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Archive | In the News

Is God Still Good in Loss?

God is goodFor the last week, I’ve been glued to the news and “praying without ceasing.” Since we just moved to the Dallas area from Houston in June, the area and the people are near to our hearts. We have been worried about neighbors, friends, and church family. Some have suffered loss of property, while others’ homes have escaped the flood waters. Some may be thinking God is good. Others, not so much.

Where is God in all of this? Has He been good to some but withheld His help from others? We are so quick to say “God is good” when things go the way we want. When we get the job. When the sick child is healed. When the water recedes. But do we still praise Him, do we still believe God is good when the flood waters rise?

The Bible teaches us that our circumstances do not dictate or define God’s goodness. God’s character dictates His goodness. God is good all the time. No matter the circumstances. God’s goodness does not depend on a dry house. A flooded home does not mean God has not been good to us. In fact, a flooded home could be an opportunity for God to demonstrate His power and grace in your life in a dramatic way.

Truths about the Goodness of God

So what? Let’s start with a correct understanding of God’s goodness. Here are a few truths from Scripture to help us:

  • God’s will for our lives is always good (Romans 12:2). Sometimes – in fact, often – His will includes trials and difficulty that He uses for our spiritual refinement.
  • In all things, in all circumstances, our good God is working for our good. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
  • The assurance of God’s goodness enables us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and to declare in easy times and hard times, “God is good!”

God is Good Even if Our Circumstances Aren’t

Whether our physical circumstances are easy or difficult, how should these truths impact our daily lives? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Remember that God is good all the time. Not just when things are going the way we think they should.
  • Thank Him for His goodness and provision in every life situation.
  • Be sensitive to those around you who are facing difficult and painful circumstances. Don’t flaunt your “better” circumstances.
  • Declare His goodness in every circumstance, particularly in the hard times. Watch for His provision.
  • Lean on His strength and grace in the midst of overwhelming circumstances. His power working in you will testify of His greatness to others.
  • Remember that He can work in your pain and loss to bring glory to Himself.

God is indeed good all the time. He sees your every need and He cares. Lean on Him in every circumstance – good or bad. If you are able, be God’s tool to help someone else.

If your circumstances are “bad” right now, how have you seen God working in the midst of them?

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Specific Prayers for Texas Flooding

Prayers

Photo courtesy of Karen Jordan

I’m glued to the news and weather, watching as flood waters ravage parts of Texas. I’m also texting with friends in the Houston area to confirm their safety. I can’t help today in any physical ways with the Texas flooding, but I can pray. And that’s a powerful tool.

Maybe you are also watching from a distance and want to pray specifically, but you aren’t sure how. I’ve been brainstorming specific ways we can pray for the current flooding in Houston, south Texas, and beyond. These specific needs/items can be lifted to God in the wake of a wide range of natural events and disasters. And, this list is a work in progress. Please add ideas for specific prayers in the comment section. Let’s keep praying!

Download a printable PDF list of the following list.

Ways to Pray in Wake of Natural Disasters

 Pray for People in the Flooded Areas

  • Protection of all life, including family pets
  • Safe transportation to safe areas
  • Dry, comfortable lodging, safe drinking water, and nutritious food
  • Quick reunion for any separated families
  • Long-term housing for those who have lost homes
  • Ability to communicate with extended family and friends

Pray for Rescue Efforts by First Responders/Emergency Personnel

  • Reliable cell and phone service so citizens can summon help
  • Good, reliable communication between agencies
  • Safety for police officers, firemen, and emergency medical personnel
  • Strength, stamina and wisdom as they respond to the overwhelming need
  • Additional manpower from outside the area to meet the need

Pray for Ongoing Relief Efforts

  • Plenty of volunteer teams and government groups to respond to the need
  • Physical strength and stamina for the disaster relief teams
  • Coordination of all volunteer efforts so there will be no gaps and all needs will be met
  • Enough resources – money, supplies, equipment, food, and water – to meet the needs
  • Protect the resources from theft, fraud, and accident

Pray for Physical Conditions

  • Protection from additional rain and tornadoes
  • Open passages for built up/backed up water to safely drain away
  • Plenty of sources for clean drinking water
  • Clear roadways for emergency personnel
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Jesus Died for Everyone – Even Terrorists

Jesus deathI woke this morning to the news of two terrorist attacks on Christian churches in Egypt. Dozens were killed and more than 100 injured while worshipping during Palm Sunday services. And this just days after a terrorist drove a hijacked truck armed with a bomb into a crowded shopping area in Sweden.

The attacks in Egypt specifically targeted Christians. As I prayed over the tragic events this morning I wondered about the terrorists. How do they justify their actions? How can they be so cruel? How could they dare to go right into God’s house and attack His people? How does God feel about them?

