Finding Refuge: Why We Never Have to Be Afraid

On August 16th, 2017, an article came out that changed much of how people will view Boko Haram’s kidnapping of the Chibok school girls. It is now known that many of the Chibok school girls came together and helped document their time in captivity, together, in Koranic school books they were given by Boko Haram. In it, one humongous revelation was revealed: Boko Haram did not originally come to Chibok Secondary School to kidnap the Chibok girls, but they instead came to steal machine-making supplies (source). It was when they could not find these machine-making materials that they decided to kidnap the Chibok girls—making their kidnap, not a pre-meditated ploy created by a “brilliant” Boko Haram, but rather purely accidental (source).

During their three-year enslavement to Boko Haram, the Chibok girls had a “staunch belief that they would one day go home” (source). Apart from these revelations being proof that the Chibok girls never gave up Hope, it is also a shocking narrative about all of the horrific cruelty they went through. Those who did not convert to Islam were threatened with decapitation, while some of the girls were beaten.

There is one shocking story that sticks out. Naomi Adamu, one of the writers of the journals, claimed that one day, Boko Haram (BH) members brought out jerrycans, supposedly full of petrol, and told those who did not convert to Islam that they would be doused with the petrol and burned. When the girls became terrified, the BH members “cracked into laughter,” as the girls realized there was nothing but water in the jerrycans (source).

Even being faced with possible imminent death, decapitation threats, and murderous violence on a daily basis, it is awe-inspiring to see that so many of these Christian girls from Northern Nigeria did not flinch in their Hope, nor in their commitment to Jesus Christ. There is one thing to thoughtfully note about the story mentioned above: fear is truly a lie.

in the worst of timesThe Psalms speak about this concept of trusting the Lord, and not giving into fear, many times; one of those times is in Psalm 91.

 

 

 

 

He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.”
(Psalm 91:4-13, NIV)

Whether one’s fears are legitimate and real, or irrational, Jesus doesn’t want us to be afraid of anything. But how can one, when faced with certain death, like the Chibok girls, come through the valley, fearless?

Psalm 91 gives great insight into this. At the beginning of the Psalm, the writer gives a declaration: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4). In a world where terror and turmoil are so prevalent, God—through the Psalmist—declares that, like a mother hen with her chicks, He longs to cover people with his feathers, and that it is underneath these feathers that people will find real refuge from the threats going on around them. Jesus, in the New Testament, said something similar: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Matthew 23:37, NIV). The Truth is this: God, toward the Believer, is not a God of wrath or only of Mighty Power; He is a tender God, longing to lavish His Love upon and protect those who trust in Him alone. fear is a lie

The verses following right after verse 4 show us the outcome of coming to Christ, and trusting Him to be our Refuge. “You will not fear…it [pestilence] will not come near you” (Psalm 91:5-7, NIV). This is a second declaration: Because Christ, in His Tender, Loving-kindness is your Shield, you don’t ever have to be afraid of the things that are threatening to harm you. In trusting Jesus, all dread, worry, and fear is removed.

It is only this mighty, tender Love that Christ, God has for His People that removes all fear (1 John 4:18). As Jesus says in Matthew 23:37, this fear-crushing Love is always available to God’s People, but God will not force people to find refuge in Him. They must decide to do so for themselves.

There is a last declaration in Psalm 91: Those who do decide to run to Jesus for refuge from their fears WILL be victorious over whatever threatens them. As Romans 8:37 gallantly proclaims, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who the truth1loved us.” While, heartbreakingly, for so many, the threat of imminent death for the sake of Jesus does become a reality, it is even in these moments that Christ can make one fearless. Jesus does not guarantee that every circumstance will come out perfectly or without loss… but He does promise that fear does not need to be a part of the equation, and that Perfect Peace and even Joy are attainable by trusting in Him.

In the worst of times, Perfect Peace, Joy, and Comfort is ours to take in Christ. And while we live in this fallen world, there is a greater Hope: that Jesus Christ will one day do away with everything that causes us trauma and turmoil, treading “on the lion and the cobra” (Psalm 91:13).

It is each of these journal entries– documenting pain, loss, and at times, fear—that proves how one can overcome by clinging to Christ’s Love, and never giving up Hope in Him.

satan will come and attack using fear; but, like the Chibok girls who have been rescued, Believers will have the victory in Christ Jesus. As these girls continue to heal, and as some of the other Chibok girls are still not home yet, may Christ be their Refuge and Strength: the One that makes them, in His Love, more than conquerors. “I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4, NIV).


