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!!

Victory in Christ: An Open Letter to Sa’a

Sa’a, a twenty year old girl from Chibok, Nigeria, was around 18 years old when she was just one of the 276 young women Boko Haram kidnapped on April 14th, 2014. Jumping from the bed of one of Boko Haram’s trucks as it sped away into the night, Sa’a barely escaped with her friend.

Now free, Sa’a (a name used to protect her real identity) is studying in the US, along with the very same friend who escaped alongside her. Interviewed by NPR, Sa’a also wrote a statement, and was brought before a congressional panel on Africa and human rights, represented by chairman Chris Smith.

Although she is physically free from the clutches of Boko Haram, she remembers her classmates, and all those displaced, back in Nigeria, and has brought great glory to Christ, in all her recounting of her horrible ordeal.

Jesus Christ has used this beautiful young woman, and her story, to greatly encourage me in Him. I pray that, if given the opportunity, she would be encouraged in Him through this letter, as well.


Dear Sa’a,

Hello! My name is Annalee, and I am from the western United States. I received the honor of learning about your personal story, concerning Boko Haram, both through your interview on NPR, and through a news article posted on a press-release distributor. As I read, and heard, your story, Jesus Christ stirred in me and led me to create this letter to you.

Sa’a, as I read your story, I was filled with both pain, for you and those in Northern Nigeria, as well as encouragement. I wanted to encourage you; but I don’t want to write you merely fluffy words. I wanted to encourage you in Christ, and by His Word. I pray I am able to do so, here.

Sa’a, I praise Jesus, that by Him, you are very brave. Christ has gotten you through so much, and, as a poet named John Newton, once said in the song “Amazing Grace,”

Tis Grace has brought us safe thus far,
and Grace will lead us home.

While your current circumstances still may hurt, I want to encourage you with this verse, found in Romans 8. “But in all these things we are completely victorious through God who showed his love for us” (Romans 8:37, NCV).

Sa’a, as you look to the future, I know that you probably also look toward the past, at times. You must think about the classmates you love that have not escaped, yet; and the millions of people who have been displaced, harmed, and even killed by Boko Haram. Sa’a, I am so sorry for this. Please, my dear friend, know that “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, NIV). It is during the most heartbreaking times that Jesus is working, moving, and opening His arms wide to you, for Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3). I pray you would receive that Comfort.

Finally, Sa’a, I wanted to encourage you with this. What your classmates have gone through, and still are going through, is unthinkable.

The injustice is outrageous. So many feel, and think, that no one hears them. Their hearts are sometimes lonely. Hopeless. Sad.

But, even in this state, we have this sure Hope: we know that Jesus Christ rose from the grave, and He is coming back, again (Hebrews 6).

On that cross, the power of sin– and the power of death, that seems so overwhelming– was conquered. “For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57, NLT).

It is Christ’s Victory that makes us spiritually free and alive, as Christ says.

 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?'”
(John 11:25-26, NIV)

And, that is the complete Truth– no matter where we find ourselves. In Christ, we have the Victory. In that, I pray you would find true Hope, Rest, and Comfort.



Do you know Jesus?

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.”
(1 Corinthians 15:3-5, NIV)

Think about it. Your rabbi, your friend, and your leader, Jesus Christ, warns you that He will die soon. That you all will scatter. That He will rise again (Matthew 16:21). How would you feel? What would you say?

There is no doubt that sorrow, panic, and a deep disturbance would fill your heart. There is no doubt that the disciples of Christ were confused, angry, frustrated, and, most of all, filled with grief.

As they saw Christ crucified in agonizing fashion, the One they loved looked defeated. Struck by men, this man who claimed He was God died (John 10:30), and His followers did not understand (John 12:16). Although He foretold His resurrection, Jesus Christ’s death seemed to be the Ultimate Defeat to those closest to Him.

But, Jesus Christ could not be defeated. On the third day, He rose again. Learn more about– and meet– the One who was victorious, here!



Dear Father God,

Father God, I praise You, and I thank You, for all You have done, all You are doing, and all You will do. You are unstoppable, Father God; Your resurrection proves it!

