Asking the Honest Questions

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

(Judges 6:11-12, NLT)

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

But Gideon gives a reply that is less than chipper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Do you know Jesus?

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

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



Pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,

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

Dear Father God,

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

Dear Jesus,

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

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

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

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

Dear Jesus,

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

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

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

In Jesus’ Name we pray,

Amen.”

 

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Being Truly Blessed: Uncovering the Lies of the Prosperity Gospel in Nigeria

Many in this world– dare I include Christians– believe that one is more blessed when they have more influence, material goods, money, and power. If this is true, then those currently suffering a lack of their basic necessities must lack Christ, right?

Wrong. While sin can end in bad circumstances, as I look at “prosperity doctrine” churches, especially ones in which health and wealth are equated with “more faith,” my heart is broken. Why? Because those who believe in and follow these doctrines are not grasping the fact that Jesus had no health, wealth and prosperity on this Earth. In fact, Jesus is described in Isaiah 53 in this way:

He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. …He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
(Isaiah 53:3,7,9, NIV)

Yes, it is true that “by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5); and yes, Jesus took on the wrath of God for our sin, so that we would not have to. And don’t get me wrong; to be prosperous and happy in this life is not necessarily bad, in and of itself (1 Timothy 6:17).

But why does the fact that Jesus healed us of our sin problem, bearing our sin and shame, automatically turn into a feeling of entitlement over material possessions and earthly prosperity? At the heart of it all, Jesus gave the standard for those who would be apart of His Kingdom, in the Sermon on the Mount.

Just like us, the disciples had their own idea of what it would be like to follow Jesus: Jesus would set up his physical, earthly reign on the earth, and bring justice to all Israel. They thought Jesus would appoint men– themselves, the 12 disciples– to rule in high positions, in this earthly kingdom. This can be seen in Matthew 20, when the mother of James and John asked Jesus to put her sons in the highest ranking positions in the land, right next to Him. The disciples expected fame, money, and power for following Jesus, up until the point of the Sermon on the Mount.

Expecting this kind of prosperity, the 12 disciples must have been completely shocked when they heard what Jesus said during the Beatitudes.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3-10, NIV)

The end of the Sermon on the Mount says, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29, NIV). I can only imagine the shock and amazement of the disciples and the people listening.

Instead of cursing others as the Pentateuch and Talmud described, Jesus was blessing (“Sermon on the Mount,” Jen Wilkin). Instead of praising the religious leaders and their lifestyle, Jesus blessed those who knew they had no righteousness in and of themselves, and needed a Savior: those “poor in spirit.” Instead of creating an earthly reign in His first coming, where His disciples would be given earthly power and blessing, Jesus revealed that those who are without self-righteousness, grieved over their sin, seeking out God, and wanting His Will– not their own– would have the Kingdom of Heaven. Not to mention being persecuted for righteousness’ (Jesus’) sake!

This idea of prosperity on Earth reminds me of a lot of the church doctrine in southern Nigeria, today. (To be fair, I have never been to Nigeria; I only know what I observe from news articles and church advertisements seen online.) In fact, it reminds me of the whole world, and the way it works: the better you look, the more fame and power you have= the better you must be blessed by God. I have even heard someone say that “God has left Africa,” because of how corrupt the state of affairs are, there.

But here, Jesus is saying something precious to His disciples. Blessed are those who know they need me. Blessed are those who submit themselves to My Will for their lives, though it may very well cause pain. Blessed are those persecuted because they love and follow me, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus blesses all people (Matthew 5:45). But what Jesus is saying here, is that in reality, those who are truly blessed are the cast out, the ugly, the needy, and the broken.
Blessed are the underdogs. (Luke 18:35-43)
Blessed are those who are saddened by their sin. (Luke 18:12-14)
Blessed are those who are desperate for Jesus to intervene. (Matthew 5:9-10)

Why? Because these are the people who run to Jesus, and are blessed by the Salvation, Fellowship, Comfort, Joy, Purpose, and Transformation that only He can give.

In reality, Jesus has given us far more than anything this world can give: Eternal Life.

