When Life Stops Making Sense

Since I last wrote a post, much has happened all over the world, and especially in West Africa. In the past week alone, many major tragedies have occurred.

In Cameroon: On the morning of December 29th, 2017, two women suicide bombers set out to do major, irreversible damage to a community of people. Upon seeing these two women, people of Kordo of the Kolofata subdivision in Cameroon cornered the women, causing them to set off their explosive devices prematurely. Only the two young women suicide bombers were killed. On the previous night, December 28th, 2017,  not very far away from Kordo, another attack occurred, killing one innocent person in the Mayo-Moskota subdivision, bordering Nigeria (source).

As if this was not enough, Moussa Ramat, the ex-mayor of Fotokol, Cameroon, was acquitted on charges of secretly helping Boko Haram. Ramat was a part of “several negotiations” with Boko Haram that led to the freedom of Boko Haram captives. Because there was little evidence linking Moussa Ramat to the charges that he was helping Boko Haram, he was deemed not guilty (source). This is all in view of recent news that a journalist from France was also freed from prison, acquitted on charges that he spoke to Boko Haram without passing on the information to the government. Only Jesus alone knows the full truth of these whole investigations (source).

In Nigeria: On Christmas Day, around 11 p.m., gunmen snuck into the Kamale community in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State. As people celebrated the birth of Christ, these assailants shot sporadically into the homes of those in the Kamale community, killing at least four people and injuring many others (source). The survivors climbed up nearby mountains and “scampered away,” one survivor, Micheal Zira, said (source).

In Molai, Nigeria, Boko Haram also attacked the Molai General Hospital (source). Shooting everywhere as they entered Molai, at least one woman and numerous young men assaulted those belonging to the hospital. Three people were burned to death. Two brand new jeeps were also stolen from the Hospital (source).

In the USA: A partner in a Law Firm, located in Long Beach, California, shot and killed two of his colleagues, before committing suicide himself. Employees in the entire law firm ran out as the gun shots sounded, screaming, “They’re shooting inside” (source).

In Colorado, on the morning of December 31st, 2017, one Colorado deputy was shot and killed, and six others were wounded, four being police men and two being civilians. The shooting happened after responding to a domestic violence call close to Denver. It is reported that it was an “ambush style” shooting (source). The officer who passed away was 29-year-old Zackari Parrish.

Egypt: Though not in West Africa, I found it important to report that, tragically, 9 Coptic Christians were killed in the city of Cairo, Egypt.

On Friday, December 29th, 2017, assailants reportedly a part of Boko Haram went into a store owned by a Coptic Christian, killing his two sons. Shortly after, the assailants tried to get into The Coptic Orthodox Church, in Mar Mina, a part of a small suburb within Cairo called Helwan. While the assailants intended to throw an explosive device into the church, they were unable to get through the line of security officers surrounding the church’s entrance. The shoot out killed one security officer and six worshippers, inside (source).

 

As I write this, I become aware of the fact that 22 people have died– and that those around them have been forever changed by their deaths.
Tens of hundreds of people have been suddenly, and violently, immersed into a state of grief so deep that they may consider death themselves.

In one moment, their loved one was alive. Worshiping Christ, or working, or celebrating Christmas with those around them… and then they were gone.

Many, many people, due to terrorism, have been plunged into a world that suddenly doesn’t make sense. For those who were innocently taken by terrorism, the words of one person, who knew one of the partners killed in the Law Firm shooting in Long Beach, California, sum it up quite well. “He certainly didn’t deserve this.

He certainly didn’t deserve this.

What are we to do, when suddenly, we are submerged into a life that no longer makes sense– a life that is filled with grief, loss, and pain?

What the Bible Says about Suffering

I understand that me, a young person safe within the confines of her own home, holding a laptop, free to worship Jesus– I have no idea of how it feels to lose someone I love so much to something as evil as terrorism. I have little to no room to preach to those who have been struck by such a dark and evil blow.
No cliche or common Christian saying can mend a heart so broken.

But the Bible speaks a lot about how we will suffer in this life, especially for Jesus, in passages such as Philippians 1:29 and 1 Peter 4. In 1 Peter 4, Peter writes this:

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
(1 Peter 4:12-19, NIV)

The people Peter was writing to were overwhelmed by the trials and persecution they were going through. But Peter encourages them to rejoice.

