The Terrible Sufferings & The Tremendous Love Of Jesus – For You, For Me, For All Of Us

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Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

Yesterday – around the world – countless millions of Christians remembered something called “Good Friday.” Good Friday is the day that Christians believe Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world. It was, the Bible teaches, a day of terrible suffering and tremendous love by Jesus – for you, for me, for all of us.

To my Muslim readers, I know full well that Islam teaches that Jesus did not die – that another (possibly Judas or Pilate or someone else) – took his place; that God took Jesus up to heaven and put his facial image on someone who actually did die on a cross. But for now, can we agree to disagree about that?

In this blog post, I just have to say something. Many things. To Jesus.

I have to thank him. Publicly. Effusively (expressing feelings of gratitude, pleasure, or approval in an unrestrained or heartfelt manner).

So my Muslim friends, even if you don’t agree with my position about the death of Jesus on that day 2,000 years ago, would you bear with me? Would you allow me to express my love for Jesus here?

A PUBLIC THANKS TO MY SAVIOR – JESUS:
YOU DIDN’T HAVE TO. . .BUT YOU DID

* You didn’t have to leave your place with God in heaven and all the glory you had there. . .but you did. (John 1:1-4; John 1:14)

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* You didn’t have to come to planet earth – a place filled with sin and hatred and foul darkness. . .but you did. (John 1:9-10)

* You didn’t have to choose to be born in a place for animals – a dirty, smelly stable instead of the king’s palace you deserved. . .but you did. (Luke 2:1-7)

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* You didn’t have to take the body of a human with all the weaknesses that we experience. . .but you did. (Philippians 2:5-7)

* You didn’t have to be born in little Bethlehem and live in obscurity in Nazareth instead of the fame you could have enjoyed living in Jerusalem. . .but you did. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-6; John 1:46)

* You didn’t have to refuse to be king. . .but you did. (John 6:15)

* You didn’t have to serve people instead of being served. . .but you did. (Mark 10:45; Philippians 2:5-7)

* You didn’t have to spend time with people everyone else shunned and hated (tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers) – eating with them, loving them, teaching them, healing them. . .but you did. (Mark 2:13-17)

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* You didn’t have to ride into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday on a humble donkey instead of a white horse. . .but you did. (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:1-11)

* You didn’t have to let your friends betray you (Judas for 30 pieces of silver) and deny you (Peter three times). . .but you did. (Psalm 41:9; Zechariah 11:12-13; Matthew 26:14-16; Matthew 27:3-10; Luke 22:54-62)

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* You didn’t have to sweat blood (a rare medical condition during extreme stress known as hematidrosis) as you faced carrying our sins. . .but you did. (Luke 22:44).

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* You didn’t have to let them tie your hands and arrest you (since you were only bound by your love for God and for us). . .but you did. (Matthew 27:2; Mark 15:1)

* You didn’t have to go through a night of cruel, illegal, and unjust trials (3 Jewish, 3 Roman) on that Good Friday morning. . .but you did. (Matthew 26:57-27:26; Mark 14:53-15:20; Luke 22:54-23:25: John 18:12-19:13)

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* You didn’t have to let them blindfold you and spit on you and strike you and mock you and pull out part of your beard. . .but you did. (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67-68; Mark 14:65 and 15:19; Luke 22:63-65)

* You didn’t have to answer the high priest’s question – “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” but you did. (Mark 14:55-64).

