“How long, Lord God Almighty,
will your anger smolder
against the prayers of your people?
5 You have fed them with the bread of tears;
you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
6 You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors,
and our enemies mock us.”
(Psalm 80:4-6, NIV)
As I read my Bible this new, January morning, I came across a passage that speaks of much suffering: Matthew 26, the days (and nights) leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion.
I read of how Jesus’ death was foretold by Himself, and it dawned on me: Jesus lived life knowing He was going to suffer greatly, and die.
Now, I understand: No one wants to read a post about Christ’s death and suffering on New Years Day, a day chalk full of new life, new beginnings, and new hope. Yet, it is Jesus who said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives” (John 12:24, NLT). It is in Christ’s death, and resurrection, that we as humankind can have any sort of Hope for a truly new life, at all.
At the same time, as people are celebrating the New Year, they are also plagued with the realities of living another day on planet Earth: Boko Haram has ravaged tens of thousands of people’s lives, including the parents of the 113 captive remaining Chibok schoolgirls. A news report from last night even read that 5,247 Muslims have been killed by Boko Haram in the past four years, alone (source).
It’s with these things in mind, that I wanted to share what Christ had me read, today.
- In Matthew 26, the passage begins immediately with Jesus foretelling his death, and then with the High Priests plotting “to arrest Jesus in a sly way” and kill Him (Matthew 26:1-4, NIV). Afraid of the people, these Pharisees planned to kill Jesus after the Feast, so the people would not start a riot (Matthew 26:5). It boggles my mind to know that Jesus knew the thoughts and intents of the High Priests, completely. Not only did Jesus know He was going to die, soon; He knew the violent, murderous thoughts of those who were going to do it.
Jesus was hated, and He knew it more than anyone else on the planet.
- Next, a woman comes to anoint Jesus’ head with extremely expensive perfume (Matthew 26:7). Jesus knew that she did this precious thing to anoint Him for his burial, and it was something Christ honored (Matthew 26:10-13). But His disciples did not. Looking at the woman’s actions with disdain, Jesus’ disciples complained to Him: “‘Why this waste?’ they asked. ‘this perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor’” (Matthew 26:9). John 12:1-8 records that Judas Iscariot was the one to have said this– “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6, NIV). Not only did Jesus’ disciples really take in that He was going to die soon; Judas was a completely fake friend. Those closest to Jesus did not understand much of what was going on, and in the case of Judas, one of those closest to Jesus was a traitor filled only with the love of money– a “love” that caused Judas to eventually betray Jesus over to death (Matthew 26:15).
Jesus knew how it felt to be completely misunderstood, and surrounded by fake love.
- During the last supper, recorded in Matthew 26:17-30, Jesus had his last meal with the same friends that He had spent three years with: friends that He Loved dearly, “to the end” (John 13:1, NIV). Yet, during a time that should have been filled with warmth and comfort, Jesus said one thing that filled the entire room with tension and sadness. “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me” (Matthew 26:21). Can’t you imagine it? An abrupt silence filling the room; the disciples looking on their Rabbi and Lord with pain, then to one another– and to themselves– with sadness and suspicion. Think of the pain you as a disciple would feel, as you suddenly see each of your friends as being able to kill the One who told you to follow Him. Their sad replies in verse 26 were apt: “Surely not I, Lord?” Judas’ reply was different. “Surely not I, Rabbi?”, refusing to call Him Lord. “What you are about to do, do quickly,” Jesus replied (John 13:27, NIV).
Jesus then spent the rest of the night telling His disciples of a new covenant, that would be orchestrated by His own death. While it was a horrible, painful thing to bring up, Jesus was not afraid to do so.
Jesus had much conflict in His life, and knew how it felt to have to face it head on.
- Then, in Matthew 26:33-35, Jesus had to look at His beloved friend, Simon Peter, and painfully tell him that through all of Simon Peter’s good intentions and loyalty, Simon Peter would end up denying his close bond with Jesus (Matthew 26:34). Yet, Jesus picked Simon Peter to follow Him, with all this in mind.
More than any other human, Jesus knew how it felt to have friends that go back on their word.
- Jesus’ next words in Gethsemane would be striking. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Filled with deep, desperate pain, Jesus needed His friends to stay close to Him and pray for Him, more than ever. But they didn’t. Close to Jesus, yet fallen asleep, Jesus’ disciples left Him deeply alone, even when physically close to those who knew Him best.
Jesus felt the heavy sorrow of being alone, even amidst a crowd of friends.
- “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will‘” (Matthew 26:39, NIV).
Jesus knew how it felt to grapple with the Father’s will for His Life, more than any other person on Earth.
- And then, with His disciples sleeping, Jesus saw His betrayer coming up to Gethsemane (Matthew 26:45-46). With a kiss from Judas, and with Peter attacking a soldier who had come to arrest Jesus (John 18:10), Jesus knew the pain and chaos of being “kissed” to His Face, but hated secretly.
