Radiant Faces: Trusting Jesus amidst Boko Haram Deception

On September 16th, 2016, it was reported, by the Nigerian Federal Government, that the Nigerian government has tried to negotiate for the release of the Chibok girls three times since July of 2015. While this development is encouraging, the reasons behind the failed negotiations shines light on a difficult problem. Although the terrorist group negotiated with the Nigerian Federal Government to secure the Chibok girls, at first, negotiations failed: either because of Boko Haram’s instability, or the fact that, in the process of negotiations, the terrorist sect’s demands were deemed too high. This reveals much about the group: one, that it is breaking apart (a definite answer to prayer!), and two, that they are missing prime leaders and expert bomb manufacturers– whom they demanded be released, in exchange, for the 218 girls still missing.

But, the problem is this: When one is dealing with a seriously evil organization, like Boko Haram, it is dealing with an organization built upon lies. Just as satan is called “the father of lies” (John 8:44), islam, and any other thing not set up upon Christ and His Word, is truly built upon the shaky ground of deceit, able to fall apart at any moment. Ultimately, because Boko Haram is built upon lies, it becomes extremely difficult to discern what is actually going on behind its closed doors.

News of three different negotiations occurring within one year, then, shows the public that there is more to this insurgency than one thought.

 

But this is not the only report that proves there is more than what meets the eye happening during the Boko Haram insurgency. Within the same time frame that the report of negotiations was published by News Agencies, news also came that the Nigerian Army released 566 men, women and children who were the families of Boko Haram members. Released to Governor Shettima, and into a UN rehabilitation program, 355 of the 566 people were young, breast-feeding children. With the hopes of rehabilitating, and de-radicalizing, this massive group of people, this unprecedented development is both encouraging, and concerning, in that while people are being freed, these people sadly have the risk of re-joining Boko Haram. To know that the Nigerian Army has been retaining such a huge number of men, women, and children (of which are the majority), for months, and even years, proves that the Boko Haram insurgency is much more complicated, and risky, than any person would ever initially think.
People– people with minds, and hearts, that cannot be easily, or truly, searched, by other human beings– always carry the weight and risk of being untrustworthy. This is precisely why the LORD, through the Psalmist, David, says this in Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots, others in horses, but we trust the Lord our God.” 

 

In this world of so many unknowns, it can seem hopeless, to be up against such seemingly formidable enemies. More than this, it can be endlessly troubling to realize that “Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23, NCV). But we do not need to live in fear, frustration, and dismay. Instead, Jesus calls us to live our lives, looking to Him.

Psalm 34:5, in context, is an incredibly comforting, affirming verse, for those who are having trouble living victoriously. “Those who look to him [the LORD] are radiant;” it says; “their faces are never covered with shame.” At the time it was written, David was not yet King, and was being chased down by King Saul, the then ruler of Israel (as found in 1 Samuel 21). David had put his hope in the LORD, but, feeling scared, famished, and desperate for help, David lied to Ahimelek, which was one of Israel’s priests. Stating that he was actually on an “urgent mission” for Saul, David took and ate the Bread of the Presence of the LORD that had been out the day before (1 Samuel 21:1-3, 6). Not only did he eat of this bread; he, terrified by one of Saul’s men who had been there, also asked Ahimelek if he had any weapons on hand (1 Samuel 21:7-8). Ironically taking the very sword Goliath had when David slayed him, David quickly ran for his life to Gath (1 Samuel 21:9-10).

In Gath, David ran into more problems; and, driven to a last resort, pretended to be insane before the King of Gath, King Achish (2 Samuel 22:10-15). This, no doubt, was a major valley in King David’s life. Yet, Psalm 34 is not a Psalm filled with focus on David’s pain, turmoil, or even lack of faith in God, replaced by fear.

But, let one be clear. David’s lack of faith, and deceitfulness, came with tremendous consequences: the innocent priests, and townspeople, of Nob, were slaughtered by King Saul, because of David, which he took full blame for (1 Samuel  22:6-23). But, even in light of such horrible, self-induced circumstances, Psalm 34 it is filled with praise to the LORD. This, in and of itself, speaks volumes: That, even when we are overcome by fear, or use deceit to get what we need, Christ is bigger than even the worst sin, circumstances, news, or consequences– and is willing and able to forgive those who humbly repent.

 

Not only is Psalm 34 filled with praises of Christ’s mercy, despite dire circumstances. It is also filled with promises of Justice.

Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned. The Lord will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned
(Psalm 34:21-22).

One must admit: this is a difficult passage to accept, when so many innocent people were murdered by King Saul. But, seen in the light of eternity, the wicked and the foes of the righteous, those like King Saul, will be the ones truly condemned. Those who were, and have been, innocently murdered, both then and now, have the promise of verse 22: that “those who take refuge in Him [Christ] will not be condemned”– even though those who trust in Christ were condemned to physical death by evil, corrupt men, they will never suffer spiritual death.

Ultimately, Christ promises to bring true, final Justice, when He comes back to the earth (Revelation 22:12-13). This, above all, is the Hope of those who look to Jesus, now– that, in the end, Believers will “Behold: he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him,” and everything up to that point, even the worst of the pain, will forever be a thing of the past.

 

In such frustrating, heartbreaking times, Christ’s Power, Protection, Justice, and Mercy are sure. This is the Hope found, even when so little is known about the Boko Haram insurgency. While deception– a lack of knowing the Truth– are things that abound on this earth, Believers have a Savior, in Jesus Christ, who does not lie. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5, NIV). No wonder those who look to Him are so radiant. ❤



Do you know Jesus?

“‘Look, he is coming with the clouds,’
    and ‘every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him’;
    and all peoples on earth ‘will mourn because of him.’
So shall it be! Amen.”
(Revelation 1:7, NIV)

Psalm 34 states that those who look to, and put their trust in, Jesus Christ, will never be ashamed. Nothing points to this more, than those who believed on Him, who saw Him suffer and die, on the cross.

