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. . .

Jesus. . .Just Give Me. . .Jesus

This blog post is really, really simple.

Whether you are a “Muslim” or a “Christian” reader, I hope you will join me in praying to Almighty God:

“Jesus. . .just. . .give me. . .Jesus.”

A woman blind from childhood – Fanny Crosby – was talk­ing to one of her neigh­bors, who com­plained bit­ter­ly of his po­ver­ty. “If I had wealth I would be able to do just what I wish to do; and I would be able to make an ap­pear­ance in the world.” Fan­ny re­plied, “Well, take the world, but give me Je­sus.” She was inspired by her own words to write a song with that ti­tle in 1879 (she wrote nearly 8,000 songs in her 95 years of life).

Another version of this song originated as an African-American spiritual written during the terrible time of slavery in the United States.

Still another version was written by Fernando Ortega as heard here:

“Give Me Jesus” (Words and music: Fernando Ortega, 2000)

In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I am alone
Oh and when I am alone
And when I am alone
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

And when I come to die
Oh and when I come to die
And when I come to die
Give me Jesus

Give me Jesus, give me Jesus
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
You can have all this world
But give me Jesus

Paul, first century follower of Jesus and martyr for him, wrote these words about his incredible spiritual accomplishments and how he viewed them after he met Jesus (The Holy Bible, Philippians 3:7-10):

“I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ. . .”

Whether you are a “Muslim” or a “Christian” reader, I hope you will join me in praying to Almighty God:

“Jesus. . .just. . .give me. . .Jesus.”

What If Jesus Really DID Die On The Cross?

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Dear Muslim friends,

Today my heart is heavy.
I’ve had tears in my eyes.

What has caused this? Why am I so emotional and feeling this pain today?

It is because of you, my dear Muslim friends, whom I love.

It is because I long with all of my heart for you to see Jesus – to see him for all that he really is.

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I know you love him. All of my Muslim friends through the years have told me that. . .and I believe it. But I want to ask you with all respect, “How can you love Jesus fully if you don’t know fully all the truth about who he is and why he came?” The Qur’an has many excellent things to say about him. That is good, but there is more to learn. So much more. And it is such good news!

Yes, my Muslim friends, I know you love Jesus. Thank God! Wonderful! But I want to tell you again how much Jesus loves you – because, in reality, that is far more important than how much you love him.

I beg you with all my heart to please listen.

Jesus loves you so much that he was willing to give up everything – even his own life – to see you become right with God.

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He gave up all his glory in paradise to come to earth to make sure that your every sin could be forgiven – to wipe away all your shame. He came to take away your fear of the Day of Judgement and hellfire and rescue you from the power of Satan. He came to take away the gnawing, painful doubt of wondering if you have done enough – if you are good enough – to make it to Paradise.

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I remember saying to a Muslim friend one time, “How would you like to know that every sin you have ever done could be forgiven? How would you like to know that you could go to bed tonight and know that if you did not wake up tomorrow, you would be in Paradise? Would you like to pray with me to ask Jesus into your heart, to truly repent of your sins, and to give your life to Jesus and follow him?” I will never forget his answer. He said, “Who could pass up an offer like that?”

I will end with this.

Two weeks ago I went to see a dear Muslim friend. He is one of the kindest, gentlest, most humble people I have ever met. The problem is, I know that as good as he is, his own goodness cannot get him to Paradise. God says it’s not enough. Sin is so terrible that it must be punished. And God is so holy that He cannot allow sin into Paradise without the appropriate sacrifice to remove the stain and shame of that sin. Like so many of you, my Muslim friend is truly a good person (by human standards). But like all of you – and like me – he still sins and for that reason, he needs a Savior. He needs true forgiveness based on the sacrifice of Jesus.

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So before we parted ways, I asked him this question:

“What if Jesus really DID die on the cross?”

And that, my friends, is the question I want to ask you as well.

What if God loves you that much?

Please think about it carefully because your eternal destiny depends upon your answer.

“I Hate Religion, But I Love Isa – I Love Jesus!”

It’s been quite in vogue for a while for people to say, “I hate religion, but I love Jesus.” The poem above posted on YouTube by then 24-year-old, Jefferson Bethke, has now been seen by over 31 million viewers – 10 million of them in its first four days.

And I suppose, depending on how you define “religion,” that could be a very good thing.

Two questions though:

1. What is meant by the “religion” some say they hate?
2. Does God hate “religion” in some way that we should pay attention to?
(If He does, we better listen. We better pay attention.)

I can’t speak for my Muslim friends but as one who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus, “religion” can be just what Jefferson Bethke said:

“See the problem with religion is, it never gets to the core. It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores (rules).”

In an interview, Bethke stated, “Religion is man centered, Jesus is God-centered.”

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“This poem highlights my journey to discover this truth. Religion either ends in pride or despair. Pride because you make a list and can do it and act better than everyone, or despair because you can’t do your own list of rules and feel ‘not good enough’ for God.”

External vs. internal.

Isaiah, Amos, and other prophets of God spoke from God about His feelings regarding man-made – or God-made – but empty forms of worship. He says (get ready for this): “I hate it.” Why? Because it is:

religion without relationship
correct actions but corrupt attitudes
activity without affection
labor without love
show without substance
habit without heart

Jesus embodied God’s love. He personified it. But he also personified God’s holy hatred of the empty, heartless, hyprocritical, legalistic, purely ritualistic, pride-inspiring, man-pleasing, attention grabbing, self-deceiving, self-righteous practice of “religion” done in his day (or in ours). Listen to his words:

“Jesus answered,’You are all hypocrites. Isaiah was right when he wrote these words from God about you: ‘These people honor me with their words, but I am not really important to them’”(The Injil, the Good News of Mark, chapter 7, verse 6, ERV).
Jesus answered, “Isaiah was right about frauds like you: These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it. They act like they are worshiping me, but they don’t mean it.” (Mark 7:6, MSG)

God is not against doctrine, commands, rules, rituals, and structure in and of themselves. He instituted them! But He is completely against hypocrisy in the practice of religion.

So what is God looking for? What is He asking of us?

He says so clearly to all of us – whether we call ourselves “Muslims” or “Christians” or something else:

“I will pay attention to those who are humble and sorry (for their sins) and who tremble at my word” (the prophet Isaiah, chapter 66, verse 2, GWT).

This is the beginning of a faith that God loves.

It starts – and ends – with the heart.

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