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* You didn’t have to announce to the world on that night exactly who you were (you were not lying, you were not confused, and you were not blaspheming). . .but you did. (Matthew 26:62-66)

* You did not have to remain silent before false accusations of the Jewish leaders in the presence of the Roman governor Pilate. . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12-14; Mark 15:3-4)

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* You didn’t have to let the Roman soldiers scourge you (with a whip of leather straps with bits of bone and iron and glass designed to rip the flesh open, exposing muscles and bone from the shoulders down to the thighs). . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:5; John 19:1-2; 1 Peter 2:24)

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* You didn’t have to let the soldiers mock you by placing a crown of thorns on your head and a purple robe on your torn back. . .but you did. (Matthew 27:27-29; Mark 15:16-20)

* You didn’t have to let the soldiers beat your face so much that it was severely disfigured. . .but you did. (Isaiah 52:13-14)

* You didn’t have to carry the heavy crossbar of your cross (that we deserved to carry) on your shredded, bloody back. . .but you did. (John 19:17)

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* You didn’t have to allow Roman soldiers to pound iron nails into your wrists and feet. . .but you did. (Psalm 22:16; Isaiah 53:5; Zechariah 12:10; John 20:25)

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* You didn’t have to refuse the sedative/anesthetic on the cross because you wanted to face death fully aware. . .but you did. (Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23)

* You didn’t have to suffer the other horrible pains of crucifixion for 6 hours (dislocated shoulders, elbows, and wrists; exhaustion; infection; fever; severe dehydration; blood loss; hyperventilation; collapsing lungs; cardiorespiratory failure; and finally slow suffocation and cardiac rupture – a “broken heart”). . .but you did. (Psalm 22:14, 15, 17; John 19:34)

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* You didn’t have to pray for forgiveness for those who did all these cruel, horrible things to you. . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34)

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* You didn’t have to endure the vicious verbal attacks – mocking, insults, sarcasm – from people and religious leaders who watched you die. . .but you did. (Psalm 22:7-8; Matthew 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-31; Luke 23:35, 37; John 19:24)

* You didn’t have to endure the worst pain of all – abandonment, desertion by God – while you carried our sins. . .but you did. (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34)

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* You didn’t have to go through so many terrible sufferings and finally die in my place, for my sins – for the unspeakable sins of all of humanity. . .but you did. (Isaiah 53:5-6, 8, 10-11)

* You didn’t have to love me – love all of us - with this kind of tremendous love. . .but you did.

Thank you. For all eternity, thank you.

Good Friday.

You didn’t have to. . .but you did.

From the Zabur: Let Us Thank God! (in Arabic and English)

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

Alhamdulillah! (Thank God!)

Below are ayahs (verses) from the Zabur (Psalms) which encourage us to thank God at all times. He is worthy of our praise!

Zabur – Psalm 61:3 – . . .for You are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me.
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Zabur – Psalm 30:3 – You brought me up from the grave, O Lord. You kept me from falling into the pit of death.
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Zabur – Psalm 86:12 – With all my heart I will praise You, O Lord my God. I will give glory to Your name forever. . .
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Zabur – Psalm 23:1 – The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.
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Zabur – Psalm 89:5 – The heavens praise Your wonders, Lord, Your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones.
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Zabur – Psalm 105:3 – Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.
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Zabur – Psalm 113:5 – Who can be compared with the Lord our God, who is enthroned on high?
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Zabur – Psalm 30:11 – You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy. . .
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Zabur – Psalm 86:5 – O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.
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Zabur – Psalm 31:7 – I will be glad and rejoice in Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.
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Zabur – Psalm 33:21 – In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.
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Beautiful Encouragement from the Zabur (in Arabic and English)

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

The Zabur (the Psalms of King Dawood and others) has so many encouraging ayahs (verses) to help all of us when our hearts are sad, lonely, and fearful. Here are some which I hope will bless you today – in Arabic and English for a change!

Zabur – Psalm 27:14 – Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.
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Zabur – Psalm 9:18 – But the needy will not be ignored forever; the hopes of the poor will not always be crushed.
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Zabur – Psalm 91:15-16 When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.
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Zabur – Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation – so why should I be afraid? The Lord is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?
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Zabur – Psalm 109:31 – For He stands beside the needy, ready to save them from those who condemn them.
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Zabur – Psalm 31:7 – I will be glad and rejoice in Your unfailing love, for You have seen my troubles, and You care about the anguish of my soul.
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Zabur – Psalm 91:14 – The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in My name.”
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Zabur – Psalm 146:8 - The Lord opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord lifts up those who are weighed down. The Lord loves the godly.
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The Only Time I Ever Saw God Run

Dear Muslim & Christian friends,

In the last blog post, I asked the question, “Does God run to us?”

