda, Comfort Habila, Maryam Basheer, Comfort Amos, Glory Mainta, Saratu Emannuel, Deborah Ja’afaru, Rahab Ibrahim, Helen Musa, Maryamu Lawan, Rebecca Ibrahim, Asabe Goni, Deborah Andrawus, Agnes Gapani, Saratu Markus, Glory Dama, Pindah Nuhu, and Rebecca Mallam. Some of their names can be found here, on a post dedicated to specifically naming each Chibok girl who (then) was still in captivity.

I, the writer of Isaiah 62 Prayer Ministry, held on to Jesus’ Promises, that these girls would be rescued… but, at times, those Promises seemed so far off that I was on the verge of unbelief. Especially in the darkest times of the insurgency, when my own personal life was falling down all around me, I couldn’t help but cry out to Christ, “Please. Please show us what Victory looks like.”

Even amongst that frustrated, heartbroken prayer, prayed out of exhaustion and deep discouragement, Christ answered.

And it looks like this.

21-chibok-girls-free

The wife of the vice-president of Nigeria welcomes the 21 released Chibok schoolgirls (source).

The road to recovery has just begun. But, thank You, Jesus, that it has begun.

Please continue to pray for the 21 freed Chibok girls, as well as the 197 that remain in captivity.

Thank You, Jesus, for Seeing, Loving, and Knowing Your children. With You, nothing is impossible. Let us rejoice in the AMAZING ways You are restoring, and redeeming, the Chibok girls, and Northern Nigeria, as a whole!

In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Thank you for your prayers!!!! Jesus is faithful to finish what He started. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
(Philippians 1:6, NLT)

Radiant Faces: Trusting Jesus amidst Boko Haram Deception

On September 16th, 2016, it was reported, by the Nigerian Federal Government, that the Nigerian government has tried to negotiate for the release of the Chibok girls three times since July of 2015. While this development is encouraging, the reasons behind the failed negotiations shines light on a difficult problem. Although the terrorist group negotiated with the Nigerian Federal Government to secure the Chibok girls, at first, negotiations failed: either because of Boko Haram’s instability, or the fact that, in the process of negotiations, the terrorist sect’s demands were deemed too high. This reveals much about the group: one, that it is breaking apart (a definite answer to prayer!), and two, that they are missing prime leaders and expert bomb manufacturers– whom they demanded be released, in exchange, for the 218 girls still missing.

But, the problem is this: When one is dealing with a seriously evil organization, like Boko Haram, it is dealing with an organization built upon lies. Just as satan is called “the father of lies” (John 8:44), islam, and any other thing not set up upon Christ and His Word, is truly built upon the shaky ground of deceit, able to fall apart at any moment. Ultimately, because Boko Haram is built upon lies, it becomes extremely difficult to discern what is actually going on behind its closed doors.

News of three different negotiations occurring within one year, then, shows the public that there is more to this insurgency than one thought.

 

But this is not the only report that proves there is more than what meets the eye happening during the Boko Haram insurgency. Within the same time frame that the report of negotiations was published by News Agencies, news also came that the Nigerian Army released 566 men, women and children who were the families of Boko Haram members. Released to Governor Shettima, and into a UN rehabilitation program, 355 of the 566 people were young, breast-feeding children. With the hopes of rehabilitating, and de-radicalizing, this massive group of people, this unprecedented development is both encouraging, and concerning, in that while people are being freed, these people sadly have the risk of re-joining Boko Haram. To know that the Nigerian Army has been retaining such a huge number of men, women, and children (of which are the majority), for months, and even years, proves that the Boko Haram insurgency is much more complicated, and risky, than any person would ever initially think.
People– people with minds, and hearts, that cannot be easily, or truly, searched, by other human beings– always carry the weight and risk of being untrustworthy. This is precisely why the LORD, through the Psalmist, David, says this in Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God.” 

 

In this world of so many unknowns, it can seem hopeless, to be up against such seemingly formidable enemies. More than this, it can be endlessly troubling to realize that “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NCV). But we do not need to live in fear, frustration, and dismay. Instead, Jesus calls us to live our lives, looking to Him.

Psalm 34:5, in context, is an incredibly comforting, affirming verse, for those who are having trouble living victoriously. “Those who look to him [the LORD] are radiant;” it says; “their faces are never covered with shame.” At the time it was written, David was not yet King, and was being chased down by King Saul, the then ruler of Israel (as found in 1 Samuel 21). David had put his hope in the LORD, but, feeling scared, famished, and desperate for help, David lied to Ahimelek, which was one of Israel’s priests. Stating that he was actually on an “urgent mission” for Saul, David took and ate the Bread of the Presence of the LORD that had been out the day before (1 Samuel 21:1-3, 6). Not only did he eat of this bread; he, terrified by one of Saul’s men who had been there, also asked Ahimelek if he had any weapons on hand (1 Samuel 21:7-8). Ironically taking the very sword Goliath had when David slayed him, David quickly ran for his life to Gath (1 Samuel 21:9-10).

