To Be Made in the Image of God

On the night of Thursday, February 9th, the sounds of warfare could be heard on Ajiri-Dikwa road in Borno state, Northeastern Nigeria [1]. Caught in a clash with Boko Haram members, seven members of the Nigerian military were killed, and 19 others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Over 30 Boko Haram members were killed, according to the report made by the Nigerian military [2].

In other places in the Northeast, food shortages are threatening millions of lives already ravaged by Boko Haram. According to this article, a new UN report has stated that 11 million people are living with food shortages in Nigeria. In the report, many shocking statistics were found: An estimated 120,000 Nigerians will suffer from “famine-like conditions” from food shortages, while 500,000 children total are in great risk of death due to malnutrition. Though Boko Haram members may have not directly created this suffering and loss through militantly attacking the people, this terrorist uprising has played a huge role in the famine-like, scarce conditions those in Nigeria (especially in Northern Nigeria) are facing.

Thousands of human beings have been made into objects, by becoming kidnappees and sex slaves [3]. 15 million Nigerians have been displaced by terrorism. And aside from the physical bondage and atrocities committed, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse has run rampant.

This couldn’t be more apparent than in deradicalisation programmes operating in Northern Nigeria. In the case of a woman named Aisha– a former wife of Boko Haram (BH) commander, Mamman Nur– it has taken almost a year to free her, and others, of their Jihadi muslim brainwashing. In the Sambisa Forest (Boko Haram’s stronghold), where kidnap, slavery, sexual abuse, and oppression in every form reign supreme, many women like Aisha came to love the power and “security” of being married to a prominent BH leader. Corrupted by this evil, women like Aisha have become cold-hearted, even threatening to rape men [4].

All around, people touched by the evil theology that is Boko Haram have been reduced to nothing more than objects, to be used, owned, and oppressed. But, contrary to what this religion teaches, God did not create mankind– both men and women– to be anything less than the pinnacle of His Creation, created in His very Image.

But what does it mean to be created in God’s Image? The term, “Imago Dei,” has been used by theologians for centuries, to describe the concept of humanity alone being made to directly reflect the Image of God, their Creator. It is first found in the Biblical book of Genesis, back to when God made the first human beings:

“So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.”
(Genesis 1:27, NIV)

The concept is simple: Because humankind was created in God’s Image, each human life is sacred and worth protecting. Each human soul is worth investing in, no matter the separations and “classes” set up by this world.

This also means that, because each human life uniquely matters, people are more than statistics. It can be easy to name large numbers; and at times, it is quite necessary to do so, so that others might realize the enormity of such atrocities. But, each human being, from a child in the womb, to the oldest of the elderly, is personally created in God’s Image– making it important to remember that each number only begins to describe the amount of pain and anguish each person is experiencing, whatever their situation may be.

Being made in the Image of God also means that we are like Him. Because humanity is made in God’s Image, humans cannot make images, or false gods, that are real or will actually save them. God created us in His Image; we did not ever create Him, nor can we ever, in our own. As Isaiah 43 says, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me'” (Isaiah 43:10, NIV). As the One and Only True God, God made humanity in His Image, so that He might have a relationship with each one of them.

A pastor once said, “God first made us, so that He could Love us.” Being made in the Image of God means that we are Loved by, and made to love, God. Created to be in relationship with Him, all of humanity has been made with an inherent desire to know God, whether they believe it or not; they have “eternity planted in their hearts,” created with an eternal soul (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem? Sin. Trying to live life without acknowledging and accepting that humanity was made by God, for Him, and in His Image, humanity has lost its true identity. Unable to be fulfilled– or as many have said, being created with an “unfilled, God-shaped hole”– people become exactly what they should never be.

Yet, even in the messiness of sin, God still sees people as they were initially: made in His Image, by Him and for Him. Though this image is marred, God still Loves humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

God has given humanity a way to get back to being the Image Bearers they were always meant to be. His Name is Jesus– and He is not only way, but is The Way (John 14:6). The world, ruled by the evil one (1 John 5:19), sees people as statistics, diagnoses, cases, and classes. Even religion tries to objectify people in this way (as seen in passages like John 4).

But Jesus? He doesn’t. As God Himself, Christ sees each person as worth dying for. He sees you as worth dying for.

Each person mentioned in these headlines– from the 30 Boko Haram members, to the 500,000 children starving, to the countless wives of Boko Haram commanders– each one is an immortal soul, greatly and deeply Loved by Christ. In their hour of trouble, darkness, and need, let them be lifted up in prayer to the One who created them– in His Image. 🔹

 

[1]  https://www.yahoo.com/news/boko-haram-kills-seven-nigerian-soldiers-ambush-072757958.html
[2]  http://www.africanews.com/2017/02/11/nigeria-military-kills-over-30-boko-haram-insurgents-loses-7-soldiers-in-borno/
[3] and [4] http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/02/11/power-sex-and-slaves-nigeria-battles-beliefs-of-boko-haram-brides_c1504697
[5] https://bible.org/seriespage/7-supremacy-person-christ-col-115-18



Do you know Jesus?

