Relationship Not Religion

Hi Friends.
I thought I would share something with you today that struck my heart and mind. Today, I had to read through a whole chapter on political anthropology for my anthropology class. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Building of the Third Temple: Redeeming the Time

Since 70 CE, Jews have been pushing for the building of the Third Temple1, after both Solomon’s Temple and the Second Temple were ruined by Nebuchadnezzar II2 and the Roman Empire3. These Orthodox Jews have already created the tools and “ritual vessels” for the new temple, and claim that until this temple is created, they do not have the Shekina (Divine Presence) in the world4. Continue reading

The Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal: Putting Your Faith in Jesus Alone

I am horrified. As most of you know, thousands of men, women and children have recently reported that hundreds of priests and catholic clergy members have sexually abused them as children, leaving these victims of such heinous crimes reeling and forever scarred by their experiences.

I don’t need to expound upon why this makes me ashamed to be a Christian. While I am not a Catholic, I also know that it is not only Catholic priests who have traumatized those that they should have shepherded and protected. There have been stories of physical abuse in Christian camps for gay youth. Adultery and sexual abuse found with Christian men advocating for family values. Many stories of abuse have come up in many different denominations; in some denominations in the south, the practice of older men “courting” minors is accepted as perfectly fine. Over and over again, men (and women) who were held in positions of trust took advantage of their position, subjecting people whom Jesus Loves to unthinkable horrors.

This grieves my heart for obvious reasons. People get their impressions of who Jesus Christ is based upon His followers. It has been said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ,” and in this instance, it could not be more true. People have failed to show the watching world who Jesus Christ really is.

Humans have failed. But friends, readers, I want to remind us all of one thing: While humans have completely and utterly failed at loving others, Jesus Christ never has. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is our High Priest, coming to be the perfect mediator between us and God the Father. Jesus experienced the brokenness of this world and every temptation we have ever faced, while also providing His Sacrifice, “gaining eternal redemption for all who come to God through Him” (source).

Anyone who has put their faith and hope in a religion will be disappointed at some point. Anyone who puts their faith and hope in a priest, or a pastor, or a community leader, will come to realize that even those put in such high positions can fail miserably. It is faith and hope put in Jesus Christ alone that will never disappoint. As we view these diabolical stories of abuse unfold, I pray that it gives us all a reality check, reminding us to put our faith not in religiousness or even a man such as the Pope, but rather putting our trust in Jesus Christ alone.

alone

These stories are evil. They anger us and make us feel ashamed. But may we re-look at where our Hope is at—and draw close to Jesus, not farther away from Him. He is the only High Priest who will never, ever disappoint—and He is has done all that is needed for us to be saved.


­­­­­­­­­­­­­Do you know Jesus?

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”
(Hebrews 7:26-27, ESV)

Jesus Christ left the glory of heaven in order to save humankind from the sin they had committed themselves. We were helpless; Jesus came in and saved the day.

Learn more about Jesus Christ, what He did, and how He has saved those who believe in Him, here.


Please pray for…

  • The men, women and children being directly affected by sharing their stories of abuse. I cannot imagine the pain and PTSD they are experiencing. May they come to know Christ if they do not already, and may He continue to heal them as only He can.
  • The clergy members involved in this. May they be brought to justice, and to know Christ.
  • The judicial system. May it not fail those who rely on it for justice.
  • Christians everywhere—that they would come closer to Jesus, and not farther away from Him.

Thank you for your prayers!

Honestly

“I love the way that your heart breaks/ over every injustice and deadly fate/ praying it all will be new/ and living like it all depends on you.”
— “Again” by Flyleaf

Friends,
As difficult as it is to say, I must be honest: I have lacked zeal, passion, and care for the 113 Chibok girls– not to mention the countless other kidnapping victims– still in captivity. I have gone through the motions; I have let routine get in the way of Loving others.

I write this with tears in my eyes. I went back to the start; the start of this blog, and the start of every prayer prayed for the Chibok girls, Nigeria, and it’s people at large.

What did I find? I found Nehemiah 1:1-11.

A prayer to God the Father, from a broken and wrecked individual, for the broken and wrecked, beloved people in his life. A humble prayer, coming from a man whose very heart of hearts had been broken. A man who saw the injustice, and decided, with Jesus as His Guide, to do something about it.

This blog was birthed in August of 2014, for this very reason: broken and wrecked for the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who had been kidnapped, and their community, Jesus put a fire in my heart to do something about it: Let others know, and encourage others to pray.

Over time, though, what started out as a passionate love for these young women, and their situation, became a polished religious activity I did “so that Jesus would be pleased with me.”

I fell into bondage. I lost all the Joy and Life that writing this blog originally gave me.
This has happened a couple  many times since the blog was started. The legalism and bondage got so bad, that now my family is weary of me writing on this blog, at all. They don’t want to see me in fear and legalism again.

I may continue to struggle with this.
And if it all gets to be too much, I will need to take a break, turn around,
and return back to my first Love: Jesus.

But friends, it is really in my heart to keep pressing on, to keep praying for each one of these 276 young women, their families, and everyone affected.

So, please pray. Please pray for me, that I would “not become weary in doing good,” and not turn this into a game of a works-based relationship with God.

Because there is still much to be done. And breakthrough for these people– those victimized and crushed by Boko Haram– is right around the corner.
There are still 113 young Chibok women who have not tasted freedom, yet.
And there are 163 young Chibok women still reeling from their loss.
There is much to pray for, and much to be done, in this nation. In this city.

