Relationship Not Religion

Hi Friends.
I thought I would share something with you today that struck my heart and mind. Today, I had to read through a whole chapter on political anthropology for my anthropology class. Continue reading

Advertisements

Praying for the 700

Hi Friends,

As of late, Russian President Vladimir Putin has reported that over 700 people have been kidnapped by ISIS, and that these 700 people are in danger of being killed. ISIS wants to murder these people at the rate of 10 a day if their negotiation demands are not met.

This is so much more than political. Some of these people are reportedly from the United States and Europe; more than this, they are all human.

Jesus said in Matthew 24:9, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.” In these last days, for many Christians in Syria and other places in the Middle East, this verse is true. I’m sure that many of those in ISIS’ captivity are Christians, people who love Jesus too much to “convert” to islam. Jesus said it would happen… and this is all the more, a reason to pray for those going through this.

My last thought: Please, more than anything, pray for these people with me. Please pray for their safety, but because it is even more pressing, pray for their salvation.

Pray, pray, pray. Let’s not only petition those in power here on this earth; let’s petition our Loving, Sovereign Father.

father

Learn more about Jesus and what He did for you and me, here.

New Petition: Save the 700 people kidnapped by ISIS!!!

In response to President Vladimir Putin’s claim that 700 people have been kidnapped, and are being murdered daily, by ISIS, I have created a petition to US President Donald Trump and President Putin to accept that it is real news, and to do all they can to rescue these innocent people. You can find the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/president-of-the-united-states-rescue-the-700-people-kidnapped-by-isis

Thank you!!!

-Annalee

Spiritual Armor: Protecting Oneself for the Fight

In the past two blog posts, “The Noble Soldier” and “The Army with the Afterlife in Mind,”  I have been discussing the concept of how the military here on earth– especially the militaries fighting ISIS and radical islamic terrorism– are very much like “The Lord’s Army,” all Christ Followers who are seeking to glorify Christ and fight evil, darkness, sin, and oppression by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But through writing these posts, one thing came to the forefront of my mind: with what does the Christian soldier fight with, in the battle against darkness? I felt it important to 1) address the reality and importance of the enemy’s schemes in our lives, and 2) express what the Bible says about how we fight back.

The Christian Life: A Battleground

Many Christians today, especially in the West, see their discipleship to Christ as something they do on Sundays, or whenever they meet for church. Because Christianity can be, as of now, openly practiced in the United States of America, many Christians do not take their walk with Christ seriously. They see their walks in this life as more of a playground, instead of a battleground. (This is not, of course, stating that to have fun and enjoy life is sinful, or unwise– everything has been given to us by Jesus for our enjoyment, 1 Timothy 6:17).

But, nothing could be further from the truth. Without using scare tactics to freak out Christians about the enemy, the truth is that there is an enemy of our souls.battleground

Here is what the Bible says about the enemy of our souls, satan.

Knowing Our Enemy

It is important to note that not everything bad that happens in our lives is directly from satan’s scheming; much of the time, it is also our sin and it’s consequences, or the result of living in a broken world, one riddled by sin (1 Peter 4:15; Romans 8:19-23).

But, every good soldier must have a good understanding of the enemy they are fighting. The Bible says:

  • He (satan) fell from his place in heaven because of pride, wanting to be God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
  • He can come deceitfully, under the guise even of an “angel of light”
    • And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
  • He comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)
    • The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John  10:10)
  • He tempts humanity, even Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
  • He incites humanity.
    • “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21)
  • He is “The Accuser of the Brethren,” accusing us night and day, bringing false guilt and condemnation. (Revelation 12:7-10)
  • He prowls around, like a lion (not as a lion), looking to see whom He can deceive and destroy.
    • Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Think about that last point. satan prowls around– not as the Lion (as in the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ), but like a lion, a false and cowardly imitation of Christ. Cowardly as he is, satan prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
The definition of “devour” is “to consume destructively.” This definition provides a wake-up call for Believers: You have an enemy that, though he cannot touch your salvation, wants to destroy your life, your testimony to Christ, and your walk with Christ.

