Victory!

There is a darkness all around us. Whether one senses it or not, a spirit of sorrow– of fear, of loneliness, of hopelessness– reigns in the hearts and minds of countless people all over the globe. Daily, we read articles of heartwrenching violence abroad, while locally, the day’s headlines include senseless tragedies, marring the day with disheartening, sober pensiveness.

In nations like Nigeria, Iraq, and inumerable european countries all across the East, this darkness is both strikingly felt and incomprehensibly heavy. With events such as a child suicide bombing committed by a girl as young as seven years old in Nigeria, to the kidnapping of close to 90 christian Assyrians in Syria, the incessant persecution and violence found in these nations are a cause for deep terror in the hearts and minds of people caught in the crossfire. And while the Boko Haram insurgency found in Nigeria and its surrounding nations is being fought back against by a heavy-handed AU Army, the warfare found in Nigeria– as well as across the middle east– is only a symptom, a physical manifestation, of the spiritual warfare occuring all over the planet, every moment of our lives. Continue reading

By the Holy Spirit’s Power: Defeating Fear & Boko Haram

They are the many unsung, unseen forces in the Nigerian military. Women– mothers, daughters, respected leaders in Nigerian society– have given their safety and comfort to fight the evil that is the Boko Haram insurgency. Though almost unheard of when speaking about the military, women make up a good amount of the country’s militia and are an active part of the fight against terrorism. Yet, in an attitude of apprehension and even slight panic, Nigeria has decided to remove more than 200 of its women soldiers from the frontlines of Maiduguri city to the country’s capitol, Abuja. Continue reading

The Nigerian Military: Rest & Strength in Jesus Christ

The Nigerian military has been through much as of late. On January 5th, 2015, it was reported that the Northeastern Nigerian town of Baga was invaded and ransacked by the Boko Haram on Saturday, in which the town’s military base was overran and raided. This base homes a multinational task force for Nigeria and its surrounding countries, and Nigerian soldiers are housed there. This assault left hundreds injured and many dead as men, women and children tried their hardest to escape Boko Haram’s clutches. Continue reading

Quick Post: Rest.

Tonight, looking at news updates on the ceasefire deal announced Friday (and the violence that has continued on since then, jeopardizing the deal), I became tired. Weary. Frustrated. Skeptical. Worried.

What are we, as believers in the words and promises of God, to do when everything around us seems to ask why God is so fickle?– or, on a more sickening, cynical, unbelieving level, why God is so cruel?

I’ve had a longer, more polished post drawn up for a few days now, and I’ve been struggling with finishing it. It’s called, “6 Months Later: A Reason For Hope.”

I know what my reason for hope is. I know where– and who in– my hope is found. Yet, the words don’t seem to come. And the thoughts of worry, of doubt, of inadequacy, of fear, linger and creep in, making my heart flutter, haunting the words I mean to say and trying to silence me.

But you know what? I refuse to let the enemy kill my joy. I refuse to let him take over what should be a blessing and an encouragement, making it stressful and tiring.
Tonight, in the midst of the utter chaos that surrounds these abducted girls,
In the midst of the pain that comes with knowing that these beautiful young girls and women need to spend one more night away from their families and loved ones,
In the midst of the weariness that comes with not knowing when this pain will end,

I will trust in the Lord (Proverbs 3:5-6).
I will go into His temple. I will meditate on His love for me (Psalm 48:9).
I will meditate on how he’s lifted me out of every miry pit I’ve ever fallen into– or dug myself, inviting in (Psalm 40:2).
I will think on these things. And, in the midst of such love, such peace, such grace,
I will believe with all my heart that He is never slow or careless when it comes to fulfilling His promises (2 Peter 3:9).
I will praise my God, whose love is unfailing (Psalm 36:5-7; Psalm 56:9-13).

Lord Jesus, I praise you for releasing the 50 some girls that have escaped from the Boko Haram so far.
I praise you for strengthening them according to your steadfast love.
I love you and thank you for providing these girls with people to share their stories with. For providing them with just enough food and water to survive. With just enough strength and determination to reach a refuge. For always being their refuge, even among their pain and suffering.
I thank you for choosing me. For choosing me, for choosing this young child, to hear your heart for these girls. To hear your voice speak these bold promises, full of love and redemption and hope, over such a hopeless situation. Forgive me for being unfaithful in doing what you’ve called me to do– to devote myself to prayer for these girls, and to proclaim these promises to others as well, asking them to join in prayer and support for the abducted girls, for Norther Nigeria, and for Nigeria as a whole. I praise you for being faithful even when I am unfaithful. And I thank you for keeping your watchful eye on these beautiful girls, showing them such favor as to start negotiations, strengthening the Nigerian army to fight against the darkness that holds them, and to cause your people to cry out to you for them.