Then I glanced at the bottom of my prayer guide. It reminded me to pray for the attackers too. To pray for their salvation. My first thought was: “They don’t deserve Jesus. They don’t deserve His forgiveness.” But wait…

Neither do I. I don’t deserve Jesus. I don’t deserve His forgiveness. That’s exactly why the Cross was necessary. We are all sinners underserving of a relationship with a holy God. We are all sinners, dead in our sins with no ability to save ourselves.

Today, Palm Sunday, begins the most holy time of the year for Christians. Friday marks the event that makes our eternal salvation possible – Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. That is why Jesus came. To save sinners.

The apostle Paul put it this way:

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy, so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the Kingeternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1:15-17, NIV

Paul called himself the “worst of sinners.” Paul had persecuted, hunted, imprisoned, and killed followers of Jesus. It was his chief aim in life, his passion. To put an end to Christians. To blot out Christianity from the face of the earth. Paul was a terrorist. And Jesus saved him. Jesus chose him. And Paul’s life stood as an example of Christ’s unlimited grace and power.

If God could save Paul, God can save anyone.

He could save me. He could save you. He can save a terrorist intent on killing as many Christians as he can.

Here’s a challenge for us this week. On the days leading up to Good Friday, let’s pray not only for the end to terrorism, but let us also pray for the salvation of those who long to create the terror. May they become a display of God’s immense love and grace. May they become a testimony to His glory.

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4 Things to Remember No Matter Who Wins the Election

Presidential ElectionTomorrow is the Big Day. THE election. In less than 48 hours the American people will have a new President Elect. Some of us may celebrate, some may mourn, and some may not care very much.

But the outcome will affect all of us.

A new president will bring new policies. New influences on Congress. A new agenda for his or her administration. We may agree with the changes or we may not. But the changes will impact the direction of our country, the economy, our nation’s security, our lifestyle, our bank accounts, and more. Some effects may be positive. Some may be negative.

These potential changes can easily create concern, worry, and maybe even fear in many of us. What’s going to happen? What will the country and the world be like for my children and grandchildren? Maybe I should just move to Canada…

But, oh believer! We don’t have to allow the circumstances of this world to dictate how we feel. We don’t have to be consumed by anxiety even over potentially very real, negative affects caused by a change in the White House. Our God is bigger than all that! We sometimes simply lose sight of this marvelous truth.

4 Things to Always Remember to Never Forget

No matter what happens tomorrow, we can stand firm on God and His glorious truth. Review the 4 truths below and hold them close. When worry threatens to overtake you, remind yourself of what is true.

  1. God is still – and always – in control – The Bible tells us again and again that our sovereign God is the One who raises up leaders and takes them down again. He alone decides who, when, and for how long. No one takes a worldly position of power without God’s approval. No one. (See Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, and Romans 13:1.)
  2. God works through all world leaders to accomplish His purposes – Chaos, greed, and even violence may seem to reign supreme across our planet. But our all-powerful God can and does work through and in all that to bring about His will and ultimate plan for the world. (See Isaiah 45:1-5, Romans 13:1-5, and Acts 17:24-28.)
  3. God’s character – Sometimes we forget just who our great God really is. He is good and just and faithful and loving and trustworthy and powerful and kind. We can rely on Him, His character, and His ways no matter what the circumstances of the world look like to us.
  4. God’s Kingdom is not of this world – The kingdoms of the world are nothing compared to the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom reigns supreme and eternal. And if you have been born again through a saving relationship with Jesus, you are citizen of His Kingdom. His Kingdom trumps all other kingdoms (Did you see what I did there? Pun intended). When all other nations and countries have passed away, God’s Kingdom will remain! (See John 18:36.)

Let’s be honest. There’s a lot at stake tomorrow for the United States of America. I’ve caught myself wringing my hands over what lies ahead. I wrote this post as much for me as for you. I am choosing to stake my future on God and His truth. Not on the oval office. What about you?

 

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Are Christians Obligated to Vote on November 8th?

Christians voteThe upcoming Presidential election creates a major dilemma for many Christians. Here’s the basis for our dilemma: Neither major party candidate exemplifies even the most basic Christian ethics and standards. Neither is worthy of the office of the President of the United States of America.

Some Christians believe the best course of action is to abstain from voting on November 8. Others feel they should cast their vote for the “lesser of two evils.” (Check out this helpful article by Russell Moore, “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?“) Which action is the right response? Could there perhaps be another option?

Let’s take a step back and briefly lay a biblical foundation for government and our responsibility as citizens.

