The Weight of Sin: Refusing to Be Free

 Letter from the writer: “The Process of Healing” and this post were meant to be one post, but upon writing the post, I was led to create two separate, smaller posts with similarities, yet with two different themes. If they seem to read the same, that is why. 🙂


On May 13th, email messages came into the inbox of ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY with shocking, yet unbelievably true, news: there are, indeed, at least four young women who do not want to leave Boko Haram captivity.

In this video, shared by Bring Back Our Girls and reported by SaharaTV, four of the reported Chibok schoolgirls, including one young woman named Maida Yakubu, explains that she does not want to leave Boko Haram captivity because “they [her parents] live in a town of unbelief,” and that she wants them to “accept Islam” (source). She says all of this while covered in a black hijab, holding a large gun.

There is chance that these are not Chibok schoolgirls; or that they are being made to say such things. But, if it is true, this news is crushing—especially for the parents of these young women, who have cried out to Christ for their safe release/return. To learn that their  daughters do not even want to be free, and do not even want to see them, must be a shattering blow to their hearts.

BOUND AND BLIND

While these young girls did nothing sinful to be kidnapped and taken into captivity, this idea of young women refusing freedom and home reminds one of sin—and of the bonding, blinding effect it has on our lives, as it did in the life of Samson.

The biblical account of Samson can be found in the book of Judges. Samson was a man who had every bit of potential: He was born a Nazirite, which is a person who is dedicated to the LORD and does not cut their hair, drink wine or fermented drinks, nor do they touch anything unclean. Set apart to the LORD, Samson’s uncut hair made him a strong man—a man who frequently had the Spirit of the LORD fall upon him in power (Judges 13, 14:6).

Yet, for all of the potential Samson had, he wasted his life on sin—from getting even with those who wronged him by striking down thirty men (Judges 14:19-20), to lighting an entire community’s produce on fire in anger (Judges 15:3-5), Samson used the strength and potential Christ gave him in ways that were far from God-honoring.

One of the most volatile sins in his life, though, was his promiscuity and life-long sexual sin (Judges 16:1-3). In his infatuation with Delilah the Philistine (the Philistines were one of Israel’s greatest enemies), Samson told her the secret: that it was his hair that caused his strength (Judges 16:4-17). Delilah sold him out to the Philistines; they cut his hair, plucked out his eyes, and bound in chains (Judges 16:18-22).

Yet, Samson’s life was not a complete waste. As his hair grew back, he regained his strength; and, in the Philistine’s celebration of Dagon, their false god, Samson pushed over pillars supporting the building they were all in (Judges 16:29-30). “Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16:30b). Killing the Philistines’ leaders and many more, Israel won a victory over the Philistines. Still, this painful life shows that the enemy indeed means to kill, steal, and destroy through sin, which binds one—and usually blinds one to the fact that they are bound.

Again, these four young women have done NOTHING wrong to be in the captivity they are in at the moment. But the fact that they have been so brainwashed as to believe that they are in a good place, when they are obviously still bound, is a cause for deep sorrow, and earnest prayer. “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:16-17).


Do you know Jesus?

“It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.”
(Isaiah 50:9, NIV)

The weight of sin is incredibly heavy—it produces death, physically and spiritually (Romans 6:23). And while no one can escape their physical death, there is a death, the second, spiritual death that one can escape.

But how? There is no way a person can live a totally sinless life. Instead, God Himself came down to Earth, to do exactly what nobody else could do: pay the wages of sin, for those who take on the free gift of eternity.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Take on God’s eternal gift—paid by Himself, Christ Jesus—today. Read more here.


Please pray for:

– These four Chibok schoolgirls; for Maida Yakubu, who spoke in the video.

– For the remaining Chibok schoolgirls, that they would all want to be free.

– For the Nigerian government, as they continue to collaborate with the International Red Cross, and the Swiss Government, to free the remaining girls.

– For the Nigerian military, who is suffering losses, according to this article.

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“Where is God?”

Recently, members of the United Nations (UN) have visited the Lake Chad basin, considered the near center of four countries: Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, and Niger.

This dwindling basin is not only the geographical center of these 4 countries, but is in fact also the epicenter of the evil Boko Haram insurgency. Ravaged by the woes Boko Haram has caused, the injury of the state is severe: widespread famine, and millions of refugees have gone barely noticed worldwide up to this point, with only humanitarian aid and other nations’ responses helping to feed and provide basic needs to those involved in the crisis. But that is not all: Michele Sison, U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations, has reported, upon coming back from her trip to the nightmarish place of the Lake Chad Basin, that women have seemingly suffered more than men from Boko Haram violence.