He knew how it felt to be surrounded by fallen, sinful mankind.
- He was arrested by hateful men, though He did nothing wrong (Matthew 26:51-56). He was completely deserted by His closest friends in His darkest time of need (Matthew 26:56). One of his best friends, Peter, did deny even knowing Him (Matthew 26:69-75). He was unfairly prosecuted by corrupt men in power (Matthew 26:57-67).
Then He died. Not a quick death, nor a painless one. He died the most painful, yet slow death one could ever imagine, not only physically, but spiritually (1). He was slapped and punched; He was mocked as “King of the Jews,” and men so devalued Him that they gambled for His clothing (Matthew 26:67; Luke 23:37; Matthew 27:35).
Jesus knows how it feels to be marginalized, de-humanized, abused, and humiliated.
- He knows how it feels to suffer: to be dehydrated, exhausted, bruised and beaten. He knows how it feels to sweat drops of blood and have his flesh cut and torn to ribbons. He knows how it feels to be killed. Killed by awful, evil men, touting His murder as proof of their righteousness before God.
Jesus knows how it feels to be wrongly murdered– having family and loved ones to grieve in His absence (Mark 16).
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest (Jesus Christ) who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin” (“Jesus Christ” in parentheses, mine). This list of Jesus’ life could go on and on. In fact, I encourage you to take some time today, and read of Jesus’ Life with this goal in mind: To focus on what He went through, and how He understands where you are in life. Whoever you are, whatever you believe, and whatever you’re going through, God not only knows from watching you go through it; He, Jesus Christ, knows because He lived it, personally. Jesus does not only know what you are going through; He, the God of All Comfort, wants to comfort, love, guide, and help you through it (Psalm 68:19).
Jesus knows you. He Loves you. And, from the smallest hurt or pain to death itself, He completely understands what you are going through. He wants to help you through it.
As Muslims and Christians alike are being murdered by Boko Haram, let us pray that those who are Muslim realize who Jesus truly is: That He is truly God, perfect in Holiness, and truly man, entering into their world. And that, most of all, His death and resurrection are not just proof of His deity, but proof of His Love for them. It is in His death alone that they can have new, eternal life (John 12:24).
Do you know Jesus?
“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.”
(John 12:24, NLT)
In Matthew 26, as Jesus is kissed by Judas and arrested, His disciple Simon Peter takes out a sword, and lops the ear off of one of the soldiers arresting Jesus.
Instead of applauding Simon Peter for trying to protect Him, Jesus rebukes Simon Peter.
“‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?'”
(Matthew 26:52-53, NIV)
The Truth is, Jesus did not have to suffer these things. At any moment, He could have stopped His suffering, forsaking God the Father’s plan for human redemption. But He didn’t.
Jesus suffered, and died, willingly— that you and I might be able to know Him personally, and be saved from eternal damnation (2 Thessalonians 1), all because He Loves You.
Learn more about this God, who chose to suffer and die for you and I, here.
Please pray for…
- Those suffering from Boko Haram violence in Nigeria, Cameroon, Benin, and Chad.
- Muslims, that they would come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, the One who understands it all.
Thank you for your prayers!
Since I last wrote a post, much has happened all over the world, and especially in West Africa. In the past week alone, many major tragedies have occurred.
In Cameroon: On the morning of December 29th, 2017, two women suicide bombers set out to do major, irreversible damage to a community of people. Upon seeing these two women, people of Kordo of the Kolofata subdivision in Cameroon cornered the women, causing them to set off their explosive devices prematurely. Only the two young women suicide bombers were killed. On the previous night, December 28th, 2017, not very far away from Kordo, another attack occurred, killing one innocent person in the Mayo-Moskota subdivision, bordering Nigeria (source).
As if this was not enough, Moussa Ramat, the ex-mayor of Fotokol, Cameroon, was acquitted on charges of secretly helping Boko Haram. Ramat was a part of “several negotiations” with Boko Haram that led to the freedom of Boko Haram captives. Because there was little evidence linking Moussa Ramat to the charges that he was helping Boko Haram, he was deemed not guilty (source). This is all in view of recent news that a journalist from France was also freed from prison, acquitted on charges that he spoke to Boko Haram without passing on the information to the government. Only Jesus alone knows the full truth of these whole investigations (source).
In Nigeria: On Christmas Day, around 11 p.m., gunmen snuck into the Kamale community in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State. As people celebrated the birth of Christ, these assailants shot sporadically into the homes of those in the Kamale community, killing at least four people and injuring many others (source). The survivors climbed up nearby mountains and “scampered away,” one survivor, Micheal Zira, said (source).
In Molai, Nigeria, Boko Haram also attacked the Molai General Hospital (source). Shooting everywhere as they entered Molai, at least one woman and numerous young men assaulted those belonging to the hospital. Three people were burned to death. Two brand new jeeps were also stolen from the Hospital (source).