I thank You, Father God, for every person You have created; You have declared Your Glory to all people, Father. Father God, I just praise You for Sa’a, and for her being just one of the countless people You have shown Yourself to. You are Holy, Father God… and You have given everything, to free Sa’a, and to show her You are near. You are amazing, Father God!

I pray right now, in Jesus’ Name, Father God, that dear Sa’a would be comforted by Your Holy Spirit during this horrible time. Please give Sa’a Yourself as her Strength, and draw her close to You. Dear Father God, please delight her as she seeks You, more and more, and show her Your face through all of the grief and darkness.

Father God, I praise You and I thank You for Sa’a’s unnamed friend. Dear Father, I pray that this young woman would know You as her Lord and Savior, if she doesn’t already. Father, You are “a very present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46:1); I pray that You would show this to Sa’a’s friend. Please strengthen her, Father God, and restore/give to this young woman everything the enemy has tried to rob her of, and destroy.

Father God, I praise You for all people who have been touched, hurt, and otherwise affected by the Boko Haram insurgency. Please bring them to know You, and show them the Justice, Peace, and physical Salvation that they need, Father God. 

Father God, please protect those men, and women, who are taking a stand against Boko Haram, and are giving their lives to defeat Boko Haram. Please show them that You are the One and Only God, Father God, Lord Jesus; protect them from their spiritual enemy, Lord Jesus. Comfort them with the fact that You win. 

Father God, I pray over the 219 young girls who are still missing, and the thousands more who were not apart of the Chibok Schoolgirls kidnapping. Please strengthen them, Father God; give them great Courage and Peace, and keep their eyes on You (Psalm 31:24; Isaiah 26:3). Please move, in and through these camps, to bring all men— even Boko Haram members– to You. 

In all, Father God, please reassure Your People that You are ruling and reigning over their every experience. Thank You for dying the death we deserved, that we might know You, and have Victory in You. Praise You, Father God! I thank You for ALL of this. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”

Please continue to pray for Sa’a, her friend, and all those who have been deeply affected by Boko Haram– free, and captive. Thank you! 

The One Who Satisfies

In Yola, Nigeria, after a long day of learning about and reading the Koran, 200 young “almajiri” boys, ages 5-18, gather under a tent canopy or under the roof of an old schoolhouse building. Known for begging alms when not studying the Koran, these boys line up instead for their evening meal as apart of the “Feed and Read” Program put on by a Christian professor from the American University of Nigeria (source). Using perhaps the first set of bowls and cutlery they have seen in a while, they are given a meal of spaghetti, beans, and rice, and a sachet of water– maybe the only meal they have had all day. With stomachs full, the children are invited to take part in the Math or English lesson offered that night, which most take happily.

About 250 miles (402 kilometers) away, in the city of Maiduguri, the need for food is just as real, yet sadly unmet. Within Internally Displaced Peoples’ Camps (IDP Camps), over 400 children ages one to five have perished from malnutrition in 2015 alone (source). While Nigeria’s emergency aid  is doing all it can, many young children are still suffering from the effects of hunger, either because of not eating the right foods, or from simply not having enough to eat, at all.

Where there is lack of food, there naturally begins to be a lack of healthy life. This is also true, spiritually; without Truth continually nourishing the souls of those who have found it, one’s spiritual life becomes more and more like a famished and malnourished child.

The Bible says, in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This says something profound about the spiritual implications of feeding on lies. Sadly, there are many people, dare it be said the vast majority, who truly believe that what they are feeding on is Truth. Deceived by the “sweetness” of what they’re ingesting, many believe that they are doing well, when in fact, they are like a small child after eating too much candy: experiencing obvious trouble because of it, yet always wanting more. In this world where “relative truth” reigns supreme, countless souls lie in spiritual death, separated from Christ.

This is the heartbreaking reality for many who claim to be “religious” or “spiritual”; but this could be no less true than in Northeastern Nigeria, where millions upon millions of muslims live. islam, a religion that is almost 1500 years old, is a religion which, though rooted in the patriarch Abraham like Christianity and judaism, is incredibly different from Christianity in many different ways; the main way being their view of who Jesus Christ is. Though islam acknowledges Christ, calling Him one of the prophets who came before the prophet Muhammad, they completely deny the Deity of Christ, and even deny that Christ was crucified, much less resurrected  (Q’uran 5:116-117; Surah 4:157-158). Rejecting Christ for who He is, muslims, like billions of other people all over the world, feed on religion– their own “good works”– to save them; yet remain hungry and thirsty for something, for someone, more. 