In this post, I want to give you an opportunity to hear the song above by a group known as Phillips, Craig, and Dean. And. . .I want to ask you questions about how you perceive God. What is God really like?

The incredibly moving lyrics of this song about the father heart of God were originally penned by a man named Benny Hester in about 1985 and the song is simply called, “When God Ran.” The lyrics are below and are based on the story Jesus told in the Holy Injeel (Luke 15:11-32).

The story is often called “The Prodigal Son” and is about a son who shamed his father by asking for his inheritance, left his father’s home with that money, spent it all on wild living in a foreign country, and finally came to his senses while destitute and desperate.

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He started home hoping to become a servant to his father since he had forfeited the right to be called a son.

Instead of rejecting his son (as he deserved), the father in Jesus’ story saw him while he was returning home and. . .ran to him.

As you listen to this song, read the lyrics, or read the original story in the Injeel, I want to ask you questions about your mental image of God’s character:

“What kind of a God would ‘run’ to you or me (all of us are sinners to be sure)?”

“What kind of God would long for us to come back ‘home’- knowing all we have done to disobey, disappoint, and dishonor Him?”

“What kind of God would hug us, hold us, kiss us repeatedly, and welcome us back after a life of rebellion?”

“What kind of God would forgive us and release us from the horrible shame we have brought to Him?”

“What kind of God would have a celebration of our homecoming instead of punishing us or sending us away?”

“Is the father in this story representative of the God you worship – a God who ‘runs’ to the one who truly repents?”

Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian (or something else, or nothing at all), I would love to hear your responses to these questions about what God is really like. Please click below (after reading the amazing song lyrics) to leave a reply.

(Postscript: I hope that the reader understands that when I speak of God “running,” I am using figurative language. I use it to describe God’s great and wonderful heart moving passionately and quickly toward us when we come to Him in humble and sincere repentance for our sins - especially for the one who has been away from God for a long time or the one who has never given their life to Him in the first place. In His tender father heart, God is more than ready to welcome us back “home.”)

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WHEN GOD RAN by Benny Hester

Almighty God, the great I am
Immovable rock, omnipotent, powerful, awesome Lord
Victorious warrior, commanding King of Kings
Mighty conqueror, and the only time
The only time I ever saw Him run
. . .

CHORUS:
Was when He ran to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”

Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice He said,
“Son, do you know I still love you?”
He caught me by surprise. . .when God ran

The day I left home I knew I’d broken His heart
And I wondered then if things could ever be the same
Then one night, I remembered His love for me
And down that dusty road ahead I could see
It was the only time – it was the only time I ever saw Him run

And then He ran to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice He said,
“Son, do you know I still love you?”
He caught me by surprise and He brought me to my knees
When God ran
– I saw Him run to me

BRIDGE:
I was so ashamed, all alone and so far away
But now I know He’s been waiting for this day

I saw Him run to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice I felt His love for me again

He ran to me, He took me in His arms
Held my head to His chest, said “My son’s come home again”
Lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes
With forgiveness in His voice He said, “Son”
He called me “son”
He said, “Son, do you know I still love you?”
He ran to me
I saw Him run to me
And then I ran to Him

When God ran

Does God Run To Us?

Dear Muslim and Christian friends,

What a question: “Does God run to us?”

The idea of God running may seem ridiculous to some. They might say, “God is not a human. He has no body. He is spirit. Of course He doesn’t run. It isn’t logical.”

The idea of God running may seem disrespectful to others. They might say, “It is beneath the dignity of God to be seen as running. He is majestic. Transcendent. Running is far below Him. He sits on a throne and rules. Of course He doesn’t run. It isn’t appropriate. It isn’t right.”

