Spiritual Armor: Protecting Oneself for the Fight

In the past two blog posts, “The Noble Soldier” and “The Army with the Afterlife in Mind,”  I have been discussing the concept of how the military here on earth– especially the militaries fighting ISIS and radical islamic terrorism– are very much like “The Lord’s Army,” all Christ Followers who are seeking to glorify Christ and fight evil, darkness, sin, and oppression by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

But through writing these posts, one thing came to the forefront of my mind: with what does the Christian soldier fight with, in the battle against darkness? I felt it important to 1) address the reality and importance of the enemy’s schemes in our lives, and 2) express what the Bible says about how we fight back.

The Christian Life: A Battleground

Many Christians today, especially in the West, see their discipleship to Christ as something they do on Sundays, or whenever they meet for church. Because Christianity can be, as of now, openly practiced in the United States of America, many Christians do not take their walk with Christ seriously. They see their walks in this life as more of a playground, instead of a battleground. (This is not, of course, stating that to have fun and enjoy life is sinful, or unwise– everything has been given to us by Jesus for our enjoyment, 1 Timothy 6:17).

But, nothing could be further from the truth. Without using scare tactics to freak out Christians about the enemy, the truth is that there is an enemy of our souls.battleground

Here is what the Bible says about the enemy of our souls, satan.

Knowing Our Enemy

It is important to note that not everything bad that happens in our lives is directly from satan’s scheming; much of the time, it is also our sin and it’s consequences, or the result of living in a broken world, one riddled by sin (1 Peter 4:15; Romans 8:19-23).

But, every good soldier must have a good understanding of the enemy they are fighting. The Bible says:

  • He (satan) fell from his place in heaven because of pride, wanting to be God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
  • He can come deceitfully, under the guise even of an “angel of light”
    • And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
  • He comes to “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10)
    • 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)
  • He tempts humanity, even Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11)
  • He incites humanity.
    • “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” (1 Chronicles 21)
  • He is “The Accuser of the Brethren,” accusing us night and day, bringing false guilt and condemnation. (Revelation 12:7-10)
  • He prowls around, like a lion (not as a lion), looking to see whom He can deceive and destroy.
    • Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Think about that last point. satan prowls around– not as the Lion (as in the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ), but like a lion, a false and cowardly imitation of Christ. Cowardly as he is, satan prowls around, looking for someone to devour.
The definition of “devour” is “to consume destructively.” This definition provides a wake-up call for Believers: You have an enemy that, though he cannot touch your salvation, wants to destroy your life, your testimony to Christ, and your walk with Christ.

With such a formidable enemy ready to attack us, what can the Christian do to defend themselves, as well as to attack the enemy?

Ephesians 6 is full of scripture about spiritual warfare, but James 4:7 uncovers one powerful way a Christian can cause satan to literally run away.

“Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
(James 4:7, NIV)

It’s simple, yet it involves us humbling ourselves before Christ, and doing His Will (therefore rejecting the devil). When we do this, the enemy has no other choice than submit to Christto flee from us!

Fighting The Enemy

It is in this humble submission to our Loving Jesus that Ephesians 6 encourages us to stand firm and strong against the enemy.

Ephesians 6 starts out this way: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise— ‘so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth‘” (Ephesians 6:1-3). What is the common thread here? Submission! In submitting to those who are higher up and/or leading you, your relationship and spiritual life flourishes. 

Diving into Ephesians 6:10, submitting to Christ and to those He has placed over your life, Paul discusses the many different ways a Believer can stay strong against the enemy’s attacks, discussed below (I am using this Bible Study guide as my main resource for this portion of the Blogpost.):