In the USA: A partner in a Law Firm, located in Long Beach, California, shot and killed two of his colleagues, before committing suicide himself. Employees in the entire law firm ran out as the gun shots sounded, screaming, “They’re shooting inside” (source).
In Colorado, on the morning of December 31st, 2017, one Colorado deputy was shot and killed, and six others were wounded, four being police men and two being civilians. The shooting happened after responding to a domestic violence call close to Denver. It is reported that it was an “ambush style” shooting (source). The officer who passed away was 29-year-old Zackari Parrish.
Egypt: Though not in West Africa, I found it important to report that, tragically, 9 Coptic Christians were killed in the city of Cairo, Egypt.
On Friday, December 29th, 2017, assailants reportedly a part of Boko Haram went into a store owned by a Coptic Christian, killing his two sons. Shortly after, the assailants tried to get into The Coptic Orthodox Church, in Mar Mina, a part of a small suburb within Cairo called Helwan. While the assailants intended to throw an explosive device into the church, they were unable to get through the line of security officers surrounding the church’s entrance. The shoot out killed one security officer and six worshippers, inside (source).
As I write this, I become aware of the fact that 22 people have died– and that those around them have been forever changed by their deaths.
Tens of hundreds of people have been suddenly, and violently, immersed into a state of grief so deep that they may consider death themselves.
In one moment, their loved one was alive. Worshiping Christ, or working, or celebrating Christmas with those around them… and then they were gone.
Many, many people, due to terrorism, have been plunged into a world that suddenly doesn’t make sense. For those who were innocently taken by terrorism, the words of one person, who knew one of the partners killed in the Law Firm shooting in Long Beach, California, sum it up quite well. “He certainly didn’t deserve this.”
“He certainly didn’t deserve this.“
What are we to do, when suddenly, we are submerged into a life that no longer makes sense– a life that is filled with grief, loss, and pain?
What the Bible Says about Suffering
I understand that me, a young person safe within the confines of her own home, holding a laptop, free to worship Jesus– I have no idea of how it feels to lose someone I love so much to something as evil as terrorism. I have little to no room to preach to those who have been struck by such a dark and evil blow.
No cliche or common Christian saying can mend a heart so broken.
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler.16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And, ‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”
(1 Peter 4:12-19, NIV)
The people Peter was writing to were overwhelmed by the trials and persecution they were going through. But Peter encourages them to rejoice.
How can one rejoice, when everyone around them is gone?
Christ does not call us to rejoice because of the suffering. That is insane. But He does call us to rejoice throughout the trial, because of the fact that we draw closer to Christ in the suffering, becoming partners with Christ in it (1 Peter 4:13).
When No One is To Blame
There are people to blame in these tragedies. Boko Haram. Evil, greedy men with guns and bombs and other weapons. Some of our problems are even self-inflicted. But, what about when pain has no one person or thing to blame? While pondering such questions, I happened upon an essay article written by David Weiss– a Christian man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who has undergone immense pain and suffering. His essay, “God of the Schizophrenic,” offered some insight: “Even when we cannot grasp the sources of our misfortunes, we can strive to learn the right lessons.”
“Pain is a powerful drug. It altered my perception and was an indelible part of my reality,” Weiss states. So many of those plunged into the world of grief, fear, and immense loss know what He is saying, all too well.
But his words about lessons is true:
We can get bitter, or get better.
We can turn away from Jesus, or run to Him, with all of our anger and questions and tears.
And perhaps, it is in running to Him, we will find something bigger than the answers we seek, as David Weiss did:
“I have finally met the God I had heard about but never truly experienced. A God who heals. A God who loves. …A God who manifests his genius by salvaging good from the evil in our lives.”
A Love that Never Fails
Let me ask you this: Is having every answer going to make you feel less bitter about your suffering? Does knowing the specifics and story of a crime scene make it less sad?
Right now, amidst the clamoring voices demanding change because of these tragedies– and rightly so– the deepest need of those suffering in a world that makes no sense is not having answers, but being Loved. Love that will never fail; Love that will save and restore them. Love that will comfort and hide away those in their distress.
As those around the world this week are suffering from these horrific tragedies, I pray that Jesus would surround them in a real way with His Comfort and Love, both supernaturally and through His People.
If you are not a Christian, please know that the only Love that will never fail is Jesus Christ’s Love. Come to Him during this time.
If you are a Christian, run to the One who promises to weep with you, comfort you, hide you away, and never leave your side, in the midst of the darkness.
You may (or may not) ever get any answers in this life. But His Love will see you through. And perhaps, that is all we really need.
This blog post is in tribute to the 5 deputies wounded in Colorado’s recent shooting, which took place Sunday morning. One of those deputies, 29 year old Zackari Parrish, passed away in the shooting. Parrish is said to have been a Godly man, going to a church in Littleton.