How can one rejoice, when everyone around them is gone?

Christ does not call us to rejoice because of the suffering. That is insane. But He does call us to rejoice throughout the trial, because of the fact that we draw closer to Christ in the suffering, becoming partners with Christ in it (1 Peter 4:13). 

When No One is To Blame

There are people to blame in these tragedies. Boko Haram. Evil, greedy men with guns and bombs and other weapons. Some of our problems are even self-inflicted. But, what about when pain has no one person or thing to blame? While pondering such questions,  I happened upon an essay article written by David Weiss– a Christian man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who has undergone immense pain and suffering. His essay, “God of the Schizophrenic,” offered some insight: “Even when we cannot grasp the sources of our misfortunes, we can strive to learn the right lessons.”

“Pain is a powerful drug. It altered my perception and was an indelible part of my reality,” Weiss states. So many of those plunged into the world of grief, fear, and immense loss know what He is saying, all too well.

But his words about lessons is true:
We can get bitter, or get better.
We can turn away from Jesus, or run to Him, with all of our anger and questions and tears.

And perhaps, it is in running to Him, we will find something bigger than the answers we seek, as David Weiss did:

“I have finally met the God I had heard about but never truly experienced. A God who heals. A God who loves. …A God who manifests his genius by salvaging good from the evil in our lives.”

A Love that Never Fails

Let me ask you this: Is having every answer going to make you feel less bitter about your suffering? Does knowing the specifics and story of a crime scene make it less sad?
Right now, amidst the clamoring voices demanding change because of these tragedies– and rightly so– the deepest need of those suffering in a world that makes no sense is not having answers, but being Loved. Love that will never fail; Love that will save and restore them. Love that will comfort and hide away those in their distress.

As those around the world this week are suffering from these horrific tragedies, I pray that Jesus would surround them in a real way with His Comfort and Love, both supernaturally and through His People.

If you are not a Christian, please know that the only Love that will never fail is Jesus Christ’s Love. Come to Him during this time.

If you are a Christian, run to the One who promises to weep with you, comfort you, hide you away, and never leave your side, in the midst of the darkness.

You may (or may not) ever get any answers in this life. But His Love will see you through. And perhaps, that is all we really need. 

 

This blog post is in tribute to the 5 deputies wounded in Colorado’s recent shooting, which took place Sunday morning. One of those deputies, 29 year old Zackari Parrish, passed away in the shooting. Parrish is said to have been a Godly man, going to a church in Littleton.

Please pray for all those who have been affected, including the deceased deputy’s loved ones.



Do you know Jesus?

I understand how trite all of this might feel, as you go through so much pain that no one’s input could change it, one bit.

I don’t want to make your pain seem less than it is, at all. Instead, I want to point you to the One who knows it fully. David Weiss says in his essay on suffering through Schizophrenia, “If God isn’t up there in heaven watching and waiting for me to screw up—if instead he weeps when I weep and celebrates when I take just one step toward a new and better life—then who am I to judge others harshly?

Christianity differs from every other religion in this: That God descended into humanity, lived a completely perfect life, and died for the sins of those who rejected and killed him– for the sins of all mankind. No other religion offers complete salvation by mere faith in a God who loved us enough to meet us where we are at, in all of our pain and darkness, and be called Emmanuel: “God with us.”

If you are hurting today and seeking God, know that He wants to meet you where you are– and save you from going to hell.

Learn more about this amazing, Loving God, here.



“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
(Hebrews 13:3, NIV)

Please pray for…

  • Those in Cairo, Egypt who are grieving and going through daily persecution for believing in and loving Jesus.
  • Those in Nigeria who are suffering from attacks made by Boko Haram.
  • Those in the USA who are suffering and oppressed from different acts of terrorism.
  • Those in Cameroon, who are also suffering from Boko Haram and muslim terrorist attacks of all kinds.
  • That those who are suffering, whether there is a clear culprit for it or not, would come to Jesus with it, and would receive His Love and Comfort. 

 

Thank you for your prayers. 

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Love: the Greatest Form of Warfare

(This started being written on the morning of Monday, November 6th.)

