Does God Sing Songs of Love to Us?

Dear Muslim, Christian, and Jewish friends,

In my last blog post, I asked the question, “Can we sing songs of love to God?” As I noted there, I know that singing is not a traditional part of worship in historic Islam but that it is a vital element of worship for most Jews and Christians through the centuries.

In this post, I ask what some might consider an even stranger question yet:

“Does God sing songs of love to us?”

Are there songs in Paradise that He composes as He thinks of people here who love Him, trust Him, and live for Him?

Think about it. That would be amazing, wouldn’t it? For God in all His perfections – God who needs no one – to think about you or me and sing a song of love about us. Even. . .to us.

There was an obscure prophet named Zephaniah who lived 600 years before Jesus – over 2,600 years ago.

Listen to his incredible words (Zephaniah 3:17):

“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.”

This is the God I love. This is the God I believe in.

A God who sings to me.

What is your image of God? How do you see Him, that is, how do you see His character? The only portrait of Him that is true is the one that He Himself has painted (in words) like those given through His prophet Zephaniah.

I hunger to know this God more.

I long to hear Him sing to me.

Do you?

Can Muslims Sing Songs of Love to Allah? Is It Permissible?

Is it alright for Muslims to sing songs of love to Allah? Is it halal?

I know that singing is not a traditional part of Islamic worship. In December, I had the privilege of going with a group of Christians to sing Christmas carols in a predominately Muslim neighborhood. Almost all the families were very friendly and welcoming to us as we sang outside their homes and businesses (some would invite us in – I love Arab hospitality!). But I remember the response of one Muslim man quite clearly. He said while smoking his hookah, “You can’t sing here. Singing like that is against my religion.”

Singing songs of adoration, affection, and worship to God has always been part of most Judeo-Christian worship traditions. It goes back all the way to the time of the prophet Musa (Moses in the Tawrat, Exodus 15:1-2):

“Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord:
I will sing to the Lord,
for he is highly exalted.

The horse and its rider
he has hurled into the sea.
The Lord is my strength and my song;
he has become my salvation.
He is my God, and I will praise him,
my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

King Dawud (David) loved to sing to God:
Zabur, Psalm 51:14 – by King Dawud
“my tongue will sing of your righteousness.”

Zabur, Psalm 33:1-3 – by King Dawud
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous;
it is fitting for the upright to praise him.
Praise the Lord with the harp;
make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
play skillfully, and shout for joy.

Zabur, Psalm 95:1,2 – by King Dawud
Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.

Finally, in the first century, Jesus and his followers sang to the Lord and encouraged us to do the same:

Injeel, Matthew 26:30 – “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
Ephesians 5:19,20 – Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God. . .”
Colossians 3:16 – “. . .sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. “

Below is an example of an older song I like to sing to God for all He has done for me. I cannot thank Him enough for sending Isa – Jesus – to rescue me, and singing songs of love is one way to express that appreciation, affection, and adoration:

Is it halal for Muslims to sing songs of love to Allah?

For me as a follower of Jesus, it is not only permissible, it is glorious.

If My Sins Are Forgiven, Can I Do Whatever I Want?

As a follower of Jesus, my Muslim friends often say, “You Christians think you can stick your sins on Jesus and then sin freely. You think you can do whatever you want if you are forgiven. Isn’t that true?”

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I answer, “Astaghfirullah! God forbid! No! We love God so much for what He has done for us through Jesus that we desire to be free from sin to honor Him!”

As the Bible says, “Should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!” (Romans 6:1-2). Forgiveness from God should lead toward a growing purity and holy life in the one forgiven.

In this blog post, let me share more with you about how I believe the Bible itself answers this very important question about a person being forgiven but then doing whatever they want. I have 6 points:

#1 – Many people who call themselves “Christians” are simply not followers of Jesus. They have not truly repented. If they had, there would be true change in their lives: change in their attitudes, thoughts, words, and actions. The Bible says you become a “new creation” – a new person – when you repent of your sins, receive his gift of forgiveness, invite Jesus to take over control of your life, and commit yourself to following him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – “anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new creation (a new person). The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
Matthew 7:16 – You will know them by their fruits (how they act).”
1 John 1:6 – “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
1 John 2:3,4 – “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

#2 – When you have genuinely accepted Jesus as the Savior of your sins, you want to live for him, obey him, follow him. Your heart is filled with gratitude which overflows into a desire to not do “whatever you want,” but to do “whatever He wants.” You just want to please Him and live for Him!