Please pray for all those who have been affected, including the deceased deputy’s loved ones.
Do you know Jesus?
I understand how trite all of this might feel, as you go through so much pain that no one’s input could change it, one bit.
I don’t want to make your pain seem less than it is, at all. Instead, I want to point you to the One who knows it fully. David Weiss says in his essay on suffering through Schizophrenia, “If God isn’t up there in heaven watching and waiting for me to screw up—if instead he weeps when I weep and celebrates when I take just one step toward a new and better life—then who am I to judge others harshly?”
Christianity differs from every other religion in this: That God descended into humanity, lived a completely perfect life, and died for the sins of those who rejected and killed him– for the sins of all mankind. No other religion offers complete salvation by mere faith in a God who loved us enough to meet us where we are at, in all of our pain and darkness, and be called Emmanuel: “God with us.”
If you are hurting today and seeking God, know that He wants to meet you where you are– and save you from going to hell.
Learn more about this amazing, Loving God, here.
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
(Hebrews 13:3, NIV)
Please pray for…
- Those in Cairo, Egypt who are grieving and going through daily persecution for believing in and loving Jesus.
- Those in Nigeria who are suffering from attacks made by Boko Haram.
- Those in the USA who are suffering and oppressed from different acts of terrorism.
- Those in Cameroon, who are also suffering from Boko Haram and muslim terrorist attacks of all kinds.
- That those who are suffering, whether there is a clear culprit for it or not, would come to Jesus with it, and would receive His Love and Comfort.
Thank you for your prayers.
Hello all! As many of you know, today is National Day of Prayer in the United States of America. It is a beautiful day where the people of America– especially Christians– gather in many different places to pray for the government, for the President, and for the many different prayer needs facing America today.
While the Chibok girls are not in America– and, apart from the few Chibok girls who have come to American boarding schools, there seems to be little to nothing that they have to do with America, the Chibok schoolgirls– and all of Nigeria, for that matter– are a huge point of prayer that I, Annalee, pray many Believers would pray over.
To highlight each aspect of prayer needed, I have decided to compile a few blog articles previously written on ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY here, so that readers can read (or re-read) these articles and agree on the prayer requests each article is focused on.
It is no secret that much of Nigeria is corrupt. Not only is Boko Haram waging war against Nigerians; there is corruptness in the oil industry, and Fulani herdsmen are also antagonizing many people in Northern Nigeria. This article sheds light on the Nigerian government; it’s corruptness, and it’s need for Jesus, the ultimate Doctor, to take away and change the corruption and sin so prevalent, not only in their society, but also in their own individual lives.
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for creating Nigeria as a nation, and for each person apart of their government. Please, bring those who are corrupt and do not know You to repent of their corruption; may they come and know You, Lord Jesus, so that they might truly Live.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Pain and Suffering
Millions of people, all over the world, are currently in painful, sorrowful conditions. Millions of those people currently live in Nigeria, where Northern Nigeria, because of the insurgency and corruption, is having one of the most acute cases of famine people have ever seen. This article speaks about the famine, as well as the pain and suffering had in the Nigerian military, extensively, encouraging us to put our Hope in Christ alone during such overwhelming times.
Although this famine is both vast and horrific, the mainstream media has largely failed to report any of it. Because of this, aid is not coming in as quickly as it could be. Please pray, with ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY, that this pain and suffering found in Northern Nigeria specifically would receive the attention and aid it so desperately needs– and that these people would be given Jesus’ Bread of Life and Living Water.
“Dear Lord King Jesus,
We cannot understand why there is so much pain and suffering in this world. But Lord Jesus, our Hope is in You.
We pray over those in Northern Nigeria, that You would grant them the aid needed– from wherever– to live another day, and to live through this insurgency.
You are near to the Broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18); please, let these people draw near to You, and let them receive Your comfort, Love, and ultimately, Salvation.
We long for the day when suffering is no more. Come soon, Lord Jesus!
In Your Name we Pray,
The Chibok Girls
While this whole blog is dedicated, in large part, to the Chibok schoolgirls and their freedom, there are a few articles that come to mind for the Chibok girls specifically: “Freedom Fighters,” “Free To Dance: The Importance of Sharing the Gospel,” and “21 CHIBOK GIRLS FREE!!!”.
These three articles were chosen, because of their hopeful nature, and vast scope. “Fighters for Freedom” speaks about how the Chibok girls run the risk of accepting that they live in captivity under Boko Haram, making it their new normal; “Free to Dance: The Importance of Sharing the Gospel” is about how we, as Believers, have THE power tool to set people free, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically: The Gospel. “21 CHIBOK GIRLS FREE!!!” celebrates the freedom of the 21 Chibok schoolgirls freed from negotiations between The International Red Cross, the Swiss Government, and Boko Haram. Please pray for Hope and the desire to leave captivity would stay firmly in the girls’ hearts; that they would be freed, spiritually and physically, by the Gospel, and would be free from Boko Haram very, very soon.