Women, in the toxic areas Boko Haram has attacked, are now widowed, sexually exploited, and financially empty. This extreme suffering does not only belong to female victims of Boko Haram, but also carries over to women who were apart of Boko Haram. Whether voluntarily or involuntarily in Boko Haram, these women have had more difficult times facing stigma from their home towns and villages, especially when desiring to get re-married, according to Sison’s report. While one can understand why any person would be both skeptical and careful of a “Boko Haram wife” being re-integrated into their lives, those women who were coerced into Boko Haram, have been met with shunning and threats, instead of compassion and support over what they have been through. I was treated as if I was also Boko Haram,” said one woman, in this report.

Women and children are slowly being degraded and killed– as well as those in combat against Boko Haram. On March 9th, it was reported that one soldier passed away in a battle against Boko Haram members, in Borno state (source). Two soldiers remain missing in the line of duty, and 18 were wounded while fighting.

The abuses against humanity in this area of the world could heartbreakingly go on and on. The noble get snuffed out; the vulnerable and precious become abused and wounded. In such a place as this, where is a Sovereign, Good God?

In The Beginning

To answer such a question, one first should ask, “Where was a Sovereign, Good God in the beginning?” In the account of the beginning– that is, in Genesis 1– the Bible describes a very profound image of God.

“Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
(Genesis 1:2, NIV)

The earth, made of particles of matter, was, as Elliot’s Commentary for English Readers’ puts it, “a shapeless and empty waste” (source). The Commentary goes on: “It expresses here the state of primæval matter immediately after creation, when as yet there was no cohesion between the separate particles.” In this formless, empty waste that was earth, the Bible does not reveal that God was distant, or “apart” from the earth, as Deism teaches. Instead, the Bible describes God has “hovering” over the waters: very near, and very involved with and in His creation.Where is a Good, Sovereign God

Fast forward to Genesis 3, and one gets yet another view of this Sovereign, Good God, interacting with the pinnacle of His Creation, humanity. In Genesis 3:1-9, the relationship between God and man is first seen as whole and unbroken. But, then, a huge breaking happens. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8, NIV)This verse presents two very real things: that one, God enjoyed His Creation, maybe even walking with Adam and Eve in the garden; and two, that it was not God who caused this fracturing in fellowship, but Adam and Eve. Given freewill, and choosing to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Adam and Eve blatantly disobeying God’s command. Adam and Eve, in eating from this tree, displayed their decision to try to live a whole, unbroken life, without God, the source of Life Himself. While God foreknew that this action would take place, it was still humanity’s decision, humanity’s lack of trust in God being God, that caused sin, and death, to enter the world.

 

God, in Pursuit

Still, even through all of humankind’s sin, rebellion, and trying to “kick God out” of their lives, God– a Good, Sovereign God– did not leave mankind to rot in the stew of it’s own sin and death, mistakes and consequences. Instead, this Good, Sovereign God Pursued and Loved humanity relentlessly (as seen throughout the Old Testament). Still, a fracture– or truly, a gaping canyon– existed between God and humanity. Some might ask, “Why can’t a Good, Sovereign God just forget the debt of sin? Why can’t He just forgive?” Because God is a Good God, He is a Fair God; “He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent” (2 Peter 3:9). The wage for sin is death (Romans 6:23), and as the Ultimate Judge, He cannot, by His very Nature, wink at sin and turn a blind eye. He must be Fair, and there must be Justice, yet, He knew that nothing mankind can do– not even dying for their sins, themselves– could reconcile them to Him. As a Good, Loving, Sovereign God, He willingly stepped into this role, paying for the entire sin debt of mankind– though He owed none of it. But He did not stay dead: not even death could hold Him. He rose again, on the third day, claiming victory over satan’s power, and over the sin and death that separated Him from humanity.

This gift, made outside of humanity’s ability (or rather, disability) to “earn” it, is completely free. It can lead to the question of, “Why?! Why would a Good, Sovereign God suffer in our place?!” The answer is simple: He Loves us. God is not just a Righteous, Sovereign God; He is a God who Loves us, both personally and passionately. Jesus Christ, who died just as much for the sins of one person as He did the entirety of mankind– and rose again, claiming victory over death– is the Savior of those who freely take on this good, good gift.

