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?

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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)

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“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:

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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.

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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. . .

Eid al Adha – As A Follower Of Jesus, It Makes Me Wonder!

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Dear Muslim friends,

I am always intrigued by your “Feast of the Sacrifice” – Eid al-Adha. Like you, my Muslim friends, I am in awe of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son out of unlimited obedience to God. That is clearly worth remembering and having a celebration. . .every year!

As a follower of Jesus, Eid al Adha makes me wonder. . .to be curious or to marvel. . .how many people. . .like these Pakistanis on their way to Lahore, Pakistan. . .traveled long, hard distances to celebrate Eid with their loved ones?

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Eid al-Adha makes me wonder. . .how many lambs, goats, cows, and camels. . .will be sacrificed across the Muslim world in these days?

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Eid al-Adha makes me wonder. . .how many Muslim men like these at the Vasi Ullah mosque in Allahabad, India want to obey God as fully as Ibrahim did?

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How many Muslim women like these in Ahmadabad, India. . .want to obey God as fully as Ibrahim did?

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I wonder. . .how fully do I want to obey God?

Eid al-Adha makes me wonder. . .how many Muslims teach their children how to pray? Like this girl in Bali, Indonesia or this boy in Pristina, Kosovo?

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I wonder. . .how well did I teach my sons to pray?

Eid al-Adha makes me wonder. . .how many Muslims around the world prayed with the intensity of this Kashmiri Muslim man in Srinagar, India?

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I wonder. . .how much intensity did I pray with today?

Eid al-Adha makes me wonder about these words from the Qur’an about God rescuing Ibrahim’s son by providing a lamb in substitute for him: “And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice” (Qur’an, sura 37, ayah 107).

Similarly, as a follower of Jesus, Eid al-Adha always makes me wonder about these special words spoken about Isa al Masih – Jesus – in the Injeel:

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It makes me wonder. . .to be curious, to marvel. . .how could this one man. . .from an obscure village in Palestine. . .be “the lamb of God”. . .that takes away the sin of the world? Amazing! It was through his sacrifice, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (the Book of Hebrews, chapter 9, verse 22).

What love! What a “momentous sacrifice” – for the nations – for each of us!

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This I try to remember and celebrate. . .today. . .and every day.

Eid al Adha – as a follower of Jesus, it makes me wonder!

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Postscript:

Dear Muslim Friends,

I fully understand that Eid al-Adha is not about a substitutionary sacrifice for sins. Yes, I am fully aware that this concept is not in Islam. Nevertheless, I am filled with wonder and awe at how the Qur’an speaks of the ransom of a lamb to rescue Ibrahim’s son from certain death and how the Bible speaks of the ransom of Jesus as a lamb to rescue each of us from certain death – the punishment for our sins.

Ransom. What an incredible word.

Ransom. The price paid to free/rescue/deliver/release a helpless person from captivity or punishment.

Ransom. It speaks of great, great love.

God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began.” (from the first letter of Peter, chapter 1, verses 18-20, NLT. Peter was an original follower of Jesus and a crucified martyr for him).

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What Are God’s “Core Values”? They Seem. . .Upside Down

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Dear Muslim, Christian, and Jewish friends:

What does God value?
What does God The King value in our lives?
What does He want us to be about?

Our core values determine our compass (our direction), our calendar (our planning), our contemplations (our thoughts), and our conversations (our speech). In other words, our core values determine everything about our lives.

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How much more important it is to find out God’s core values!

When I was young and (more) immature, I thought these might be some of God’s “core values”:

Power
Strength
Visibility
Speed
Big
Much
Many
Top
First

Now? I see God and His ways very differently. Jesus – Isa al Masih, Yeshua – has taught me much about what God the King wants for His Kingdom people. How He wants us to live. It can be found in the the teaching of Jesus in the Injil in what is called “The Beatitudes” (Matthew 5:1-12):

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I now believe – based on The Beatitudes – that the things below are high on God’s list of “core values”:

Dying
Surrendering
Sacrificing
Serving
Giving
Obeying
Listening
Confessing/Repenting
Forgiving
Following
Believing
Trusting
Depending
Resting
Loving
Being childlike (not childish)

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Weakness vs. strength
Humility vs. pride
Dependence vs. independence
Commitment vs. halfheartedness, lukewarmness
Others vs. me-first
Service vs. selfishness
Sacrifice vs. safety
Righteousness vs. rightness
Risk vs. comfort

Quiet
Unseen
Unknown
Small

Going low
Sitting in the back

These values seem. . .upside down. . .at least in the way this world operates.

What do you think? What is at the heart. . .of God’s heart?

What does God value?
What does God The King value in our lives?
What does He want us to be about?

Da’wah – Is It Your Duty? Will You Be Held Accountable For It On The Day Of Judgment?

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Dear Muslim friends,

I am curious today. Is dawah – inviting non-Muslims to Islam – required of you? Is it truly your obligation – your “duty,” as this graphic above says?