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You so much for Your Gospel, which sets us free from the bondage of sin, and of religion.
Thank You for Loving us so much, that You came to be the ultimate Sacrifice, so that we may experience Life and Life abundantly.
Thank You that Your Scars have healed us.
I pray, in Your Name,
for each and every one of the 195 Chibok schoolgirls left. Please, Lord Jesus,
bring each one of them to know You personally, as Lord and Savior, and please keep them from being brainwashed into believing that this is the “new normal” for them. Please rescue and free them soon, dear Lord Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
The Nigerian Military
Last, but definitely not least, the Nigerian military is an aspect of prayer for Northern Nigeria that tends to get overlooked. While the deaths of civilians may seem more shocking, the fact that the Nigerian military is still losing lives to Boko Haram is something to stop, and grieve over.
While not very many posts on ISAIAH 62 PRAYER MINISTRY are about the Nigerian military, “The Nigerian Military: Rest & Strength in Jesus Christ” is one that sheds light on the fact that without Christ, one can only fight something in their own strength– leaving them wearied, tired, and broken. While their circumstances have gotten better, please pray that these Nigerian troops (and the civilian task forces as well) come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and that they would be empowered: not to only fight this physical fight against Boko Haram, but to also fight the spiritual one, the roots of Boko Haram, which are demonic forces.
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for being Sovereign, having power over even demonic forces, which are no doubt behind Boko Haram.
Dear Lord Jesus,
We call to You, and we pray that the soldiers and civilians currently fighting Boko Haram would come to know You personally, as their Lord and Savior. As King David once wrote, “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (2 Samuel 22:30). May this be the heartcry of every soldier and fighter, fighting against Boko Haram. May they fight in Your Strength, not their own.
We thank You for this, Lord Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name I pray,
Today, on National Prayer Day, I ask that you would take some time– even if its only a bit of time– to pray for, and over, these four things. As you press into Christ, may He bless you and keep You in Himself, and may You find Joy, Strength, and Power in His Presence. 🔹
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”
(Romans 8:26, NIV)
Do you ever feel like you don’t have the words to say, or that you cannot pray “eloquently enough”? The Apostle Paul himself said, “We [including himself] do not know how to pray.” But, as one pastor pointed out from this verse in Romans, the Holy Spirit does!
He will help you, as you pray today for the different things that come to mind and heart. May you enjoy this time of seeking our Savior through prayer: open dialogue with the King! ❤
Please like this post and/or comment on it to share that you will be praying for these things– today, and/or in the future! 🙂
In Northern Nigeria, it is no surprise that millions, left in ravaged places, displaced and penniless by Boko Haram, are starving. Hundreds of young children are daily being called either moderately or severely acutely malnourished, and their parents are given different resources to help stave off death for their young children.
However, the fact that this malnutrition is leading to widespread illness is somewhat surprising, because it hasn’t been so explored– until now. In this article by Science Magazine, the correlation between starvation and illness for those in Northern Nigeria was written about extensively. As heartbreaking the statistics might be, it is true: those who are acutely malnourished are “nine times as likely to die of an infectious disease” than those who are not malnourished (source).
Overall, this is understandable: those without any nutrients in their bodies cannot prevent infection or illness nearly as well, nor can they fight through an illness once they get one. This sad fact has been to blame for huge outbreaks of malaria (in the rainy seasons), as well as measles, polio, and other harmful illness (source). As “Food, water, and sanitation are scarce or nonexistent,” the article comments, “…The camps and slums provide a perfect breeding ground for disease.”
But starvation, and the disease that can ensue, are not the only reason for instability in the people of Northern Nigeria. Boko Haram continues to attack, using ten year olds as suicide bombers in major towns and cities. Just this past week, two different Boko Haram factions attacked two military bases in Gulumba and Wajirko Village; out of adequate weaponry, the Nigerian army from the Wajirko base had to retreat, and the base was set on fire. Five Nigerian soldiers were injured in the Gulumba attack, while four Nigerian soldiers remain missing. These attacks are not just on those in the Nigerian military: The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Maiduguri has reported that at least 500 Catholics have been killed, with 144,000 Catholics displaced or running to Cameroon (source).
These major instabilities, both health-wise and in attacks by Boko Haram, hold one thing in common: When one is weak– or when one does not have the right weaponry– it is much easier to attack and overtake someone. In the same way, a person “unarmed” or “unfed” spiritually is an easy target for the world, the enemy, and a person’s own sin nature to attack than for one who is spiritually “well-fed” and “well-armed.”
A man without hope, like a person without food, water, or adequate weaponry, is easy to crush. Yet, it can seem almost impossible to have any sort of Hope in such a condition that Job– or those in Nigeria– find themselves in. The question quickly becomes: in whom or what is my Hope?