2 Corinthians 5:9 – “we make it our goal to please him.”
2 Corinthians 5:15 – “And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

#3 – The primary motive in avoiding sin as a follower of Jesus is not fear of hell but love for Jesus and for Almighty God.

John 14:15 – “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”
2 Corinthians 5:14 – “Christ’s love compels us.”
1 John 4:19 – We love Him because He first loved us.”

#4 – While fear of hell is not a Jesus follower’s primary motive for pure and righteous living, a healthy and reverential fear of appearing before God the perfect Judge after death (to judge one’s works, not his/her sins) is a solid Biblical motivator.

1 Peter 1:17 – “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as ‘foreigners in the land.’”
1 John 2:28 – “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”

#5 – When a person commits their life to Jesus and begins to follow him, there is a change in the heart. The Bible actually says you gain a “new heart.” There actually takes place something like a spiritual “heart transplant!”

Ezekiel 36:26 – “I will give you a new heart.”

#6 – After a person becomes “born again,” a new power (grace) comes into their lives – a new power to resist sin.

Titus 2:11, 12 – “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”

When Jesus comes into your heart following true repentance, there is true change. Jesus himself called it being “born again” (The Holy Injeel, The Gospel According To John 3:3). For some people, this change is virtually overnight. They stop swearing, gossiping, envying, boasting, lying, rebelling against parents, stealing, drinking, drugging, and engaging in immorality right away. In essence, they stop living for themselves and begin living for the Lord. This gives them new joy, new freedom, new purpose. They feel alive for the first time in their lives.

For others, the change is slow but sure - like a butterfly coming out of a cacoon. Old sinful habits like those just mentioned die hard but they do eventually die for one who sincerely follows Jesus. It takes time. Years. And it is a battle – a real and constant battle! A battle against 3 adversaries: this world’s anti-God system, our old desires which creep back in, and our adversary the devil.

To all my Muslim friends, please see from these Biblical truths that we who are really followers of Jesus can’t just “do whatever we want” after we receive the gift of forgiveness. This would go against everything we believe! Do followers of Jesus still sin? Yes, we do. Of course. We fail every day. But generally speaking, the forgiveness we have experienced actually motivates us to forsake (abandon, desert, leave, turn one’s back on) sin and live for God out of love and gratitude for what He has done for us.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends!

What Does God Really Want From Us?

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Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about this question:

What does God really want from people?

I am certainly no expert in the Qur’an but I think I can speak a little bit from what the Bible has to say in response to this all-important, eternally significant question.

From the beginning, God has always asked his people to love Him:

“The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (The Tawrat, Deuteronomy 6:4-6)

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Isa Al Masih – Jesus – confirmed this in his teachings:

“. . .you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (The Injil, Mark 12:30)

c7a13f_6174293c5ebb4beaaf3dbdf8939733cd.jpg love God

But what does this love for God look like? How is it expressed and made visible in every day life?

I know there are many ways, but I want to mention just four that are on my mind:

#1 – WORSHIP
At all times, the Creator deserves our praise and worship – for who He is and what He has done for us. There is no doubt in my mind that worship means more to God when we are experiencing times of great difficulty and deep pain. To praise and worship Him in those hours of perplexing darkness lets Him know that we truly love him with all our hearts. If your parent or your child died, if your husband or your wife died, could you say these words with the ancient man, Job?

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

ea677b650df1a42e4a6030b393e82018--cranberry-tea-job-.jpg Job

#2 – TRUST
When God brought the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt, He did so with amazing miracles, not the least of which was the parting of the Red Sea. Then, as they traveled through the desert, He miraculously provided both water and food. In spite of seeing this kind provision over and over, they doubted Him when times became difficult. They quickly forgot His miracles and refused to trust Him after all he had done (see the Zabur, Psalm 78)! If there’s one thing I know, it’s that God wants us to love him by trusting Him – no matter how difficult or dark our situation is. As King Sulaiman – Solomon – said:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

proverbs-3-5-6

#3 – OBEDIENCE
You may have heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” That’s so true, isn’t it? “Faith – without works – is dead” (James 2:26). We can talk all we want about how much we love God. We can boast about our faith. But in the end, our love for God is proven by our obedience. Jesus himself said:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.” (John 14:15)

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#4 – BELIEF
So often we think we can work our way to Paradise. But Jesus said there is only one work that God really wants from us:

“The work of God is this: to believe in the one (Jesus) he has sent.” (The Injil, John 6:29)

john-6-29

Worship.

Trust.

Obedience.