First, God holds complete sovereignty in establishing, upholding, and removing all nations, rulers, and authorities (Daniel 2:21, Daniel 4:17, Acts 17:26, Romans 13:1). He established government for our good, to suppress evil, and to prevent chaos. Government at all levels provides structure for the country and service to the people (Romans 13:1-7).

The Bible also establishes principles for a believer’s relationship to government:

  1. Intercede Faithfully – God commands us to support the government and our leaders with our prayers. In fact, regular intercession for everyone pleases God (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
  2. Submit Respectfully – Christians should obey the laws of our land and submit ourselves to the authority of our leaders. Paul goes as far as saying that rebelling against our government authorities is the same as rebelling against God. The Bible even says we should submit with a good attitude! (See Romans 13:1-2, Titus 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:13-17.)
  3. Fulfill Responsibilities – Believers are now and eternally citizens of the Kingdom of God. But while we still live in this world, we are also citizens of an earthly kingdom. As citizens, we have rights to enjoy and responsibilities to fulfill. More than once, Paul exercised his rights as a Roman citizen (Acts 21:25-29, Acts 25:10-12). Jesus not only taught we should fulfill all our obligations to the government, He set the example (Matthew 17:24-26, Matthew 22:15-22). Note: Yes, government is subject to corruption because it is comprised of sinful men. And when forced to choose, we must always obey God rather than man (Acts 4:19, Acts 5:29). However this election doesn’t take us there.

How should these biblical principles impact my vote?

So, how do these principles apply to the upcoming presidential election? The United States of America is a republic. Citizens have the right and responsibility to elect the government officials who will represent us.

But this go around, that responsibility seems much heavier. I am struggling with this myself. I am praying and thinking about the right thing to do. I understand why many have decided to simply not vote at all. Yet, that won’t prevent a new president from being inaugurated in January. That won’t fulfill my responsibility as a citizen of the United States.

There is another option. One I am contemplating. We can fulfill our responsibility as citizens and not vote for either of “them.” There will be other candidates on the ballot. Or we could cast a write-in vote. Yes, we can exercise our right and vote our conscious.

Without bashing or endorsing any candidate, how are you dealing with this weighty responsibility?

Find out who is else will be on the ballot:

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The American Divide: A Prayer Guide

prayer guideThere’s a great divide in America today. Misunderstanding, hate, and violence separate black, white, and blue.

This divide has grown larger in just the last couple of weeks. We’ve watched it on the news. We’ve seen it in the streets of our cities. Perhaps we’ve even taken sides.

I feel helpless. The problem is far greater than my wisdom and ability.

But I do know One who is able. He knows exactly how to foster understanding, transform hearts, and bring peace.

I feel compelled to pray. To petition the Creator to do what only He can do. Will you join me?

10 Prayer Prompt Categories

The following list of prayer prompts is not exhaustive. They are broad requests to help guide you deeper in petition before our Lord. Use them right from this page or print the PDF and put it in your Bible.

  1. Dependence – Express your grief and helplessness before God
  2. Repentance – Acknowledge any prejudice and hate you harbor. Ask God to eliminate it from your life and make your heart right.
  3. Families – Ask God to comfort and heal Pray the families of those killed, the Dallas police officers, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, and all victims of this American Divide.
  4. Communication – Ask God to open and strengthen lines of communication between all parties – between the black and white community and between the black community and law enforcement.
  5. Leaders – Ask God to raise up leaders for peace from every group. Pray for voices of calm, reason, and wisdom that will help build bridges instead of walls.
  6. Truth – Ask God to reveal truth in every altercation and situation. Pray against false witnesses. Ask God to hold the media to the highest possible standards and ethics.
  7. Justice – Ask God to guide lawyers, juries, judges, and prosecutors to act with integrity and honesty. Ask God to protect the process from politics and pressure from outside groups. Ask God to help all sides accept the result of fair legal proceedings.
  8. Protection – Ask God to protect Police Officers during duty and off. Ask Him to protect the lives of those in interactions with officers. Ask Him to keep all protests and demonstrations peaceful and productive.
  9. Stereotypes – Ask God to break down stereotypes on both sides. Ask Him to build respect and appreciation for Police Officers among the black community. Ask Him to help officers respond without prejudice in each and every encounter.
  10. Encounters – Ask God to cover every encounter on the street between police and the public. Ask Him to give police officers discernment, calm, and wisdom. Ask Him to help the public respond to police with respect. Ask God to diffuse highly explosive situations.

How have you been praying about this American Divide? Please share something specific you have prayed in the comments.

Other articles you may find helpful:

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Where is Peace?

peaceOur country is in turmoil. Peace alludes us. One group pitted against another. Hatred, violence, and fear feed an ongoing stream of tragedies.

