The God Who is For You

But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.’”
(Isaiah 43:1-2, NIV)

Sometimes, one can’t help but feel both helpless and hopeless. In such a world where the weak get pummeled and marginalized, one can’t help but feel defeated.

No one seems to care about their condition; and many who do seem to care are only “caring” to see what could be in it for them. Even when society yearns to dish out justice, it can take years to do. Such a thing is happening now, as the International Criminal Court has been going through their preliminary investigation—the first in a sequence of many, many steps toward true Justice for those suffering in Northern Nigeria. According to Forbes, this investigation has been going on for over seven year­s—all the while, the victims of both Boko Haram and Fulani Herdsmen wait for the justice and closure they obviously deserve. In the face of such deferment, it becomes more than easy for the heart to grow sick and discouraged (Proverbs 13:12).

All the while, Boko Haram is still up and running—now, many reports have said that they are actually administering territories and imposing taxes in different areas of Yobe in Borno State. In a time where the innocent people of Northern Nigeria should be gaining victory and ground over Boko Haram, they still remain harassed and oppressed, feeling hopeless about their situation.

In the midst of such pain, oppression, and deferment of hope, it’s easy to think that it is somehow related to God’s wrath in our lives. Reading Psalms 5-6, we find the Psalmist, David, in very similar straits. In the beginnings of both Psalm 5 and 6, David pours out his heart to God.

“Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.
(Psalm 5:1-3, NIV)

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love. Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?”
(Psalm 6:1-5, NIV)

One thing that is beautiful about the Bible is this: Is does not lie, or candy-coat, human suffering. David, as he writes these Psalms, is probably in incredibly dire straits; and he does not keep what is weighing on him from God. Even in his suffering, David knew that he could go to God for anything and everything he was suffering.

As David speaks of his suffering—both his emotional cries for help, and the bodily suffering he is going through in Psalm 6—he seems to turn and look to God. In Psalm 5, as the verses progress, David—as has been discussed many times on this blog as of late—remembers the truth of who God really is. With this meditation in mind, King David comes out victorious, even in his worst days, every single time.

Why?

Because David, looking at who God is and all He had done for David, knows without a doubt that Christ is for Him, not against Him—no matter what happens, just as Romans 8 says.

“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us.”
(Romans 8:31, NLT)

We can see David’s confidence in God’s Love as he continues speaking in Psalms 5 and 6:

Surely, Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.”
(Psalm 5:12, NIV)

Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.
(Psalm 6:8-10, NIV)

This is the key to coming out of any situation strong: not evaluating our lives and relationship with Christ with our feelings, but rather standing upon the Truth of scripture, and allowing Christ to give us His perspective on our situations.

No matter how alone you may feel, God has not ran away from you in your time of need. I want to pay specia attention to those who feel this way, today, and I want to fill your heart and mind with an encouraging, biblical truth, that will stand even when everything else in your life says otherwise: No matter how painful, or how distant God seems, lean upon the truth of scripture: God yearns to meet with us, wherever we are at, and fill us with the Love and Truth that only He can give us.

It is a matter of either believing or disbelieving in these things that changes one’s whole perspective.

Whether that would be conviction, comfort, rebuke, or reassurance, Jesus wants us to pour out our hearts to Him—and to trust Him with our lives, no matter the situation. It is this precious, intimate fellowship we can have with Jesus that makes such times worth it all.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, know that no matter how dark the way is around you, your Good Shepherd has not gone anywhere– and He is for you, not against you.

Our God is a helper to the helpless, a God who humbles and destroys those who are against Him and His people (Psalm 72:12). He is a God who is near to His children who are “going through it”; He will not leave or forsake those going through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 43; Psalm 23:4).

May the God who is sovereign over the lack of justice in Northern Nigeria be the helper of those innocent people who call out to Him for the safety, justice, and closure they need. He is good; He will never let those who trust in Him be brought to shame.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
(Romans 8:28, ESV)brave.JPG


Do you know Jesus?

I know that many of those who are reading today can scoff at the idea of Jesus being there for them. For many people, this is an area wrought with bad memories of feeling desolated and alone, crying out to a God who never seemed to “pick up the phone” when they called out to Him.

I understand that memories like this can feel like a knife in the back. But, being very careful not to downplay the suffering you have experienced, I want to interject with a compassionate, yet challenging truth for you to believe: God proved His perfect, unfailing Love for us when Jesus died on the cross for our sin.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(1 John 4:10, NIV)

The immense pain and anguish Jesus Christ went through was done so that you, whoever you are, would have the only way to personally know God, Himself. Learn more about the truth concerning this God who truly does love you, here.