And if you don’t do dawah, will you be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgment?

I see many things on the internet about dawah – many efforts of Muslims around the world to invite non-Muslims to Islam:

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For me as a follower of Jesus – a Christian – it is most definitely my duty to call people to follow Jesus. It is called, “evangelism,” and comes from the Greek word for sharing “Good News.” It is required of me to invite all people to put their faith in Jesus as their Savior who loves them so much that he died for their sins. And yes, it will be brought up on the Day of Judgment for me.

But. . .having said all this, I want you to know some things that are very important:

* I don’t do evangelism primarily because it is my duty.
* I don’t do evangelism primarily because it is required of me.
* I don’t do evangelism primarily because I will be held accountable on the Day of Judgment.

I do evangelism – I share the Good News – because:

* I love Jesus and he told his followers to evangelize in very nation (the Injil, Matthew 28:19). Because I love him, I want to obey his commandments (the Injil, John 14:15 and John 14:23)
* I love people and I don’t want anyone to go to the hellfire. The thought of that grieves my soul so much! And. . .I know it grieves the heart of my loving God even more (the Injil, 2 Peter 2:9 and 1 Timothy 2:3-6).
* I love truth and I believe we can only be forgiven of our sins and go to Paradise through the sacrifice of Jesus. We can’t do enough good works to get to Paradise – no one can. But God has mercifully made a way. A bridge. It is Jesus. He is the way to Paradise (the Injil, John 3:16 and John 14:6). This I believe to be the absolute truth.

And so my dear Muslim friends, I hope you will feel free to practice dawah on me – to invite me to Islam – because you love me and you believe it will save me from hellfire.

And I hope you will allow me to do the same – to evangelize – to spread the Gospel (means “Good News”) of Jesus Christ. To share it honestly and respectfully with you – because I love you and I don’t want you to be in hell either.

I am not an Arab but I believe this proverb:

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I have found water and it is not right to be silent.

I love you, my Muslim friends. I really do.

But God loves you so, so much more. He really does.

And this is why I share this Good News with you today. . .

A Friend Died. . .Where Is He Now? Where Will You And I Be?

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Dear Muslim friends,

A few years ago I learned that a friend, Steve, passed away.

It was kind of. . .shocking. More than that, it was. . .painful.

We had not seen each other for several years since my wife and I had traveled to Steve’s home in another state. I had tried to e-mail him a few times after our last time together but never got a response. It seemed a little strange but we were not what you might call “close” friends. We had contact only once a year or so through a call, a card, or an e-mail. Like too many other friends, we got busy, didn’t see each other for years, and slowly – imperceptibly – we drifted apart.

But then I had a bad feeling about Steve. I wanted to try again to reach him. Somehow, I just wondered if he had died.

I “googled” his name and found several websites with his obituary.

He had indeed passed away. In 2009. A year after we last saw each other.

It is usually always sad for me when someone dies. My friend, Steve, was not that old. 61 years of age.

But learning about Steve’s death was more than sad. As I said, it was very painful. Why? Because I wondered, “Where is he now?”

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To some of you, that might be a foolish question to think about. Even a waste of time. What is done is done. Like all of us, he lived. . .and. . .he died. Now he is in God’s hands. You might think it is silly to think about “where he is.”

But it isn’t silly to me. You see, I care very, very deeply about the eternal destiny of people.

Others of you might be wondering, “Was he a good person? Didn’t he believe in God?”

Yes, basically, Steve was a good person. And yes, he believed in God (or I should say, he believed in the existence of God)

So, some of you might think, “Enough then! Let it be!”

But I can’t.

I’m going to tell you the reason why Steve’s death bothers me – the reason why I care when anyone dies.

It is much of the reason for why I get up in the morning.
It is the topic of so many of my conversations.
It is how I spend my time. . .my money. . .my energy.

My life is about helping people find Jesus so they can know where they will be when they die.

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Steve’s death bothers me because. . .

I don’t think he knew Jesus. I don’t think he put his faith in Jesus as his Savior, though I asked him to. He wanted to trust his own good works to get to Paradise.

Being good is important. . .but it won’t get you to Paradise.

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We need forgiveness. We need our sins washed away and we don’t have the power to do that, no matter how much we pray, fast, give, or go on a pilgrimage.

Like you, I believe Isa – Jesus – was a great Prophet. But I also believe he was – and is – so much more.

I believe with all my heart that Jesus is the one bridge to Paradise. I believe he is the only bridge God has provided for forgivenss of our sins.

Isa – Jesus – boldly and unequivocably said about himself:

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If you put your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus for your sins, you won’t have to fear hellfire. Your family and friends won’t have to wonder when you die:

“Where is he, where is she, now?”

I plead with you to pray, “Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I know God is too holy to allow sin in His Paradise. I have tried to be good but I know I can never be good enough. I fail continually and I fear hellfire. I deserve hellfire. But I am asking that you would see fit to forgive me for everything I have done that is not God’s will and for not doing everything that is God’s will. Wash me. Wash my sins away so that I can hear these words from you (in the Injil, Luke 5:20):

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Thank you, Jesus, for loving me so much. . .that you would actually die for me. You would die in my place. For my sins. Thank you. For eternity, thank you. . .