Thursday night, snipers fired on police officers during a protest in downtown Dallas. Twelve were shot, five of them died. Two more police officers were ambushed Friday in two separate incidents in Georgia. Philando Castile killed by police in Minnesota. Alton Sterling killed by police in Baton Rouge under questionable circumstances. And these things happened just last week.

One sinful act fosters another. Grief, pain, and loss overwhelm us. We seem to be caught in a downward cycle with no escape. What is the answer? Where can we find peace?

In America today, tension and even open hostility exists between races, political parties, economic groups, and faiths. But this is nothing new. Divisions and hatred like this have existed since creation in every generation.

When Paul wrote the book of Ephesians, there was no stronger example than the hostility between Jew and Gentile. But even with them peace was possible.

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:13-18, NIV

Lasting peace is not possible outside of a saving relationship with Jesus. Our sinful humanity keeps getting in the way.

Plus, peace is not simply a state of being. It is a Person. No matter how vast our differences or great our hatred, all people can find commonality and peace in Christ Jesus. When individuals are reconciled to Jesus, they are also reconciled to each other.

When we enter into a saving relationship with Jesus, His Spirit begins to transform our hearts and minds. He begins to chisel away the hatred, fear, and pride and fills us with His love, security, and selflessness. Walls break down. Relationships form.

Yes, let us both preach and practice peace. Let us reach across the aisle with hands extended. But let us also share the Gospel message of Jesus. Because without Him there will be no lasting peace.

 

 

 

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Grace or Truth? Yes

Grace or truthIn the wake of the Orlando terrorist attack, an ongoing debate in the Christian community has once again taken center stage. Should Christians extend abundant grace to all or should we stand firm on the truth of God’s Word?

What is the answer? Grace or truth? The answer is a resounding “yes!”

It’s not grace or truth. It’s grace and truth. As Christians, we cannot leave either by the wayside. Jesus, “who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14), is our example.

Yes, the suffering world desperately needs the love and grace of Jesus. But it’s sin that has caused the suffering in the world. Our culture is saturated with its devastating consequences.

Grace Covers Every Sin

Sin is a cancer eating away at the fabric of our society. We see its effects everywhere. Our prisons overflow. The family is disintegrating. Sex fuels the popular culture. This cancer needs a cure before it’s too late for the patient. We need God’s grace and His truth.

A few years ago when this same issue heated up over a controversial interview with Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame, one well-known Christian author wrote that she chooses to “preach the scandalous love of Jesus in the face of any issue, demographic, or debate.” Yet, how can we share the love of Christ without sharing His greatest act of love.

“But God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). The Gospel isn’t the Gospel without the “Jesus died for our sins” part (1 Corinthians 15:3).

Jesus died for our sins. Without the acknowledgment of sin, there will be no recognition of a need for a Savior. And there will be no salvation. No spiritual healing.

The world needs both grace and truth, but they also won’t respond to a dogmatic diatribe of right and wrong. While we must not hesitate to share God’s truth, our conversation must always be “full of grace” (Colossians 4:6), presented with “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). (For more on how Christians can interact with a lost world read “Should Christians be the Morality Police?”)

Of course, there will be times – no matter how graciously we present God’s truth – that the hearers will respond with anger and hate. The message of the Cross is foolishness to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18). For some, it is a sweet aroma of life, but to others it is the smell of death (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). But that should not keep us from sharing the Good News. And we should not water it down to make it more palatable.

The Gospel is good news because Jesus will receive any and every sinner! There is no sin too great, no background too sordid, no heart too rebellious. Jesus’ sacrificial death covers it all. The cross is able to heal all wounds.

Jesus Calls Believers to Holiness

Yet on the redeemed side of the cross, He calls us to live holy lives. Just as He lifted the woman caught in adultery and said, “Go and sin no more,” He raises us up in new lives and tells us to “live a life worthy of the calling we have received” (Ephesians 4:1). Sadly many today who proclaim Christ embrace a form of “Christianity” that looks more like our culture than like Christ. (Read more about cultural Christianity in this excellent article by Stephanie Shott.)

Yes, Jesus invites us to come to Him just as we are. But, He doesn’t want us to stay just as we are.

God calls the prideful to humility.

God calls the selfish to give.

God calls the gossip to speak only word that build up and encourage.

And calls the sexually immoral to purity.

In other words, God calls believers to holiness (Ephesians 4:24). We cannot sweep continued, unrepentant sin under a “rug of grace.” Jesus died for our sins because they were heinous enough to separate us from God. Our sins cost Jesus His life. How can we simply continue to live in them? But that’s what we do when we ignore the truth about what God calls sin.