In Gath, David ran into more problems; and, driven to a last resort, pretended to be insane before the King of Gath, King Achish (2 Samuel 22:10-15). This, no doubt, was a major valley in King David’s life. Yet, Psalm 34 is not a Psalm filled with focus on David’s pain, turmoil, or even lack of faith in God, replaced by fear.

But, let one be clear. David’s lack of faith, and deceitfulness, came with tremendous consequences: the innocent priests, and townspeople, of Nob, were slaughtered by King Saul, because of David, which he took full blame for (1 Samuel  22:6-23). But, even in light of such horrible, self-induced circumstances, Psalm 34 it is filled with praise to the LORD. This, in and of itself, speaks volumes: That, even when we are overcome by fear, or use deceit to get what we need, Christ is bigger than even the worst sin, circumstances, news, or consequences– and is willing and able to forgive those who humbly repent.

 

Not only is Psalm 34 filled with praises of Christ’s mercy, despite dire circumstances. It is also filled with promises of Justice.

Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned
(Psalm 34:21-22).

One must admit: this is a difficult passage to accept, when so many innocent people were murdered by King Saul. But, seen in the light of eternity, the wicked and the foes of the righteous, those like King Saul, will be the ones truly condemned. Those who were, and have been, innocently murdered, both then and now, have the promise of verse 22: that “those who take refuge in Him [Christ] will not be condemned”– even though those who trust in Christ were condemned to physical death by evil, corrupt men, they will never suffer spiritual death.

Ultimately, Christ promises to bring true, final Justice, when He comes back to the earth (Revelation 22:12-13). This, above all, is the Hope of those who look to Jesus, now– that, in the end, Believers will “Behold: he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,” and everything up to that point, even the worst of the pain, will forever be a thing of the past.

 

In such frustrating, heartbreaking times, Christ’s Power, Protection, Justice, and Mercy are sure. This is the Hope found, even when so little is known about the Boko Haram insurgency. While deception– a lack of knowing the Truth– are things that abound on this earth, Believers have a Savior, in Jesus Christ, who does not lie. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NIV). No wonder those who look to Him are so radiant. ❤



Do you know Jesus?

“‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’
    and ‘every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him’;
    and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’
So shall it be! Amen.”
(Revelation 1:7, NIV)

Psalm 34 states that those who look to, and put their trust in, Jesus Christ, will never be ashamed. Nothing points to this more, than those who believed on Him, who saw Him suffer and die, on the cross.

Over 2,000 years ago, God stepped onto the scene of earth. Filled with sin, God entered the world, and suffered at the hands of those He lovingly created– so that “And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Nailed to a cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, physically died of a broken heart, yelling out, “It is finished!” as those who crucified Him, looked on.

Learn more, and meet, the God-man who was rejected and killed, so that Believers might be forever accepted, and saved, by God, here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Father God,
I thank You, and I praise You, for coming to this earth, in the form of a man, so that we could look to You, for the Love, Joy, Peace, Protection, and Salvation mankind so desperately needs.

Father God,

I pray for those who still have yet to meet You– who see You as a far-off God, or a guru, or a prophet, or simply don’t believe in You, at all. Dear Jesus, I pray, in Your Name, that these men and women, who are hurting so much, would find relief in You as they submit to You, as their Lord and Savior.

Father God,

I pray for Your children, in Nigeria, and in every surrounding country, who have been harmed, wounded, or are grieving the loss of their Loved Ones, but who have not seen any Justice done on their behalf, yet. Father God,

Please help these people to continue to trust You; help them to trust that You will provide them the Justice that they so deserve.

Father God,

Wherever injustice, and deception abounds, as definitely as in Boko Haram, I pray that You would bring these evil acts to light– and would bring those who have done such things to dust, so that they might be humbled, and come to truly know You.

Father God,

I pray for those stuck in IDP camps, suffering from hunger. Dear Father God, please let these people be found by aid groups; please help us to know how to spiritually help, through prayer, and practically, through giving.

Dear Father God,

I pray over the 218 young girls who have still not been found, and who are the subject of so many negotiations. Father God, dear Jesus, whether it would be by negotiation, or divine, miraculous intervention, please bring these precious young women, home, soon.

While they are in captivity, Father God, I pray, in Jesus’ Name, that You would help them to look to You. Even in such a place as captivity, I pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort those who believe in You, there; I pray that they would trust in You, and that their faces would be so radiant, that it would bring others to You, as well.