It’s not difficult, when everything is going smoothly, to answer, “Jesus!”, but it is in the hardest times of a person’s life that this question is most important.
In Matthew 21, Jesus comes riding into the town of Jerusalem, riding on a donkey and a colt (Matthew 21:1-11). This is something many Christians celebrate as “Palm Sunday,” the Sunday before Jesus’ Death and Resurrection. At the time, the Jews in Jerusalem who had come for the Passover heard of Jesus’ entering Jerusalem on a donkey and colt, fulfilling the prophecy found in Zechariah 9:9. To celebrate this “Israelite King” and His entrance, they laid down palm branches, imitating the way Old Testament Israelites treated their Kings, as seen in 2 Kings 9:13 when Jehu was made King (source).
There is no doubt that these Israelites were excited: From what they were shouting, they knew Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, becoming the King they had always needed (whether or not they fully knew it).
“The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’
‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!'”
(Matthew 21:9, NIV)
The Israelites, in this very spiritually high time in their lives, dreamed of Jesus being the Messiah that they were waiting for. But, the Messiah that He came to be was not at all what they had expected.
Instead of being a Messiah that would save the Jews from the physical oppression of Rome, He was a Messiah whose Kingdom was not on Earth (at least, not yet), but in the hearts of the men who believed on Him (John 18:36; Luke 17:21). When the Jews realized that Jesus was not the Messiah and King they were waiting for– when Jesus’ identity and His purpose in their lives, and therefore, their present circumstances, no longer made sense to them– the Hope they had in Him was vanquished. Evilly angered by not getting their way, they yelled not a week later, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Luke 23:21).
Yet, Jesus the Christ was coming for a lot more than to save the Jews from physical oppression; instead, He came to save all of humanity from the oppression of sin and death, by dying on a cross that both the Jews and Gentiles nailed Him to. Jesus was doing something much bigger than anything these Israelites could fathom– and, instead of trusting in Him alone for their Hope, they were putting their Hope in if Jesus was going to do what they wanted or not.
Jesus did come to save; He saved in a better way than any person could ever think of. David was correct when he put his full trust in Christ alone: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2, KJV). In a time of great need, David put His trust in God alone, no matter what that meant for Him. This is what Christ calls for us to do.
Because it is Christ alone who can fill a person with the Bread of Life and Living Water. It is Christ alone who is the Word (John 1:1-3), our weapon against the enemy (Ephesians 6:17). Without Hope, a person will quickly find themselves defeated. If one’s Hope is in good circumstances, or even in believing that God will do what one wants, that Hope has the good possibility of being swept away.
But if Christ alone is a person’s Hope, that Hope can NEVER be snatched away from them.
In this incredibly complex situation, where thousands, if not millions of displaced peoples are dying from illness and disease, or where Nigerian soldiers and Catholic clergy & laypeople are still being attacked by Boko Haram left and right, it is imperative that one puts their Trust, Hope, and Joy in Jesus alone.
Because, 11 of Jesus’ disciples– all of them, except for Judas– put their Trust, Hope, and Joy in this man who had rolled away the stone from Lazarus’ tomb, raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44). But Jesus did not stop there; He gave His own life (even when His disciples couldn’t understand it), sacrificing it on Calvary, that whomever might believe in Him will not perish (John 3:16).
Through the sorrow and confusion of the Messiah’s actions, there was ultimately Life. Peace. Joy. No matter how circumstances seemed, Jesus’ Will was done– and what a glorious, ultimate Will it was.
It is the same now. May the people of Nigeria put their full Hope, Trust, and Joy in Jesus the Christ– because, in Him, though there is Pain, it will not be wasted. 🔹
Do you know Jesus?
“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)
Many people know that Jesus died on a cross; but they do not know why He died on the cross. Similarly, they know that Easter, at least for many people, is known as Resurrection Sunday, the day Jesus rose again from the grave; but they fail to see it’s significance.
If we’re honest, a lot of Christians fail to see it’s significance, too. But without Jesus’ Resurrection, the whole of Christianity would be in vain.
Every Passover, as recorded in Numbers 28, the people of Israel were to celebrate their exodus out of Egypt by sacrificing two young steer, one ram, seven 1-year old lambs, and one goat (Numbers 28:16-25). These sacrifices were ultimately to celebrate an amazing fact: in Exodus 12, during the exodus of the egyptians each Israelite who painted the blood of a Lamb on their doorposts were not visited with the plague of death that the Egyptians suffered (Exodus 12:1-12). See more about this amazing holiday, here.
Moreover, the Messiah was sinless– a spotless lamb, to be the sin-offering for the world (in Judaism, ritual cleanliness was related to spiritual cleanliness, as seen in Leviticus). But what is the significance of Christ rising again?
