Sharing Christ: The Path to True Peace

They have done it again.
Again, Boko Haram has pillaged, stolen, and de-stabilized.

On Wednesday, June 7th, Boko Haram razed parts of Maiduguri, killing “at least 14 people,” according to VOA News’ news article. In the attack, gunned Boko Haram members and suicide bombers attacked the innocent men and women of Maiduguri. It is the first attack made by Boko Haram in 18 months, almost 6 months after President Buhari claimed that the group is “technically defeated.”

Abubukar Shekau, the leader of a faction of Boko Haram, had shocking words for those watching the video Boko Haram published not long after.

“We are hale and hearty, contrary to claims that we have been killed… God has enriched us with the arms and ammunition on display, and we shall deploy such weapons we seized against you… There is no dialogue between us, only fire for fire.”
(source, VOA News)

These people believe that God has given them victory. And they have killed again.

 

As if this violence were not enough, a horrific mass shooting on republican representatives was had yesterday, on June 14th, 2017. The shooting, happening in Alexandria, Virginia, has left Congressman Steve Scalise in critical condition.

 

The violence in Northeast Nigeria causes one to ask… who is God to those who believe these things? Who is God to a muslim?

To muslims, God is almighty, but far off. While one can know His Will, they cannot evercannot know him truly know Him, Himself (source). This fact, in and of itself, is a thing to be deeply pitied for those who believe in “allah.” But when one thinks about it, everyone who does not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not know God, and cannot ever know God apart from Christ. 

Jesus is the One who taught that to hate someone in one’s heart is to kill them; and, sadly, the horrific shooting had in Virginia has displayed just how angry and violent a person can be. People’s need to know Christ is, now more than ever, a very heavy, relevant, real subject.

Every person reading this, including even those publishing it, knows at least one person who does not know Christ. While the islamic religion is a very false, sad one in that it keeps people from knowing God personally, the idea that many people– not just those with hijabs on– are being kept from knowing God by faulty religion, sin, and/or simply their own unbelief is cause for much sorrow, too.

The only real solution to this violence has always been, and will always be, Jesus Christ. People NEED to know Him. And for people to know Him, He must be shared by those who already know Him.

It was the apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, who wrote in Romans, “How, then, can already know himthey call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them” (Romans 10:14)? We are the Light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16).

When a person shares Christ, they are sharing the ONLY way to Peace with God the Father, through Christ: the only way to true Peace.

Amidst the violence happening, in both Northeast Nigeria, America (and the rest of the world, for that matter), who is Christ putting on your heart to reach out to with the Gospel? Let the Holy Spirit do His Work in and through you, and reach out to that person, today. After all, no one knows when it may be too late.



Do you know Jesus?

2,000 years ago, Jesus stepped on the scene of a very lost and broken people.
Crippled by the law, and lost, without a hope in the world as the Apostle Paul says (Ephesians 2:12), mankind needed a Savior from the mess they had gotten themselves into.

Jesus was, still is, and will forever be, that Savior. Read more about Him, and meet Him today. Click here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for the ability to know You. Thank You that You did it all, so that we might live, and know You personally.
Dear Jesus, we pray that you would fortify Northern Nigeria, and keep it from harm– both physically and spiritually. We ask that You would please bring Your Good News to those in Norther Nigeria who have never heard it, and are in bondage to false religion, sin, and unbelief.
Please fortify the soldiers in Northern Nigeria as well; they can only truly win life’s battles with You, dear Jesus. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7). We pray this over the soldiers in Nigeria, and all over the world, Father God.

Dear Lord Jesus,
Please defeat the members of Boko Haram– not so that they would die in their sin, but so that they would be humbled and come to know You, the One, True Living God.

Dear Jesus, we also pray over America. Father God, America, Nigeria, and the entire world needs to come back to You. Please forgive us for our sin and turning away from You; we now ask that You would give us another chance, and that there would be mass revival! Send us out, Father God. Help us to be Loving and Brave as we share You with our neighbors.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!!! Please continue to pray for the Chibok girls, that they would be found, as there are 113 young women left in captivity.

 

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When Under Attack: Praying for Maiduguri

They awoke to the sound of explosions. Repelled by the Nigerian army, Boko Haram’s suicide bombers aimed for soft targets: the people of Ajilari Cross area in Maiduguri city, the capitol of Borno State, Nigeria. The aftermath of such an attack was horrendous; amidst “body parts on [homes]” and “people running helter-skelter,” as two survivors put it [1], emergency services and the Nigerian government took in the severely wounded– and there was no end to those who were severely frightened and confused.