Yes, Jesus is loving, but He is also just. Jesus is merciful, but He is also holy. We must not misrepresent Jesus to either the world or the Church.

It’s not grace or truth. It’s grace and truth. Both/and. Amen and amen.

 

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A Christian’s Response to Terrorism

terrorismEarly Sunday morning a man claiming allegiance to ISIS entered an Orlando nightclub with a gun. The terrorist killed 50 and wounded dozens more making this the deadliest act of terrorism on American soil since 911.

My immediate response to the news was shock, grief, and anger. Then questions. Lots of questions. How can a person be filled with so much hate and anger? Why can’t someone stop this? When will world leaders join forces to fight this?

And what in the world do I do with this? I feel so helpless.

So, I’ve been thinking about that. How should I – how should a Christian – respond in the wake of terrorism. Whether here in our country or around the world, how do we deal with it and what should we do?

I absolutely don’t have all the answers. Not even some of the answers. But God did bring a few key things to mind as I reflected on the questions. Maybe they will be some comfort or encouragement to you. And maybe you can share some insight here with the rest of us.

4 Responses to Terrorism

  1. Trust in God’s Character – No matter what the circumstances, no matter how bad things look, God is still sovereign. He still knows all, sees all, and is in control of all things. No, I still don’t understand why He doesn’t stop some things from happening. But I do choose to trust God’s truth rather than my emotions.
  2. Pray – The morning after the terrorist attack in Brussels I felt drawn to pray. But I wanted to get specific, I was tired of trite generalities. I asked God to help me know how to pray. He guided my prayer time that morning giving me specific things to pray for the victims and their families, the medical personnel, law enforcement, and even the terrorists themselves. Let’s pray and let’s be specific. (Download the PDF Prayer Guide.)
  3. Support – The victims and their families are hurting. The law enforcement community and medical personnel are overwhelmed. Let’s think about ways we can reach out to comfort and give practical aid. For instance, if we live in the area, we could take food to hospital waiting rooms.
  4. Act – We may not have the power to command troops or call international summits, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing we can do.
  • We can vote – if our elected officials are doing nothing, elect someone who will.
  • We can write – contact everyone and anyone who has the power to do something.
  • We can speak out – if you suspect something, tell someone. Do not remain silent.

I would love for you to share your thoughts, prayers, and feelings in the comments below. How can Christians respond to this kind of evil in the world?

 

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Muhammad Ali Versus Jesus: Who’s the Greatest?

Muhammad AliBoxing legend Muhammad Ali passed away late last week after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s. Often referred to as “The Greatest,” Ali had a long and illustrious boxing career. He won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and earned the boxing title “Heavyweight Champion of the World” three times.

Ali was also famous for making many bold – and poetic – claims about himself. Here are a few you’ve probably heard:

  • “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see. Now you see me, now you don’t.”
  • “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”
  • “I’ve wrestled with alligators. I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning. And throw thunder in jail.”
  • He also called himself “the greatest” and the “king of the world.”

Many people around the world also thought Ali was indeed “the greatest.” Former President Bill Clinton will be giving the eulogy at his funeral on Friday. And in the wake of Ali’s death, President Barack Obama released a statement, which reads in part:

“Muhammad Ali was The Greatest. Period. If you just asked him, he’d tell you. He’d tell you he was the double greatest; that he’d ‘handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder into jail’… Like everyone else on the planet, Michelle and I mourn his passing. But we’re also grateful to God for how fortunate we are to have known him, if just for a while; for how fortunate we all are that The Greatest chose to grace our time… Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it.”

Ali was a strong, disciplined athlete. He was a unique poet and showman. He raised millions of dollars for charities and worked to promote peace around the world. He spent time with both presidents and dictators and was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

But was Muhammad Ali “The Greatest?”

Yesterday, our small group talked about the divinity and eternality of Jesus. Jesus Christ. God come to us. The self-existent One, with no beginning or end of days. Yet the world does not proclaim His greatness. Presidents do not declare His praises.

So, today I feel compelled to give Jesus a little glory due His name.

He paints the butterfly and shapes the bee (Colossians 1:16). He commands lightning and cuts a path for the thunderstorm (Job 38:25). He holds all things together, sustaining them by His powerful word (Hebrews 1:3), yet He willingly humbled Himself to bring life to mankind (Philippians 2:6-8). He opens the eyes of the blind, heals the sick, and raises the dead. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End (Revelation 22:13). One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11-12).

Muhammad Ali may have been a great man as far as men go. But Jesus Christ is our great God and eternal King. Praise His name!

 

 

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