To do away with sin’s power, the spiritual separation– death– it caused, one needed to not only be a “perfect” man: they had to have power over life and death, death being unable to conquer them.
This is what Jesus did. Meet this Messiah– and understand how and why He came to save you– here.
Please pray with us:
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for being the spotless Lamb that saved us from our sin! May we celebrate this, not only on Easter, but everyday!
Dear Lord Jesus,
We pray over those who are currently going through the horrific experiences of starvation and illness. Dear Lord Jesus,
We pray in Your Name that You would send aid workers into these suffering places, as well as the Nigerian government, to feed these hungry and fragile people.
More than anything,
We pray that these people would be fed the Gospel– that they would have the Hope, Trust, and Joy only found in You, as they lean on You as their Lord and Savior. Please feed these people, both spiritually and physically, Lord Jesus!
Dear Lord Jesus,
We also pray for those who are losing their loved ones to Boko Haram.
Dear Jesus, as so many grieve, either their co-soldiers, or their brothers and sisters in the Faith,
We pray that they would find comfort, rest, and Hope in the fact that Your Tomb was empty on that third day: That those who believe on You will live, though they die, and we will see them again.
We pray over all of this suffering, dear Jesus, and over the Chibok Girls: Please bring them home, in Your Timing, and do Your Ultimate, Glorious Will in all of our lives,
Even if it hurts, and we do not understand.
In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Thank You for your prayers!
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.
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 believe 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.
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.
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.
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.
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! 🙂
Four men, arrested and held under the Nigerian military’s control, kneel under the hot, scorching heat of the Northern Nigerian sun. As Boko Haram commanders, caught by the Nigerian military, these four men seem relatively normal. Dressed in “civilian’s clothes,” these men are not touting black flags, rifles, or military wear. Shackled, and side to side, these men are seen for who they really are. Without their frightening front, they seem much less terrifying, and much more mortal. Running into shortages of food, ammo, and fuel, these seemingly horrific men have been reduced somewhat to their cowardly reality: going to such measures as to recruit young men to smuggle them fuel, Boko Haram has been lessening in power, though not without lashing out.
There have been a series of five attacks by Boko Haram on Maiduguri, and their effect has been nothing less than horrific. Killing at least 9 people total, these suicide attacks have happened close to refugee camps, with one holding approximately 16,000 refugees, filled with people who have ran away from their villages, in an attempt to be saved from Boko Haram. One cannot fathom the fear they must feel, knowing that Boko Haram has now “found” them out, and tried to come into their only earthly place of safety.
But, in the chaos of it all, one Truth remains. As described by Amos, one of the fathers of the 21 Chibok girls rescued, “‘”Those selected to be released were done so practically at random. They were called and asked to form a line, and after a number of them were counted, it was stopped, …Fortunately for her (his daughter, Comfort Amos), she was among those released. They were told that the total of girls to be released was 21 and that by the grace of God, the rest would be released later“‘” (source). In all of the “chance,” Christ was present.
In all of the unknown, “chance” things that might have happened, Christ was not only present– He was Sovereign. As Psalm 37 joyfully proclaims, “The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives” (Isaiah 37:23, NLT). If this is true, then does that mean that Christ cares about, and delights in, even the darkest details? And if God is Love, why do such horrible things, like the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, happen in the first place?
While no human can have the full, complete answer to this question, this topic is very much one of the themes of the book of the Bible, Job. 42 chapters long, this epic, true account of one man’s life is centered on God’s Sovereignty, even in the face of suffering. While Christ, many times, does not directly cause something evil to happen, He does, sometimes, let bad things happen– even letting mankind make it’s own decisions–if those decisions are evil, or not.
The book of Job opens with a description of Job: “There once was a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless—a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil” (Job 1:1). Not only was Job “a man of complete integrity,” but verse 2 says, “He owned 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 teams of oxen, and 500 female donkeys. He also had many servants. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area” (Job 1:3). The father of seven sons and three daughters, Job regularly interceded for, and purified, his children, “For Job said to himself, ‘Perhaps my children have sinned and have cursed God in their hearts'” (Job 1:5, NLT).
This man– this righteous, holy man– loses everyone and everything. His livestock, his servants, and his children are all taken and/or killed, either by other people, or by natural disaster, and he loses his health, becoming covered from head to toe with painful blisters (Job 1:6-19; 2:7-8). If one person could be put on a billboard for seemingly suffering unjustly, it would be Job.
Ultimately, though, these trials could never compare to Christ’s suffering. More righteous than Job, Jesus Christ was completely sinless– yet was “…the Lamb who was slaughtered” (Revelation 13:8). Not only does Jesus grieve the loss of His loved ones, like John the Baptist (Matthew 14:13); He grieves temporarily losing His oneness with the Father, as He took on mankind’s sin (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). Mocked, beaten, and bruised, Jesus Christ dies the most horrific, unjust death in the history of all mankind.
