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.”

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Child Soldiers: Precious in the Eyes of Christ

There are countless children and teenagers being forced into the Sharia-law enforcing Boko Haram. On December 25th, it was reported that one 13 year old girl was forced into Boko Haram by her father, who was also apart of the terrorist group. Being apart of this group did not spare her from deadly violence, though; members asked the girl– and eventually forced her– to be a suicide bomber with two other young girls in the city of Kano, Nigeria. Leaving her suicide vest behind in the taxi she rode, this young girl narrowly escaped certain death, being injured in the leg by the blast caused by the two other suicide bombers.

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Caught in the Crossfire: Peace for Believers in the Middle of Chaos

Monday, December 1st, it was reported that a police base in Damaturu was attacked by the Boko Haram, being ruthlessly raided and bombed by BH members seeking to make Damaturu apart of its Islamic Caliphate. The men, women and children of Damaturu have left their homes for fear of being bombed or shot at, cowering in the brush with no one to defend them.

While such a nightmare goes on, another attack on the Grand Mosque in Kano, Nigeria killed at least 120 people, after the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi II, encouraged Nigerians to fight against the Boko Haram. Those who escaped the bomb blasts were shot at by Boko Haram members, some barely escaping with their lives, obtaining second and third degree burns that will take months to really heal.

In such a time, where chaos has become the norm and fear fills the weary hearts and minds of people all over Northern Nigeria, peace is a foreign concept, one almost scoffed at by those who have witnessed such heinous crimes. Young and old alike have spent countless nights awake, frightened by violent sounds of war, ready to flee at any moment. In such a time as this, fear seems to be the only emotion one can feel, and peace seems to be no more than an idealistic daydream.

Yet, in times of such shock, pain, and extreme fear, there is true hope for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus freely gives us peace whenever we may need it, no matter the circumstance:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27, NIV)

As Christ so lovingly promises, He does not give to us as the world gives– with strings attached, temporally or sparingly; Christ’s gifts– among them, His amazing gift of peace to His followers– are 100% sure, eternally abundant, and completely free. Those of His children who are suffering can “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present [their] requests to God,” while the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV “their” mine). Those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior have unlimited amounts of peace completely available to them as they look to Him for all that they need; because Christ knows what we need, and can fulfill every empty place in our lives, we as believers will never be found wanting any good thing, as stated in Psalm 34:10. His unfailing Love is bigger than any act of evil; in all things, we are “more than conquerors through Him who love[s] us” (Romans 8:37, NIV, “loves” mine). Because of all this, we as believers can “run with perseverance,” as stated in Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1, NLT)

But for those who do not know Jesus Christ, peace is far off. For those being attacked in such bombings as the Grand Mosque bombing in Kano, true peace has never been felt and impossible to find. In such dark times, the knowledge that there is no real light for nonbelievers fills me with pain and deep compassion. They need to know the Light. They need to feel His warmth during such times of pain and trial. At a time where nothing in the world makes sense, they need to know that they are incredibly loved and can be made new by the Creator of the Universe– not because they are faithful followers or have done “just the right things,” but “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV). They need to know that He is not unapproachable in times of distress, but is quite the opposite:

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore [we can] draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV, “we can” mine)

At the core of it all, fear is a lie. But for those who don’t know the Truth, peace is nowhere in sight; whether they be Muslim, atheist, or any other religion or creed, those who do not know the Prince of Peace have never and will never know the peace they so need. If that is not a reason for earnest prayer, I don’t know what is.


Because of all of this, please pray for those who do not know Christ in Northern Nigeria. Pray that the Lord, who is the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3, NIV), would comfort our fellow brothers and sisters, so that He may use them to share the gospel with those who do not know Him. Pray that His peace that surpasses all understanding would guard our brothers and sisters in Christ; pray also that the Lord would “strengthen [them] and protect [them] from the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:3). Pray for the Nigerian military, that the Lord would strengthen them to fight back against the Boko Haram well; pray also for our brothers and sisters in captivity, that the Lord would use them to witness to members of the Boko Haram within the camps.

God is faithful to bring our brothers and sisters peace, no matter the evil they face. Let us praise Him!