It is Monday morning, and all I can do right now is sit here and cry.

Cry over and about the shooting that happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the First Baptist Church.

The 26 victims who passed away ranged in ages from 5-72 years old, according to CNN. Approximately 20 other people were wounded. There is practically no one who was not affected in some way, shape or form by the shooting, in such a small town as Sutherland Springs.

The regular pastor was away with his wife, and a visiting pastor came to preach at the church. He passed away in the shooting; as did the regular pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.

Among the dead were eight people, apart of the same family, spanning across three generations and including a pregnant woman and her three children (source).

No one in the church left unharmed.

I sit here crying, not just because of the sheer horror of all of this, but because these congregants came to this church on a Sunday morning, to worship Jesus and to fellowship with one another. Because it struck deep, and held some of the same similarities to my own church.

There was a visiting pastor at the church I visited, yesterday. There were about 50-70 congregants in the service. The regular pastor and his wife were in a different city, guest-pastoring there.

As we lifted up holy hands and sang together in worship, and as chuckled with each other through the funny parts of the service, the Pastor taught us one thing: God is Love; and Love is the highest form of warfare.

It is patient. It is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others. It 
is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It always perseveres. Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

The kind of Love Jesus has for us is Agape Love. This kind of Love is sacred, and selfless. Loving without ever expecting Love in return. This kind of Love is not a cuddly, warm, fuzzy feeling. Neither is it only an impulse. It is an action. It is a choice, to be made daily.

It wages war on the self, or as the Bible calls it, “the flesh,” which wants self-gratification at any cost to those around itself. It wages war on the enemy, satan, and on his schemes to steal, kill, and destroy others through sin, deceit and spiritual attacks. Without this type of love, knowing everything in the world, having the greatest amount of faith, and doing even the most extremely selfless things, amounts to… well… nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Jesus wins the war; Jesus, God, is Love, as 1 John 4:8 states (again, not the warm, fuzzy, super-tolerant ‘Love’; but the life-changing, transforming, in-your-face bold and beautiful kind of Love, that does not delight in evil or sin, but delights in the truth.). And, because Jesus is Love, Love will always win. 

Over the apathy. Over the self-centeredness. Over the hurt, the pain, the anger and insult and tragedy. The horror. Love never fails.

Friends, Beloved, if we must get something right, let’s get Love right. Especially between our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Matthew 5, and 1 John 4, say:

“‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says,”You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
‘Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.
 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.'”
(Matthew 5:21-26, NIV)

Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
(1 John 4:19-21, NIV)

That last passage, in 1 John 4, is super convicting, because the word “to hate” in the greek can also mean “love less,” or “esteem less.” In other words, if you do not care more for, and esteem your brothers and sisters in Christ as more than you do for yourself, you cannot truly Love God.

Harsh words, I know.
But in the wake of this horrific, horrific tragedy, I believe they must be said.
Because life is too short to not live a life of Real Love: for God and for others.

a life of real love

As 1 Peter 4 puts it, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8, NIV).

There is a town in deep distress, right now. And many are right; people need to change. But please, let’s hold off on the politics and the scrutiny, if only for a day. Because wherever you stand on the political spectrum, if you are a true Believer in Jesus Christ, you know that politics cannot truly save people; only Jesus Christ truly can.

Instead of politicizing this tragedy right now, or making it about another gun law gone wrong, let us just sit. And cry, with them, and for them, as they face the most pressing loss they may have ever encountered. Let us love our hurting, reeling brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs, Texas, right now, in the form of prayer, and of anything else we can give.

And let’s get Love right. Because truly, throughout all of our lives, He will win in the end.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:15, NIV)



Do you know Jesus?

“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine (Matthew 18:12-13).
I couldn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
Still You give Yourself away;
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!”
(Reckless Love, Bethel Music ft. Steffany Gretzinger)

Though this is just a song, it expresses the kind of Love Jesus has for us. 1 John 4:9-10 says, This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 

Jesus, God the Son, gave His Life, and God the Father gave His Son, so that we might have a chance to be with God forever. Learn more about this reckless Love– and what Jesus has done for you, in His Reckless Love– here.