Friends, Jesus has NOT left Africa.
As millions of children have been orphaned,
As countless men, women and children have been left homeless,
and as numerous soldiers, militia men, and vigilantes fight a weary, seemingly never-ending battle against Boko Haram,
Jesus has NOT abandoned those who have called upon His Name.

And friend, even if you are in a horrific situation, He has not left or abandoned you, either.

As we watch the world continually get worse and worse, let us remember this truth: that Jesus’ blessing doesn’t just come from the fair-weather, prosperous times in life.
Perhaps, the greatest blessing of all comes when we are down on our knees, seeking Him desperately. May we find Him in both places.



Do you know Jesus?

He was despised and rejected—
    a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
    He was despised, and we did not care.
(Isaiah 53:3, New Living Translation)

It is true: many people have become Christians because they believed their lives would grow extremely prosperous, in an earthly kind of way.

Perhaps you are a person who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ. Looking at the western church today, it would be hard to look at the words of Isaiah 53:3 and believe that this is what Jesus Christ is truly described as. The church today is chalk full of hypocrites, and I will be the first to admit that at many times, I have not been a person who rightly represents Jesus Christ.

But, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I challenge you: Look past the church at large; look past the hypocrites. Go straight to the source of Real Truth– The Bible. I suggest starting in the book of John.

If you have never known Jesus, or heard about why He is so important, read more, here.



Please pray with me…
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for continuing to Love us, despite the fact that we so often miss the mark. Forgive us for trying to seek pleasure and money as the fulfillment that only You can provide. Forgive us for so often feeling entitled to having things go our way, when in reality, You have blessed us with far more than anything we could want on Earth.

Dear Jesus,
Please help us to be grateful for every good and beautiful thing You bring our way.
Please bless those who are seeking You with more of You; change our desires to Yours, dear Jesus.
Please help us to thoroughly enjoy everything You have put in our lives, but don’t let them become idols.

Dear Lord Jesus,
We pray for those in Northern Nigeria who are struggling greatly. Please, bring these people to know You. Please do not let them believe these lies, and remind & strengthen them with the Fact that You are WITH those who call upon You, always.

Let us draw near to You, dear Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers. ❤

Being Honest with God

Today, to be honest, I am hurting. I am in pain. I am angry. I am grieved.

“Indifference is no reaction at all.” Today, that quote stood out at church. Studying the story of Jonah, Jonah 1:1 says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.'” What was Jonah’s response? Anger.

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.”
(Jonah 1:3, NIV)

Jonah had a reason for his anger. The people of Nineveh were evil– the embodiment of evil, in fact– so much so that “it’s wickedness has come up before [God]” (Jonah 1:1). Jonah’s anger turned into something toxic, as the Pastor commented today (read Chapters 3-4 to see his anger take a turn for the worst). But it brought up the concept of being “real” with God. Of coming to Him with everything– even when “everything” includes screaming at him, and/or crying out in pain.

Honesty with Christ

There are still 113 Chibok girls who are not free. While news reports could be wrong, many say that some of these 113 Chibok girls have said they do not want to come home. This hurts. To know that 113 young women may be so brainwashed, that freedom for

14639822_574546066089764_9189681808964260463_n

Rejoice Sanki, one of the 113 Chibok girls who need to be freed.

them looks worse than their bondage, breaks my heart. I pray that it isn’t true… that what keeps these young women from freedom and healing is not their own will.

But it could be true. And it is okay to come to Christ with this pain, anger, frustration, and longing for these remaining Chibok girls to become free.

In fact, in the Psalms, King David regularly cried out to Christ.

 

 

“Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. 10 My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak. 11 Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me. 12 I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery. 13 For I hear many whispering, ‘Terror on every side!’ They conspire against me and plot to take my life.”
(Psalm 31:9-13, NIV)

Not too many have felt what King David felt. Theologians and Bible Readers alike speculate that this Psalm was written as David was narrowly escaping assassination attempts by Israel’s king at the time, King Saul (source). “In distress,” King David was overcome by sorrow and grief, and did not hold back in crying out to Christ about his situation. But he did not stay there.

From Pain to Praise

While crying out to Jesus about his struggles and anguish, King David drew close to Christ; and, it was in this honest encounter recorded in Psalm 31, that King David’s heart, mind, and perspective were transformed by the Lord. This can be seen in verse 14, as King David’s tone changes.