Belief.

This is how we prove that we love God.

And I believe this is what He really wants from us.

What Are You Thankful For Today? How About Having Arms And Legs?

Dear Muslim & Christian friends,

I realize that Thanksgiving is an American holiday but what are you thankful for today – wherever you live?

I am thankful for God’s love in Jesus which changed my life on May 28, 1966. I will never forget that day – the day He saved me, rescued me from the penalty of my sins. I will thank Him here and throughout eternity.

I am thankful that although I grew up without a father, God was my perfect Father - a father who never abandoned me but always loved me.

I am thankful for my wife. She has faithfully loved me and stood by me for nearly 40 years. She is a beautiful woman of virtue and one who knows how to keep her marriage vows. My mom says she is a “jewel.” How true.

I am thankful for 3 sons, 3 daughter-in-laws, and 7 grandchildren. They are so special, so incredible, so beautiful. We are rarely all together but when we are – what a blessing.

I am thankful for a 92 year old mother who lives for God every day. I am thankful for a sister and her family who bring so much laughter to our lives. I am thankful for all my other beautiful family members.

I have always had tremendous friends and mentors. I have never been unloved.

I am not homeless or cold. I have a home with heat in the winter. A car that runs. Clothes and shoes. More than enough food to eat every single day.

I live in a country with freedom of speech and religion.

Unlike some in Syria, Yemen, or Iraq, I have not had to fear falling rockets or bombs. I do not have to hold my grandchildren near me, wondering if this day might be their last – or my last – because of that kind of violence.

I am thankful that I have the resources to travel to the nations preaching in churches and building bridges with Muslim friends – sharing what is known as the “Gospel” – the Good News about Jesus’ love displayed in his life, and even more so in his sacrifice.

Finally, I have health. I thank God for health. When you hear Nick Vujicic’s story above – a man born with no arms and legs – you thank God for what you take for granted every single day.

What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving Day?

For starters, how about arms and legs?

What Is “Freedom Of Religion”: Is It Freedom To Choose Your Religion? Is It Freedom To Change Your Religion?

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Dear Muslim & Christian Friends,

I have been thinking a lot about this question: “What is freedom of religion?”

I mean, what does it really mean?

Is it freedom granted by the government where you live to practice your religion (as long as it does not harm others)?

Is it freedom for mosques to built in Europe and the United States but also churches to be built in Saudi Arabia?

Is it freedom to believe differently than your family, friends, or even your religious leaders?

Is it freedom for a Christian to study Islam, to read the Qur’an, to visit a mosque – in a search for truth?

??????????

Is it freedom for a Muslim to study Christianity, to read the Bible, to visit a church – in a search for truth?

Is it freedom for a Muslim to engage in dawa with a Christian or a Christian to engage in evangelism with a Muslim (as long as there is no pressure but rather sincere dialogue based on mutual respect, love, and honesty)?

Here is the really BIG question: is freedom of religion the freedom to choose your religion. . .to even change your religion?

Let’s take it a step further.

Should you have the right to choose. . .or to change. . .your religion without suffering negative or harmful repercussions from:

your family
your friends
your community
your government
your religious leaders
your mosque or church?

maxresdefault (3).jpg freedom

Freedom: no rejection, hatred, arrests, interrogation, torture, or imprisonment because of your choice or change in what you believe and practice.

Freedom: no one saying, “What?! You have become a ______________? You are not my son/daughter, wife/husband, brother/sister any more! You have shamed us. You must leave. Don’t ever come back!”

Freedom: no loss of property, job, education, spouse, children, personal freedoms or even. . .your life. . .because of your choice of what faith to follow.

This is one of my great passions for all people: freedom of religion.

Freedom to choose. . .freedom to change.

Everywhere. For every person.

My Muslim & Christian friends, what do you think about this kind of freedom – freedom of thought, freedom of conscience, and even freedom of religion?

download.jpg freedom

Shouldn’t everyone have these rights? These freedoms? These choices?

In the USA. . .or in Uzbekistan. In England. . .or in Egypt. In Australia. . .or in Algeria. In Iceland. . .or in Iran.

You may not feel free on the outside to choose. . .or to change. But God has given you these rights in your heart.

It’s up to you. . .

(edited from a post on Jan 8, 2015)

A Message for Muslim Immigrants, Refugees, and International Students in America

Dear Muslim Friends,

I wrote the post below in July of 2015. Sadly, in the current political climate in America, many of you still ostracized: rejected, shunned, spurned, snubbed, excluded, avoided, ignored, kept at arm’s length, etc. Because of the media, politicians, and even some “Christian” preachers, fear and anger toward Muslims is far too common.