Please pray…

  • For the members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Please pray for the victims’ families, as they are laid low in deep grief, right now.
  • For the churches all around the globe who have gone through the same thing, whether it would be because of ISIS, lone-gunmen, and/or the attacks of the enemy. Please pray that we would all stay united in Christ, and that we would pray for one another.
  • For those who are feeling lost, alone, suicidal, homicidal, and are generally in a low point of their lives. This gunman was a violent man; please pray that men and women like him would come to know Christ before something like this can happen again.
  • It has been reported that the gunmen spent a year in jail for domestic violence, by violently shaking his young son and abusing his wife on multiple occasions; but none of this information was relayed to police, which could have caused the ability for the shooter to obtain a gun.
    Please pray for those who relay this information, and for any guilt that any person could have over not doing their job. Please pray that they would come to Christ, and would forgive themselves for any way they could have caused this.
  • Pray for anyone in general who could have felt this way before, as well.

I love you, friends. Thank you for your prayers and support.

To #NeverForget: Remembering The Displaced

A little child, probably around 3 years of age, drinks from a tin cup, held up by their mother. On their head, a plastic IV nodule is attached, so that nurses can transfer fluids into their frail, young body.

In a region that normally holds 60,000 people, approximately 140,000 Nigerian refugees have flooded in, fighting and running from Boko Haram. Without much space to hold them, many refugees stand in lines for aid and food, while others, not unlike the child described in the paragraph above, lie motionless, starving to death in makeshift medical camps.

Spiritual Starvation

In a shocking, heartbreaking news article made by The Guardian Nigeria, it has been reported that nearly 2.6 million Nigerians have been displaced– driven from their homes– since the insurgency began (source).

There is news that is even more disturbing: Although severely under-reported, there have been more refugees in the past nine months in Monguno than have been detained in all of Europe (source). What does this mean? It means that thousands– quite possibly millions– of people have been forgotten– left behind, out of sight, out of mind, for months, with aid only coming to help most recently.

But while shocking statistics abound on the amount of displaced people in Northern Nigeria without a home or food this season, they all come down to this: There is a massive amount of people, who, for one reason or another, have largely gone unheard in their suffering. These people are starving for food; but so much more, for love, and for feeling like– and actually knowing– that they matter.

To Fill

In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
(1 John 4:9-10, KJV)

During this time of the season, at least in the United States, there is MUCH to do: family to see, food to eat, celebrations to be had, houses to clean and decorate– it is easy for one to lose sight of the world around them, with so much hustling and bustling.

With Thanksgiving just ended, many have reflected upon the gifts they are thankful for. And, as Christmas is starting to be in the air (at least, on the radios, and in stores), one starts to think about the reason for the season, the reason why Christ-followers all around the world truly celebrate: Jesus Christ’s birth. While this too can easily be forgotten amidst the presents, tinsel, and Black Friday Christmas deals, the story of Christ coming to earth is the ultimate narrative– a narrative that this world is, whether they know it or not, dying to hear.

The message of John 4– and the message of the nativity– is simple: God gave. While the Christian will usually think of Christ coming to earth when thinking of the birth of Christ, it is a beautiful thing to ponder the fact that He was sent: that God the Father gave his only begotten son, and what a sacrifice this truly was. As one thinks of Christ, who “was there in the beginning” (as evidenced by John 1:1-3), and saw the whole world formed, fallen, and in chaos and despair, it is a marvel that He would come to that dark, disgusting, painful world, to die.

 

To Give

But why did God give Jesus to the world? Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, being filled with the Holy Spirit, exclaimed something beautiful about Jesus (who was in Mary’s womb at the time):

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, 69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; 70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began: 71 That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; 72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; 73 The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, 74 That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, 75 In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. 76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; 77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, 78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, 79 To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
(Luke 1:68-79, KJV)

God not only saw the darkness– He saw the people “that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:79). God the Father gave Jesus Christ to this world, because God Loved, and God saw.

God the Father saw those sitting in the darkness; and as He saw them, He heard them.And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob,” Exodus 2:24 proclaims; and, just as God heard the cries of the Israelites, suffering from their captivity to the Egyptians, He heard the cries of mankind, suffering under the weight of sin and death. God saw; God heard; and so, full of Perfect Love, God sent. 