With such a formidable enemy ready to attack us, what can the Christian do to defend themselves, as well as to attack the enemy?

Ephesians 6 is full of scripture about spiritual warfare, but James 4:7 uncovers one powerful way a Christian can cause satan to literally run away.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
(James 4:7, NIV)

It’s simple, yet it involves us humbling ourselves before Christ, and doing His Will (therefore rejecting the devil). When we do this, the enemy has no other choice than submit to Christto flee from us!

Fighting The Enemy

It is in this humble submission to our Loving Jesus that Ephesians 6 encourages us to stand firm and strong against the enemy.

Ephesians 6 starts out this way: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth‘” (Ephesians 6:1-3). What is the common thread here? Submission! In submitting to those who are higher up and/or leading you, your relationship and spiritual life flourishes. 

Diving into Ephesians 6:10, submitting to Christ and to those He has placed over your life, Paul discusses the many different ways a Believer can stay strong against the enemy’s attacks, discussed below (I am using this Bible Study guide as my main resource for this portion of the Blogpost.):

  • The belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14)
    • The belt of truth keeps one’s sword-carrier and the rest of their armor intact (source). Without Truth, the rest of a person’s spiritual armor is in grave danger of falling off!
    • Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one gets to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). Without Jesus as the Truth, everything else in a person’s life is in danger.
  • The breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)
    • The breastplate protected one’s abdomen and vital organs. Without righteousness, the enemy can go straight for the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. — causing catastrophic damage in the spiritual life of a person. 
    • 1 Corinthians 1:30 states, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Jesus Christ is, for the Believer, Righteousness. Without Him, we have no life, and are subject to death, much like a person who has wounded his vital organs.
  • “Feet Fitted with the Readiness that Comes from the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15)
    • The feet are some of the most delicate parts of the body, especially when it comes to their undersides/the sole of the foot. In the middle of the battle, one needs shoes that provide protection from debris, and allow the fighter to focus on the battle at hand. 
    • When we are focused on Jesus, and on sharing His Gospel with those around us, we are given a firm foundation, ready to fight and protected from the many distractions of life.
  • The Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16)
    • The Shield of Faith is not just something one puts on; one needs to wield their shield of faith, especially as the enemy shoots his fiery darts of discouragement, doubt, fear, and temptation. Believing Jesus’ promises can help us “curve” these fiery darts!
    • Psalm 3:3 proclaims that Jesus is our Shield: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. It has been said that it does not matter how much faith you have, as much as it matters where you put that faith in. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1). Trusting in Jesus as our Shield and Promise-Keeper keeps us safe from satan’s attacks.
  • The Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)
    • The helmet can mean life or death for those in the middle of warfare, as the brain is the most vital organ of the body. When one keeps Jesus’ sacrifice at the forefront of their minds, it protects their minds from distractions and discouragements (source).
    • Jesus is our Savior, the One who has saved us! Keeping our eyes and thoughts on Jesus protects us from the evil one.
  • The Sword of the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)
    • The Sword of the Word of God, held by the belt of Truth, is the way to fight back against the enemy of our souls.
    • Think about it: the more we know the Word of God, the more we know the promises of God; the more we are focused on Jesus and spreading His Gospel; and the more we are rooted in the Truth, that Jesus is our Righteousness! Learning how to yield the Sword of God is crucial to our spiritual health. More than this, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1).
  • The Cloak of Zeal (Isaiah 59:17)
    • While not mentioned in Ephesians 6, the cloak of zeal is mentioned in Isaiah 59:17, which says, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” Our zeal and passion for Jesus can keep us from even the worst of outside conditions, just as cloak protected one against the outside elements. Like a coat, today, zeal keeps a soldier performing at their peak.
    • Our zeal must be based on right knowledge; many people have zeal today, but it is based in something evil or sinful. It was Jesus’ zeal to obey the Father and be the propitiation for our sins that saved us; when we base our zeal on Jesus and sharing His Gospel, no one can put that flame out!