Do you know Jesus?

You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
(Psalm 91:13, NIV)

While this verse speaks of eventual victory for the One who trusts in Christ Jesus, it also prophetically speaks of the time when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, defeats satan for good—and, how He has already defeated satan, by dying on the cross for our sins.

As the musician David Crowder sings, “The cross meant to kill is my victory.” Without Jesus Christ, there is no true victory over sin and death. Learn more about who Jesus is, what He did, and how He gave all those who believe in Him true victory, here.



Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
We thank You for what You did on the cross at Calvary. Thank You for dying on the cross for our sin, so that we can have the Victory, Perfect Peace, Comfort, Joy, and everything else we have in You. Dear Jesus, we pray that You would watch over the Chibok girls that are still in captivity; please bring them to You, and give them the Hope that they will one day be freed, too.

Dear Jesus, please help their family and friends, as they struggle with waiting for their Loved Ones to come out of captivity. Please show them Your Faithfulness. May we run to You for refuge Jesus, and not be afraid, even when everything around us tells us to be.

Dear Jesus, please help the Nigerian army, and the Joint Civilian Task Force, as they continue to fight Boko Haram; give them no fear, and help them to come to know You fully. Please help those in traumatic, terrorist situations to trust in You.

In Jesus’ Name we pray,

Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!!! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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Under His Wings: A Letter to the Lost Children of Nigeria

In 2014, the town of Malari, Nigeria was attacked by the terrorist group Boko Haram. In what was a heartbreaking experience for everyone involved, Boko Haram, while “cutting and shooting everyone, mostly boys” [1], “slashed the limbs” of a young boy named Joe Shagari. Amidst this traumatic event, even more heartbreak was being had as women like Indo Ansabe, 35, were kidnapped and raped, forced to leave their beautiful children behind (source). Leaving Joe, his sister, Jumai, and others, like Indo Ansabe’s children, without parents, Boko Haram has left these slowly-healing human beings with scars that are more than skin deep.

 With this heartbreak in mind, these children must be brought to the feet of Jesus: where they can experience the Salvation, Love, comfort, and healing that can only be found in His arms, or as Jesus puts it in Luke 13:34, “under His wings.” It is my hope that, by the Power of the Holy Spirit, and through prayer, this letter– written for these children– will do just that.


“People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.'”
(Mark 10:13-15, NIV)

To children like you, Jumai Ganbo and Joe Shagari:

Hello. My name is Annalee, and I am a “young adult” who lives in the United States. Though we may be very different in age, and though we live in different places, we have more in common than you think.

I heard that you like to play before school. I did too, when I was your age! (Honestly, if I ever got the chance, I still would. :)) I loved to make-believe, and made some of my best friends while playing. When I was your age, there was nothing I loved more than to run around with my friends, shouting and laughing with joy (I heard you like to do the same thing, though it is a bit different in your culture– ululation, isn’t it? It sure sounds like fun!).

But I also know there once was a time when these sounds weren’t heard at all. When the bad men in Boko Haram came to your village, there was no more playing; you were very scared as these men rode into your community. They left with your loved ones, and created injuries on your hearts, souls, and bodies that did not heal quickly.

Maybe you still have those injuries. My dear friend, please know that I am very sorry for what Boko Haram has done to you. I cannot imagine what you have gone through, but I can think of someone who can. His name is Jesus. Have you heard of him?

Jesus was a man who lived a very long time ago (over 2,000 years ago, to be exact!). He lived in a place called Israel, and was Jewish (meaning that his ancestors, or family, traced back to being born an Israelite). You can also be a Jew if you believe in Judaism, a religion that believes in the Jewish God.

Jesus was a Jew, but He was more than a believer in God: He is God! (John 10:30-33). He was called “Immanuel,” or “God with Us” (Matthew 1:23). Though He was only on the earth until He was 33 years old, the bible says Jesus is God Himself, and existed before the world began (John 1:1-3, 14a, ERV). “All of God lives in Christ fully”– and He came to the Earth He created to die for the bad things we’ve done (Colossians 2:9; John 1:29). He became the ultimate sacrifice, so that we could come close to Him again (Hebrews 2:13; 1 John 2:2; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

Do you know what Jesus, when He looked out on the people in Jerusalem, said? He said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets. You stone to death the people God has sent to you. How many times I wanted to help your people. I wanted to gather them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But you did not let me” (Luke 13:34, ERV).