But, God the Father was not absent, or unfair, from the scene of these horrifically painful things. Rather, God the Father was completely in control; and, when the suffering was over, His will had been done: in Job’s suffering, both Job and his friends, who thought they knew how God operated, experienced a deeper, more real understanding of God’s Sovereignty. At the end of the book of Job, Job stands before God, after God shows Himself to Job and humbles him. Job’s words, though few, are incredibly profound:
“‘I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, “Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?” Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 ‘You said, “Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”‘ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.'”
(Job 42:1-6, NIV)
Job, now clearly seeing the Unsearchable, Amazing Goodness of Christ, becomes blessed once again: He gains twice as many livestock as before, and he has 10 more children– “Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers” (Job 42:15). Most of all, they learned that, though Christ’s ways are infinitely higher than mankind’s, He is eternally, and ultimately, good.
On a much grander scale, Christ’s suffering was also apart of God’s plan: “from the beginning of the world,”Christ died, and rose again, for the forgiveness of all sin to those who believe (Revelations 13:8b). From the beginning of the world, Christ was going to be the sacrifice to save us from our sin. While this is an amazing, and, if one confesses, confusing prospect, the one thing it obviously shows is that, while many people would say otherwise, suffering is, at times, the will of God– and He is ultimately good, above it all.
Surely, Job and those in his life– could not understand why these tragic events were taking place. Even Job’s wife, during the suffering, advised him to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). All seemed out of control, cruel, senseless, and random.
Those who loved Jesus, as He hung on that cross, no doubt, were filled with extreme grief, frustration, and confusion. Their Messiah, their God, their Friend, was dying a death He never deserved, yet foretold many times (such as in Mark 8:31-33). In the middle of this pain, they could have never seen a Good, Loving God’s plan being laid out; but, as Christ says in John 12:24, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels–a plentiful harvest of new lives.” Though death, suffering, and pain, came salvation and eternal life for billions of Believers.
So it is, with suffering, today. Though Boko Haram seems wild, they, just like the four men under the Nigerian military’s control, are under Christ’s control, whether they believe it or not.
No one can fathom the kind of pain that Nigerian refugees, the loved ones of the Chibok girls, and those hurt by suicide attacks are going through. One can’t see the redemption that is in store, when there is so much grief. While this redemption and insight may not “make everything okay,” knowing that Christ– the All-Knowing, All-Seeing God, who is everywhere at once, and who gave Himself up for us in Love—is Sovereign over all, gives us hope. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28, NIV). Through it all, Jesus’ Sovereign, Good Hands will make every broken thing beautiful. Stand on that promise.
Do you know Jesus?
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.“
(Romans 8:28-30, NIV)
Romans 8:28 is a passage of Scripture that has given hope and comfort to Believers in Christ for centuries. Through suffering, Christians have clung to this promise: that though it hurts now, Christ will turn “everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”
But what about the next two verses? God knew His people in advance… that is a really complex, heavy, mind-blowing thing to read, much less believe.
But, when Christ died for the sins of mankind, as according to God’s plan before the beginning, He still chose to submit to the Father’s will, no matter how fatal, or painful, it might be, modeling how humanity also has a choice. And so, there is a Truth found: that while God knows His people in advanced, they still have the freewill to either refuse or accept Him, as Lord and Savior.
ALL people, Believers and Non-Believers alike, will stand before God one day, to be judged for what they do and do not do (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 2:6). Only Believers will enter into heaven– those who have accepted Christ’s payment for their sin, on their behalf. And no one, at the end of their lives, will be able to tell God that they did not receive an opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, taking away their sin and granting them eternal life (Romans 1:20). It will all come down to if they knew and accepted Christ, or rejected Him.
If you have not yet received Christ as your Lord and Savior, “For God says, ‘At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you.’ Indeed, the ‘right time’ is now. Today is the day of salvation“ (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT).
Learn more about, and accept Jesus’ free gift today, here.
Please pray for…
– The 22 (now 23!) Chibok girls who have been freed from the clutches of Boko Haram. Please pray that they would seek and know Jesus, and that their loved ones would also reach out to Christ for the wisdom, understanding, and truly, all they need to love their newly freed loved ones.
– For the 196 Chibok Girls, who are still in captivity. Please pray that, even in captivity, they would seek Jesus, and would be freed spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically from their bondage to Boko Haram.
– The Refugees who have been terrified by recent suicide bombings. Please pray that they would seek Christ, as their true Refuge.
– The Nigerian military. Please pray that they would seek Christ, for the wisdom, guidance, and resources they need, both spiritually and physically, to defeat Boko Haram.
– Boko Haram. Please pray for it’s members– that those who are Christian captives in their midst would be used powerfully by Christ, to call these men, women, and children, to Himself.
Thank you for your prayers. “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture” (Psalm 37:3, NIV).
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
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)