My Muslim friends, I want to change this! I travel to churches all over the USA to help them get God’s heart for you – a heart of compassion, kindness, and real love. It is happening. It really is! But. . .it is slow. Like you, I battle stereotypes that the media has wrongly created.

I want to affirm what I wrote two years ago: if you are a Muslim immigrant, refugee, or international student in America, I love you with the love of Jesus and welcome you here.

————————————

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Some pretty insensitive and crazy and just plain wrong things have been said lately about the immigration of Muslims to America.
(please see my last blog post:
http://www.ilovemuslims.net/2015/07/should-immigration-of-muslims-to-america-be-stopped/. It is entitled, “Should Immigration Of Muslims To America Be Stopped? Astaghfirullah!”)

These comments have come as a result of recent “lone wolf” jihadist violence in Western countries: Great Britain, France, Denmark, Canada, Australia, and America, and the concern that some people have about Muslims in America becoming radicalized by ISIS and other terrorist groups.

I am just one person (and just one person without a huge amount of influence at that!) but I want to send a message from the Arabic language to Muslims coming to America:

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Welcome!

Like all immigrants, if you want to obey the laws of America, I welcome you here! I want you here!

To all my Muslim friends – whether you were born in America, whether you came here as an immigrant, whether you came here as an international student, or whether you came here as a refugee:

I am glad that you are in America.
You make America a better place. A richer place.
You make my life a better life. A richer life.

Here in America we can talk freely about God – who He is.
Here in America we can talk freely about Jesus – why he came.
Here in America we can talk freely about Paradise – how we can get there.

I love you, my Muslim friends.

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And I know many other Christians feel exactly the same way.

Why Would God Allow His Prophet To Die On A Cross? It Doesn’t Make Sense!

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Dear Muslim friends,

A friend and I had another excellent conversation about the Qur’an and the Bible last week with one of our wonderful Muslim friends. The great thing about our conversations is that we can be honest with each other about what we believe but also remain good friends. When we part ways, we shake hands, hug each other, and still really care about each other. This two hour conversation was no different.

Last week during our conversation, our Muslim friend said something that he says often, “God would never send one of his prophets and allow them to be killed!” He added with great emotion in his voice, “It doesn’t make sense!” He said that if he – as a man – sent someone to another country as his representative, he would always protect them and not let anything happen to them. How much more, by this reasoning, would God protect Jesus as His messenger.

“It doesn’t make sense!”

Those words keep ringing in my ears.

And you know what? He is right. It doesn’t make sense. . .at all.

- How could God love us so much that He would send Jesus – His one and only – to die for our sins?
- How could Jesus love us so much that He would give himself up for us in such a terrible, shameful, painful death?

It doesn’t make sense.

Or maybe. . .it doesn’t make human sense. Common sense.

Maybe it makes sense in a different way. Maybe it makes sense. . .to God.

Listen to what God says through his prophet, Isaiah:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

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I think we need to careful when we talk about God and His actions that don’t seem to make sense to our little, finite minds.

God is King. Malek. He cannot be limited.

God can do anything. . .anything He wants.

And if He wants to do something so wonderful, so amazing, so loving, and yes, something that doesn’t makes sense to us – like sending His prophet Jesus to die for us – who are we to say, “It doesn’t make sense!”

It makes sense. . .it makes a lot of sense. . .to God.

Why Are You A Muslim?

Why

Dear Muslim friends,

I think questions that begin with “why” can be hard to answer but they are so important. They can really help us to think.

I have a few questions for you today but. . .I want you to know that I am attempting to ask them with sincere respect and kindness. Here they are:

“Why are you. . .a Muslim?”

“Why are you a Muslim and not. . .something else?”

“Why aren’t you a believer in Shintoism, Jainism, Confusianism, Bahaism, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, or Christianity?” (others of the 10 largest or most powerful religions in the world)

religions

“Are you a Muslim because. . . you were ‘born’ a Muslim?”

“Are you a Muslim because. . . it is part of your culture?”

“Are you a Muslim because. . . you were born and grew up in a Muslim country?”

“Are you a Muslim because. . . your parents and grandparents and great grandparents before you were Muslim?”

“Are you a Muslim because. . . you made a careful search of the religions of the world – at least the major ones – and decided that Islam was the only religion that contained absolute truth?”

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“Are you a Muslim by choice? Your. . .own. . .personal. . .choice?”