But I trust in you, LordI say, ‘You are my God.’ …Praise be to the Lord, for he showed me the wonders of his love when I was in a city under siege. 22 In my alarm I said, ‘I am cut off from your sight!’
Yet you heard my cry for mercy when I called to you for help. 23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people! The Lord preserves those who are true to him, but the proud he pays back in full. 24 Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”
(Psalm 31:14, 21-24)

It is obvious that as King David ran to Christ for help, he found it. While we do not know if his circumstances really changed for the better, this is the Hope for all people who put their trust in Jesus; He will never let them be put to shame for seeking Him.

There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5, NIV). And, when it comes down to the honest truth, even when that joy doesn’t come, the Comfort and Joy of coming to Christ in the pain is our Strength.

113 Chibok girls still remain in bondage. This horrific Truth is cause for much pain, but approaching Christ in this pain makes all the difference. In our pain, may He hear our prayers, and may these precious young women come home soon.

This post is dedicated to the 113 young Chibok girls who are still not freed, as well as those in Mosul, which is modern-day Nineveh.



Do you know Jesus?

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
    and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
(Psalm 34:18, NIV)

Some people may see Jesus as some distant, feeling-less deity– yet, as one Pastor has said, He is anything but.

He can be grieved. Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.” (Matthew 23:37, NIV)

He wept. “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35, NIV)

He sings with Joy. “For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

He cares deeply for every detail of the Believer’s life.The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23, NIV)

Jesus is not some distant deity, or a made-up man. He is real, alive, and He deeply loves you. Learn more about who Jesus is, and why He came to earth, here.


Please pray…

For the remaining 113 Chibok girls who are still in bondage. Please pray that what has been said about the remaining girls is not true.

Please pray that if the news reports are true, that Jesus would reach and save these young women. 

Please pray for those in Mosul, Iraq. Iraqi soldiers are trying to push out ISIS. Please pray that they would have Christ’s favor, and that members of ISIS would be defeated– so that they can come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Please pray for Annalee, the writer of ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY. Pray that I would continue to be effective in this ministry, by the power of the Holy Spirit– and that I would be faithful in my service to the Lord, even when it hurts. Thank you.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

National Day of Prayer: What You Can Be Praying for Nigeria

Hello all! As many of you know, today is National Day of Prayer in the United States of America. It is a beautiful day where the people of America– especially Christians– gather in many different places to pray for the government, for the President, and for the many different prayer needs facing America today.

While the Chibok girls are not in America– and, apart from the few Chibok girls who have come to American boarding schools, there seems to be little to nothing that they have to do with America,  the Chibok schoolgirls– and all of Nigeria, for that matter– are a huge point of prayer that I, Annalee, pray many Believers would pray over.

To highlight each aspect of prayer needed, I have decided to compile a few blog articles previously written on ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY here, so that readers can read (or re-read) these articles and agree on the prayer requests each article is focused on.

  • The Government

It is no secret that much of Nigeria is corrupt. Not only is Boko Haram waging war against Nigerians; there is corruptness in the oil industry, and Fulani herdsmen are also antagonizing many people in Northern Nigeria.  This article sheds light on the Nigerian government; it’s corruptness, and it’s need for Jesus, the ultimate Doctor, to take away and change the corruption and sin so prevalent, not only in their society, but also in their own individual lives.

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for creating Nigeria as a nation, and for each person apart of their government. Please, bring those who are corrupt and do not know You to repent of their corruption; may they come and know You, Lord Jesus, so that they might truly Live.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.”

  • Pain and Suffering

Millions of people, all over the world, are currently in painful, sorrowful conditions. Millions of those people currently live in Nigeria, where Northern Nigeria, because of the insurgency and corruption, is having one of the most acute cases of famine people have ever seen. This article speaks about the famine, as well as the pain and suffering had in the Nigerian military, extensively, encouraging us to put our Hope in Christ alone during such overwhelming times.

Although this famine is both vast and horrific, the mainstream media has largely failed to report any of it. Because of this, aid is not coming in as quickly as it could be. Please pray, with ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY, that this pain and suffering found in Northern Nigeria specifically would receive the attention and aid it so desperately needs– and that these people would be given Jesus’ Bread of Life and Living Water.