 

To Listen & Act

When thinking of the vast goodness of God– that He would give God the Son, Jesus Christ, to this world, to save them from their sins– it fills the hearts of those who Love Him, with complete and utter Joy. What kind of Love the Father has lavished! Under the wonderful weight of realizing all God the Father has given us, one Truth becomes apparent: Because Jesus heard mankind’s cry for help, it becomes the hearts of those who have accepted Him to hear the cries of those who are still crying out. 

However one acts, in reaction to their cries, may differ based on how Christ leads them to act; but one thing is for certain: to hear the cries of those in distress, and not act, is to ignore.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16, KJV). God so loved the world– and acted. Let us do the same.


Do you know Jesus?

In John 3, Jesus is talking to a man named Nicodemus: a person who, though he was a Pharisee, and “a leader of the People,” could not understand Jesus’ Words. Trying to help Nicodemus understand, Jesus used a story from the Old Testament that would make sense to Him. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16, KJV). (Read the story Christ is talking about in Numbers 21.)

The snake bite of death in the lives of mankind– caused by our own sin– just like the Israelites, was cured by Christ, who was “lifted up” on the cross, at Calvary. Today, Christ’s call is the same. “…for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26, KJV).

Are you in need of healing? Physical, emotional, and mental brokenness is only proof of the fact that sin and death are prevalent in this world, and of the true spiritual healing all of humanity needs, by coming to Christ. Read of the God who can heal you– and what He has already done to heal you, spiritually– here.



Please pray with me…

“Dear Father God,
You are good! No matter what the situation is like, we cannot thank You enough for sending Your only Son, so that we can know that even in the darkest of times, that You are good to us– and You never change. We thank You that we can say You are good.

Father God,
We see so much darkness, around us. On the news, and in our very own lives, there is SO MUCH pain.
Father God, I thank You for knowing that pain, in sending Jesus to this broken world, to die for our sin.

Father God,
Right now, as we have seen the extreme starvation and need for medical intervention in these people’s lives, we pray for the starvation going on at all levels: physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.
Dear Lord Jesus,
I pray for these people, and I pray that You would fill them up. Please help Your People to stand against this darkness, and to “fill” others spiritually, as they share Your Good News. As men and women become desperate for survival, I pray that You would please bring them to Your Throne, so that they can realize that You alone fulfill their every need, and heal their every disease.

Father God,
I pray that Your People, no mater who they are, would seek You in how to best assist these victims of Boko Haram violence.
Please fill them, Your People, in Northern Nigeria, with ALL they need to share Your Gospel, whether that would be to Boko Haram Members, or to the internally displaced peoples around them. Please, Father God, bring even the disgusting members of Boko Haram to Yourself, and help us to pray for them, as well.

Father God,
May Your Word go forth in power– and may a revival happen, in these IDP Camps.

Father God,
We pray for continued relief– and that You would show us how to take action, in love, for these people, however You lead us. 
In Jesus’ Name,
Amen.”

If you believe Christ is leading you to give to those currently aiding displaced peoples, this post, dedicated to reputable Christian (and a few non-Christian) nonprofits currently on the ground in crisis areas, is a great place to start looking and praying about giving to. (Most of them do not know they are on this list. They are nonprofits I truly prayed over, investigated, and wrote about, with the belief that they are reputable. No sense of sponsorship has gone on for their place in this post, whatsoever.) It is just a friendly resource I was led to make available to those interested in giving!

 

Thank you for your prayers and support, as well as for reading this post.
Jesus bless you!!! 🙂

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

“To Forgive our Debtors”: Praying against Boko Haram, but for its Members

It was the last place anyone imagined it would happen. And yet, it did: in the middle of an Internally Displaced Peoples Camp in Yola, Nigeria, a bomb was detonated, killing seven children and forever changing the lives of countless others. Once seen as a refuge for upwards of 1,000 displaced people, the Malkohi IDP camp spent all of September 11th, 2015 evacuating people from their “home away from home.”