Palestinians With Keys To Their Homes: Can They Ever Go Back?

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Dear Muslim friends,

I have been blessed to travel to Palestine several times. I loved the holy sites. I loved the food. But most of all. . .I loved the people.

I remember seeing around Palestine a symbol of both tragedy and hopethe key.

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The key: the symbol of tragedy for displaced Palestinans who lost their homes in the Nakba (Arabic for “disaster” or “catastrophe“) of 1948. More than 700,000 Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war.

The key: the symbol of hope that one day these dear people might be able to have “the right of return” to their homeland and to use those keys to once again enter their homes and live there in peace. It is the right to the property they themselves or their ancestors left behind or were forced to leave in what is now Israel and the Palestinian territories.

I grieve for these people in their deep and unjust losses. And. . .I pray for them.

Look at the sadness etched into their old, wrinkled faces – these people who lost it all – as they still hold the keys to their homes.

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The Injil says there is another One who holds keys. His name is IsaJesus. The Injil says He is:

“the Holy One, the True One, who has the key of David (Dawood), who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.” (Revelation 3:7)

I believe Isa – Jesus – grieves for the Palestinian people! I believe He prays for them. Tragically, most Palestinians will never regain their homes. But I believe that Jesus is even now taking His keys and opening doors, doors that no one – no one – can shut. (you can read more about this below)

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Postscript: my dear Muslim friends, I must tell you about one more mention of Isa – Jesus – holding keys in the Injil. He says:

“Don’t fear: I am First, I am Last, I’m alive. I died, but I came to life. . . See these keys in my hand? They open and lock Death’s doors, they open and lock Hell’s gates.” (Revelation 1:17-18)

Amazing! Jesus claims to hold the very keys that determine whether you and I will be in Hellfire or Paradise. Only He can open the doors to Paradise for you and no one – no one – can shut those doors!

Do you long to be in Paradise? To have your eternal home there?

There is an even greater tragedy than the Nakba (as tragic and terrible as that was) – the tragedy of spending time in hellfire when Jesus has the keys to allow you into Paradise.

Please my friends, please ask Jesus to use His keys to Paradise for you! Ask Him to forgive you of all your sins. He died for them and He has the keys. For you. For me. For all who will put their faith in Him and His sacrifice.

As always, I love you, my Muslim friends.

I really do.

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What Have You Experienced On The “Night Of Power”? (Laylat al-Qadr)

Dear Muslim Friends,

I am curious, as a Christian (who loves Muslims!), what have you experienced on the “Night Of Power” (Laylat al-Qadr) during your lifetime?

Truly, one of the aspects of Islam that intrigues me greatly is this time during Ramadan known as the “Night of Power”

For my non-Muslim readers, Islamic tradition holds that the Night of Power is the night that the first revelation of the Qur’an was sent down to Muhammad. Muslims are instructed to “seek” the Night of Power during the last ten days of the thirty days of Ramadan, particularly on the odd numbered nights (the 21st night, the 23rd night, etc.).

It is reported that Muhammad said:

“Whoever stays up (in prayer and remembrance of Allah) on the Night of Qadr, fully believing (in Allah’s promise of reward) and hoping to seek reward, he shall be forgiven for his past sins” (hadith from Sahih Bukhari).

The Qur’an, Sura (chapter) 97, says of the Night of Power:

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
We have indeed revealed this message in the Night of Power.
And what will explain what the Night of Power is?
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
Therein come down the angels and the spirit, by Allah’s permission, on every errand.
Peace! Until the rising of the morn!

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Muslims worldwide spend the last ten nights of Ramadan in solid devotion, retreating to the mosque to read Qur’an, reciting special supplications, and reflecting on the meaning of Allah’s message to us. It is believed to be a time of intense spirituality, when the believers are surrounded by angels, the gates of heaven are open, and God’s blessings and mercy are abundant. (http://islam.about.com/od/ramadan/a/leyla_qadr.htm)

As I close this post, may I ask questions of you, my Muslim readers:

*** Do you believe you have ever found/experienced the Night of Power?
*** How would you know if you did?
*** If you found the Night of Power, do you believe all your sins were forgiven?
*** If your sins were all forgiven, how would you know?
*** If your sins were all forgiven, could that forgiveness be lost or forfeited by later sins?

Thanks for reading and as always, I love you, my Muslim friends!

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Postscript: the greatest – the most powerful – night of my life was May 28, 1966. That amazing night found me, even though I wasn’t looking for it (what compassion and mercy!).

On that night, I experienced an unbelievable powerthe power of God in forgiving my sins. A kind man simply read one verse of the Bible to me. It was John 3:16. I will never forget the change and the new life that came to me on that night.

Whether you call yourself a Muslim or Christian, I pray for each one of us to experience that kind of power.