 

The Receiver’s Role

As the receivers of this good gift, Christ, who is God Himself, has called those who Restoringbelieve Him, for who He is to be, “ministers of Reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). God is the One who came to earth, to die for the sins of mankind in an act of complete reconciliation; Jesus made the ONLY  way to “get right” with the Father.

Christ is bringing what is dead and fractured, to life, through the reconciliation He completed on the cross.

And so, a new “Creation” takes place (2 Corinthians 5:17). Just as God was “hovering over the waters” of an empty, formless world, creating beauty, form, and meaning in His creation of the Earth, He is now creating beauty, form, and meaning in the hearts of those who are responsible for the fracture– using Believers as His vessels to complete this task.

One can easily ask, when looking at the Lake Chad Basin– and for good reason– “Where is a Good, Sovereign God in such hell on earth?”
But He is where He has always been: Creating new life out of chaos, and redeeming what is broken. The real question is, will you join Him? 🔹



Do you know Jesus?

It is a seemingly trite, cliche question. “No,” you may laugh; “I’ve never met the guy.”

There have been many world-changers; some even claim that Jesus was a world-changer. Yet, there is no one like Him: He did not only change the world, He changed, and broken down the dividing wall, that kept mankind from Himself.

Jesus is not still hanging on the cross. He rose again, victorious!

Jesus is God.
He is alive, well (Acts 1:9-12), and where He always has been, ever since the garden (Genesis 3:8): passionately, and personally, pursuing you.

Come to the One who beckons, and calls your Name for you to come to truly know Him, here.


Please pray with me…

Dear Lord Jesus,
We thank You, dear  Jesus, for paying the price we could never pay, to receive something freely that we don’t deserve.
Thank You, dear Jesus, for bringing us into a personal, saving relationship with You… not based on “good works,” but based on Your Grace and Goodness, toward us.
It is with Your Grace, and Your Goodness, in mind, that we come to Your throne room, now.

Dear Jesus,
I praise You, and thank You, for each and every person You have made, currently living in Borno state, and specifically in the Lake Chad Basin… dear Jesus, we cannot imagine their suffering, and if anyone praying can, Lord Jesus, we know that we can only live through such things with You by our side.
Please, Lord Jesus, make Your Presence known– through Your Holy Spirit, through other people, through the world around us, and, importantly, through the Revelation of Your Word, the Bible. Please, dear Lord Jesus, make Your Presence known to those suffering in internally displaced people’s camps, in Boko Haram’s fortresses and camps, and in the desolate villages, harmed and wounded by Boko Haram, and by other evil, perverted men and women. Please bring even those perverted, evil men and women to come to know You.

Dear Jesus,
We pray that as people recognize Your Presence, that many would come to know You, and would come to be healed of their brokenness. There is much wrong with this world, Dear Jesus, and You are the only cure… our only Hope.
Please make Yourself very Present in the lives of those reading. I pray they would realize their need for You, and would run to You for the Salvation, Forgiveness, Healing, Love, Grace, and Mercy that only You provide. 
Please save all those reading, and bring them to the Light of Your Passionate Love for them. May they know You as their Lord and Savior– following You all the days of their lives, and realizing that nothing they do is from themselves, but only done by Your Grace.

Dear Jesus,
We pray, in Your Name (John 14:13), that those who are currently starving would receive the physical food they need, as well as the Food that only You can provide. Please take care of their physical needs in general, and as they look to whomever gave it, may all the Praise, Glory, and Thanks truly go to You.

Dear Jesus,
Please, we pray in Your Name, bring back the Chibok girls, soon… and please bring back home the wounded soldiers, and civilians in Vigilante Groups, who have been fighting to eradicate Nigeria of Boko Haram. Please, bring these men and women in Nigeria to You, including the President of Nigeria. Thank You, Jesus.

In Jesus’ Name we pray all of this. Amen!”

Thank you for your prayers!!! Jesus is Good, and He is in Control. BE BLESSED! 🙂

Fighters for Freedom

Nigeria has been hurting, as of late. On Wednesday, January 25th, Boko Haram militants overtook a military camp in the program “Operation Lafiya Dole,” the counter-insurgency effort created by the Nigerian army. Three soldiers were killed, while arms and ammunition were stolen.