The extent of Boko Haram’s terrorism has not stopped there. In Kolofata, Cameroon, 9 people were left dead after three suicide bombers detonated their explosives. Being near to a market, the suicide bombings terrorized possibly hundreds of people, causing them to live in the fear and anxiety that Boko Haram’s surprise attacks can bring. Yet, Though Boko Haram’s attacks continue to bring terror and grief to Nigeria and its surrounding nations, there is cause for hope: since the beginning of 2015, the Nigerian army, as well as the 8,700 strong multinational army, made up of forces from Nigeria and surrounding countries, have pushed Boko Haram out of many of their strongholds, including much of the Sambisa Forest. It was reported that “scores of Boko Haram militants” have surrendered, in what Vanguard newspaper reported as “mass panic and hysteria among their erstwhile colleagues” as they gave up their guns and traded them for cuffs. These men are men who have raped and terrorized hundreds, if not thousands of innocent women and children– men whose hands have killed, plundered, and kidnapped– and they now lie bound, shaking with terror and dread themselves.

Praying for Those Behind the Flag

The men behind the black, militant flag of Boko Haram have caused the deep sorrow, grief, and heavy darkness that has marred millions in Nigeria for the past five years. Radicalized by Muslim imams (teachers), these men have been brainwashed, sometimes from an early age, to believe that heaven can be obtained by shedding the blood of “infidels” (nonbelievers)– and sometimes, even their own blood. Suicide bombers, perhaps one of the saddest parts of Islam, can be any age or gender, and are usually young or easily manipulated. These pitiful souls are told that their “martyrdom” will ensure them a place in “Jannah,” the islamic version of heaven. Others are completely coerced; told that they will be murdered if they don’t become a suicide bomber, they have little to no choice but to follow their cowardly leaders/oppressors’ commands. Recently, many suicide bombers have been girls as young as 10 years old— one of the most vulnerable people groups involved in this horrific insurgency. Old or young, male or female, these brainwashed bombers and their leaders are in need of more than just arrest; they are in deep need of prayer.

The dark spiritual climate of being apart of such a demonic operation as Boko Haram can easily anger a person, causing them to ask Jesus for His divine Justice– and this is not wrong. They want those who have severely injured them to pay for it; when the perpetrator does not, they feel wronged and are embittered all the more. However, Jesus wants His followers to do things differently. 

The Courage to Forgive

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, who wrote almost half of the New Testament, was once a terrorist and persecutor of Christians– until Jesus changed His life (read Acts 7-9 for his story). Though Boko Haram is a ruthless and truly satanic terrorist organization, it is full of men and women who do not know the Love of Jesus Christ. In response to the evil so many have had to endure, Jesus calls His disciples to do something most would find completely impossible. As illogical as it may sound, Jesus has called those who follow Him to forgive their perpetrators, as seen in a passage called “the Lord’s Prayer.”

This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.”
(Matthew 6: 9-10, 12, NIV)

In light of the horrific acts Boko Haram has perpetrated in and around Nigeria, Jesus’ command here can seem nothing short of deeply insulting. Yet, Jesus’ words speak of great Truth: forgiving others affects a person’s fellowship with Him. To know what it truly is to forgive, one must look at the cross.

Forgiveness in Light of the Cross

The truth is, forgiveness is not merely “overlooking” an offense or calling what happened “okay.” God did not merely “overlook” or call our sin “okay”; in fact, He hates sin, and as a God of Justice, gave mankind what our willful decision to disobey Him was: death, and eternal separation from Him. Yet, He is a God of forgiveness and mercy, taking no pleasure “in the death of the wicked,” but wanting them to “turn from their ways and live” (Ezekiel 18:23, NIV). Therefore, He did what only a supremely Merciful and Just God could do: take upon Himself our sin and its consequential curse, by dying on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). In this way, He was able to forgive those who believe on Him for the sin that separated them from Him. Truly, forgiveness is looking at the sin for all it is, and choosing to not let it control a victim or what they think of those who wronged them. It is only in forgiveness that a person is set free to truly Love those who have hated them.