Sadly, this was not the first suicide bombing that Maiduguri had experienced. It had been one in a long line of many suicide bombings, which started in mid-May. Since that initial spate of suicide bombings in May, over 300 men, women, and children in Maiduguri have fatally fallen at the hands of BH suicide bombers, with hundreds more injured. It has not been until recently that Nigeria’s army and government have become more diligent in protecting Maiduguri’s citizens, shooting down suicide bombers before they detonated their explosives in large crowds. While lowering the death toll, the amount of fear and instability in Maiduguri has stayed consistently high, with those in the city scared about when the next bomb will go off.

Though we’re still talking about a city that, for many reading, is a world away with its differences, the city of Maiduguri is like many of the cities we live in. With a population of over 600,000 people counted in 1991, and a growth rate of 12.0%, it is estimated that Maiduguri reached a population of over 1 million people in 2009 (source). Maiduguri is, as one can imagine, a city with compact, small homes and roads in historic Yerwa, newer developments dated to the 1970’s and fringe settlements farther from the inner city of Yerwa, and more rural, undeveloped land in the outermost parts of the city [2]. While the city may be home to many different religions, islam is “the religion of most of the inhabitants of [Borno] state,” the state Maiduguri inhabits (source). This city is the biggest and most developed city in Borno state, while being the 7th largest city in Nigeria. But for being such a “fortified city,” this city is in major need of help, both spiritually and physically.

Every single person in this hugely populated city faces a battle– and it’s not just one of spent bullets. Whether knowingly or not, all people have a spiritual enemy– who, not unlike Boko Haram, is “looking for every opportunity to hit back” (source). This is why Paul soberly warns Christians to “put on the whole armor of God, that [one] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11, ESV). The fight is real, but it shouldn’t be overemphasized fanatically, as it sometimes is. Christ has sealed His children with His Holy Spirit, making it completely impossible to be “possessed” by an evil spirit, or the devil himself (1 Corinthians 3:16; 1 John 4:4; John 14:16). If Christ’s Holy Spirit lives in and forever seals the Christian, there is no room for any other spirit to live in them.

While a Christian cannot be inhabited by an evil spirit, they can be harassed by one. Often times, the enemy will use tricky schemes to attack and harm unsuspecting Christians. It is important, therefore, to remind oneself and other Christians that 1) there is a real enemy, and 2) there a real God, who is not equal with the enemy, but completely in control over the enemy (as proven in Job 1:1-12). It is because of these two facts that Christians can engage in spiritual warfare, without becoming hysterical, afraid, or feeling insufficient (after all, Christians have been given a spirit of love, power, and a sound mind– not fear [ 2 Timothy 1:7]). The apostle Paul expounds on the spiritual protection Christians have in Ephesians 6:13-18.

Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God…”

The same book of Ephesians tells the Christian to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). What does this mean, exactly? It means that, as a Christian, one can put on a “new self” that glorifies and relies on Jesus Christ. Every facet of the Christian’s spiritual armor, therefore, exemplifies and relies completely upon Jesus Christ.

1) The belt of truth, which holds a place for a sword and holds the armor together, is Christ, as Jesus Himself is “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). 2) The breastplate of righteousness protects the vital organs from attacks, especially the heart; this is of the utmost importance, as Christians are called to “Above all else, guard [their] hearts, for everything [one does] flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). Thankfully, this breastplate is not made of a person’s own righteousness (our own righteous acts are like dirty rags [Isaiah 54:6]); instead, it is made of Christ’s righteousness, which is put on Christians when they accept Christ as their Lord and Savior (Philippians 3:8-9). 3) The shoes of readiness given by the gospel of peace are the shoes one wears into battle, “being prepared to give an answer and reason for the hope we have” in the Gospel (1 Peter 3:15). The Gospel is “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). At the core, Jesus is the Gospel, or good news. 4) The shield of faith, as Paul describes, extinguish[es] all the flaming darts of the evil one,” saving the Christian from unforeseen attacks. At the time Paul wrote this, Roman soldiers’ shields covered their entire bodies length-and-width wise, and when coupled together, created impenetrable walls. Faith in Christ and remembering His sovereign faithfulness makes the believer to stand firm against the enemy’s lies. 5) The helmet of salvation combats the enemy’s lies on a different level. satan is the father of lies– and as such, is constantly whispering lies into people’s minds. They are lies that, if left unchecked, leave people in deep bondage. Christ Himself is the helmet of salvation (Acts 4:10-12), and the defense against the enemy’s many lies; this is why Paul tells us one must “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:5-6, ESV). While Paul is talking about bringing others to Christ by the Holy Spirit’s power in this passage, there is application for our own minds. In the words of John Piper, “if anything is out of sync with Paul’s teaching, we should let it be destroyed.” Ultimately, one can find if any thought or idea is “out of sync” with Paul’s teaching by asking the Holy Spirit to speak to them through His Word, the bible– also known as 6) the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). Truly, “Paul’s teaching” in the Bible is truly God’s Word– God wrote it through men, by His Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21). The bible describes itself this way. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). With such an amazing weapon in a person’s spiritual arsenal, one cannot afford to not make regular use of it, by reading it and “meditat[ing] on it, day and night” (Joshua 1:8). What’s more, God’s Word proclaims that Jesus is the Word Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-5, 14, ESV). In all, Christians must clothe themselves with Christ constantly if one ever wants victory over the enemy.