“Dear Lord King Jesus,
We cannot understand why there is so much pain and suffering in this world. But Lord Jesus, our Hope is in You. 
We pray over those in Northern Nigeria, that You would grant them the aid needed– from wherever– to live another day, and to live through this insurgency. 
You are near to the Broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18); please, let these people draw near to You, and let them receive Your comfort, Love, and ultimately, Salvation.
We long for the day when suffering is no more. Come soon, Lord Jesus!
In Your Name we Pray, 
Amen.”

  • The Chibok Girls

While this whole blog is dedicated, in large part, to the Chibok schoolgirls and their freedom, there are a few articles that come to mind for the Chibok girls specifically: “Freedom Fighters,” “Free To Dance: The Importance of Sharing the Gospel,” and “21 CHIBOK GIRLS FREE!!!”.

These three articles were chosen, because of their hopeful nature, and vast scope. “Fighters for Freedom” speaks about how the Chibok girls run the risk of accepting that they live in captivity under Boko Haram, making it their new normal; “Free to Dance: The Importance of Sharing the Gospel” is about how we, as Believers, have THE power tool to set people free, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically: The Gospel. “21 CHIBOK GIRLS FREE!!!” celebrates the freedom of the 21 Chibok schoolgirls freed from negotiations between The International Red Cross, the Swiss Government, and Boko Haram. Please pray for Hope and the desire to leave captivity would stay firmly in the girls’ hearts; that they would be freed, spiritually and physically, by the Gospel, and would be free from Boko Haram very, very soon.

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You so much for Your Gospel, which sets us free from the bondage of sin, and of religion.
Thank You for Loving us so much, that You came to be the ultimate Sacrifice, so that we may experience Life and Life abundantly. 

Thank You that Your Scars have healed us. 
Dear Jesus,
I pray, in Your Name,
for each and every one of the 195 Chibok schoolgirls left. Please, Lord Jesus, 
bring each one of them to know You personally, as Lord and Savior, and please keep them from being brainwashed into believing that this is the “new normal” for them. Please rescue and free them soon, dear Lord Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name I pray, 
Amen.”

  • The Nigerian Military

     

Last, but definitely not least, the Nigerian military is an aspect of prayer for Northern Nigeria that tends to get overlooked. While the deaths of civilians may seem more shocking, the fact that the Nigerian military is still losing lives to Boko Haram is something to stop, and grieve over.

While not very many posts on ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY are about the Nigerian military, “The Nigerian Military: Rest & Strength in Jesus Christ” is one that sheds light on the fact that without Christ, one can only fight something in their own strength– leaving them wearied, tired, and broken. While their circumstances have gotten better, please pray that these Nigerian troops (and the civilian task forces as well) come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and that they would be empowered: not to only fight this physical fight against Boko Haram, but to also fight the spiritual one, the roots of Boko Haram, which are demonic forces.

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for being Sovereign, having power over even demonic forces, which are no doubt behind Boko Haram.
Dear Lord Jesus,
We call to You, and we pray that the soldiers and civilians currently fighting Boko Haram would come to know You personally, as their Lord and Savior. As King David once wrote, “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (2 Samuel 22:30). May this be the heartcry of every soldier and fighter, fighting against Boko Haram. May they fight in Your Strength, not their own. 
We thank You for this, Lord Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.”

 

Today, on National Prayer Day, I ask that you would take some time– even if its only a bit of time– to pray for, and over, these four things. As you press into Christ, may He bless you and keep You in Himself, and may You find Joy, Strength, and Power in His Presence. 🔹


In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.
(Romans 8:26, NIV)

Do you ever feel like you don’t have the words to say, or that you cannot pray “eloquently enough”? The Apostle Paul himself said, “We [including himself] do not know how to pray.” But, as one pastor pointed out from this verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit does!

He will help you, as you pray today for the different things that come to mind and heart. May you enjoy this time of seeking our Savior through prayer: open dialogue with the King! ❤

Please like this post and/or comment on it to share that you will be praying for these things– today, and/or in the future! 🙂

Christ’s Love through the Pain

“Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
    your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
    your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.”
(Psalm 36:5-6, NLT)

It is unavoidable to talk about. This past weekend in Northern Nigeria has been filled with terror, and grief, and injustice.