Redemption, not Retribution

In the world, this type of reaction to those who so vehemently hate and hurt their victims is unheard of; yet, Christ’s disciples are called to do this very thing. Instead of retribution, Jesus wants redemption; instead of “an eye for an eye,” Jesus calls His followers to respond to hatred and persecution– no matter the depth– with Love (Matthew 5:38-48). This feat of overcoming hurt with blessing is no small one; in fact, it can not be done without Jesus. Without Christ, a person cannot truly forgive and love their persecutors. They may strive to, but it takes Jesus’ Spirit to genuinely change them from the inside out: to see their offenders as the correctly-judged, horrendous, wicked people that they are– but also as people who are ignorantly and pitifully desperate for Jesus. 

Paul was changed by the Power and Love of Christ. His hands persecuted Christ’s people; yet, in Christ’s hands, He became the man He was meant to be. The hands of the members of Boko Haram are stained red; but, in the power of Christ’s forgiveness, they too can be cleaned. As one escapee from the Chibok kidnapping once said, “I forgive Boko Haram for what they have done and I pray God forgives them too.” Oh, how they need it.

The men, women, and children of Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Benin have been victims of grave and disgusting injustice, perpetrated by the hand of Boko Haram, and arrested members have gotten what they deserve. Yet, it is not in their punishment that victims will find healing. Rather, offender and victim can only be healed by looking to the cross– and more importantly, by looking to the One who once hung there. Truly, it is by His wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5b, NIV).


Do you know Jesus? 

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”
(John 1:11, NIV)

Though Jesus, God Himself, came to save the very world He created, it did not recognize Him; not only did it not recognize Him; His very people, the Jews, rejected Him– the One they had called “Hosanna!” to only days before.

He was wrongly condemned, flogged, and hung on a cross. Mockingly hailed “King of the Jews” and killed in the most torturous way possible, Jesus had every reason to abandon His mission and retaliate against those who viciously murdered Him. But He didn’t.

No; instead, while hanging on the cross, Christ said some of the most poignant words ever said: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34, NIV). In perfect Love, Jesus saw those whose sin He became: all of mankind throughout every generation, past, present, and future; and asked the Father to forgive them– knowing that it was through His suffering, death and resurrection alone that such a prayer would be answered (1 John 2:2; Ephesians 1:7-8).

Jesus died for all of mankind: from the religious person to the murderer, no one is outside of Christ’s unfailing Love– or His ability to save. Meet your Forgiver here.



*You may print out this prayer in Google Docs.

Prayer
(pray along, or simply use it as a guide):

Lord Jesus, You alone know the pain and heart of every human being on this planet. You know that apart from You, our hearts are “deceitful above all things and beyond cure,” a thing that no one can truly understand but You (Jeremiah 17:9). Lord King Jesus, we all know that You are the only reason we are able to live; there is nothing we can do (or not do) to spare us from your righteous judgment. It is You alone who chose us; it is You alone who drew us to You by Your Love; and it is You alone who has saved our souls. Whether on this earth, or in eternity, You chose us to Live, and Live abundantly in You (John 10:10; John 15:4). Jesus, we thank You that You died for our Life; we thank You that by Your wounds, we were healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Jesus, we lift up the men and women of Nigeria to You. Only You know the pain and grief in their hearts; not only do You know it, but You have gone through it Yourself (Isaiah 53:4). Lord Jesus, we pray now for those who have been unimaginably hurt. Jesus, You alone know how isolating and unsearchable our grief and suffering can be (Proverbs 14:10), and Jesus, we pray that those who are grieving and hurting emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually would ask you into their hearts, and would be met by You right where they are at. Jesus, as our “Wonderful Counselor” and “God of all Comfort,” we pray that You would indeed comfort and hold Your precious children. Let them find their healing in You; King Jesus, hold their hands and provide them with people who will hold their hands, too. In this moment, Lord Jesus, we pray Your Spirit would be known, felt, and praised by all those hurting in Nigeria, that they might praise You as the God who Heals them (Exodus 15:26).

King Jesus, we pray over those who have been through the atrocities perpetrated by Boko Haram specifically. We pray, Lord Jesus, that they would run to You for refuge and healing; we pray that as they continue to run to You, You would help and enable them to live out Your will for their lives: to forgive and pray for their persecutors. Jesus, we know that this seems impossible to do, but we also know that NOTHING is impossible with You (Matthew 19:26). Jesus, as our brothers and sisters choose to “forgive their debtors,” we pray You would heal up their broken hearts, that their forgiveness would be true and full, as You have forgiven us. Lord Jesus, bless them for this difficult, but ultimately, right decision to trust and obey You, and set them free from the bondage refusing to forgive can bring, that they might love You and everyone around them– even their persecutors– as You have Loved us.