 “Why would Jesus say that?” you might ask. For centuries, “prophets”– or the people Jesus chose to speak through before coming to earth– had told the people of Israel what Jesus was saying. In the bible, the prophets of the Old Testament told the Israelites to stop worshiping fake gods, and to come back to believing in Him. But many Israelites did not like what the prophets were saying, and did not believe them, so they killed them. Because Israel’s people did not believe Jesus’ Words, they didn’t believe Jesus. This is very sad! He wanted to protect them, like a mother bird protects their babies, but they did not come to Him.

This can happen a lot to us. God, Jesus, wants to know and be close to us, but we won’t let Him for some reason. Sometimes, we are mad at Him for something we believe He did to us. Sometimes, we are afraid of Him, and we don’t believe He loves us. Sometimes, we just don’t believe in Him at all. Whatever our reason, we believe we can live life fine without Jesus– and we push Him away. But although this seems to be true, it is a lie! When we reject Jesus and what He did for us, we reject the only way to a close relationship to God, and all of the blessings He wants to give us in Jesus’ Name, including living with Him in heaven! (John 14:6; John 10:16; Ephesians 1:3).

To give us all these things, though, Jesus had to give everything He had. He had to leave His perfect home in heaven with God the Father, and had to enter this sad world to do what God the Father wanted Him to do (John 6:38). While on this earth, Jesus had nowhere to belong. “Jesus said to him, ‘The foxes have holes to live in. The birds have nests. But the Son of Man [Jesus] has no place to rest’” (Matthew 8:20). Not only did Jesus have no home. The bible tells us that Jesus “was a man who suffered a lot of pain and sickness. We treated him like someone of no importance, like someone people will not even look at but turn away from in disgust” (Isaiah 53:3). People liked Jesus at first, as they watched Him do many miracles; but not long after, all the people were shouting “crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21). All Jesus’ friends abandoned Him, and the people killed Jesus in the worst way possible: by nailing Him to a cross (Philippians 2:8). My dear friends, Jesus knows all of your pain; not only does He know your pain, He has been through it Himself.

But because of His pain, death, and coming back to life, you can be close to Him! Friends, I can’t imagine what you have been through. But Jesus can, and He wants to protect, comfort, and heal you! Jesus loves you VERY much, and wants to be your best friend. This means that He wants you to come to Him with all of your hurt, your pain, your good days, and your bad days! Most importantly, He wants to save you from living apart from Him, forever. Just like Jerusalem, Jesus wants you to believe in Him– and run to Him, to be Saved and to rest. Will you?

The bible says that everyone who accepts that Jesus is their Lord and Savior will go to be with Him forever in heaven, where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, sadness, crying, or pain. All the old ways are gone” (Revelation 21:4). He promises to be your Comforter now, and to remove all this pain in heaven. Dear friends, I pray you would run towards Him, now– ululating all the way.

With Much Love,
Annalee


Do you know Jesus?

As said above, Jesus Christ lived a life of complete self-sacrifice. The humility of Jesus is beautifully expressed in Philippians 2:6-11:

He was like God in every way,
    but he did not think that his being equal with God was something to use for his own benefit.
Instead, he gave up everything, even his place with God.
    He accepted the role of a servant, appearing in human form.
During his life as a man,
he humbled himself by being fully obedient to God,
    even when that caused his death—death on a cross.
So God raised him up to the most important place
    and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
God did this so that every person will bow down to honor the name of Jesus.
    Everyone in heaven, on earth, and under the earth will bow.
They will all confess, “Jesus Christ is Lord,”
    and this will bring glory to God the Father.

Jesus paid the full price of mankind’s sin. When He did, “…the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51a), so that mankind, as they accept Him as Lord and Savior, can enter in behind the veil: can be Saved from their sin, to be with Him, close to Him, forever.

Do you desire this intimacy with God? He desires it with you, too. Meet Christ– God the Son– who is the way to the Father, here.

Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’
(John 14:6)



Please pray for…

– The children who have been involved in this insurgency.
– The parents, family members, and loved ones who are grieving the loss of their children, whether out of being separated in life, or by death.
– That those separated from their loved ones would be reunited soon; that the Nigerian government, and President Buhari especially, would work to make this a reality.
– The 219 young women still missing from Chibok, Nigeria.
– That their loved ones would not lose hope, either; that President Buhari would work to make this a reality, as well. Sign this petition, asking Him to, if you feel led.
-That children involved in this horrific insurgency would find Jesus, and His Joy, amidst the pain. A movement called Reload Love is aiming to do just this. Click here to learn more.

As always, I praise Jesus and thank Him for you, and your prayers. Keep praying! “May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done” (Ruth 2:12).