You are strong and mighty to save.

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)

Your promises for these girls ring true, everywhere in your word.

“Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free.” (Proverbs 11:21, NIV)

I can rely upon Your Word and Your Promises.

“Your word, LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” (Psalm 119:89, NIV)
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35, NIV)

Tonight, I will rest in the fact that He is God. Period.
That, no matter what, He is good. Loving. Beautiful.
That redemption and salvation are coming, and it will be glorious.

Tonight, let’s praise, hope, and rest in our God, praying that He grants us the blessing of seeing these girls free soon. Pray for their continued protection; pray for their favor under the rule of the Boko Haram. Continue to pray for the BH leader, Shekau: that He would believe in Christ Jesus and know Christ’s peace that surpasses every understanding there is. Pray that the people of Nigeria would run back to the Lord. That they’d find rest in the shadow of His wings as they trust in Him as their Lord and Savior (Psalm 56:13).

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2, NIV)

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3, ESV)

 

The Chibok Girls: Holding On to His Promises

On September 11th, 2014, news was made that Comrade Shehu Sani, President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, along with the Red Cross, started to join in talks with the Boko Haram to release 30 of the kidnapped women and girls from captivity in exchange for either 18 or 30 (mixed reports of both numbers have been published) of the Boko Haram’s key sect members, currently imprisoned by the Nigerian government. Negotiations going on to release the girls were suspended momentarily, due to disagreements between the government and the BH on the number of girls to be released. As the government wanted all of the girls freed for the 30 prisoners, the BH wanted to release them in a piecemeal matter, something that has frustrated negotiation attempts so far. The outcome is hopeful, but uncertain.
What seemed like a positive and progressive step towards the girls’ release was coupled and strengthened with the news that the Nigerian military, as well as vigilante groups fighting alongside the military, had won over attacks against the Boko Haram 35 km (22 miles) from Maiduguri— and in the process, killed one of the Boko Haram’s most feared commanders. On September 12th, it was reported that the Boko Haram’s leader, Abubukar Shekau, was killed during the fighting, though this report is also being incredibly questioned and found to be false. If it is true, the whole of Boko Haram may undergo serious changes in it’s effectiveness, level of violence, and military targets, as discussed in the above article.

With so much hope but yet so much uncertainty, it can be hard to stand firm and fast in the Lord’s promises
. And a midst many other huge events– both of joy and sorrow– happening in Nigeria, the encouragement and happiness created by these unsure yet promising circumstances led me to, in the quiet of my heart, wonder, “Is this it, Lord? Has the time come?”

“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV)

During this time, many truths, through hardship and trial, have been learned, one being this: that Christ, and not our circumstances, must be where our hope abides. Reading a headline can easily (and has easily) thrown me into states of excitement, confirmation and encouragement, while other times, they’ve discouraged and disappointed me greatly, making me almost to lose all hope. This disposition can change daily, and usually does; some days, every headline seems to speak of a firm hope in their rescue and in this conflict’s resolution, and other days, that hope can be completely wiped away with a few sentences.

Hanging on to headlines instead of the promises of God can and will wipe out hope, quickly. But more and more, relying upon the Hope of Christ in us and His promises, we can be unmoved in our hope no matter the circumstances. As Paul says in Hebrews 6:19, “…we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (NIV)

No matter what headlines say– as so many of them are flawed, and the news itself can be faulty, sadly– something that has comforted me up until this point, and continues to even here, is the fact that Christ is alive and at work in every circumstance. He is faithful. We can trust Him in all things.

To be honest, I’ve found myself asking if I truly believe they’ll be free, as I once did so many months ago. The words Christ so boldly and beautifully wrote upon my heart in June have now faded with life events being weaved in, over and around those promises, making them to fade and turn rusty. My mind, body, heart and soul find it hard to keep from being dry, apathetic, and even bitter.