Maiduguri city, as big and prominent as it may be, is not immune from Boko Haram’s attacks. In fact, it is because of Maiduguri’s prominence that so many of Boko Haram’s attacks have been aimed there. If one is unaware of the enemy’s attacks (and therefore, unprepared), it can leave a whole city in ruins. This is why we must pray for Maiduguri and its people– because, underneath it all, the battle Maiduguri is facing from this radical islamic group is not just physical– it is deeply spiritual.


Do you know Jesus?

When writing about the “breastplate of righteousness,” the piece of armor that protects the heart, one thing becomes clear: only Jesus and His righteousness can truly protect and guard the heart.

When talking about the heart, the bible says something contrary to much of what today’s society thinks: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, ESV). Yet, despite our evil, sinful hearts, Jesus died for our sins– so that we would never have to go through this life, or the spiritual battle, alone.

Learn more about the God who wants to be not only our spiritual armor, but our Savior– and how He accomplished both– by clicking here.



Please pray for…

The people, particularly the churches, in Maiduguri, Nigeria. 

The Nigerian army, and their fight against Boko Haram, physically.

The victims of each suicide bombing and attack, as well as their families.

The government, and President Buhari— that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, and would be given wisdom in this fight.

The men of Boko Haram— that they would come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, too.

Boko Haram’s captives— that we would not lose hope in finding them, and that President Buhari would be moved by Jesus to find the captives, including the Chibok girls. Read, sign, and share the petition to do this very thing, here.


[1] Source
[2] Source: Waziri, Muhammad. Spatial Pattern of Maiduguri City. Researchers’ Guide. No 123 Mangwarori Street, Sabon Titin Mandawari, Kano City, Kano State: ADAMU JOJI PUBLISHERS, 2009. Academia. 21 October 2015. Page 12. 

By the Holy Spirit’s Power: Defeating Fear & Boko Haram

They are the many unsung, unseen forces in the Nigerian military. Women– mothers, daughters, respected leaders in Nigerian society– have given their safety and comfort to fight the evil that is the Boko Haram insurgency. Though almost unheard of when speaking about the military, women make up a good amount of the country’s militia and are an active part of the fight against terrorism. Yet, in an attitude of apprehension and even slight panic, Nigeria has decided to remove more than 200 of its women soldiers from the frontlines of Maiduguri city to the country’s capitol, Abuja. Continue reading

The Boko Haram: Finding Unmerited Mercy & Unbelievable Forgiveness

They lied. It was four o’clock in the morning in Baga, Nigeria, and, drowsy from sleep, the men in each household were told to get up and follow Boko Haram members outside so that they “could explain everything.” As 14 shaking men followed the terrorists into the brush, they were told to lie on the ground. What they had hoped for– “an explanation,” anything to acknowledge that they were human beings, too– was all for nought. Continue reading

The Chibok Girls: Holding On to His Promises

On September 11th, 2014, news was made that Comrade Shehu Sani, President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, along with the Red Cross, started to join in talks with the Boko Haram to release 30 of the kidnapped women and girls from captivity in exchange for either 18 or 30 (mixed reports of both numbers have been published) of the Boko Haram’s key sect members, currently imprisoned by the Nigerian government. Negotiations going on to release the girls were suspended momentarily, due to disagreements between the government and the BH on the number of girls to be released. As the government wanted all of the girls freed for the 30 prisoners, the BH wanted to release them in a piecemeal matter, something that has frustrated negotiation attempts so far. The outcome is hopeful, but uncertain.
What seemed like a positive and progressive step towards the girls’ release was coupled and strengthened with the news that the Nigerian military, as well as vigilante groups fighting alongside the military, had won over attacks against the Boko Haram 35 km (22 miles) from Maiduguri— and in the process, killed one of the Boko Haram’s most feared commanders. On September 12th, it was reported that the Boko Haram’s leader, Abubukar Shekau, was killed during the fighting, though this report is also being incredibly questioned and found to be false. If it is true, the whole of Boko Haram may undergo serious changes in it’s effectiveness, level of violence, and military targets, as discussed in the above article.

With so much hope but yet so much uncertainty, it can be hard to stand firm and fast in the Lord’s promises
. And a midst many other huge events– both of joy and sorrow– happening in Nigeria, the encouragement and happiness created by these unsure yet promising circumstances led me to, in the quiet of my heart, wonder, “Is this it, Lord? Has the time come?”