On Sunday, two little girls– around 7 years old— were strapped to explosives, and walked into a busy market in the state of Borno, Nigeria (source). Detonating their explosives, they killed one other person, and injured 18 people.

“They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion,” one soldier told the Daily Mail (source). Not responding to anything he said, the girls walked into the crowd, straight-faced, before blowing up the explosives put upon their young frames.

These little girls were not the only bombers. On Friday, December 9th, two women walked into a market in the city of Madagali, Nigeria. Walking to the opposite sides of the crowded market, they also killed themselves– blowing themselves up while killing 45 people, and injuring 33 (source).

There is no way to ignore it; the terror, the grief, and the injustice is real to all those who have been affected by such bombings. It is real to everyone who ever witnessed the outrageous lack of reaction from the Nigerian government to such violence (which has only changed within the past year). While it is true that the Nigerian military has undergone noticeable change, and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is claiming that they are working “at slamming the final nail in the coffin of Boko Haram,” nothing changes the heartbreaking reality, that many families are still slamming nails into the coffins of their loved ones, 7 years into the insurgency. Continue reading

God is in Control: Going through Pain as a part of Christ’s Plan

Four men, arrested and held under the Nigerian military’s control, kneel under the hot, scorching heat of the Northern Nigerian sun. As Boko Haram commanders, caught by the Nigerian military, these four men seem relatively normal. Dressed in “civilian’s clothes,” these men are not touting black flags, rifles, or military wear. Shackled, and side to side, these men are seen for who they really are. Without their frightening front, they seem much less terrifying, and much more mortal. Running into shortages of food, ammo, and fuel, these seemingly horrific men have been reduced somewhat to their cowardly reality: going to such measures as to recruit young men to smuggle them fuel, Boko Haram has been lessening in power, though not without lashing out.

There have been a series of five attacks by Boko Haram on Maiduguri, and their effect has been nothing less than horrific. Killing at least 9 people total, these suicide attacks have happened close to refugee camps, with one holding approximately 16,000 refugees, filled with people who have ran away from their villages, in an attempt to be saved from Boko Haram. One cannot fathom the fear they must feel, knowing that Boko Haram has now “found” them out, and tried to come into their only earthly place of safety.

But, in the chaos of it all, one Truth remains. As described by Amos, one of the fathers of the 21 Chibok girls rescued, “‘”Those selected to be released were done so practically at random. They were called and asked to form a line, and after a number of them were counted, it was stopped, …Fortunately for her (his daughter, Comfort Amos), she was among those released. They were told that the total of girls to be released was 21 and that by the grace of God, the rest would be released later“‘” (source). In all of the “chance,” Christ was present.

In all of the unknown, “chance” things that might have happened, Christ was not only present– He was Sovereign. As Psalm 37 joyfully proclaims, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
    He delights in every detail of their lives” (Isaiah 37:23, NLT). If this is true, then does that mean that Christ cares about, and delights in, even the darkest details? And if God is Love, why do such horrible things, like the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, happen in the first place?

 

While no human can have the full, complete answer to this question, this topic is very much one of the themes of the book of the Bible, Job. 42 chapters long, this epic, true account of one man’s life is centered on God’s Sovereignty, even in the face of suffering. While Christ, many times, does not directly cause something evil to happen, He does, sometimes, let bad things happen– even letting mankind make it’s own decisions–if those decisions are evil, or not.

The book of Job opens with a description of Job: “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1). Not only was Job “a man of complete integrity,” but verse 2 says, “He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area” (Job 1:3). The father of seven sons and three daughters, Job regularly interceded for, and purified, his children, “For Job said to himself, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts'” (Job 1:5, NLT).

This man– this righteous, holy man– loses everyone and everything. His livestock, his servants, and his children are all taken and/or killed, either by other people, or by natural disaster, and he loses his health, becoming covered from head to toe with painful blisters (Job 1:6-19; 2:7-8). If one person could be put on a billboard for seemingly suffering unjustly, it would be Job.