Jesus: the Living Water

Jesus speaks to this deep problem of spiritual hunger and thirst in the book of John, chapter 7.

 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’ By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”
(John 7:37-39, NIV)

The “feast” mentioned in this passage of scripture refers to the “Feast of Booths” (also known as the “Feast of Tabernacles”), an important jewish festival that celebrated the Israelites’ 40 years in the wilderness. During this time, there was an eight-day celebration that included the imagery of water and light (source). It “on the last and greatest day” of this eight-day period that Christ declared this life-changing proclamation: that anyone who came to Him in a spiritually thirsty state would never grow thirsty, in this way, again– but rather, would overflow with His Living Water, the Holy Spirit.

The Bread of Life

As if it wasn’t amazing enough that Jesus claimed to fulfill mankind’s incredible spiritual thirst, He also claimed to fulfill the hunger of every person who came to Him. In the book of John, Jesus is quoted as saying seven “I am” statements. While each of these statements proclaims that Jesus is God (such as Jesus’ “I Am” statement, “I am the Good Shepherd” [John 10], which can be tied to Psalm 23), there is one “I Am” statement that Jesus proclaimed, regarding mankind’s spiritual hunger, found in John 6:32-35:

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’
‘Sir,’ they said, ‘always give us this bread.’
Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.‘” 
(John 6, NIV)

Speaking to another large crowd of people, the ones whom He had fed in John 6:1-14, Jesus tells the people plainly that He not only has the resources of spiritual bread to give them, but, in fact, is the spiritual bread that these crowds are desperately looking for. Though the crowds had originally come to Him to hear His teachings, they received much more: the miraculous, physical food He gives them, and the much more needed spiritual sustenance that they have been so hungry for their entire lives.

Only One Savior

One will notice that Jesus does not claim to be only “one type” of the bread of life, but is “the bread of life.” He also does not claim that a religion is this bread of life. Rather, He declares that He and He alone is the bread of life, and that all who come only to Him will “never go hungry… [and] never be thirsty” (John 6:35).

Though many, many people have complicated Jesus’ message, or thrown it out altogether, the message still remains the same, because Jesus’ Word does not change (Luke 21:33). The message is this: that Jesus is God Himself, and came to earth to fulfill humanity’s deepest need: the need for a Savior, and to be reconciled to God.

In this world where “truth is relative,” and religion reigns supreme, may the world– like those boys studying the Koran, and those children in IDP Camps– be given what they truly need: a personal, saving relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Water and Bread of Life. Let them “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).


Do you know Jesus?

Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.'”
(John 6:53-54, NIV)

Jesus spoke this controversial passage of scripture right after telling the crowds around Him that He was “the Bread of Life.” Though it sounds scary, gruesome, even, it makes sense when one realizes what Jesus was about to endure.

Some time after proclaiming this to the crowds, Jesus, though innocent, would be crucified for the sins of mankind (Romans 4:25). Accused of blasphemy for declaring that He was God, Jesus was put to death because of the jewish religious leaders of the time, and sadly, all who followed them (John 19:7; 15). His body, beaten and bloodied beyond recognition, took on the sins of all humanity– and “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV).

Jesus, in dying for the sins of all mankind, reconciled mankind with God, so that all who might believe on Him would have Eternal Life with Christ (John 3:16). Learn about this precious gift of reconciliation– and the One who gave it– here.



Praise Report!!! Praise Jesus for the “Feed and Read” Program! 