Make no joke; our enemy is a formidable one. But, with submitting to Christ; putting on Jesus as our Righteousness and Truth; resting in His Salvation and Gospel; and growing in Faith in Him and zeal for Him, nothing the enemy does can keep us from walking in Christ’s victory.

christ's victory

As important to our spiritual walk as the clothes a soldier wears on a daily basis, I pray that we would put on our spiritual armor. May we walk close to Jesus, our Commander, in the midst of this fight. For, unlike an earthly commander, Jesus is with us– always.



Do you know Jesus?

Are you wounded, today?
Has the fight of life you are in seemingly decimated you?
Even when we are too weak to stand, Jesus is right there, ready and waiting to lift us up, and strengthen us, just as David said in Psalm 3: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (Psalm 3:3).

In these times, we can call to Jesus for Refuge, and rest under His Loving Care (1 Peter 5:7). Because Jesus is not just our military Commander, barking out orders; He is our Loving Father, deeply interested in every detail of our lives (Psalm 37:23).

Learn about this Powerful, Loving, God– Jesus Christ– and just how much He Loves you, here.



Please pray for…

  • The Chibok girls; as of today, there are 113 of them still in captivity. Please pray for a breakthrough in their hearts, minds and lives!
  • Those who are on the physical front lines, including soldiers, aid workers, and members of vigilante groups, especially in Nigeria. Please pray that they would all come to know Jesus, and would fight under His ultimate Lead and Protection.
  • Those who are on the spiritual front lines, including missionaries, clergymen, and every Christian involved in the daily fight against evil (which is all of us, in some form or fashion!). Please pray for protection, wisdom, guidance, discernment, and boldness as they fight the good fight of faith.
  • The members of Boko Haram, deeply influenced by evil and falsehood. Please pray that Jesus would bring even these men to trust in Him, and would turn their lives around for His Glory, just like Saul (also known as Paul) (Acts 9).
  • For the continued protection and sustaining of those who are caught in this evil crossfire.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!

The Noble Soldier

This post is dedicated to the four American green berets that lost their lives fighting terror in Tongo Tongo, Niger, along with the countless men and women who give their lives every day in the military.

On October 4th, 2017, four soldiers from the United States were killed in a fire fight between US/Nigerien soldiers and ISIS. In the firefight, one soldier named Sargent La David Johnson, was separated from the rest of the team. After the fight had ended, it took an extra 48 hours to find his body, to bring it back to Dover Air Force Base on October 7th.

This sad, sad news reminds me that it is not only civilians that are suffering in this insurgency, that has now spread to most of the Middle East and Africa. Be it Boko Haram, or ISIS (they are one in the same– Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2015), this insurgency is killing hundreds of innocent soldiers, soldiers who have given their lives so that Boko Haram, ISIS and Al-Qaeda are vanquished.

These men and women are not just numbers and statistics. Behind every fallen soldier is a mother left without a son; a man left without his best friend; and a wife or husband left without their spouse. Millions– millions of people outside of those directly attacked by Boko Haram– have lost their fighting loved ones to Boko Haram. 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!

Victory!

There is a darkness all around us. Whether one senses it or not, a spirit of sorrow– of fear, of loneliness, of hopelessness– reigns in the hearts and minds of countless people all over the globe. Daily, we read articles of heartwrenching violence abroad, while locally, the day’s headlines include senseless tragedies, marring the day with disheartening, sober pensiveness.

In nations like Nigeria, Iraq, and inumerable european countries all across the East, this darkness is both strikingly felt and incomprehensibly heavy. With events such as a child suicide bombing committed by a girl as young as seven years old in Nigeria, to the kidnapping of close to 90 christian Assyrians in Syria, the incessant persecution and violence found in these nations are a cause for deep terror in the hearts and minds of people caught in the crossfire. And while the Boko Haram insurgency found in Nigeria and its surrounding nations is being fought back against by a heavy-handed AU Army, the warfare found in Nigeria– as well as across the middle east– is only a symptom, a physical manifestation, of the spiritual warfare occuring all over the planet, every moment of our lives. Continue reading