Please pray for (you can find the prayer sheet here)…

  • Those in Northern Nigeria who are still awaiting Justice to be done. Pray that they would put their ultimate Hope in Christ and Christ alone. Pray that Justice would be done, soon.
  • The Chibok girls—both found and freed, and not found/freed. Please pray that they, and even their captors, would come to know Christ, as well. You can find some of their names and pictures, here.
  • Those currently being oppressed by Boko Haram in Borno State. Pray that the Nigerian military would be able to stifle them once and for all.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Boko Haram: Finding Unmerited Mercy & Unbelievable Forgiveness

They lied. It was four o’clock in the morning in Baga, Nigeria, and, drowsy from sleep, the men in each household were told to get up and follow Boko Haram members outside so that they “could explain everything.” As 14 shaking men followed the terrorists into the brush, they were told to lie on the ground. What they had hoped for– “an explanation,” anything to acknowledge that they were human beings, too– was all for nought. Continue reading

Cameroon: The Pain is not Forever

It was reported on December 28th that Boko Haram killed approximately 30 civilians in the town of Mbaljuel, Cameroon Saturday. These innocent men, women, and children were among 4 soldiers attacked on the Waza-Mora highway Friday, which killed one Cameroonian corporal and injured 3 others.

These attacks come in light of the Cameroon military’s counterattacks against the terrorist group, which have killed 53 Boko Haram members and destroyed a training ground for the insurgents. Cameroon’s military is now positioning soldiers in the far North of Cameroon, to guard its borders against Boko Haram.

The relative area Boko Haram has been documented operating in. Their sharia law has been instituted in a few northern states in Nigeria. Their base of operations lies in the Northernmost parts of East Nigeria, extending into small pockets of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

The relative area Boko Haram has been documented operating in. Their sharia law has been instituted in a few northern states in Nigeria. Their base of operations lies in the Northernmost parts of East Nigeria, extending into small pockets of Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

While the Cameroonian military seems to be doing a much more effective job fighting the Boko Haram than the Nigerian military, this news expresses that surrounding nations– not only Nigeria– are in real danger of being infiltrated and harmed by Boko Haram. News of this slaughter has shocked and saddened many; it is obvious that Cameroon is in need of prayers and support as well.

Continue reading

Freed Indeed: Liberty from the Trauma

As I read this article, my heart went out to those who have escaped the hands of the Boko Haram, but who have not yet escaped the clutches of fear, horrific flashbacks, and evil memories.

These girls need to be truly free; they need to live lives void of the fear of such a terrifying experience as being in captivity. Christ speaks of such a life in John 10:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10, NIV)

This kind of life can only be found in knowing Christ. Christ doesn’t want to be apart of one’s life; He wants to change people’s whole lives and identities. Where there was once bondage to sin, shame, and death, He wants to grant true, light, victorious freedom to His people– He wants sons, not slaves.

“The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:35-36, NIV)

As stated above, it is only in Christ that these young women can be free. It is only in and through faith in Christ that these girls’ traumatizing experiences can be healed, and their lives restored. But, what happens when this doesn’t happen quickly, but over painstaking amounts of time? What happens when everything in the world makes it look like Christ is not at work?

We must, after everything, put on the armor of God and stand firm, as Ephesians 6:13 exhorts. We must remember that Christ’s timing is not our timing (2 Peter 3:9), and that “…there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him” (Ecclesiastes 8:6, “for” omitted). Yet, in the midst of all this standing and persevering, it’s even more important to remember that Christ is a compassionate God who considers His people His friends: “Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15b, NIV). Knowing that we are God’s friends allows us to “cast all [our] anxiety on Him, for He cares on us” (1 Peter 5:7, NIV). Truly, these girls do not need to be heavy laden. In Christ, the burdens of their painful past can be lifted. In Christ, they can find true rest.

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV)

It is also important to remember that Christ sees their burdens, whether they bring them to Him or not. The same kind of distress these people have experienced was experienced by Israel during their exile in Babylon. Israel was destroyed; their walls were in shambles, and the people were in Babylonian captivity. During such times of loss, it was almost impossible to keep in mind that Christ was for His children, and knew their plight. Yet, these very truths were all affirmed in Isaiah 49:

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your (ruined) walls are ever before me.” (Isaiah 49:15-16, “ruined” mine)

The girls who are now in physical freedom must be free spiritually, mentally, and emotionally by Christ from the bondage of their past terrifying experiences. They need to know that just like Israel, they have not been forgotten– and that Christ is near to them during such horrible times. These girls need to find rest in the arms of Jesus, both inside and outside captivity. For these reasons, we pray.


Please pray for these beautiful people, that as they continue on in their normal everyday lives, that the Lord would show Himself to them through any and all means, that they may know Him. Pray that as they know Him– and only as they know Him– their minds and hearts would slowly (but quite surely) be healed of the trauma they’ve experienced. Pray that as they continue to seek the Lord, He’d use these horrible experiences for good, as He has promised:

“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)

Amongst these things, also pray that the men, women, girls and boys still in captivity would be used to bring their captors to Christ, and would be favorably treated while in captivity. Pray that they’d be out of captivity, and back with their families, soon.

Let the restoration, strengthening, and healing of these beautiful, invaluable hearts and minds begin.

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!