Please pray for…

  • The teachers and children of the “Feed and Read” Program. This program was created by a Christian woman; and, though it respects the study of the Koran for the study of these young boys, there is still definite opportunity to share Jesus Christ with these students. Please pray that Christ would raise up teachers who love and know Him, and who will love these children with the Gospel.
  • The people of Nigeria, the Nigerian government, and President Buhari.  President Buhari, and countless others, are muslim. Please pray that those who miss their kidnapped loved ones, and those trying to get them back, would come to know Christ as the True Fulfillment that they are seeking, as well.
  • Those in IDP Camps. Pray Jesus would put His people in these IDP camps, and would send Christian missionaries into these IDP camps, to share the Gospel with  the hurting, hungry people among them.
  • Boko Haram members, and the Nigerian military. Pray that all people in this war on terror– from the instigators, to the soldiers– would come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior, that they might be freed from their bondage, and fulfilled with His Love.
  • The Chibok girls. At the time of this posting, it has been 695 days since the 219 girls still in captivity have seen their families, friends, Loved ones, and the free world. Please pray for their release! Christ hears us, and is working in the lives of these young women. Thank you!

 

The petition, “Tell Buhari: Locate the Chibok Girls by April 14th, 2016!“, was closed on February 22nd, 2016. This petition is now in the process of being sent to President Buhari (though with a fair bit of difficulty). Please pray for an open door of opportunity, and for favor on the petition during this process.

Thank you for your prayers; please pray for the petition as it is sent! Jesus bless you 🙂

Thirsty for the “Living Water”: Bringing those in the sex industry to Christ

On Sunday, November 1st, a sad text message confirmed surprising news in Nigeria. “Hi Ameh,” it read, “want to inform you that we just lost our President, Jessy this afternoon. She died after battling heart-related disease for years. It is a sad loss to NANP and we pray God to give her family and 15-year-old daughter the fortitude to bear the loss.”

“Who is Jessy, and what is the NANP?” one might ask. The answers are surprising and shocking, in and of themselves: “Jessy” is a woman named Oluchi, otherwise known as Jessica Elvis; and, sadly, the organization she was president of is the National Association of Nigerian Prostitutes, an organization working to legalize prostitution and better the lives of prostitutes in Nigeria.

Thirsty for the Living Water

Though prostitution is illegal in Nigeria, the sex trade, and the NANP, are flourishing. Women as young as 16 either willingly join the trade; or, are unknowingly trapped and forcefully coerced into prostitution by strangers– and even sometimes by family. These women become apart of the scum of society; and even though the late Jessica Elvis implied that sex workers are not prostitutes, but “friends of the society,” [1] their trade, whether chosen or forced upon them, degrades and ruins their lives, and the lives of their “customers.” This evil organization, and the sinful practices it stands for, express not only the rapidly declining moral state of the nation, but one Truth: the nation and its Northern inhabitants are not only thirsty for physical water and relief, but all of Nigeria is thirsty for “the Living Water” that never runs out: the person of Jesus Christ. Continue reading

Many Sorrows: Suffering in Light of the Cross

The city of Maiduguri never saw it coming. Even if they did, the city had little to nothing to stop or prevent it from occurring. Friday, July 31st at 6:30 AM, a bomb blast in Maiduguri caused the whole city to shake and stir with panic. Being set off at the densely populated Gamboru marketplace, the suicide bombing killed 8 people, while injuring countless others.

Said to be a woman, this suicide bomber was not suspicious in the slightest; yet, the effect she had on those around her will forever haunt her survivors. For people in Maiduguri (and Northern Nigeria in general), no place is safe anymore. What once used to be a place no one feared going to– and in fact, needed– has now become a place of trauma and horror for everyone who has ever walked its roads. Bloodied or not, the trauma Nigerians have suffered is both painfully real– and much more than skin deep.

The thought that something so horribly devastating could happen within a few seconds seems unfathomable. But, it is surprisingly true for many, if not all, horrific, life-changing experiences: what happens in only a few moments amounts to a lifetime of pain, grief, and sorrow. And while, in many cases, the perpetrator is the only one who suffers from their mistakes, the much more common (and incredibly unjust) reality of it all is that victims are the ones who suffer most. Innocent people are caught in the crossfire– and are forced to live with the repercussions for the rest of their lives. In many ways, this could have been what Jesus meant when He told His disciples that “In this life, you will have tribulation” (John 16:33); though Jesus’ warning is honest, the question still remains: when real tribulation hits, how do we cope? Continue reading