As all of this took place, a new interview came out, from Thomson Reuters, interviewing the mother of a Boko Haram soldier. The interview was both insightful and heartbreaking, as the mother of this Boko Haram member shared her story. The woman, named Falta, is the mother of a BH member named Mamman Nur. As the mastermind of the U.N. Headquarters bombing in Abuja, which took place in 2011, Mamman is reportedly responsible for the death of at least 23 people.

In the interview, Falta, who calls herself “an old woman,” reports that she was forced to live in the Sambisa Forest with Mamman, his three wives, and his children, claiming that she had no one else to take care of her (source). She also stated that while she continually  “tried to talk her son out of joining Boko Haram,” he became more and more involved (source). Taken back out of the enclave by the Nigerian military after a 2015 raid of the Sambisa Forest, Falta is still reportedly in a government safe house, not having any other caretaker.

This interview is difficult to read, because it sheds light on the fact that these murderous, cowardly, evil militants have families who love and care for them. But that is not the only reason. Falta’s remarks describing her stay in the Sambisa Forest, a place known for its Boko Haram hideout– and therefore, it’s symbolic darkness and oppression– were disturbing. In the interview, Falta said that “life in Sambisa was quite comfortable” (source). Complete with their own house, in which Falta had her own room, the enclave also had its own supply vans to deliver food and clothing to those within it, as well as its own doctor, nurses and hospital “to tend to the ill” (source). Surrounded by her grandchildren, Falta described a life that seemed to be pretty luxurious for living in a terrorist camp.

For all of its comfort, the fact that it is still an evil place is what makes her entire testimony disturbing. And yet, this apparent dark oasis in Northeastern Nigeria is not only captivating in that many of its captives have actual physical bondage on; but in that, over time, many captives who stay there run the risk of getting comfortable, and making it their “new normal.” This can be seen in the case of over 100 Chibok schoolgirls, whom reportedly “do not want to go back” (source). If this horrific report is true, these Chibok school girls have been both psychologically and spiritually brainwashed into staying captive to their “husbands.”

In reality, while many are not bound by physical chains or physical, evil people, they lie spiritually imprisoned. The worst part of all? They do not see their chains for the horrendous evil that they are. Heartbreakingly, people stay enslaved all of their lives: to lies, to addictions, and ultimately, to the bondage of sin and death.
Even the Apostle Paul spoke about this carnal trap in Romans 7.

I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” 

(Genesis 7:22-24, NLT)

In probably one of the most relatable, down to earth passages of Scripture, the Apostle Paul becomes honest about his struggle with sin. But while so much of the world likes their bondage, He, knowing the true freedom found in Christ, sees and knows the sin in his life for what it is: slavery (Romans 7:23).


But, for the Believer, there is incredible Hope. While the believer still struggles with sin, they are completely set free from the old law, and from the eternal condemnation humanity’s sin creates.
Meanwhile, the world, because it is blinded to the Gospel of Christ, has no choice but to continue on living within their chains (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin, and it’s bondage-creating nature; but not until they choose to know and accept Christ are their eyes opened. But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:16, NLT).

Isaiah 62 Prayer Ministry wrote in this article about how Jesus, through the Gospel, literally frees people spiritually. The chains of the Believer are gone; they have been set free (Romans 6:18), and are now able to know God, and obey His commands– not because they have to, but out of a genuine heart of praise.

There are many who have even this freedom in Christ, spiritually– the freedom to be victorious over the sin in their lives, by obeying and submitting to Him– and yet, they use their freedom to find new chains to wear: pleasing people instead of Christ, and spending their lives living in the same prison cells of sin, addiction, anger, unforgiveness, and lust. There are those on the other hand, who also wear new chains– chains of unbelief when it comes to Grace; legalism; and self-condemnation. Many people deal with both types of bondage. Both of these “groups” of people have the chance to leave this bondage, but either won’t, out of rebellion and pride– or don’t even understand how bound they really are.
This is not what Christ wants for anyone, and that definitely includes Believers. Instead, Christ calls His Children to be “Freedom Fighters,” men, women, and children who walk in the glorious freedom from both sin and legalism. Christ desires His Followers to walk in the Light (1 John 1:7). This cannot be done if Christ Followers refuse to step into the Light of Christ, either because of sin, or dead religion.

Like William Wilberforce, the famed abilitionist from the 1700-1800s, Believers must become painfully aware of bondage and oppression; but, to do this, they first must see their own chains, and let Christ set them free.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

There are hundreds of captives in the Sambisa Forest, who have gotten comfortable, or scared, and do not want to live outside– even if it means they never see their loved ones, or breathe the air of freedom, ever again. Just like so many in the Sambisa Forest, many do not see their need for freedom– or are simply afraid to give Christ, the One who will free them, control. 