 

 

Ultimately, though, these trials could never compare to Christ’s suffering. More righteous than Job, Jesus Christ was completely sinless– yet was “…the Lamb who was slaughtered” (Revelation 13:8). Not only does Jesus grieve the loss of His loved ones, like John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13); He grieves temporarily losing His oneness with the Father, as He took on mankind’s sin (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). Mocked, beaten, and bruised, Jesus Christ dies the most horrific, unjust death in the history of all mankind.

But, God the Father was not absent, or unfair, from the scene of these horrifically painful things. Rather, God the Father was completely in control; and, when the suffering was over, His will had been done: in Job’s suffering, both Job and his friends, who thought they knew how God operated,  experienced a deeper, more real understanding of God’s Sovereignty. At the end of the book of Job, Job stands before God, after God shows Himself to Job and humbles him. Job’s words, though few, are incredibly profound:

“‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 ‘You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”‘ My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.'”
(Job 42:1-6, NIV)

 

Job, now clearly seeing the Unsearchable, Amazing Goodness of Christ, becomes blessed once again: He gains twice as many livestock as before, and he has 10 more children– “Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers” (Job 42:15).  Most of all, they learned that, though Christ’s ways are infinitely higher than mankind’s, He is eternally, and ultimately, good.

On a much grander scale, Christ’s suffering was also apart of God’s plan: “from the beginning of the world,”Christ died, and rose again, for the forgiveness of all sin to those who believe (Revelations 13:8b). From the beginning of the world, Christ was going to be the sacrifice to save us from our sin. While this is an amazing, and, if one confesses, confusing prospect, the one thing it obviously shows is that, while many people would say otherwise, suffering is, at times, the will of God– and He is ultimately good, above it all.

 

Surely, Job and those in his life– could not understand why these tragic events were taking place. Even Job’s wife, during the suffering, advised him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). All seemed out of control, cruel, senseless, and random.

Those who loved Jesus, as He hung on that cross, no doubt, were filled with extreme grief, frustration, and confusion. Their Messiah, their God, their Friend, was dying a death He never deserved, yet foretold many times (such as in Mark 8:31-33). In the middle of this pain, they could have never seen a Good, Loving God’s plan being laid out; but, as Christ says in John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.” Though death, suffering, and pain, came salvation and eternal life for billions of Believers.

So it is, with suffering, today. Though Boko Haram seems wild, they, just like the four men under the Nigerian military’s control, are under Christ’s control, whether they believe it or not.

No one can fathom the kind of pain that Nigerian refugees, the loved ones of the Chibok girls, and those hurt by suicide attacks are going through. One can’t see the redemption that is in store, when there is so much grief. While this redemption and insight may not “make everything okay,” knowing that Christ– the All-Knowing, All-Seeing God, who is everywhere at once, and who gave Himself up for us in Love—is Sovereign over all, gives us hope. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). Through it all, Jesus’ Sovereign, Good Hands will make every broken thing beautiful. Stand on that promise.



Do you know Jesus?

And we know that God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.
(Romans 8:28-30, NIV)

Romans 8:28 is a passage of Scripture that has given hope and comfort to Believers in Christ for centuries. Through suffering, Christians have clung to this promise: that though it hurts now, Christ will turn “everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

But what about the next two verses? God knew His people in advance… that is a really complex, heavy, mind-blowing thing to read, much less believe.
But, when Christ died for the sins of mankind, as according to God’s plan before the beginning, He still chose to submit to the Father’s will, no matter how fatal, or painful, it might be, modeling how humanity also has a choice. And so, there is a Truth found: that while God knows His people in advanced, they still have the freewill to either refuse or accept Him, as Lord and Savior.

ALL people, Believers and Non-Believers alike, will stand before God one day, to be judged for what they do and do not do (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6). Only Believers will enter into heaven– those who have accepted Christ’s payment for their sin, on their behalf. And no one, at the end of their lives, will be able to tell God that they did not receive an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, taking away their sin and granting them eternal life (Romans 1:20). It will all come down to if they knew and accepted Christ, or rejected Him.

If you have not yet received Christ as your Lord and Savior, “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT).

Learn more about, and accept Jesus’ free gift today, here.