Over 2,000 years ago, God stepped onto the scene of earth. Filled with sin, God entered the world, and suffered at the hands of those He lovingly created– so that “And by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, NIV).

Nailed to a cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, physically died of a broken heart, yelling out, “It is finished!” as those who crucified Him, looked on.

Learn more, and meet, the God-man who was rejected and killed, so that Believers might be forever accepted, and saved, by God, here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Father God,
I thank You, and I praise You, for coming to this earth, in the form of a man, so that we could look to You, for the Love, Joy, Peace, Protection, and Salvation mankind so desperately needs.

Father God,

I pray for those who still have yet to meet You– who see You as a far-off God, or a guru, or a prophet, or simply don’t believe in You, at all. Dear Jesus, I pray, in Your Name, that these men and women, who are hurting so much, would find relief in You as they submit to You, as their Lord and Savior.

Father God,

I pray for Your children, in Nigeria, and in every surrounding country, who have been harmed, wounded, or are grieving the loss of their Loved Ones, but who have not seen any Justice done on their behalf, yet. Father God,

Please help these people to continue to trust You; help them to trust that You will provide them the Justice that they so deserve.

Father God,

Wherever injustice, and deception abounds, as definitely as in Boko Haram, I pray that You would bring these evil acts to light– and would bring those who have done such things to dust, so that they might be humbled, and come to truly know You.

Father God,

I pray for those stuck in IDP camps, suffering from hunger. Dear Father God, please let these people be found by aid groups; please help us to know how to spiritually help, through prayer, and practically, through giving.

Dear Father God,

I pray over the 218 young girls who have still not been found, and who are the subject of so many negotiations. Father God, dear Jesus, whether it would be by negotiation, or divine, miraculous intervention, please bring these precious young women, home, soon.

While they are in captivity, Father God, I pray, in Jesus’ Name, that You would help them to look to You. Even in such a place as captivity, I pray that the Holy Spirit would comfort those who believe in You, there; I pray that they would trust in You, and that their faces would be so radiant, that it would bring others to You, as well.

I thank You for this, Father God. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”

Quick Post: Rest.

Tonight, looking at news updates on the ceasefire deal announced Friday (and the violence that has continued on since then, jeopardizing the deal), I became tired. Weary. Frustrated. Skeptical. Worried.

What are we, as believers in the words and promises of God, to do when everything around us seems to ask why God is so fickle?– or, on a more sickening, cynical, unbelieving level, why God is so cruel?

I’ve had a longer, more polished post drawn up for a few days now, and I’ve been struggling with finishing it. It’s called, “6 Months Later: A Reason For Hope.”

I know what my reason for hope is. I know where– and who in– my hope is found. Yet, the words don’t seem to come. And the thoughts of worry, of doubt, of inadequacy, of fear, linger and creep in, making my heart flutter, haunting the words I mean to say and trying to silence me.

But you know what? I refuse to let the enemy kill my joy. I refuse to let him take over what should be a blessing and an encouragement, making it stressful and tiring.
Tonight, in the midst of the utter chaos that surrounds these abducted girls,
In the midst of the pain that comes with knowing that these beautiful young girls and women need to spend one more night away from their families and loved ones,
In the midst of the weariness that comes with not knowing when this pain will end,

I will trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I will go into His temple. I will meditate on His love for me (Psalm 48:9).
I will meditate on how he’s lifted me out of every miry pit I’ve ever fallen into– or dug myself, inviting in (Psalm 40:2).
I will think on these things. And, in the midst of such love, such peace, such grace,
I will believe with all my heart that He is never slow or careless when it comes to fulfilling His promises (2 Peter 3:9).
I will praise my God, whose love is unfailing (Psalm 36:5-7; Psalm 56:9-13).

Lord Jesus, I praise you for releasing the 50 some girls that have escaped from the Boko Haram so far.
I praise you for strengthening them according to your steadfast love.
I love you and thank you for providing these girls with people to share their stories with. For providing them with just enough food and water to survive. With just enough strength and determination to reach a refuge. For always being their refuge, even among their pain and suffering.
I thank you for choosing me. For choosing me, for choosing this young child, to hear your heart for these girls. To hear your voice speak these bold promises, full of love and redemption and hope, over such a hopeless situation. Forgive me for being unfaithful in doing what you’ve called me to do– to devote myself to prayer for these girls, and to proclaim these promises to others as well, asking them to join in prayer and support for the abducted girls, for Norther Nigeria, and for Nigeria as a whole. I praise you for being faithful even when I am unfaithful. And I thank you for keeping your watchful eye on these beautiful girls, showing them such favor as to start negotiations, strengthening the Nigerian army to fight against the darkness that holds them, and to cause your people to cry out to you for them.

You are strong and mighty to save.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

Your promises for these girls ring true, everywhere in your word.

“Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.” (Proverbs 11:21, NIV)

I can rely upon Your Word and Your Promises.

“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89, NIV)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, NIV)

Tonight, I will rest in the fact that He is God. Period.
That, no matter what, He is good. Loving. Beautiful.
That redemption and salvation are coming, and it will be glorious.

Tonight, let’s praise, hope, and rest in our God, praying that He grants us the blessing of seeing these girls free soon. Pray for their continued protection; pray for their favor under the rule of the Boko Haram. Continue to pray for the BH leader, Shekau: that He would believe in Christ Jesus and know Christ’s peace that surpasses every understanding there is. Pray that the people of Nigeria would run back to the Lord. That they’d find rest in the shadow of His wings as they trust in Him as their Lord and Savior (Psalm 56:13).

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2, NIV)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)

 

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)