But, it is for freedom that Christ has set Believers free. So, whether it would be fighting Boko Haram, or fighting any other type of spiritual bondage, may Believers give Christ the control– and let Him make them more and more into the Fighters for Freedom He has called them to be. 🔹 


Do you know Jesus?

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…”
(Romans 8:1, NIV) 

Dead religion– the rituals, rules, and the mentality that one must “earn their way to heaven” by doing “good deeds” is a sad, broken way of life.

In the Old Testament, every rule, and every ritual, pointed to The Messiah– they were shadows of the real thing, to put it one way (Colossians 2:17).

How silly would it be, if a person kept loving someone’s shadow when the actual person is standing in front of them? Yet, this is how many treat Jesus.

The Truth is, those who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior are not under the “law of Sin and Death ” anymore… They are under the law of the Spirit, completely free from condemnation to have a personal relationship with the God who gave it all to have them (Romans 8:1-2; Romans 5:8).

The time is up for shadows. Meet the “real thing,” the God who sets us free, here.


Please pray with me… 

“Dear Father God, 

Thank You for the Nigerian military, and all that You have done through them to defeat Boko Haram. We know it is not without sacrifice. Please hold the family members of the soldiers killed in the line of duty. 

Father God,

Thank You for showing us all what is happening in Northern Nigeria, and how there are many people who, for some reason or another, are wanting to stay in captivity. 

Father God, 

We pray, in the Mighty Name of Jesus, that You would open the eyes of the blind and unbelieving, who are staying imprisoned without even knowing about it. Please open their eyes to their condition, and bring them to know You. 

Father God, 

We pray for the Believers in these camps, who also do not want to leave. In the Name of Jesus, please open their eyes to the freedom that awaits them. Please open up the way for them, so that they can become free, soon, too. 

Father God, 

We pray in general for those Believers who may be physically free, but are still in some sort of bondage. Show us all where You want to free us; and may we submit to You, and Your will in our lives. 

Please free the captives, and continue to lead us to You. 

In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.”

Thank you for your continued prayers!

The Boko Haram: Finding Unmerited Mercy & Unbelievable Forgiveness

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

Nigeria: Physically Well, but Spiritually Sick

Amidst the heartbreaking news that so often floods headlines when speaking about Nigeria, news has come that sheds light on Nigeria’s potential in fighting corruption, war, and crime. In August, it was reported that Nigeria had contained Ebola, and was working hard to prevent future cases. The effectiveness of their strategy has shown the world what Nigeria is capable of in regards to healing their nation.

This news is welcomed, as it is an encouragement to those observing the happenings in Nigeria. Nigeria’s potential has also been showcased in their successful attempts at taking back cities from the nation’s notorious terror group, Boko Haram. This fall, several cities were taken back from the terrorists, including the cities of Mubi and Damboa.

Yet, despite all their success, Nigeria still suffers from kidnappings, raids, and the mass killings of “infidels” by Boko Haram– which have reached increasingly evil levels of barbaric violence. Corruption has also spread to the Nigerian military; low morale has seeped into military ranks, with privates and corporals staging mutinies against their commanders. The military has claimed to be ill-equipped for facing the terrorists, causing many to refuse to fight. Why then, when a country has such potential and seemingly “functional institutions” (Source), is Nigeria still struggling with the disease of corruption within it’s nation, as well as terror from groups like the Boko Haram? Continue reading

Corruption in the Nigerian Church: Confronting Sin

There is no end in sight to the corruption found in Nigeria.
The extent of the corruption was expressed by the Deputy National President of the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria:

“Corruption has eaten so deep into the society that it is no just about politicians alone. In the church, you have to almost always pray with one eye opened because in some of the places, even some ushers and finance people steal the offerings. It is terrible.”

This kind of corruption can be seen as shocking, but it comes as no surprise to those who know the signs of the end times. This kind of corruption was warned against in the last days, as found in 2 Timothy 3:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.”
(2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Although it may come as no surprise, it is saddening and a cause for anger, none the less. The level of corruption in Nigeria’s government has been frustrating throughout the ordeal concerning the Chibok girls’ abduction; to learn that it has spread to Holy places– the very meeting places of the body of Christ– expresses that sin and corruption are indeed like a virus that quickly spreads without reflection and repentance. Continue reading