Please pray for…

– The 22 (now 23!) Chibok girls who have been freed from the clutches of Boko Haram. Please pray that they would seek and know Jesus, and that their loved ones would also reach out to Christ for the wisdom, understanding, and truly, all they need to love their newly freed loved ones.

– For the 196 Chibok Girls, who are still in captivity. Please pray that, even in captivity, they would seek Jesus, and would be freed spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically from their bondage to Boko Haram.

– The Refugees who have been terrified by recent suicide bombings. Please pray that they would seek Christ, as their true Refuge.

– The Nigerian military. Please pray that they would seek Christ, for the wisdom, guidance, and resources they need, both spiritually and physically, to defeat Boko Haram.

– Boko Haram. Please pray for it’s members– that those who are Christian captives in their midst would be used powerfully by Christ, to call these men, women, and children, to Himself.

Thank you for your prayers. “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (Psalm 37:3, NIV).

The Answer for Pain

“I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, ‘Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.'”
(Revelation 21:3-4, NLT)

On January 31st, 2016, the town of Dalori, Nigeria, was razed, and lit aflame.

Barely a month after Boko Haram was declared “defeated” by Nigeria’s president, the smell of gun smoke in the air– and reports of children being burned alive– permeated Northeastern Borno State [1]. 86 men, women, and children died– not including three young girls who detonated the bombs strapped to their bodies. In one night, the declarations made by President Buhari lost their meaning to those in Borno state.

Buhari’s promise of peace ringed in the ears of those attacked by Boko Haram in the surrounding town of Goniambari village, Borno state, as well. Six people were killed and one was injured by gunshots when Boko Haram invaded their town on the evening of February 1st, 2016 [2]; like the attack on Dalori, the terrorists used bombs to set homes and buildings on fire. Food and livestock were taken by Boko Haram amidst the smoke and haze– leaving the town as deeply wounded as the sole survivor of the shooting.

These attacks, leaving many deeply confused and full of grief, are all-out acts of war, no doubt mocking the peace that Nigeria’s president declared in December of 2015. The truth is, President Muhammadu Buhari, no matter how much he would like to, cannot declare that the enemy is defeated. But there is One who can. His Name is Jesus Christ.

Many people scoff at this. As their surroundings descend into chaos, and deep sorrow, anger, and turmoil become the blanket around them, they can’t help but cry out. “Where is this All-Compassionate God?” They ask. “And if He is so Compassionate, why am I hurting?” Sadly, these are some of the oldest questions ever asked. For hundreds of years, sinners and saints together have grappled with the problem of pain. Thousands, if not millions of books written by philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and clergymen have tried to make sense out of something so senseless, claiming that God is silent on the subject.

But this is just not true. In fact, the Bible, the Word of God itself, has much to say about the trials and heartbreak we, as humans, face daily. Be it the cause of, purpose for, or value in pain that we are questioning, the Bible has the answer.

The Cause of Pain

Pain is sadly a fact of life. But why?

Pain and death came into our existence because of sin. In specifically Genesis 1-3, the beginning of everything is described— including the introduction of sin and suffering into the world. Genesis 2-3 describes this event: Adam, the first man, is told by God that he can eat from every tree in the garden, but the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God has a reason for this: Adam will “certainly die” if he does so (Genesis 2:15-17).

Later on, in Genesis 3, the unthinkable happens. Spoken to by satan through a serpent, Eve– the first created woman– is asked a question by satan: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?'” (Genesis 3:1). Eve replies, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:2-3). From the very beginning, satan was apart of this process; and, going on with the temptation, satan lies to Eve.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
(Genesis 3:4-5)

Believing satan’s lies about her Creator, she, and Adam, eat the fruit from the Tree of Good and Evil (Genesis 3:6-7). In doing so, God declares the Truth all along: that because of their eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they, and the world around them, would die (Genesis 3:13-24).

It is from this passage that one profound Truth comes to light: God gave freewill, the ability to choose for one’s self, to mankind. Aided by satan himself, men chose to disobey God’s good command– and traded life in the Garden of Eden for death and being barred from the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:22-24). Though mankind created his own fall, God, Christ, had a plan for it all.

While one may understand how and why sin, pain, and death entered the world, the question of the purpose of pain still exists. While pain can seem so senseless, and is so senseless, at times, there is a purpose for it all.