I thank You for this, Father God. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”

Ready to Be Free

After almost two years of little to no action from the Nigerian government, to secure the freedom of 276– now, 218– young schoolgirls, from the Boko Haram insurgency, Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has declared, at the end of August, that Nigeria is now willing to negotiate with “bona fide leaders of Boko Haram,” for the release of the Chibok school girls (source). This newest development has spurred on new hope for the release of the Chibok girls, who have not been physically seen by the outside world– but are reported to be alive, as of December 2015. While Boko Haram has stated that a few of these precious young women have been killed by airstrikes, there is still sufficient cause to believe that the Chibok girls are alive, and ready to be free.

As this major development has occurred, one other major news development has come up: Aliko Dangote, called “The Richest African” by SuccessStory.com, has vowed to further support Internally Displaced Peoples, who have been chased out of their homes by Boko Haram militants. This welcomed news has stirred up the question, in this writer: “What can be done by Believers– and the Church, worldwide– to “rebuild the walls” of Northern Nigeria, and its people? Continue reading

From Violent Extremist to Apostle: How Meeting Christ Changes Everything

“O you non-believers, die in your rage,” he said. “We shall fight you. We shall humiliate America and Nigeria. We believe in the verse of our lord. ‘They will not harm you except for [some] annoyance. And if they fight you, they will show you their backs; then they will not be aided.’ (Q 3:111).” In the latest video created by Boko Haram, these were the words, breathed out in vehement hatred, by Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau (source).

Up until close to one month ago, Shekau was the proclaimed leader of Boko Haram, also known as ISWAP (Islamic State West Africa Province). But, at the beginning of August, ISIS– whom Boko Haram is affiliated with– declared a new man, Abu Musab al-Barnawi, as Boko Haram’s new leader. But, not all of Boko Haram welcomes this new leader. Abubakar Shekau, who opposes al-Barnawi, calls the man a “heretic” and infidel for not believing in “the authentic creed,” and has grown a following behind him that agrees (source).

An extremely zealous, dare I say religiously fanatic, man, Abubukar Shekau was a theology student who is fluent in various languages (source). Shekau took over Boko Haram after its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed by the Nigerian military in 2009. It was reported that Abubakar Shekau married one of Mohammed Yusuf’s wives, and adopted Yusuf’s children (source).

Described as having “intense ideological commitment” to his creed of islam by the BBC, and a very bloodthirsty nature by TIMES, Abubakar Shekau seems to be a muslim “Pharisee among Pharisees,” if that were possible. This, as surprising as it sounds, is not unlike the Apostle Paul’s early life.

Oddly enough, there are many similarities between The Apostle Paul (before he knew Christ), and the evil, vicious Abubakar Shekau. Known for writing about a third to a half of the New Testament Scriptures, the Apostle Paul was once known as Saul of Tarsus. Growing up in modern-day Tersous, Turkey, Saul was raised in an extremely devout Jewish home, with Pharisees as parents– Jews who strictly adhered to the Law of Moses (source). Saul, an intelligent young person, was sent to be a theology student, under the teaching of a Rabbi named Gamaliel, at the age of 13 (source).

For the next five to six years, Saul studied the Law of Moses, Jewish History, the Psalms and the Prophets. He later became a lawyer, and anticipated becoming one of the members of the Sanhedrin (one of 71 men, who “ruled over Jewish life and religion” [source]). Scholarly when it came to manners of the law, Paul, in his own words, was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless” (Philippians 3:5-6). 

But, the knowledge and passion Saul had for the Jewish religion turned incredibly violent, as Jesus Christ, and his followers, came onto the scene. Living in relatively the same time as Christ, and the early church, Saul’s zeal was uncompromising; and, viewing Jesus’ early church as a perversion of Judaism, he sought to persecute, kill, and eventually wipe out every person who was apart of “the Way” (what Christianity was known as, at the time). In Acts 7 and 8, Saul is described as having a major role in persecuting, and killing, those in the early church. But, in Acts 9, everything radically changed for Saul.

Acts 9 tells the biblical account of Saul’s coming to Christ in a powerful, humbling way.

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’
5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked.
‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
(Acts 9:1-7, NIV)

Meeting Jesus Christ, on the road to kill His people, Saul’s entire life had changed forever.
Instead of viewing The Way, and it’s followers, as a perverse religion with a fraudulent leader, Paul met the Risen Jesus Christ: and realized that to persecute Christ’s followers, was to persecute the Risen, and Reigning, Jesus Christ. When Paul later tells the story of his conversion, to Agrippa, he adds that Christ said one very profound thing: “‘”Paul… It is hard for you to kick against the goads”‘” (Acts 26:14). Using vivid imagery, Christ expressed one thing: it is futile, and was futile for Paul, to fight against God’s Will and the drawing in of His Holy Spirit. These eye-opening words show that, even while Paul was persecuting the church, the Holy Spirit was working in Saul’s life, drawing him into a relationship with Christ. Truly, what must have been the most humbling experience he had ever had, Saul (also known as Paul, in Acts 13:9) walked away an entirely new, saved, man.