Have you ever tried to do good works, or be a “good person,” to earn God’s Love and Acceptance?

While it may be well intentioned, the Bible says that our righteous works are like “dirty rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). Think of it: We, as images or reflections, apart from God, can do nothing to “clean ourselves up.” Instead, we only make ourselves more dirty!

Colossians 1 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16, NIV).

At first glance, this passage in Colossians 1 seems to deny that Jesus is God– or at least, that He is completely equal to every other human being, also being made in the image of God. However, in the greek, the word “image” can mean both “representation” and “manifestation”: While any other human can be the image of God to varying degrees, Jesus is not only the perfect representation of the Invisible God, but is the Only One who perfectly reveals the character and nature of God [5], being fully human and fully God.

To see what God is truly like, one must look at Jesus. Perfect in every way, as God Himself, Christ paid the ultimate price so that we– as marred Images of a Holy God– could come to know Him, and become more like Him in a personal, Saving, Love relationship. Nothing can save us, and “clean us up,” other than the completely finished work of Jesus Christ, and the power of God’s Spirit in our lives (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:14).

We cannot save ourselves, nor can we know God “on our own terms.” Jesus was either a lunatic; evil; or the Christ, “Messiah”– the Savior of the world.

To know God, a person must first accept Jesus as God the Son (1 John 4:15), and accept His atoning work on the cross. “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25, NLT).

Learn more about the God who came to die for you, the Only One who can save you and “clean you up” (2 Thessalonians 2:13), here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You, for doing all that is needed, to cleanse us and bring us into a real, personal, saving relationship with Yourself. Thank You, for Loving us enough, to step into the darkness and messiness of our lives, in order to save and make us more like You.

Dear Jesus,
All around, we read tragic headlines, naming and numbering off people who have passed away. Especially in Northern Nigeria, during the Boko Haram insurgency, please open our eyes, and make us more sensitive to the fact that each person written about– each person dying– is a soul, made in Your Image.

With that in mind, Dear Jesus,
I pray over all our brothers and sisters who are currently dying in the fight against Boko Haram. Dear Jesus, thank You for their sacrifice, for those in the Nigerian military, and thank You that they considered dying for the freedom and protection of their countrymen to be a cause worth fighting for. We pray all of this for all soldiers, dear Jesus, fighting for noble causes.

Dear Jesus,
We also pray over the 500,000 thousand children starving, in Northern Nigeria, right now.
Please, Lord Jesus, send us– however that may look, whether in prayers, material/financial support, or actually going there– and aid agencies to feed these children, not only physical food, but to share with them about You, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

Dear Jesus,
We pray for women, like Aisha. King Jesus,
It is heartbreaking to see what happened to them, while under Boko Haram captivity, and what has become of them, because of it.

Yet, dear Jesus,
We know they still, somehow, bear Your Image.
Dear Jesus,
Please bring these muslim men and women to know You, 
and please restore all those who are lost, to know You, so that You might give them a heart of flesh, instead of a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).

Please restore those who are suffering displacement and captivity– specifically, the 195 Chibok girls who are still missing. Please, Lord Jesus, free and restore these young women, so that they might be whole, only in You.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your Great Love for us.
It is in Jesus’ Name I pray,

Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!! Jesus bless you!!

The One Who Satisfies

In Yola, Nigeria, after a long day of learning about and reading the Koran, 200 young “almajiri” boys, ages 5-18, gather under a tent canopy or under the roof of an old schoolhouse building. Known for begging alms when not studying the Koran, these boys line up instead for their evening meal as apart of the “Feed and Read” Program put on by a Christian professor from the American University of Nigeria (source). Using perhaps the first set of bowls and cutlery they have seen in a while, they are given a meal of spaghetti, beans, and rice, and a sachet of water– maybe the only meal they have had all day. With stomachs full, the children are invited to take part in the Math or English lesson offered that night, which most take happily.

About 250 miles (402 kilometers) away, in the city of Maiduguri, the need for food is just as real, yet sadly unmet. Within Internally Displaced Peoples’ Camps (IDP Camps), over 400 children ages one to five have perished from malnutrition in 2015 alone (source). While Nigeria’s emergency aid  is doing all it can, many young children are still suffering from the effects of hunger, either because of not eating the right foods, or from simply not having enough to eat, at all.

Where there is lack of food, there naturally begins to be a lack of healthy life. This is also true, spiritually; without Truth continually nourishing the souls of those who have found it, one’s spiritual life becomes more and more like a famished and malnourished child.