I certainly understand those thoughts.

I never want to portray God in a way that is untrue, disrespectful, or undignified in any way. I love Him too much to purposely diminish His glory.

Having said this, I am reminded of an incredible story told by Jesus in the Holy Injeel about God (Luke 15:11-31). Jesus was being criticized by the Jewish religious leaders for spending time with “sinners.” In response to their prideful disdain for people who did not obey the laws of God, Jesus told 3 “parables” – stories designed to reveal God’s incredible love for lost people.

The third and best known of the 3 stories – known as the “The Parable of the Lost Son” or “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” – tells of a son who shamed his father terribly by asking for his inheritance, left home for a foreign country, and squandered all his wealth in wild living. Jesus said this prodigal (a person who spends money recklessly and wastefully) son eventually found himself starving in a time of famine. Because of this, he “came to his senses” and determined to humble himself and go back to his father in sincere repentance for his many sins against him.

Jesus tells what happens next as the son headed home (Luke 15:20–24):

“. . .he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate.”

Jesus was trying to tell the spiritually prideful – but spiritually blinded – religious leaders that “God is not Who you think He is.”

It’s as if Jesus said, “Yes, you religious leaders are right to believe that God is totally holy and cannot allow sin in His heaven. Sin must be dealt with.”

“But this what you don’t understand. You don’t understand God’s love. God is like that father who ran to that undeserving, shame-filled (but truly repentant) son and welcomed him home.”

The religious leaders could not understand this kind of love.

They could not fathom this kind of God.

This is the life-changing truth that we all need to know:

God still welcomes and embraces – like the father in the painting of the prodigal son and his father above – all who come to Him in genuine sorrow for their sins against Him.

This is the God I love.

This is the God I worship.

A God who runs. . .to us.

Do You Ever Question The Goodness Of God?

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Dear Muslim, Christian, and Jewish friends,

Do you ever question the goodness of God?

I can tell you that I have. In times of deep pain or seeing the deep pain and suffering of others, I have asked God these questions:

“Why God, why? I can’t take this much longer.”
“Lord, You have all power. Why do You let this injustice go on?”
“Oh God, how long until You act to help these suffering people?”
“Almighty God. You could have done something but You didn’t. Why?”

Notice that I did not question God directly about His goodness. But at times, I know that question was underneath the surface of my questions.

I am sorry I have ever doubted God’s wisdom, power, mercy, and perhaps above all, His goodness. He has nothing to prove to me. He is, afterall, God. And I am not.

But, this one thing I am sure of: God knows my every thought. I cannot hide them from Him. So. . .isn’t it better to admit it to Him when I doubt Him in any way? Isn’t He big enough to take it? His ego is not hurt! And isn’t He loving enough to take it? He knows what some have said about us as humans when we are desperately hurting in our souls or bodies: “pain speaks a strange language.” It doubts. It questions.

I cannot speak about the Qur’an but as a follower of Jesus, I can say that the Bible has much to say to us when we doubt God’s goodness. Please listen. . .

Psalm 145:17 – “The LORD is righteous in all His ways and faithful in all He does.”

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Psalm 18:30 – “As for God, His way is perfect.” (the word “perfect” here means “without blemish, without spot, whole, undefiled” in the original language)

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Deuteronomy 32:4 – “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”

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1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we have heard from Him and declare to you: God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all.”

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Do you ever question the goodness of God?

I do. But then I get honest with God. I tell Him. I get it out.

You know what He does? He listens to me. He puts His arms around me. And He tells me that He loves me.

He doesn’t even have to always remind me of the incredible verses above. When I experience His love at my lowest point, I can know one thing for certain.

God. . .is. . .good.

I Love You, My Muslim Friends! I Really Do!