  • The belt of Truth (Ephesians 6:14)
    • The belt of truth keeps one’s sword-carrier and the rest of their armor intact (source). Without Truth, the rest of a person’s spiritual armor is in grave danger of falling off!
    • Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one gets to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6). Without Jesus as the Truth, everything else in a person’s life is in danger.
  • The breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14)
    • The breastplate protected one’s abdomen and vital organs. Without righteousness, the enemy can go straight for the heart, lungs, kidneys, etc. — causing catastrophic damage in the spiritual life of a person. 
    • 1 Corinthians 1:30 states, “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Jesus Christ is, for the Believer, Righteousness. Without Him, we have no life, and are subject to death, much like a person who has wounded his vital organs.
  • “Feet Fitted with the Readiness that Comes from the Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15)
    • The feet are some of the most delicate parts of the body, especially when it comes to their undersides/the sole of the foot. In the middle of the battle, one needs shoes that provide protection from debris, and allow the fighter to focus on the battle at hand. 
    • When we are focused on Jesus, and on sharing His Gospel with those around us, we are given a firm foundation, ready to fight and protected from the many distractions of life.
  • The Shield of Faith (Ephesians 6:16)
    • The Shield of Faith is not just something one puts on; one needs to wield their shield of faith, especially as the enemy shoots his fiery darts of discouragement, doubt, fear, and temptation. Believing Jesus’ promises can help us “curve” these fiery darts!
    • Psalm 3:3 proclaims that Jesus is our Shield: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. It has been said that it does not matter how much faith you have, as much as it matters where you put that faith in. Jesus said, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1). Trusting in Jesus as our Shield and Promise-Keeper keeps us safe from satan’s attacks.
  • The Helmet of Salvation (Ephesians 6:17)
    • The helmet can mean life or death for those in the middle of warfare, as the brain is the most vital organ of the body. When one keeps Jesus’ sacrifice at the forefront of their minds, it protects their minds from distractions and discouragements (source).
    • Jesus is our Savior, the One who has saved us! Keeping our eyes and thoughts on Jesus protects us from the evil one.
  • The Sword of the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17)
    • The Sword of the Word of God, held by the belt of Truth, is the way to fight back against the enemy of our souls.
    • Think about it: the more we know the Word of God, the more we know the promises of God; the more we are focused on Jesus and spreading His Gospel; and the more we are rooted in the Truth, that Jesus is our Righteousness! Learning how to yield the Sword of God is crucial to our spiritual health. More than this, Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1).
  • The Cloak of Zeal (Isaiah 59:17)
    • While not mentioned in Ephesians 6, the cloak of zeal is mentioned in Isaiah 59:17, which says, “He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak.” Our zeal and passion for Jesus can keep us from even the worst of outside conditions, just as cloak protected one against the outside elements. Like a coat, today, zeal keeps a soldier performing at their peak.
    • Our zeal must be based on right knowledge; many people have zeal today, but it is based in something evil or sinful. It was Jesus’ zeal to obey the Father and be the propitiation for our sins that saved us; when we base our zeal on Jesus and sharing His Gospel, no one can put that flame out!

Make no joke; our enemy is a formidable one. But, with submitting to Christ; putting on Jesus as our Righteousness and Truth; resting in His Salvation and Gospel; and growing in Faith in Him and zeal for Him, nothing the enemy does can keep us from walking in Christ’s victory.

christ's victory

As important to our spiritual walk as the clothes a soldier wears on a daily basis, I pray that we would put on our spiritual armor. May we walk close to Jesus, our Commander, in the midst of this fight. For, unlike an earthly commander, Jesus is with us– always.



Do you know Jesus?

Are you wounded, today?
Has the fight of life you are in seemingly decimated you?
Even when we are too weak to stand, Jesus is right there, ready and waiting to lift us up, and strengthen us, just as David said in Psalm 3: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (Psalm 3:3).

In these times, we can call to Jesus for Refuge, and rest under His Loving Care (1 Peter 5:7). Because Jesus is not just our military Commander, barking out orders; He is our Loving Father, deeply interested in every detail of our lives (Psalm 37:23).

Learn about this Powerful, Loving, God– Jesus Christ– and just how much He Loves you, here.



Please pray for…

  • The Chibok girls; as of today, there are 113 of them still in captivity. Please pray for a breakthrough in their hearts, minds and lives!
  • Those who are on the physical front lines, including soldiers, aid workers, and members of vigilante groups, especially in Nigeria. Please pray that they would all come to know Jesus, and would fight under His ultimate Lead and Protection.
  • Those who are on the spiritual front lines, including missionaries, clergymen, and every Christian involved in the daily fight against evil (which is all of us, in some form or fashion!). Please pray for protection, wisdom, guidance, discernment, and boldness as they fight the good fight of faith.
  • The members of Boko Haram, deeply influenced by evil and falsehood. Please pray that Jesus would bring even these men to trust in Him, and would turn their lives around for His Glory, just like Saul (also known as Paul) (Acts 9).
  • For the continued protection and sustaining of those who are caught in this evil crossfire.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support!

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International Day of the Girl: Freedom

Today, October 11th, 2017, is International Day of the Girl.

The “goal” or major concept for this year’s International Day of the Girl? Freedom.