If I am brutally honest, I have been disbelieving. I have been apathetic. I have puttered out. I have become selfish, consumed with newer life events and my own trials (though I know and trust that God, too, has these situations in the very palm of His hand).

It is easy to become impatient. It is easy to be discouraged. It is way too easy to give up, to fade out, and to abandon this whole measure all together. In fact, I’ve found myself starting to do so without realizing it.

But reading these headlines– full of hope, of pain, of victories, of loss, all within the same days and weeks– has shown me that the Lord’s hand may be unseen, but He moves in more complex ways than we could ever pray for or imagine (Ephesians 3:20, NIV).

We have seen prayers answered: that the Lord would break and decimate the members of the Boko Haram, so that, being broken in spirit, they’d cry out to Jesus; that the government would be given wisdom and understanding for knowing how to fight against the Boko Haram, as well as how to get these girls back home. Both of these prayers, and assuredly many more prayers, have shown themselves to be attentively heard, graciously answered, and unmistakably true– like small, subtle slivers of light through blinds into a dark room.

But when the Lord promised they’d be free, He didn’t promise it’d be done on our terms. Never did our God promise that the story of these beautiful young girls, of the Nigerian people, wouldn’t be complex, chaotic, and filled with such sickening, incomprehensible situations that we’d be left speechless, confused, angered, annoyed, and shell-shocked at what we’ve read and heard.

Jesus also has not promised us that our lives would have simple plot lines. That the resolution to such huge problems would be big enough to fit on a newspaper headline. That the action would be filmed or shot on camera, that prayers answered would be completely and obviously seen.

But we must look at what He has promised us. We must hold on to His promises, remembering His faithfulness, and knowing that He will always be forever faithful to us. “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NKJV).

Pray for the men and women in Nigeria, that they would fall into such a place where they need the Lord, and that they, in the quiet, broken softness of their hearts, would come to know Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Pray this also for the Boko Haram members, as they continue to fight in the name of Islam; pray that they’d come to see the meaningless, empty loneliness of their false idol worship. Pray that they’d see how the hatred, the bitterness, and the death not only of their physical selves but of their spiritual selves as well has come about, and that they’d cry out to Jesus in desperation as their Lord and Savior. That there, Christ would come to them and make Himself known to them in huge, amazing ways. Pray they’d be brought near to Him in His love, and would know His peace that surpasses all understanding– that they’d be completely and totally changed by His gospel.
As they come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior, pray that they’d be strengthened and emboldened by the Holy Spirit, with all spiritual wisdom, revelation, and understanding, to bring the Gospel to those within the BH, so that all others may be saved as well.
Pray for Abubukar Shekau– that His heart would be slowly but surely tilled and broken up so that it may be supernaturally soft to hear the word of God. Pray that the Holy Spirit would break Shekau, so that this evil man may come to know Christ’s love and awesome redemptive power.
Remember, the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) himself was a former terrorist to the early Christian Church before the Lord stopped him on the road to Damascus (Acts 9)! Pray that an equally, incredibly powerful event would occur in Abubukar’s life.
Pray– and Praise the Lord!!– for the negotiations happening between Shehu Sani, the Red Cross, and the Boko Haram; for favor on behalf of these girls, for their imminent release, and for the mighty and powerful hand of the Lord our God to move in and through those camps to bring all of the girls and the BH members to faith in Jesus.

What He has promised, let us not forsake in praying to Him for.
“…You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,

and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.” 
(Isaiah 62:6b-7, NIV)

The Women of Gwoza, Nigeria’s Youth, and the Nigerian Military: Fighting Against the Darkness

We, as humans, were never created to experience death. Yet, in the town of Gwoza, lives have been ripped apart by it.
Darkness seems to reign. Hands hang limp.  Blood runs heavily. People are both literally and metaphorically crushed.