And out of a Love that could only come from Jesus Himself, I will press on, in compassionate action, for these young women. Will you join me? ❤
_______________________

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Forgive me for turning this beautiful, amazing thing that You have done in and through me into a dead, stale pile of ‘good works.’
I know that NONE of my own ‘goodness’ can save me from the sinner I am.
Jesus,
I pray, with all of my heart, that this would not be about me. Not about perfection, or striving, or numbers and times and bad religiosity. Remove this pharisee-like heart for the Chibok schoolgirls, and replace it with a burning passion to see their freedom.

Dear Jesus,
As long as this blog stays centered upon You, please bless it. Bless those who pray and wrestle in prayer with me. Give us hearts that break for what breaks Yours!
Let us not stop until each one of these captive, beautiful human beings are saved.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.”



Do you know Jesus?

No, really. Do you know Jesus? personally?
You may smirk at this question. You may mock it. But it will be the most important question you ever answer.
Learn more about who Jesus is, here.

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. ❤

St. Philips’ Church Shooting

Injustice. It is everywhere, in the huge and in the small. Sunday morning, it visited a church in Southeast Nigeria.

Imagine. Your closely known brothers and sisters in Jesus meet with you like they do every Sunday, at your local church.

These are people that you hopefully do life with. People you worship Christ with. People who wrestle with the difficult things with you.
People you eat with, cry with, and laugh with. People you love.

And then– gunmen enter the building that houses the Church. Men, looking for one person, barge in, and kill these people. People you love. The sanctuary becomes a place of violence; a place of joy quickly becomes a place of bloodshed, a place where you lost those closest to you.

This Sunday morning, August 6th, 2017, St. Philips Catholic Church was attacked by men who are in the drug-trafficking business of southeast Nigeria. 11 churchgoers were killed when these men started shooting randomly inside the church, in pursuit of someone they thought was in the church building. He was not there (source).

Today, it was not just St. Philips Catholic Church in Ozubulu, Anambra state that suffered damage. It was not torn down architecture; it was a group of people, united in Christ– the true meaning of “the Church”– that passed away, and are now in the presence of their Lord and Savior.

In Hebrews 10:24-25, Jesus gives, through the writer of Hebrews, a very encouragingsnippet command– not one to be dreaded, or merely “checked off a list,” but joyfully done.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
(Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV)

Today, the concept of church is too often seen as a corporation, or somewhere one goes to only on special holidays. But Christ had a very different design for the worldwide Church: it is His bride, and it is meant to be a safe place– a place where much of the process of discipleship and sanctification takes place, as Christ-followers seek to do life together, pursuing Christ all the more.

Though this is not always what happens, it is the goal. Like the early church of Antioch in Acts 11, the church is not just a building or a money-making system… it is a group of Believers in Christ, the One, True, Living God, living lives of Love and generosity to bless those around them (Galatians 6:10). During the famine in Jerusalem, the church of Antioch– the first church of gentile believers– generously gave of their own money to help the church in Judea, after a church member in Antioch named Agabus prophesied that there would be a famine in Jerusalem (you can read more about it here). Christ’s Love had so welled up in their hearts that their entire lives were changed; it was no longer about what one could gain from the church, but how one could generously give to those in need in the Church.

snippet2

In this, two beautiful truths are found: We, as Christians, need consistent time with one another; and that the church is not supposed to look like the world, but the Church is supposed to love the world, as Christ did.

It is with all of this in mind, and an extremely heavy heart, that I write about what happened in Southeast Nigeria, Sunday. A group of men and women who believed in Christ were killed on Sunday, together. And it is with care, yet firm encouragement, that I write to my brothers and sisters in Christ: Do not forsake the fellowship of the saints.

You may have been scarred by the church.
You may have never been in a church where you felt like you belonged, and were loved.
You may be of the persuasion that you can walk this walk, alone, without a church body to love and help you (and visa versa).

But friends, I am here to tell you the Truth of the matter: I do not want to disregard the fact that you may have been hurt or jaded by your church experiences. But though you may be extremely scarred, and though you may have been tossed aside by some in the Church, you cannot walk this walk alone. You need deep fellowship with Christ, and with other Christians.snippet three

For where two or three gather together in My name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20, NIV). Brothers and sisters in Jesus, we need each other. I pray, as I pray for these brothers and sisters in Southeast Nigeria, that you– and everyone else reading– would come to know Christ, and would come to know the joy of being in fellowship with one another.

As this body of believers is suffering the deep loss of their loved ones, may they be our loved ones too. Our Jesus never promised a life without the pain of injustice (John 16:33)– but he did promise us fellowship with Himself, and command that we do life with the people He has given us. May we receive His gift of other believers, gladly; and may we pray for, and mourn with, those in Southeast Nigeria who have lost these loved ones.

“…so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. …Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:5, 15, NIV)



Do you know Jesus?

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33, NIV)

Perhaps one of the most beautiful things in this life is relationships with other human beings; but, without a doubt, the most wonderful thing in this life is having a personal relationship with God, through His Son, Jesus Christ.

You may be thinking, “A person can have a relationship with God, without having Jesus in the picture.” But, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”
(John 14:6. NIV).

Jesus came to earth, as God-in-human-flesh, to provide sinful mankind with the one way to know God the Father personally. Learn more about Jesus, and why He came to earth to fulfill this mission, by going here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for the people You have put in our lives, near and far from us. Thank You for the Church at large. Thank You for Loving us, and helping us to love others.

Dear Jesus,
We pray in Your Name over all things that have happened in Southeast Nigeria, at St. Philip’s Catholic Church. Please hold the members of this church body close to Your Heart; please comfort them, and guide them as they grieve.

We pray for an end to the violence and destruction in Nigeria– and know that it can only come through all people coming to know You. Without You, Jesus, there is no Peace– please help us to share Your Gospel, and please bring us all closer to You.

Thank You for each person who knows You, Lord– please bring back the Chibok girls, as well as the thousands of others who are still in captivity. Please move mightily in their midst.

In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!!!