The YouTube channel “Global Goals” put up a video called “Freedom- International Day of the Girl,” including beautiful young girls dancing to a power-anthem by Beyonce.

The video says, “Girls around the world are fighting for their freedom everyday.” It then challenges watchers to share it on social media, and then answer the question, “What does #Freedomforgirls mean for you?”

#Freedomforgirls means that one day, when Jesus comes back to this earth, all forms of oppression and violence– every single reason for a tear, a sigh, a yearning–
will end. Girls who put their trust in Jesus (and boys too) will be free of whatever burdened their hearts, before.

#Freedomforgirls means what I spoke about recently. That there are 113 young adult women still waiting to be freed from the bondage of Boko Haram. There are countless others in bondage outside of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, too.

And #Freedomforgirls means that, one day, in Jesus’ timing, these girls WILL be freed from the islamic oppression of Boko Haram.

“I break chains all by myself,” Beyonce declares. While I can appreciate her passion, I would have to disagree.

Because we are not the ones who ultimately break our chains. Jesus is.

And so, today, on International Day of the Girl, I ask that we all pray and share the news of the 113 young women still in bondage… because they are not ultimately OUR girls; they are HIS.

The BringBackOurGirls movement will resume their protests and marches from the Unity Fountain to the State House in the capital city of Abuja, Nigeria, starting tomorrow, October 12th, 2017, to demand that:
1) Demand the release of the 113 Chibok Girls
2) Comfort the parents of the 113 girls
3) Provide the public with information concerning the state of the 113 Chibok girls
4) Invite the families of those kidnapped in the “Borno-Adamawa road kidnap,” and the “soldiers- NNPC-University of Maiduguri lecturers” for a meeting to learn what happened to their loved ones
and 5) to set up structured systems of reporting on each case, the management of IDPs, and Justice for those in the counter-insurgency war.

Please pray with me that their demands to the government would be favored!


Dear Lord Jesus,
This world has become (and honestly, always has been) very dog-eat-dog. Violence and intimidation are praised; confidence in oneself is exalted above having confidence in You.

Dear Jesus,
We are flowers quickly fading; but we pray, in Your Name, that You would be our confidence. We pray that You would be the One to set little girls, young women, and even those who are elderly and taken advantage of, Freedom and Justice. 

Jesus,
Thank You for perfectly Loving, Protecting, and Supporting those whom You made in the beginning, “Women.” Many shirts today, in stores, declare that “The future is Female.” But this is just not true. Jesus, in Your Name, please turn these precious men and women to You… because the future is full of YOUR reign, and YOUR Kingdom.
Dear Jesus,
Please free the Chibok girls. Please free those who are still stuck in oppression. Please strengthen, enliven and support the women who trust in You.

Dear Jesus,
As members of the BringBackOurGirls campaign march and rally around the State House of Nigeria, we pray that You would see their desires and demands to the government, and that You would soften the hearts of the government, so that their desires can be met.

We thank You for this, Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Amen.”


Learn about the man who came to die for the sins of all mankind– the only One who can break our chains– here.

Bringing the Children to Jesus (Even the Children of Boko Haram Members)

I read this article, about how a man named Zannah Mustapha– a lawyer who is to credit for the negotiations leading to the release of 82 Chibok girls and 21 other girls, also held captive– is now allowing the children of widowed Boko Haram members into his school. In 2007, he started schooling for victims of Boko Haram; and, now, ironically and somewhat controversially, he is allowing the children of those who are to blame for these victim’s tragedies into school, as well.

According to the article, Mustapha agreed to teach the children the Koran, English, and Math, following the wishes of the children’s mothers. He also agreed to their religious rules of having to wear the hijab, and wear ankle-length dresses. “The irony of teaching the children of Boko Haram insurgents who with the very name of their group proclaim that ‘Western Education is Forbidden’ is not lost on him,” All Africa reports. Surprisingly enough, Boko Haram– or at least, the widows of Boko Haram– care about their children’s education.

While much can be said about this, it brings out the humanity of Boko Haram’s members, however warped and deluded it may be. At a basic human level, at least some of the members of Boko Haram care about their children.

Honestly, I don’t know what to think… except for the fact that this sliver of humanity within the barbarity of Boko Haram members shows that they, no matter how evil, are severely marred images of their Creator, the One, True God: YHWH. And as severely marred images of their Creator, they need to not only know what islam has taught them about Jesus, but they need to know the real Jesus: The One who died for their sins, and rose to life again– the One who now sits at the right hand of the Father (Romans 8:34).