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV)

During this time, many truths, through hardship and trial, have been learned, one being this: that Christ, and not our circumstances, must be where our hope abides. Reading a headline can easily (and has easily) thrown me into states of excitement, confirmation and encouragement, while other times, they’ve discouraged and disappointed me greatly, making me almost to lose all hope. This disposition can change daily, and usually does; some days, every headline seems to speak of a firm hope in their rescue and in this conflict’s resolution, and other days, that hope can be completely wiped away with a few sentences.

Hanging on to headlines instead of the promises of God can and will wipe out hope, quickly. But more and more, relying upon the Hope of Christ in us and His promises, we can be unmoved in our hope no matter the circumstances. As Paul says in Hebrews 6:19, “…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (NIV)

No matter what headlines say– as so many of them are flawed, and the news itself can be faulty, sadly– something that has comforted me up until this point, and continues to even here, is the fact that Christ is alive and at work in every circumstance. He is faithful. We can trust Him in all things.

To be honest, I’ve found myself asking if I truly believe they’ll be free, as I once did so many months ago. The words Christ so boldly and beautifully wrote upon my heart in June have now faded with life events being weaved in, over and around those promises, making them to fade and turn rusty. My mind, body, heart and soul find it hard to keep from being dry, apathetic, and even bitter.

If I am brutally honest, I have been disbelieving. I have been apathetic. I have puttered out. I have become selfish, consumed with newer life events and my own trials (though I know and trust that God, too, has these situations in the very palm of His hand).

It is easy to become impatient. It is easy to be discouraged. It is way too easy to give up, to fade out, and to abandon this whole measure all together. In fact, I’ve found myself starting to do so without realizing it.

But reading these headlines– full of hope, of pain, of victories, of loss, all within the same days and weeks– has shown me that the Lord’s hand may be unseen, but He moves in more complex ways than we could ever pray for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).

We have seen prayers answered: that the Lord would break and decimate the members of the Boko Haram, so that, being broken in spirit, they’d cry out to Jesus; that the government would be given wisdom and understanding for knowing how to fight against the Boko Haram, as well as how to get these girls back home. Both of these prayers, and assuredly many more prayers, have shown themselves to be attentively heard, graciously answered, and unmistakably true– like small, subtle slivers of light through blinds into a dark room.

But when the Lord promised they’d be free, He didn’t promise it’d be done on our terms. Never did our God promise that the story of these beautiful young girls, of the Nigerian people, wouldn’t be complex, chaotic, and filled with such sickening, incomprehensible situations that we’d be left speechless, confused, angered, annoyed, and shell-shocked at what we’ve read and heard.

Jesus also has not promised us that our lives would have simple plot lines. That the resolution to such huge problems would be big enough to fit on a newspaper headline. That the action would be filmed or shot on camera, that prayers answered would be completely and obviously seen.

But we must look at what He has promised us. We must hold on to His promises, remembering His faithfulness, and knowing that He will always be forever faithful to us. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV).

Pray for the men and women in Nigeria, that they would fall into such a place where they need the Lord, and that they, in the quiet, broken softness of their hearts, would come to know Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Pray this also for the Boko Haram members, as they continue to fight in the name of Islam; pray that they’d come to see the meaningless, empty loneliness of their false idol worship. Pray that they’d see how the hatred, the bitterness, and the death not only of their physical selves but of their spiritual selves as well has come about, and that they’d cry out to Jesus in desperation as their Lord and Savior. That there, Christ would come to them and make Himself known to them in huge, amazing ways. Pray they’d be brought near to Him in His love, and would know His peace that surpasses all understanding– that they’d be completely and totally changed by His gospel.
As they come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, pray that they’d be strengthened and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, with all spiritual wisdom, revelation, and understanding, to bring the Gospel to those within the BH, so that all others may be saved as well.
Pray for Abubukar Shekau– that His heart would be slowly but surely tilled and broken up so that it may be supernaturally soft to hear the word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would break Shekau, so that this evil man may come to know Christ’s love and awesome redemptive power.
Remember, the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) himself was a former terrorist to the early Christian Church before the Lord stopped him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9)! Pray that an equally, incredibly powerful event would occur in Abubukar’s life.
Pray– and Praise the Lord!!– for the negotiations happening between Shehu Sani, the Red Cross, and the Boko Haram; for favor on behalf of these girls, for their imminent release, and for the mighty and powerful hand of the Lord our God to move in and through those camps to bring all of the girls and the BH members to faith in Jesus.

What He has promised, let us not forsake in praying to Him for.
“…You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,

and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.” 
(Isaiah 62:6b-7, NIV)