Asking the Honest Questions

Saturday, September 30th, a Boko Haram member by the name of Mohammad Bashir was taken into police custody in Ondo State, in Southwest Nigeria. He was found in Ondo State after fleeing from the Nigerian military’s manhunt for Boko Haram members in Northern Nigeria. While in custody, Ondo State’s police commissioner paraded him around in the public to different news reporters. In doing this, Bashir shared with news reporters that he and other Boko Haram members had planned to attack Ondo State, before being taken in by the Nigerian police.

 

In telling his story, Bashir admitted to “only” killing two people:  a “small child” who was in the brush, and an adult whom he “killed by the roadside,” according to Sahara Reporters. As if killing two people was not a heart-breaking event in and of itself, forever scarring the hearts and minds of those involved.

This news comes out just as another news report was updated, concerning Boko Haram’s victims: 48 people were slain by Boko Haram on July 25th, 2017, and four lecturers from the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, were taken captive. They have now spent 72 days, and counting, in captivity.

It was reported that one of the lecturers wrote a letter to his wife. In it, he urged the Nigerian government to help them, and free them, soon. He spoke of the horrors of captivity. About how much he hated it.

 

As sin runs rampant in Nigeria; as small children are sold for cheap, and killed in the brush, and as innocent men, women, and children, cry out for ANY sign of freedom; as the hearts of men grow cold with violence, and the wealthy in Northern Nigeria fuel such evil, one question can rise up out of the muck and mire: “GOD, WHERE ARE YOU?”God, where are you- final picture

It has already been shared, on this blog, that some people have said that God has left Africa. While the events going on in America–  Las Vegas, and the Church Shooting in Antioch, Tennessee— are nothing short of abhorrent and heart-rending, the amount of corruption and violence going on throughout all of Nigeria can easily lay one’s heart, low.

 

It is in times like these where one can truly ask the question, “Where is God?” and seemingly receive no answer. It reminds me of the story of Gideon, set during a time when Israel was experiencing equal corruption, violence and oppression.

In Judges 6, Israel is in the midst of being oppressed by the Midianites, after turning from the LORD (Judges 6:1). The Midianites had SO oppressed the country of Israel, that the Israelites resorted to hiding their food in the mountains and caves, because the Midianites would take all of their food and livestock (Judges 6:2-5). The Israelites became so oppressed that they cried out to the LORD for help (Judges 6:6). Sound familiar?

Israel’s sin introduced oppression– sin has a way of doing that in every country (Proverbs 14:31, 34). But Christ did not let His beloved, wayward nation of Israel fall to ruin. No; instead, He intervened.

“Then the angel of the Lord came and sat beneath the great tree at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash of the clan of Abiezer. Gideon son of Joash was threshing wheat at the bottom of a winepress to hide the grain from the Midianites. The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!’

(Judges 6:11-12, NLT)

“The Angel of the LORD” is a commonly-used term in Old Testament scriptures, to speak about how the LORD Himself appeared on earth (Genesis 22; Exodus 3). God Himself was speaking to this man, Gideon!

But Gideon gives a reply that is less than chipper.

“‘Sir,’ Gideon replied, ‘if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? And where are all the miracles our ancestors told us about? Didn’t they say, “The Lord brought us up out of Egypt”? But now the Lord has abandoned us and handed us over to the Midianites.'”
(Judges 6:13, NLT)

One can almost hear the anger, the hurt, and the pain in Gideon’s voice. “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?! Where is this God who does miracles, who took us up out of a land of oppression?! We are oppressed. How could God be with us?”

I read these words, and can’t help but get teary-eyed. In the midst of what is continually happening in Nigeria, and what has so horrifically happened in Las Vegas– and, on a somewhat smaller scale, how Nabeel Qureshi just recently passed away of stage four stomach cancer— this is a question that has, without a doubt, crossed the hearts and minds of many deeply hurting people, recently.