The People of Nineveh

It can remind one of the Ninevites, who, at their time, were perhaps some of the most barbaric, evil, cruel people on the planet. They were enemies of Israel, and were known for their violence– they were so violent that I have heard that they impaled the heads of their conquered enemies on poles around the city, to celebrate their victory and superiority.

Because of their evil, Jonah did not want to give them the message of repentance. Instead, Jonah wanted God’s judgment to be reigned down on them– he wanted them to suffer as much as they had made others suffer, and probably for good reason. Jonah was so angry at God showing them mercy, in their repentance, that he wanted to die (Jonah 4:3). God rebuked Jonah for his anger– but he did not only rebuke him.

To teach Jonah a lesson about compassion, God allowed a plant to grow up and over Jonah, shielding him from the heat.

“So the Lord God prepared a plant and it grew up over Jonah, to be a shade over his head to spare him from discomfort. And Jonah was extremely happy about [the protection of] the plant. 7 But God prepared a worm when morning dawned the next day, and it attacked the plant and it withered. 8 When the sun came up God prepared a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on Jonah’s head so that he fainted and he wished to die, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live.'”
(Jonah 4:6-8, AMP)

Obviously, Jonah cared about this plant, and was extremely happy that it had grown in his life. Through this tiny, unimportant plant, God showed Jonah just a sliver of the care God had for the people of the city of Nineveh (whom Jonah, at that point, did not even value as people because of their evil) (Jonah 4:9).

God’s Mercy did not stop at the Israelites; nor did it stop at people who were

africa-2143814_960_720

A child from Nigeria (This child is not [to ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY’s knowledge] a child of a Boko Haram member).

morally good. Scripture tells us that “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45, NIV). God, true to His Nature, desires ALL men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). Also true to His Nature, God cares for the children even of those who are evil– as evidenced by what He says to Jonah in Jonah 4:11, when He mentions the 120,000 children in the city “who do not know the difference between their right and left hand.”

Then the Lord said, ‘You [Jonah] had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 [innocent] persons, who do not know the difference between their right and left hand [and are not yet accountable for sin], as well as many [blameless] animals?'”
(Jonah 4:10-11, AMP, “[Jonah]” mine)

While Jonah only had in mind the depravity of the Ninevites– which I in no way want to lessen– God saw each person in Nineveh, even those who had no idea of the atrocities happening around them, being committed by their fathers and mothers, and He had both perfect Justice, and perfect compassion, for them all.

The grown adults of Nineveh– those who slaughtered innocent people– were indeed VERY worthy of the wrath God would have reigned down upon them, if they had not repented.

But when they actually heard Jonah’s message, they DID repent– they came to know the Living God, and turned away from their wickedness and violence!!! This is God’s desire for those who are wickedly evil, today.

The God of Both Justice & Mercy

I, in no way, want to lessen the atrocities of Boko Haram. Their acts are nothing short of abhorrent, and those who do not come to know Jesus will be liable to God’s punishment– Hell (2 Thessalonians 1:8-10). God is a God of Justice– and Jesus will bring Justice when He comes back again, as 2 Thessalonians 1 describes.

But He is also a God of Mercy. Should the kids of Boko Haram members be learning the same volatile Koran that their parents have? Absolutely not… but, as difficult as it is to say, that is why we must keep the men, women, and children of Boko Haram in our prayers.

Jesus is the only Way to the Father that so many millions of Muslims are struggling to find and know. Jesus is the One their hearts are waiting and looking for when they try to

Casually_dressed_little_girls_imitating_the_dreaded_terrorist_group_boko_haram.jpg

This heartbreaking picture is one of two young girls from Jos, Nigeria, imitating Boko Haram. These girls (at least to the knowledge of ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY) are not actual children of Boko Haram’s members.

keep the tenants of islam. And the children, even of such evil as Boko Haram members, need to know the Gospel– and be saved by knowing Jesus personally, by Grace, through Faith.

Only Love for these people, shown in the form of prayer and sharing the Gospel with them, will change anything. This Love is audacious– scandalous, even.
Will you dare to show this kind of Love– the Love of Jesus?



God’s Love is reckless. Jesus proved it.

Learn more about the God who Loves you– Loves you enough to die for you, so that you might know Him– here.