Ultimately, while many try to figure it out, we must, in the end, realize what Isaiah 55:7-9 states.

“…let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
(Isaiah 55:7-9, NIV)

We, as mankind, cannot fathom Christ’s thoughts– including His plans and purposes for the pain we experience. However, there is immense value in the pain Christ allows believers to undergo.

Pain brings us to the end of ourselves. In times of need, many run straight to Christ– which is exactly what happened to Paul the apostle. As Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 12, Christ allowed satan to give Paul a “thorn in the flesh” that caused him a great deal of pain (2 Corinthians 12:7). While no one knows exactly what it was, many have thought it to be “a chronic eye problem, malaria, migraines, epilepsy, and a speech disability,” or even “a person such as Alexander the coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14)” [3]. Whatever caused Paul this pain, it caused him to cry out to Jesus three times, begging Christ to take it away. Instead of taking away the thorn, Jesus told Paul something incredibly profound:My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV).

This in itself is cause for joy  in the midst of pain: while the pain may not relent for a long while– even a whole lifetime– the sorrow a believer experiences can drive them straight to the foot of the cross. Though the pain may be unbearable, it causes the believer to rely on Christ like never before; and in the midst of the deep sorrow, the Grace Jesus gives his children brings them closer to Him, and helps them to endure, as the Psalmist says in Psalm 28. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7, NIV). This closeness with Christ gives immeasurable value to pain in the believers’ life. 

Ultimately, through every bit of pain and sorrow, the believer can look to Christ for the Hope, Comfort, Strength, and Guidance He needs. Not only this, but the believer can look forward to heaven, where our pains are achieving something beautiful for us. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV). In this, there is great Hope.

There is no doubt about it: the pain and sorrow humanity experiences is more than overwhelming at times. But one thing is clear: there is an ultimate plan, purpose, and meaning for our pain only in Christ. In the suffering happening to countless precious human beings in Northern Nigeria, may they run to Him.

Author’s Note:
Again, Christ has used this ministry to bless me, as well.
On February 2nd, 2016, the Pastor of the church family I have been apart of lost his son in a heartbreaking and tragic turn of events. Although I did not know him personally, many in the church did. Is it something that will no doubt change my Pastor’s life– and the lives of everyone in the church– forever. To everyone reading, please lift our Pastor, his family, and the church family up in prayer. Thank you. 


Do you know Jesus?

“…because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
(Luke 1:78-80, NIV)

It is because of the tender mercy of God on all of mankind that “Christ came to die for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus Christ– not only the Son of God, but God Himself (John 14:7-9)– stepped down from the bliss and glory of heaven’s throne, and “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8)! 

Truly, Jesus Christ entered this world of pain and death for you and for me. Meet the God who Loved you enough to die in your place, here.



Please pray with me:

Lord Jesus, we come before your throne, thanking You and praising You for all that You have done. You died the death we would never have to, so that we might have this hope in You. Lord Jesus, please extend and give this hope to the countless suffering people in Northern Nigeria, specifically in Borno state, right now. Lord Jesus, You are the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3); and Christ Jesus, we pray in Your Name that You would send Comfort, Hope and Joy to those living in the valley of the shadow of death, in the form of Your Gospel. 

Lord Jesus, we pray that you would raise up people in and around Borno state to share You and Your Gospel with the people currently suffering there. Please grant those people favor, wisdom, and the Words to proclaim Your Gospel fearlessly, as they should (Ephesians 6:19). As people share You and Your Gospel there in Borno state, I pray that You would soften the hearts and minds of the people there– and, in Your Grace and Mercy, save them from their sin, and give them Hope for the future that they so desperately need. 

Lord Jesus, we also pray for the Chibok girls of Borno State. Please, Lord Jesus, move in President Buhari, the military, and all those in power to find, rescue, and finally free these uniquely precious girls. Bring them, and their Loved Ones, closer to You, even now. 

We thank You for this, King Jesus. “Maranatha,” Lord Jesus– please come soon. In Christ’s Name we pray, Amen. 


Praise Jesus for you, and for your prayers. Be blessed in your walk with Christ. ❤

Sign the petition for the Chibok girls, here!