But I notice that God does not fight with Gideon. Instead, God gives Gideon a shocking, scary proposition. He tells Gideon to go out, and fight those who are oppressing Israel:

“Then the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go with the strength you have, and rescue Israel from the Midianites. I am sending you!’

‘But Lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!’
(Judges 6:14-15, NLT)

God did not try to defend Himself against Gideon’s accusations that He was not there. Instead, God called upon this scared, “wimpy” Israelite, a man afraid of the darkness and violence all around him… and told him to fight against it.

But God does not ask Gideon to do this seemingly HUGE endeavor, by himself. Knowing Gideon’s fear, doubt, and heart full of pain, God says something very special to Gideon’s heart.

“The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man.'”
(Judges 6:16, NLT)

Just like that. Jesus does not ask Gideon to do something about this darkness, without promising His Loving Presence to Gideon.

These were words that the very broken, doubt-filled heart of Gideon needed to hear.

And I think it is something that Las Vegas; Antioch, Tennessee; Charleston; and Nigeria need to hear, too. Something that you may need to hear, today.God can handle your questions

If there is anything that we can learn from this passage of scripture, it is this:

Sin will always end in oppression.
But God, even in our rebellion, will not leave those who have called on Jesus’ Name.
Not even now, in our darkest of hours. And this Loving, Faithful God can handle your questions– even the rawest, most painful, accusatory ones.

And perhaps, one of the biggest take-aways is this: Jesus does not want us to merely “curse the darkness”; He calls us to loving, compassionate action. To be “the light of the world, a city on a hill” (Matthew 5:14-16).

So, as corruption does not seem to stop in Nigeria– and as the whole world is hurting, once again, over the evil, oppressive sin of another– I pray that Jesus’ Love would shine out from us, lighting a world that is, more than ever, entrenched in darkness. That we, apart of the Lord’s army, would fight against sin and darkness– knowing that, because Jesus is with us, the victory is truly ours– no matter how the fight looks, right now.

“The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Mighty hero, the Lord is with you!”
(Judges 6:12, NLT)

Let God’s words to Gideon be a comfort to our hearts, as well. My friends, “Mighty Heroes” in Christ, do not fear; the Lord is with you.

This blog post is in tribute to the three American special agents that passed away in warfare in the country of Niger, Africa. Our prayers are with their families.



Do you know Jesus?

Jesus, 2,000 years ago, achieved the ultimate victory against sin and death– by dying for the sins of mankind, and rising again on the third day!

We have real, true Victory in Christ! Learn more about this victory– and why Jesus came to win it, in the first place– here.



Pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You for dying on the cross for our sins! Thank You for giving us TRUE victory, that can only be found in You.

Dear Father God,

We come to You today, as it is day 72 of these people’s captivity… and day 1271 of the remaining 113, Chibok young women’s captivity.

Dear Jesus,

We just ask in Your Mighty and Precious Name that You would bring these members of Boko Haram to Justice. Please humble them and bring them to the ground, so that they would completely repent and submit to You.

Please bring these lecturers, the Chibok young women, and the rest of the captives of Boko Haram out of captivity, soon.

Dear Jesus, we also pray for those still reeling– and for those who will be grieving– the evil that has happened all across America, for the rest of their lives. Dear Jesus,

Please bring these people to You, and allow them to ask the hard questions; please be their Answer. Dear Jesus, please be near to them; please comfort them.

Dear Jesus,

Please continue to be with our first responders, police, and the police in Nigeria, as they all battle the evil, evil darkness we have all seen unfold. Please protect them, Lord Jesus; bring them to Yourself, so that they might live and work for Your Glory.

Dear Jesus,
Please also help and hold the families of the three special agents who were killed in Niger, as well. Please be their comfort and shade from the sun of violence.

The gates of hell will not prevail– thank You, Lord Jesus (Matthew 16:18). 

In Jesus’ Name we pray,

Amen.”

 

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Praying for Vegas: Vengeance is the Lord’s

praying for las vegas

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). 

Dear Jesus,
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,
Amen.”