Please pray with me…

Dear Jesus,
Thank You for Loving us enough to step down out of heaven. Thank You for Loving us enough to step down out of perfect union with the Father, and taking all of our sin and the wrath of God upon Yourself. Thank You for forgiving such sinners, as us.

Dear Jesus,
We pray now, in Your Name, that You would please bring these children that are being taught the Koran, to You. Through whatever means needed, Please, Father God, draw these young children to You– as well as their mothers and fathers. We pray for repentance, Lord Jesus; we pray that Boko Haram would become nothing, because the members of Boko Haram have come to know You, instead.

Jesus, at the same time, thank You for bringing Justice for all of our sin when You died on that cross. Please redeem and free those who have been crippled by Boko Haram. Help us to love those who have been displaced, abused and mistreated horrifically by Boko Haram.

Lastly, Lord Jesus,
We ask that You would remember Your Promise concerning the Chibok girls.

“The nations will see your vindication,
and all kings your glory;
you will be called by a new name
that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.
3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand,
a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
4 No longer will they call you Deserted,
or name your land Desolate.
But you will be called Hephzibah,
and your land Beulah;
for the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.”
(Isaiah 62:2-5, NIV)

Lord Jesus, You gave this promise to me (Annalee) when I sought You concerning the Chibok girls. Now, three and a half years later, so much as happened– more than I could have ever believed or imagined. You have set so many girls free! Dear Jesus, we pray, we ask boldly in Your Name, that the 113 Chibok girls remaining would be found/would escape the clutches of Boko Haram. You have done amazing things; please do all that You have promised. Let us not forget. May each one be free.

Thank You for this, Lord Jesus.

In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Amen.”

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. ❤

Coming to Know Christ at Ramadan

One pastor once said that to truly give Jesus’ way, it takes spiritual discernment to know what the real underlying need is. So it is with what is happening in this season of Ramadan, currently being heavily observed in the unstable region of Northern Nigeria. This article, by the Premium Times, says that the Yobe State government has been giving out food to muslims observing Ramadan, a time of fasting, where one does not eat the whole entire day, but is able to eat after the sun goes down (source).

In a statement made by Ali Abubukar, the chair of the state’s committee on Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Resettlement of Boko Haram victims, Abubukar said that “The supply will bring succour and alleviate the dire need of the people, which is food” (source). While Abubukar is correct in that physical hunger is a real, dire need for those in Northern Nigeria, the truth is, those celebrating Ramadan have an even deeper, more dire, spiritual hunger: a hunger for the Truth– the Truth that is only found in Jesus Christ.

During the time of Ramadan (about a month), many muslims will fast from food and will fight against their own sins, such as swearing and lying. They do this to spend more time in intense prayer, commanded to attend five different prayer times per day. Many times, the Qur’an is read before their meal time in the evening. This time is meant to spur on more religious devotion for muslims, and while it may do just that, Ramadan (or IT TAKES THEM FARTHER AWAY FROM HIManyone’s own works), apart from Christ, does not get anyone closer to the real, Living God.

In fact, it takes them farther away from Him– or from finding Him, rather. 

Obedience, Not Sacrifice

This idea– of giving sacrifice, i.e., doing religious works instead of obeying Christ, the Living God, is found in the story of Samuel 15. In the story, King Samuel was commanded by God to kill ALL of the Amalekites, including women and children, as well as every animal belonging to them.

While this seems like a horrible, heartless order, it can be understood when one realizes how evil the Amalekites actually were. Since the time the Israelites had become a people group, liberated from Egypt, the Amalekites– known by many as “The Plunderers”– attacked those Israelites that were “lagging behind,” which were most likely the women and children (source). They attacked the Israelites many times, mercilessly causing much pain and anguish for many people. With this in mind, Christ commanding that the Amalekites be annihilated was for good reason.

But, sadly, King Saul did not completely obey Christ concerning some of His most important instructions– and disobeyed Christ completely, in Samuel 13:5-14, when he burnt sacrifices Samuel was meant to burn. In Samuel 15, Saul did not annihilate all of the Amalekites; instead, he only killed “everything that was despised and weak” (1 Samuel 15:9).

This major sin not only caused more years of pain for Israel, but it cost King Saul his kingdom. Full of pride, King Saul tried to justify his sin; but in the end, he knew he was wrong, and almost flippantly asked Samuel to forgive his sin, so that he could go back and worship the LORD (1 Samuel 15:25). But by then, it was too late. His kingdom was obeyingripped away from him, all because he chose to disobey, justifying it with sacrifice.