The Bible says, in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This says something profound about the spiritual implications of feeding on lies. Sadly, there are many people, dare it be said the vast majority, who truly believe that what they are feeding on is Truth. Deceived by the “sweetness” of what they’re ingesting, many believe that they are doing well, when in fact, they are like a small child after eating too much candy: experiencing obvious trouble because of it, yet always wanting more. In this world where “relative truth” reigns supreme, countless souls lie in spiritual death, separated from Christ.

This is the heartbreaking reality for many who claim to be “religious” or “spiritual”; but this could be no less true than in Northeastern Nigeria, where millions upon millions of muslims live. islam, a religion that is almost 1500 years old, is a religion which, though rooted in the patriarch Abraham like Christianity and judaism, is incredibly different from Christianity in many different ways; the main way being their view of who Jesus Christ is. Though islam acknowledges Christ, calling Him one of the prophets who came before the prophet Muhammad, they completely deny the Deity of Christ, and even deny that Christ was crucified, much less resurrected  (Q’uran 5:116-117; Surah 4:157-158). Rejecting Christ for who He is, muslims, like billions of other people all over the world, feed on religion– their own “good works”– to save them; yet remain hungry and thirsty for something, for someone, more. 

Jesus: the Living Water

Jesus speaks to this deep problem of spiritual hunger and thirst in the book of John, chapter 7.

 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
(John 7:37-39, NIV)

The “feast” mentioned in this passage of scripture refers to the “Feast of Booths” (also known as the “Feast of Tabernacles”), an important jewish festival that celebrated the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness. During this time, there was an eight-day celebration that included the imagery of water and light (source). It “on the last and greatest day” of this eight-day period that Christ declared this life-changing proclamation: that anyone who came to Him in a spiritually thirsty state would never grow thirsty, in this way, again– but rather, would overflow with His Living Water, the Holy Spirit.

The Bread of Life

As if it wasn’t amazing enough that Jesus claimed to fulfill mankind’s incredible spiritual thirst, He also claimed to fulfill the hunger of every person who came to Him. In the book of John, Jesus is quoted as saying seven “I am” statements. While each of these statements proclaims that Jesus is God (such as Jesus’ “I Am” statement, “I am the Good Shepherd” [John 10], which can be tied to Psalm 23), there is one “I Am” statement that Jesus proclaimed, regarding mankind’s spiritual hunger, found in John 6:32-35:

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.‘” 
(John 6, NIV)

Speaking to another large crowd of people, the ones whom He had fed in John 6:1-14, Jesus tells the people plainly that He not only has the resources of spiritual bread to give them, but, in fact, is the spiritual bread that these crowds are desperately looking for. Though the crowds had originally come to Him to hear His teachings, they received much more: the miraculous, physical food He gives them, and the much more needed spiritual sustenance that they have been so hungry for their entire lives.

Only One Savior

One will notice that Jesus does not claim to be only “one type” of the bread of life, but is “the bread of life.” He also does not claim that a religion is this bread of life. Rather, He declares that He and He alone is the bread of life, and that all who come only to Him will “never go hungry… [and] never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Though many, many people have complicated Jesus’ message, or thrown it out altogether, the message still remains the same, because Jesus’ Word does not change (Luke 21:33). The message is this: that Jesus is God Himself, and came to earth to fulfill humanity’s deepest need: the need for a Savior, and to be reconciled to God.

In this world where “truth is relative,” and religion reigns supreme, may the world– like those boys studying the Koran, and those children in IDP Camps– be given what they truly need: a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Water and Bread of Life. Let them “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).


Do you know Jesus?

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.'”
(John 6:53-54, NIV)

Jesus spoke this controversial passage of scripture right after telling the crowds around Him that He was “the Bread of Life.” Though it sounds scary, gruesome, even, it makes sense when one realizes what Jesus was about to endure.

Some time after proclaiming this to the crowds, Jesus, though innocent, would be crucified for the sins of mankind (Romans 4:25). Accused of blasphemy for declaring that He was God, Jesus was put to death because of the jewish religious leaders of the time, and sadly, all who followed them (John 19:7; 15). His body, beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, took on the sins of all humanity– and “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Jesus, in dying for the sins of all mankind, reconciled mankind with God, so that all who might believe on Him would have Eternal Life with Christ (John 3:16). Learn about this precious gift of reconciliation– and the One who gave it– here.



Praise Report!!! Praise Jesus for the “Feed and Read” Program! 