Jesus, touch the persecutors of our brethren with Your Love. Your apostle Paul hated You, King Jesus, but You never stopped Loving and drawing Him to You. As You changed Saul to Paul by Your Power, we now pray that You would change and bring muslims to You, especially those in Boko Haram. Lord Jesus, use Your people in captivity– and even Your people who will be martyred for You– to share Your Gospel of Love, Salvation, Forgiveness, and Peace with those who are killing, raping, kidnapping, and pillaging them. Jesus, plant seeds in their hearts, and Lord, soften their hearts and minds by Your Power and Love, that those seeds would be sown to all of them coming to You. We pray that You would raise up leaders in Boko Haram’s ranks, to both bring Boko Haram to the dust, and to bring the individuals that are in it to You; Jesus, show us Your Glory and Power in such a way, that all men might know and praise You, especially those farthest away from You right now, keeping and torturing those who love You.

Lastly, King Jesus, we pray You would have Your hand and Your Loving Eye on the hundreds of thousands of people kidnapped/in captivity. King Jesus, we pray that, if it’s Your will, You would show those combating Boko Haram where those who are kidnapped are. Jesus, if it’d be Your will, we pray new details would come forth about where the Chibok girls are; we pray that You would keep them safe, and would grant them not only physical freedom, but spiritual freedom as they all come to know You. Jesus, we pray You would fill your children in captivity with Love, Power, and a Sound Mind, that they might be Your witnesses, captive or free. “Set the captives free,” and encourage the hearts of those in captivity, as You have promised to do– in Your will, Your way, and Your timing (Luke 4:18; Psalm 42). 

Lord Jesus, more than anything, we pray You would bring those who do not know You to You. Let them know that they are chosen by You; remove whatever is in the way, that may be keeping them from You. Lord Jesus, from the “bad” to the “good,” forgive them and show them Yourself– for truly, in our sin, none of us knew what we were doing (Luke 23:34).

We thank You and we praise You for all of this, Lord Jesus. It is in Your Name we pray all of it. Amen.

*You may print out this prayer in Google Docs.

“Hephzibah”: Women in the Eyes of Christ

The Nigerian military’s gunshots sounded like salvation. Like the sunrise after a stormy night, The gunshots and news of a quickly advancing group of soldiers filled captives in the Boko Haram camp with a mixture of confusion and fear, but most of all, joy– as Boko Haram terrorists were quickly sapped of their power and, in turn, their captives were filled with the strength to move. These captives, mainly women with children (both born and “adopted” alike, as many are orphans), had what only could’ve been divine strength as they boarded packed rescue vehicles or carried their malnourished children, walking in the military’s tire tracks. Continue reading

Two is Better than One: The Courage to Forgive in Christ Alone

Edit: During the writing of this post, the Lord revealed one thing to me: while I was faithful in writing about many different prayer needs in Nigeria, Africa, and the people of it, I’ve been silent– both online and, sadly, in real life– on the many CRAZY, SIMPLY AWE-INSPIRING things Christ has done over the past year or so, especially in the last few months!!! Here I’ve been, praying for the freedom of the Chibok girls and the many other captives of the Boko Haram, but I haven’t spent time REJOICING in the fact that nearly 700 WOMEN AND GIRLS HAVE BEEN RESCUED BY THE NIGERIAN MILITARY FROM BOKO HARAM!!! This freedom is beautiful– more beautiful than one could express with words, though I pray the Lord gives me the words to sufficiently express it. Take some time today to PRAISE JESUS FOR THE AMAZING WAYS HE HAS ANSWERED PRAYER!!! Praise Him! Hallelujah!


The fights, long-held grievances and under-the-breath comments erupted into a riot like a domestic natural gas explosion. While the community seemed fine enough on the surface, just as natural gas has little to no visible qualities, one could sense the tension in the air: in the hot, arid heat of April, the scent– and sense– of violence could be noticeably felt and smelt. Continue reading