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I try to write a blog post each week but this week, I am out of gas. Tired. I have been sick for much of three weeks. Not much energy or creativity.

But something did come to mind from a previous post from 2014. Something very simple. Even though it is the title of this blog, I probably do not say it enough in each post I write:

I love you, my Muslim friends!

Our heart-to-heart conversations about God, Jesus, heaven, and hell stir my soul – even when we disagree on certain very important points.

Your hospitality, generosity, and kindness bless me greatly.

You are in my heart and on my mindevery day.

You make my life richer, fuller.

You are my neighbors.

You are my friends.

I love you.

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PostScript: Recently I was at a series of meetings with Christian leaders from around the United States. At one point, I was introduced to the group. A friend told me later that when my name was announced, he heard a man in the crowd behind him whisper to another man:

“That’s the guy that loves Muslims.”

Because of God’s love inside my heart, I can say that I do.

I really do.

Jesus Says: “Are You Tired? Are You Weary? Come To Me.”

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Sometimes we get so tired. So weary.

With life. Just living in this difficult world. The hardships of life. Carrying heavy loads. Trying to make it through. . .to Paradise. To Heaven.

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Sometimes, we may even get tired trying to please God. To keep all His commands. We can’t keep them perfectly – as hard as we try.

If you have felt this way. . .or you feel this way today. . .Jesus wants to speak to your heart.

He says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” (The Injil, Matthew chapter 11, verse 28)

Jesus walked this earth. He knows it’s difficulties and heartaches.

Geoff Moore’s song, “Come To Me,” expresses it well:

When life’s river
Becomes a trickling stream
I’ve got to remember
He will make a way to find the sea
When the ground is dry and cracking
From the heat of my daily routine
That’s when a slow down and listen
And I hear my Savior whispering

Come to me
Come to me
When you are weary
When you are wandering
Come to me, come to me
Cast your cares upon The One
Whose yoke is easy
And whose burden is light

When you feel like an island in a raging storm
No matter what your fear says
Jesus will never leave you alone
He sees, He hears, and He feels your pain
He will not pass you by
Hear him now as He calls you by name

Jesus says…

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Always “Alhamdulillah!” Always “Thanks To God!”

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My Muslim friends, there is a practice you have that I truly enjoy, very much admire, and heartily appreciate. When I ask how you are (“Keef halak?” for men or “Keef halik?” for women), you always answer the same wonderful way:

Alhamdulillah.” (“praise to God” or “thanks to God”)

You always give thanks to God!

I love it!

Did you know that the Bible also encourages followers of Jesus to always praise God, to always give Him thanks? No matter what. In every situation.

Here are a few verses about that:

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (the first letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, chapter 5, verse 18).

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“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 4, verse 4).

Let us follow the example of a man loved by both Muslims and Christians – Dawud (David):

“I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises” (the Zabur – the Psalms, chapter 34, verse 1).

Here is another verse from the Zabur (Psalms) and a song from it:
“I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. . .I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever” (the Zabur – the Psalms, chapter 145, verses 1-2).

Whether you call yourself a “Muslim” or a “Christian,” are you praising and thanking God today?

All day?

No matter what?

This is how I want to live. . .because I love God for who He is and all He has done for me.

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Who Rules The Sea? Is It Allah Alone?

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Dear Muslim Friends,

Who rules the sea? Who alone has power over it?

Who tells a violent, dangerous, stormy sea to be still and. . .it happens.

Only Allah, right?

In the Zabur, Psalm 89:8-9, we read these words (similiar to the ones above in the Zabur, Psalm 65:7):

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Other verses in the Zabur speaks of God’s power over the sea:

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There is an amazing story in the Injil (found in Matthew 8:23-27 and Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25):

“Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’

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Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’”

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Indeed, “Who is this man?”

This is one of the most important questions any human can ever ask: “Who is Jesus?”

Who rules the sea? Is it Allah alone?

Something to think about today, my dear Muslim friends.

As always, I love you. . .