Please pray for…

  • The teachers and children of the “Feed and Read” Program. This program was created by a Christian woman; and, though it respects the study of the Koran for the study of these young boys, there is still definite opportunity to share Jesus Christ with these students. Please pray that Christ would raise up teachers who love and know Him, and who will love these children with the Gospel.
  • The people of Nigeria, the Nigerian government, and President Buhari.  President Buhari, and countless others, are muslim. Please pray that those who miss their kidnapped loved ones, and those trying to get them back, would come to know Christ as the True Fulfillment that they are seeking, as well.
  • Those in IDP Camps. Pray Jesus would put His people in these IDP camps, and would send Christian missionaries into these IDP camps, to share the Gospel with  the hurting, hungry people among them.
  • Boko Haram members, and the Nigerian military. Pray that all people in this war on terror– from the instigators, to the soldiers– would come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior, that they might be freed from their bondage, and fulfilled with His Love.
  • The Chibok girls. At the time of this posting, it has been 695 days since the 219 girls still in captivity have seen their families, friends, Loved ones, and the free world. Please pray for their release! Christ hears us, and is working in the lives of these young women. Thank you!

 

The petition, “Tell Buhari: Locate the Chibok Girls by April 14th, 2016!“, was closed on February 22nd, 2016. This petition is now in the process of being sent to President Buhari (though with a fair bit of difficulty). Please pray for an open door of opportunity, and for favor on the petition during this process.

Thank you for your prayers; please pray for the petition as it is sent! Jesus bless you 🙂

Caught in the Crossfire: Peace for Believers in the Middle of Chaos

Monday, December 1st, it was reported that a police base in Damaturu was attacked by the Boko Haram, being ruthlessly raided and bombed by BH members seeking to make Damaturu apart of its Islamic Caliphate. The men, women and children of Damaturu have left their homes for fear of being bombed or shot at, cowering in the brush with no one to defend them.

While such a nightmare goes on, another attack on the Grand Mosque in Kano, Nigeria killed at least 120 people, after the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, encouraged Nigerians to fight against the Boko Haram. Those who escaped the bomb blasts were shot at by Boko Haram members, some barely escaping with their lives, obtaining second and third degree burns that will take months to really heal.

In such a time, where chaos has become the norm and fear fills the weary hearts and minds of people all over Northern Nigeria, peace is a foreign concept, one almost scoffed at by those who have witnessed such heinous crimes. Young and old alike have spent countless nights awake, frightened by violent sounds of war, ready to flee at any moment. In such a time as this, fear seems to be the only emotion one can feel, and peace seems to be no more than an idealistic daydream.

Yet, in times of such shock, pain, and extreme fear, there is true hope for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus freely gives us peace whenever we may need it, no matter the circumstance:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

As Christ so lovingly promises, He does not give to us as the world gives– with strings attached, temporally or sparingly; Christ’s gifts– among them, His amazing gift of peace to His followers– are 100% sure, eternally abundant, and completely free. Those of His children who are suffering can “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present [their] requests to God,” while the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV “their” mine). Those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior have unlimited amounts of peace completely available to them as they look to Him for all that they need; because Christ knows what we need, and can fulfill every empty place in our lives, we as believers will never be found wanting any good thing, as stated in Psalm 34:10. His unfailing Love is bigger than any act of evil; in all things, we are “more than conquerors through Him who love[s] us” (Romans 8:37, NIV, “loves” mine). Because of all this, we as believers can “run with perseverance,” as stated in Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

But for those who do not know Jesus Christ, peace is far off. For those being attacked in such bombings as the Grand Mosque bombing in Kano, true peace has never been felt and impossible to find. In such dark times, the knowledge that there is no real light for nonbelievers fills me with pain and deep compassion. They need to know the Light. They need to feel His warmth during such times of pain and trial. At a time where nothing in the world makes sense, they need to know that they are incredibly loved and can be made new by the Creator of the Universe– not because they are faithful followers or have done “just the right things,” but “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV). They need to know that He is not unapproachable in times of distress, but is quite the opposite:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore [we can] draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV, “we can” mine)

At the core of it all, fear is a lie. But for those who don’t know the Truth, peace is nowhere in sight; whether they be Muslim, atheist, or any other religion or creed, those who do not know the Prince of Peace have never and will never know the peace they so need. If that is not a reason for earnest prayer, I don’t know what is.


Because of all of this, please pray for those who do not know Christ in Northern Nigeria. Pray that the Lord, who is the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3, NIV), would comfort our fellow brothers and sisters, so that He may use them to share the gospel with those who do not know Him. Pray that His peace that surpasses all understanding would guard our brothers and sisters in Christ; pray also that the Lord would “strengthen [them] and protect [them] from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Pray for the Nigerian military, that the Lord would strengthen them to fight back against the Boko Haram well; pray also for our brothers and sisters in captivity, that the Lord would use them to witness to members of the Boko Haram within the camps.

God is faithful to bring our brothers and sisters peace, no matter the evil they face. Let us praise Him!