Please allow me to share some things about my life as a follower of Jesus.

I am not a follower of Jesus because. . . I was “born” that way.
(no one is “born” a follower of Jesus)

I am not a follower of Jesus because. . . it is part of my culture.
(my culture is not very much like Jesus for the most part)

I am not a follower of Jesus because. . . I was born and grew up in a country that follows Jesus.
(the vast majority of people in America are not real followers of Jesus)

I am not a follower of Jesus. . . because my parents and grandparents and great grandparents before me loved and obeyed and followed Jesus.
(who my parents or grandparents were could not make me a Jesus follower)

I am a follower of Jesus because. . .when I was in college, I made a careful search of the religions of the world, at least the major ones, in a search for absolute truth. I easily observed that all the major religions of the world – except following Jesus – have the same way to Paradise/Heaven/Jannah/Nirvana etc. That way is “works,” specifically, “good” works. In this way of thinking, if we humans can just do enough good things, keep enough religious rules, obey enough spiritual leaders, then – we might – be able to go to an eternal place of bliss (whatever the name). But the nagging question is always this:

GoodEnough

I am a follower of Jesus because. . .as I looked at the major religions of the world as a young college student, it was easy to see that following Jesus was different. Absolutely unique. It became more and more clear to me that following Him was not about being good enough or obeying enough rules. It was about grace. Undeserved kindness and love. It was more about what Jesus did (dying for my sins) than what I do (trying to be good enough) to make it to Heaven. It was not about being saved by my good works but about being rescued from my sins. It was about being saved. . .by grace.

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I am a follower of Jesus because. . .I made a choice. A choice to follow Him instead of any other religion or religious figure. Jesus is different. Absolutely unique. No one else sacrificed themself for my sins. No one else loves me that much. No one else will never leave me. No one else loves me no matter how much I do or don’t do in keeping religious rules. There is no one like Jesus.

My dear Muslim friends, why am I a follower of Jesus? Because by His grace, I made a choice.

I chose Jesus. . .

Are you a Muslim by choice? Your. . .own. . .personal. . .choice?

Muslims: Can You Earn Allah’s Love? Christians: Can You Earn God’s Love?

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Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

A few nights ago, I was driving to a store and saw beautiful clouds from the sun slowly setting in the west. It moved me so much that I just stood outside the store for quite a while looking up into the sky. It brought a beautiful quietness to my soul.

As I looked at these beautiful colors, it brought to mind thoughts about God. . .and me. How great He is. . .and how I am not so great at all. I was feeling very badly about myself. I was struggling with something I have struggled with off and on for much of my life: performance based spirituality. What is that? It is the belief – consciously or subconsciously – that God truly loves us only when we are performing well spiritually. When we are:

- praying enough
- fasting enough
- giving enough
- reading our Holy Book enough
- etc. (add any number of other spiritual duties)

This performance based relationship with God creates two potential problems:

#1 – Pride – if I think I am doing well in this checklist of spiritual duties, I can become prideful;
#2 – Inferiority – if I don’t think I am doing well in this checklist of spiritual duties, I can feel inferior.

That night, I was feeling depressed. Not very spiritual. Not measuring up to God’s expectations. And sadly. . .wrongfully. . .I was feeling not very loved by God.

But then God spoke to my heart while watching that sunset, not in an audible way, but in a very real way nonetheless.

He spoke to me of who He is. About His love. About how I need to focus on His greatness, not on my weakness.

It was so amazing to hear His voice as He impressed these thoughts on my heart:

* God loves us because He is love, not because we are so lovable.
* God loves us because He is so good, not because we are so good.
* There is nothing in us that prompts His love for us. There is everything in Him that prompts His love for us.

As God spoke these simple truths to my heart once again, I simply basked in His rich, undeserved, extravagant love.

God’s love is:

A love not based on my performance. . .
or how much I pray or give.
A love not based on how much I read my holy book. . .
or how much good I do.

God’s love is a love based on just one thing:
Him.

It’s not about who I am or what I do or don’t do. God’s love is based totally on who He is.

Tonight, once again, I rejoice in His love.
A love that cannot be earned.
Only received.

—————————

PS – for me as a Christian – a follower of Jesus – I have amazing verses in the Bible that remind me of what I have written above. But I need to remind myself of them on a regular basis so I don’t fall back into performance based spirituality.

Here are just two of those verses. . .

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Whether you call yourself a Muslim or a Christian, do you know this love?

Oh how I pray that you will. . .