Relationship, Not Regulation

But Ramadan is all about obedience, one might say. Sure, it is, but one of the main things that can be learned from this passage in Samuel 15 is that God is not some dead or distant Deity that can be appeased with some sacrifice. He is a relational God, a God who is indeed Living– and wants His children to obey Him. It was Jesus Himself who said,

“If you love me, keep my commands.”
(John 14:15, NIV)

The fact that Christ wants us to obey Him, as one obeys a Loving Father, shows His Followers that they are not just following a dead religion– one only of sacrifice and works– but are following a very Real and Living God; one of Love, desiring a Personal Relationship with all people, as evidenced by what John described Jesus doing in John 1:10-13).

Faith, Not Works

This is not to say that Christians fasting and praying are a bad practice– in fact, they are wonderful for drawing near to Christ (Matthew 6). But let one thing be clear: People are not saved by obedience to Christ; they are saved by Grace, through Faith, not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). All one must do to be saved is to believe in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross for their sin, receiving His gift of salvation, and entering into the personal relationship that He offers. This God is real: salvation2unfathomably more real than any god that demands mere obedience and a set of works-based self-righteousness to approach them with for salvation, or even a chance at salvation.

This Ramadan, one thing is true: God does not want mere obedience, or a set of rules and standards to be met, as is found in islam. He wants a real, personal relationship with those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. As believers in this amazing God, let us pray that those practicing Ramadan in Northern Nigeria, and all other religions, would find Christ, and that He would “succour and alleviate the dire need of the people,” which is truly the need of Him.

If you are a muslim– or are any sort of religion/belief system, but have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Personal Lord and Savior, the Only One who can save you from your sins– come to Him today. Let Him set you free, as you draw close to Him: not by your own works, but by His Work for you, on the cross.

It is Jesus whom we truly hunger and thirst after, even if we do not realize it. Let’s come to Him, as we are, today. 🔹 



Do you know Jesus?

“Who is this Jesus?” one might ask. Some see Him as a revered Prophet; some see Him as a fool, the butt of all their jokes. But I encourage you, whether you know personally or not, to ask yourself that question.

Jesus asked His Disciples this question about Himself.

“‘But what about you?’ he (Jesus) asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’
Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it'”
(Matthew 16:15-18, NIV, “(Jesus)” mine)

Peter replied that Jesus is the Messiah– The Leader or Savior of the Jews and Gentiles alike (Romans 10:12), and He was right. Read more about, and meet with, this promised Messiah, here.


Please pray for…

Those currently practicing islam. Pray that even now, especially in the wake of the various islamic terrorist attacks happening all over the world, that muslims would come to know Jesus Christ.

That Ramadan would be a time where many muslims become saved. It is a time of heightened spiritual awareness; please pray that Jesus would call to these people during Ramadan, and that they would come to Him. ❤

That Christians would not be afraid of loving and telling others about the Gospel, worldwide, but especially in places with many muslims, such as Northern Nigeria and the Middle East.

That those experiencing hunger and thirst in Northern Nigeria would be fed– and would come to know Jesus, the Bread of Life, in the process.

There are still 113 Chibok girls left to be freed, as Ramadan has started. Please pray for these young women, that they would be de-brainwashed or de-radicalized, and would be freed physically– but also in every sense of the word.

Thank you so much for your prayers. To all Americans, have a Happy Memorial Day Weekend! 🙂

Please pray.

After reading this very heartbreaking, nightmarish article on how young, innocent lives have been forever traumatized by Boko Haram, it is hard to not be mad at Christ for not “zapping” (as if He ever did such a thing), and killing those who are responsible for such heartache and misery.

Hearts scream out for Justice. Peace. An end to the suffering.
Will you please join in prayer?

“Dear Lord Jesus,
I don’t know what to write here, Jesus. There are no words.
No words but what comes wailing out, as one reads this article: “Justice! Jesus, bring Justice!”

That is my prayer.
My broken, face-turned-down prayer to You.

Dear Sweet Jesus,
Please, bring these people to know You… to know who You really are.
Please bring beauty out of ashes for these people.
Weeping into dancing.

Dear Jesus,
May those who have gone through trauma not try to cover it.
May they lift their stories to You, so that You might restore what satan, the world, and our sinful selves have tried to take away.

May all people involved in this… and I say it with honest rage towards those I am praying for… but may even the members of Boko Haram who have done this, come to know You.