Saul was apart of a religion that terrified, wounded, displaced, and killed countless Christians in the early Church. But, through the Forgiveness, Grace, Mercy and Salvation of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Saul became Paul: a man who was “poured out like a drink offering” to Christ, and filled with genuine love and concern for his family in Christ (2 Timothy 4:6; Philippians 2:17; 1 Timothy 1:2; Galatians 3:7). It was a change only Jesus could make.

Paul’s life, before meeting Christ, was one of intense religion, legalism, and extremist violence toward the very people of the God who ended up saving him. But, when one truly meets the One and Only Living God, Jesus Christ– and accepts Him as their Lord and Savior– they are eternally saved, and made completely new.

What does this mean for Abubakar Shekau, a man of strict, callous, hellish muslim convictions? He is a man who needs, to truly meet, and accept, Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior of his life.

If Jesus Christ died for the sins of all mankind (1 Timothy 4:10)– and if a man like Saul of Tarsus can be redeemed, and saved, in such a powerful way– Abubakar Shekau is not outside of Christ’s mercy, or power to forgive and save.

The Holy Spirit is moving in, through, and upon Believers in Nigeria, bringing men everywhere to repentance. In light of the Apostle Paul’s transformation, let us dare to pray, even for someone so vicious as Abubakar Shekau. Who knows: the very mouth that curses Believers, now, could be the very one that praises their Messiah, in the future.



Do you know Jesus?

As there is so much talk about Saul, and his persecution of those who followed The Way, one can’t help but wonder at how terrified the followers of The Way were.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, His followers fled from town to town, hiding from their persecutors, and gathering together in hideouts.

But, through all of the persecution, these early Christians did not give up on their faith; rather, “Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went” (Acts 8:4, NIV). While this horrendous tragedy of widespread persecution was happening, it was causing God’s Word, the Gospel, to be preached, in far-off places– even causing “great joy” in some cities, as the Gospel was preached (Acts 8:8).

Why was this? Because Jesus Christ is not some dead, false god. He is the Risen, Living Savior of the world, God Himself in human form. And His promises to his followers are profound. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. 26 And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?‘” (John 11:25-26). Each of these Believers had met, and accepted, this very real, personal, Living God; and, by Faith, through Grace, rely upon Him for Salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The very same is true for today. Jesus Christ is not some obsolete, religious icon; He is Alive, and He wants to be in a personal, Saving relationship with each and every person on Earth (1 Timothy 2:4).

No matter who you are, or what you have done, come to Him. Meet Him. Your life will never be the same.

Learn more, and meet Him, here.


Please agree in prayer, with me, over the Salvation of Abubakar Shekau:

“Dear Father God,
I thank You for hearing our prayers. I thank You for knowing our thoughts, our words, and our actions before we ever do them… I thank You for knowing, and still Loving, us, no matter what we have done.
Dear, Father God, I come to You, Father, and I pray that, even in this very moment, Your Holy Spirit would be working on Abubakar Shekau; I pray that he would sense Your Presence, and would fear and revere You, for being the One and Only True God, and for showing Your power in this situation.
Father,
I pray that Abubakar Shekau would realize how real, and how fierce, Your Love is for Him. Father God, as Shekau realizes this, I pray You would speak to Him, and that as His heart softens, He would come to You, and know You as His Lord and Savior.
Father God, I know You have plans, even for people like Shekau. Please continue to draw him to You, and in all ISIS members– all to Your Glory.

Father God,
I also pray for those who have been displaced, wounded, and even murdered, by the barbaric actions of Boko Haram.
Father God, please hold those who have been hurt, so, so deeply by Shekau’s actions, in Your arms, of healing. Please bring them to know You; and in knowing You, we pray that Your Word and Your Gospel would be spread, just like in the times of the early church.

Father God, I thank You for being with those in captivity. I pray You would continue to sustain, and strengthen, those in captivity; and please put hope in the hearts of those who believe in You, by the Power of Your Holy Spirit, that someday, they will be physically free, and will somehow be able to leave this horrible time behind.

Thank you for defeating, and humbling, Boko Haram, dear Lord Jesus. ‘For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory’ (Psalm 149:4). Please give Your People, all over the world, victory over what oppresses them.

Thank You, Father God. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”

No one is out of Jesus’ redemptive reach. Praise Him for that!

Thank you for your continued prayers!