After being asked one question, “Will you convert to Islam?” Men and children are beheaded, slashed, and shot down where they stand, sit, and lay. Their wives, mothers, and sisters– those beautiful young girls and women, loved and cared-for members of their households and communities, are violently raped, beaten, and gagged after being “married” to their husbands’ murderers. Then, bound, shrouded in the darkness of black hijabs, they are told by their captors and rapists, “You are Muslim now.”
The blood flows. The tears dry them out. The bruises become dark; the bones wither. Their spirits sink as low as the mass graves of their loved ones. In days, their lives become full of nothing but bitter heartbreak and unimaginable horror.
But the Lord knows and loves these people passionately. Many of these forsaken, beaten, bound, “converted” women, if not most to all of them, know Christ as their Personal Lord and Savior, and according to Voice of the Persecuted, over 300,000 Christians were displaced from the predominantly Christian Gwoza and it’s surrounding states as the Boko Haram infiltrated the community.
Because of this fact, there is still hope.  A God who sees, knows, and loves His people, who is “close to the brokenhearted [and]… rescues those whose spirits are crushed,” affirms and assures the hope of His people that He will be near to them during this time. Not only this, but they have the promise that “all things will work together for [their] good,” according to Romans 8:28. Because our God is a good, sovereign, loving God, their faith and rest is in His power– His complete willingness– to REDEEM the lives of these broken, crushed women.

Because our Lord is a God of unbelievable redemption and amazing second chances, He not only will comfort and redeem these people; He can use them to bring others to Himself. Hallelujah! How great is our God!

To be quite honest, I don’t know what to write or how to in the face of these tragedies. How can one do justice to telling the truth of the horrendous acts being committed? How can one capture the voice of a nation dying under the dark powers so disgustingly at work within it?

In conclusion, be strong in the Lord [be empowered through your union with Him]; draw your strength from Him [that strength which His boundless might provides]… For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place].” (Ephesians 6:10a, 11-13, AMP)

The truth is, no one can fight against this; it must be Christ. I cannot, and do not, fight this war on my own. Whether I am writing on this blog, creating prayer bracelets, or telling others of what is going on in this country, I, in my own strength, am insufficient to fight against the powers of darkness that exist so heavily around us. And as I hear about civilian youths fighting alongside the Nigerian military against BH, the Nigerian military lacking in weapons, training, and morale, and these dear men and women dying for their faith all over the world as BH, Hamas and ISIS persecute Christians, the truth becomes more and more clear: Contrary to the world’s popular belief concerning the Boko Haram, Hamas, and ISIS, we are not fighting a war against mere flesh and blood. As the passage in Ephesians proclaims above, we are fighting a spiritual battle against an enemy that is, in fact, deceiving and destroying not only those persecuted, pillaged, and lost by Islamic terrorism, but the human terrorists so vehemently hated themselves. Therefore, we must rely upon the power of the Holy Spirit to move in, through, and around us to defeat the enemy who is fighting so hard to destroy. We cannot fight only with mere weapons, no matter the lack or the abundance of them. Ultimately, we must fight with prayer, with fasting as the Lord calls us (Matthew 17:21), and with spreading the word to raise awareness– awareness not only of the plight of these people, but of the enemy’s spiritual schemes and attacks. As Ephesians 6:18 states, we must “keep alert and watch with strong purpose and perseverance, interceding in behalf of all the saints (God’s consecrated people)” (Ephesians 6:18, AMP).

With all of this in mind, let us pray for our beaten and wearied kidnapped sisters in the BH’s camps, as well as in the town of Gwoza. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit would move powerfully within the towns of Gwoza, as well as the surrounding towns within the Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa states of Nigeria. Pray that the God of all comfort would speak to these women in their distress, keep them under the shadow of His wings, and would work in and through these women and these situations all over the world to bring members of Boko Haram– as well as the members of ISIS and Hamas in the Middle East and Syria– into a personal relationship with Himself. May He create in them such rest, such strength, and such faith in Him, that they’d proclaim His name boldly, illuminating such darkness with His perfect light.

Pray that the youths fighting against the BH with the Nigerian military would come to know Christ as well, and that by His guidance and strength alone, they’d continue to fight against the BH with boldness. Pray for the Nigerian soldiers; that though they may be lacking weapons, the Lord would show Himself strong through them in defeating the BH according to His will– and that no matter if they have proper weapons or training, their strength and resolution would be found in Him alone as they call upon His name. It is only by the power of Jesus that these dark forces can be extinguished. 

We were never meant to experience death, but with Christ, death is already defeated. We must be aware of the enemy’s schemes, putting on the full of armor of God, completely confident in the fact that He has already won the war against sin and death, and that His salvation will soon be seen in the lives of these people! Please continue in faithful prayer and solidarity with our fellow brothers and sisters around the world facing the darkness.