No one, not even them, are outside of Your Love.

Thank You, Jesus.

In Your Name I pray,
Amen.”

 

Please continue to pray for these people as you feel led. Thank you.

 

To Be Made in the Image of God

On the night of Thursday, February 9th, the sounds of warfare could be heard on Ajiri-Dikwa road in Borno state, Northeastern Nigeria [1]. Caught in a clash with Boko Haram members, seven members of the Nigerian military were killed, and 19 others sustained varying degrees of injuries. Over 30 Boko Haram members were killed, according to the report made by the Nigerian military [2].

In other places in the Northeast, food shortages are threatening millions of lives already ravaged by Boko Haram. According to this article, a new UN report has stated that 11 million people are living with food shortages in Nigeria. In the report, many shocking statistics were found: An estimated 120,000 Nigerians will suffer from “famine-like conditions” from food shortages, while 500,000 children total are in great risk of death due to malnutrition. Though Boko Haram members may have not directly created this suffering and loss through militantly attacking the people, this terrorist uprising has played a huge role in the famine-like, scarce conditions those in Nigeria (especially in Northern Nigeria) are facing.

Thousands of human beings have been made into objects, by becoming kidnappees and sex slaves [3]. 15 million Nigerians have been displaced by terrorism. And aside from the physical bondage and atrocities committed, emotional, mental, and spiritual abuse has run rampant.

This couldn’t be more apparent than in deradicalisation programmes operating in Northern Nigeria. In the case of a woman named Aisha– a former wife of Boko Haram (BH) commander, Mamman Nur– it has taken almost a year to free her, and others, of their Jihadi muslim brainwashing. In the Sambisa Forest (Boko Haram’s stronghold), where kidnap, slavery, sexual abuse, and oppression in every form reign supreme, many women like Aisha came to love the power and “security” of being married to a prominent BH leader. Corrupted by this evil, women like Aisha have become cold-hearted, even threatening to rape men [4].

All around, people touched by the evil theology that is Boko Haram have been reduced to nothing more than objects, to be used, owned, and oppressed. But, contrary to what this religion teaches, God did not create mankind– both men and women– to be anything less than the pinnacle of His Creation, created in His very Image.

But what does it mean to be created in God’s Image? The term, “Imago Dei,” has been used by theologians for centuries, to describe the concept of humanity alone being made to directly reflect the Image of God, their Creator. It is first found in the Biblical book of Genesis, back to when God made the first human beings:

“So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.”
(Genesis 1:27, NIV)

The concept is simple: Because humankind was created in God’s Image, each human life is sacred and worth protecting. Each human soul is worth investing in, no matter the separations and “classes” set up by this world.

This also means that, because each human life uniquely matters, people are more than statistics. It can be easy to name large numbers; and at times, it is quite necessary to do so, so that others might realize the enormity of such atrocities. But, each human being, from a child in the womb, to the oldest of the elderly, is personally created in God’s Image– making it important to remember that each number only begins to describe the amount of pain and anguish each person is experiencing, whatever their situation may be.

Being made in the Image of God also means that we are like Him. Because humanity is made in God’s Image, humans cannot make images, or false gods, that are real or will actually save them. God created us in His Image; we did not ever create Him, nor can we ever, in our own. As Isaiah 43 says, “‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me'” (Isaiah 43:10, NIV). As the One and Only True God, God made humanity in His Image, so that He might have a relationship with each one of them.

A pastor once said, “God first made us, so that He could Love us.” Being made in the Image of God means that we are Loved by, and made to love, God. Created to be in relationship with Him, all of humanity has been made with an inherent desire to know God, whether they believe it or not; they have “eternity planted in their hearts,” created with an eternal soul (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The problem? Sin. Trying to live life without acknowledging and accepting that humanity was made by God, for Him, and in His Image, humanity has lost its true identity. Unable to be fulfilled– or as many have said, being created with an “unfilled, God-shaped hole”– people become exactly what they should never be.

Yet, even in the messiness of sin, God still sees people as they were initially: made in His Image, by Him and for Him. Though this image is marred, God still Loves humanity. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

God has given humanity a way to get back to being the Image Bearers they were always meant to be. His Name is Jesus– and He is not only way, but is The Way (John 14:6). The world, ruled by the evil one (1 John 5:19), sees people as statistics, diagnoses, cases, and classes. Even religion tries to objectify people in this way (as seen in passages like John 4).

