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EASTER DEVOTION (4), plus PRAYER FOR NIGERIA
By Elizabeth Kendal
Isaiah's Servant Songs cannot but elicit a response. We all, like sheep, have gone astray; trusting in idols and walking in rebellion. Lost, captive and condemned to death, we all need a Redeemer; we all need a Saviour. Behold, God's Servant the Lord Jesus Christ! Though he suffered unjustly he has been vindicated, meaning the offering he made - of his lifeblood, for our sins - has been accepted in the temple of heaven (Hebrews, chapters 8-10). Now completely disarmed (Colossians 2:15), Christ's adversaries will gradually 'wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up' as Christ establishes justice in the nations and extends his salvation to the ends of the earth. 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it' (Matthew 16:18).
So good is this news that the most natural response is to burst into song! 'Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth.' Sing in the coast-lands, the deserts and the cities! Shout from the mountain tops, give glory to the Lord and declare his praises (Isaiah 42:10-13).'Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted' (Isaiah 49:13). After the third servant song (50:4-9) we are called to respond by putting our trust in God: 'Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of his servant [the vindicated one of v8,9]? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.' This is followed by a warning that judgement awaits those who reject him, preferring to trust in their own efforts. (Isaiah 50:10,11)
After the final servant song (52:13 – 53:13), the response is climactic, spanning two exhilarating chapters: Isaiah 54-55. 'Sing ... says the Lord,' for you are going to have more children than you ever imagined! (Isaiah 54:1) 'Enlarge the place of your tent ... do not hold back … .' Not only will your offspring overflow your current dwelling, but they will 'spread abroad to the right and to the left'; they 'will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities' (v2,3). 'Fear not ... says the Lord, your Redeemer ... my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed ... whoever stirs up strife with you shall fall because of you' (v 4-17).
Then, with voice lifted up and arms wide open, God issues his universal invitation: 'Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters ...' satisfy yourself and delight in God's rich free grace (55:1-5). Repent and turn to God for he is compassionate and 'will abundantly pardon' (v 6,7). God's ways might be mysterious, but his word - the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) - will accomplish all he has purposed (v 8-11). The creation that once groaned - as in the pains of childbirth (Romans 8:22) - will rejoice as the Gospel of redemption and restoration goes forth with effectual power across the earth. 'For [or Surely] you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle, and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off' (55:12-13).
Dear believer, dear intercessor, do not be downcast. Grasp what God has desired and done! Understand what Jesus Christ, God's Servant, has achieved! Have faith that the Spirit is at work in the world bringing it all to pass. Sing, dear believer! Sing, trust him, extend the invitation and pray! Pray for the persecuted in love and with faith energised by hope - not hope in what is seen but hope in what is promised! (Romans 8:18-25)
NIGERIA: SILENT SLAUGHTER, A CHRISTIAN CRISIS
KADUNA: On Thursday night 16 April tertiary student Sebastine Stephen was visiting his family home in Gbagyi Villa, a suburb of the city of Kaduna, when some 50 Fulani herdsmen invaded the area. Morning Star News reports that Stephen, who was outside when the heavily armed Fulani arrived at 11:30pm, sounded the alarm enabling others to escape. After shooting Stephen dead the Fulani broke into a nearby home and abducted Christian couple, Mr Jack Nweke and his wife, leaving behind their three children. Around 6:45pm on Sunday 19 April some 100 Fulani herdsmen stormed Unguwan Magaji village in Kauru Local Government Area (LGA), in the predominantly Christian south-east of Kaduna State. After entering the village from four flanks, causing confusion and terror, they razed 36 houses and burnt food stores and grain supplies. Whilst Nigerian media did not identify the four dead as 'Christians', it did provide their names: Mrs Hanatu Joseph (58), mother of five; Mrs Sarah Sunday (40), wife and mother of six; Mrs Dije Sajay (55), wife and mother of six; and Mr Sunday David (47), husband and father of seven.
PLATEAU: On the evening of Easter Saturday 11 April Mr Mabur Mallo Gwang (30) was murdered by Fulani herdsmen who broke into his home and shot him dead. Gwang was a member of the local Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) congregation in Maiduna village, Bokkos LGA, western Plateau. He was also a farmer.
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DELTA: On the evening of Good Friday 10 April Fulani militants murdered Pastor Stephen Akpor (55) of Breakthrough Cathedral (a local fellowship of the Celestial Church of Christ) in Ibusa, Oshimili North LGA. Pastor Akpor was praying with and counselling several church members at about 8:30pm when two Fulani militants stormed in. When Pastor Akpor locked himself in his office, the militants went outside and shot him through the window as his wife and the other believers escaped unhurt. The militants then broke into the room and stabbed the pastor multiple times. According to the doctor at Ibusa General Hospital, Pastor Akpor died from the wounds he sustained in the stabbing. A pastor and a husband, Stephen Akpor was also a father to five children.
Two decades of violence has left more than 60,000 Nigerians dead and some 1.8 million displaced. Global Terrorism Index now ranks Nigeria third on its terrorism index - below Afghanistan and Iraq, and above Syria. Though more than 80 percent of all Africans arriving in Europe are Nigerians, the EU and other world leaders are reluctant to get involved. The PSJ campaign decries 'an apparent massive deficit in Nigeria of leadership, and a systematic lack of preventative action so severe that it borders on complicity'. Concerning the reluctance of the EU and world leaders, Dr Ikiebe laments: 'There is hypocrisy,' he says, 'when it comes to the persecution of Christians.'
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR ALMIGHTY GOD WILL
* bless and encourage Dr Richard Ikiebe, Bishop Ben Kwashi and all who work with the organisation they co-founded - the International Organisation for Peace Building and Social Justice; we pray also for Jeff Sellers - founder and senior editor of Morning Star News - as well as all writers, speakers, advocates and aid workers, who work tirelessly to shatter the silence shrouding Nigeria's Christian crisis; may the Lord provide all their needs and magnify their voices.
* open ears and sharpen consciences, both within the Nigerian government and amongst influential world leaders; but most critically, may the Lord open the ears and soften the heart of the global Church, compelling her into prayer ... for 'Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain' (Psalm 127:1 ESV).
* comfort and sustain Nigeria's suffering Church, in particular those who grieve the loss of loved ones and who tremble due to loss of security; may they look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2), God's most wonderful, compassionate Servant, their loving Saviour.
* bless and protect all who risk much to share the Gospel with the Muslim Fulani as Christ continues to build his Church in Nigeria's North and Middle Belt.
'Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you' (Isaiah 55:5 ESV).
SUMMARY FOR BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
SILENT SLAUGHTER AND A CHRISTIAN CRISIS IN NIGERIA
A Christian-led peace-building organisation in Nigeria [https://psj.org.ng/ ] has launched a campaign entitled SILENT SLAUGHTER. Through its website and international petition it hopes to increase international pressure on the Nigerian government so it might act decisively to stop the killings and bloodshed currently ravaging Nigeria's North and Middle Belt. For two decades now, the Islamic violence targeting Northern Nigeria's Christian minority and the Middle Belt's Christian farming communities has been met with denial and silence, both inside Nigeria and internationally. With more than 60,000 Nigerians dead and some 1.8 million displaced, Global Terrorism Index now ranks Nigeria third on its terrorism index - below Afghanistan and Iraq and above Syria. Precisely because the violence is ethno-religious and the victims are mostly Christian, world leaders are reluctant to get involved. Please pray.
Ramadan commences 23-24 April
RLPB recommends: 30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World
She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).