But Jesus? He doesn’t. As God Himself, Christ sees each person as worth dying for. He sees you as worth dying for.

Each person mentioned in these headlines– from the 30 Boko Haram members, to the 500,000 children starving, to the countless wives of Boko Haram commanders– each one is an immortal soul, greatly and deeply Loved by Christ. In their hour of trouble, darkness, and need, let them be lifted up in prayer to the One who created them– in His Image. 🔹

 

[1]  https://www.yahoo.com/news/boko-haram-kills-seven-nigerian-soldiers-ambush-072757958.html
[2]  http://www.africanews.com/2017/02/11/nigeria-military-kills-over-30-boko-haram-insurgents-loses-7-soldiers-in-borno/
[3] and [4] http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/2017/02/11/power-sex-and-slaves-nigeria-battles-beliefs-of-boko-haram-brides_c1504697
[5] https://bible.org/seriespage/7-supremacy-person-christ-col-115-18



Do you know Jesus?

Have you ever tried to do good works, or be a “good person,” to earn God’s Love and Acceptance?

While it may be well intentioned, the Bible says that our righteous works are like “dirty rags” to God (Isaiah 64:6). Think of it: We, as images or reflections, apart from God, can do nothing to “clean ourselves up.” Instead, we only make ourselves more dirty!

Colossians 1 says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16, NIV).

At first glance, this passage in Colossians 1 seems to deny that Jesus is God– or at least, that He is completely equal to every other human being, also being made in the image of God. However, in the greek, the word “image” can mean both “representation” and “manifestation”: While any other human can be the image of God to varying degrees, Jesus is not only the perfect representation of the Invisible God, but is the Only One who perfectly reveals the character and nature of God [5], being fully human and fully God.

To see what God is truly like, one must look at Jesus. Perfect in every way, as God Himself, Christ paid the ultimate price so that we– as marred Images of a Holy God– could come to know Him, and become more like Him in a personal, Saving, Love relationship. Nothing can save us, and “clean us up,” other than the completely finished work of Jesus Christ, and the power of God’s Spirit in our lives (John 19:30; Hebrews 10:14).

We cannot save ourselves, nor can we know God “on our own terms.” Jesus was either a lunatic; evil; or the Christ, “Messiah”– the Savior of the world.

To know God, a person must first accept Jesus as God the Son (1 John 4:15), and accept His atoning work on the cross. “He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God” (Romans 4:25, NLT).

Learn more about the God who came to die for you, the Only One who can save you and “clean you up” (2 Thessalonians 2:13), here.


Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You, for doing all that is needed, to cleanse us and bring us into a real, personal, saving relationship with Yourself. Thank You, for Loving us enough, to step into the darkness and messiness of our lives, in order to save and make us more like You.

Dear Jesus,
All around, we read tragic headlines, naming and numbering off people who have passed away. Especially in Northern Nigeria, during the Boko Haram insurgency, please open our eyes, and make us more sensitive to the fact that each person written about– each person dying– is a soul, made in Your Image.

With that in mind, Dear Jesus,
I pray over all our brothers and sisters who are currently dying in the fight against Boko Haram. Dear Jesus, thank You for their sacrifice, for those in the Nigerian military, and thank You that they considered dying for the freedom and protection of their countrymen to be a cause worth fighting for. We pray all of this for all soldiers, dear Jesus, fighting for noble causes.

Dear Jesus,
We also pray over the 500,000 thousand children starving, in Northern Nigeria, right now.
Please, Lord Jesus, send us– however that may look, whether in prayers, material/financial support, or actually going there– and aid agencies to feed these children, not only physical food, but to share with them about You, the Bread of Life (John 6:35).

Dear Jesus,
We pray for women, like Aisha. King Jesus,
It is heartbreaking to see what happened to them, while under Boko Haram captivity, and what has become of them, because of it.

Yet, dear Jesus,
We know they still, somehow, bear Your Image.
Dear Jesus,
Please bring these muslim men and women to know You, 
and please restore all those who are lost, to know You, so that You might give them a heart of flesh, instead of a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).

Please restore those who are suffering displacement and captivity– specifically, the 195 Chibok girls who are still missing. Please, Lord Jesus, free and restore these young women, so that they might be whole, only in You.

Thank You, Jesus, for Your Great Love for us.
It is in Jesus’ Name I pray,

Amen.”

Thank you for your prayers!! Jesus bless you!!