I am primarily an evangelist and teacher who travels around the world in apostolic ministry as God leads and enables me. In addition to preaching and teaching the Bible, I mentor our key partners to be more strategic and impactful for the Gospel in their countries and cultures, just as they continue to mentor me. I am relationally focused rather than program or project focused in ministry relationships and partnerships.
“Praise Him with resounding cymbals!”
Dear Friends and Partners,
This week, June 23rd, I had my last treatment for prostate cancer – 40 radiation treatments in all! Hopefully, this has eliminated cancer from my body. I will have a follow-up check-up in a month to see how the negative side effects are diminishing. Then in 3 – 4 months I will have a blood test to see if the radiation did its job and the cancer cells have been killed. At my last weekly appointment with my urologist, he said to Patt and me, “You have done fantastic!” That was great news. To God be the glory!
It was very exciting to “ring the gong” as I left the hospital, a “resounding cymbal” for sure (Ps. 150:5)!
For now, I am fully released to resume my normal schedule – which I have not really stopped for the last several months, save only international travel. So medically speaking, I have “earned my wings” again and can start traveling as God leads. My first major trip will probably be to Africa – specifically Kenya and Zimbabwe. Other trips will be to Haiti, Abaco, India and Nepal before the end of the year. But first, I will go to the beach with my extended family of 40+ to celebrate God’s goodness to us in general and me in particular.
I know that God was pleased to heal me because of a combination of timely and proactive medical treatment that was saturated by the “spiritual radiation” through the prayers of our wonderful friends and partners in America and other countries of the world. To all of you, Patt and I humbly thank you for being such a vital part of our healing team!
MY MEDICAL TEAM…
Here are a few pictures of the great medical team that took care of me every day. Not pictured is my Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Glenn Crystal, whose expert oversight and appointments directed my treatments.
My first treatment two months ago...my last treatment this past week.
The radiology technicians who treated me daily.
The receptionist and nurses who checked me in each time.
It was a special joy to have some of our family present for my final day:
our son, Dr. Jonathan Williams (an ER physician at ARMC) and his wife Julie,
and our daughter, April, who brought balloons and a sign. Our son Joseph
and his wife Susannah were out of town on vacation, but sent
congratulations via email.
Another "sovereign serendipity" was to meet Ren Hewitt Bryant,
one of the original New Directions members, dating back to 1968.
She happened to be there with her sister and saw us, and joined
us for the "gonging" of the chimes!
THE DEADLY CANCER OF ISLAM…
As I have been undergoing my treatments for physical cancer, the Lord impressed upon me the clear spiritual parallels with spiritual cancer. One of the basic laws of the universe is this: everything in the natural world is a parable of the spiritual world. In other words, the things we can see with our physical eyes are a revelation of things that we can only see with our spiritual eyes through the insight of faith. This principle and parallel has become so clear to me again during these last several months of treatment for physical cancer.
While we believe that the physical cancer has been radiated and removed from my body, the cancer of radical Islamic jihadism has not been removed from the human family. It has been growing globally since the Seventh Century. And sadly, our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East – especially in Jordan, are still suffering under this killer spiritual cancer!
The Obama Administration, leftist liberals and other PC voices tell us that “Radical Islam” is nothing more than a “cancer” on the otherwise peaceable religion of Islam. But that is a wrong diagnosis! Islam itself is a deadly religious, spiritual and social cancer on the human race.
After the biopsy that confirmed the existence of cancer cells in my prostate, my urologist didn’t play word games with me. He didn’t try to hide the truth. He didn’t call it something it was not. And thankfully, he did not say that if I just lived with it, it would either diminish or go away. That kind of wrong diagnosis would have led to my certain death.
After carefully analyzing the data, my urologist and radiologist gave me the options of removing it by surgery, which they did not recommend due to my age. Or, treat it through a combination of hormonal and radiation therapy. Either way, the cancer had to be squarely faced and decisively removed. To ignore it was certian suicide - either slowly or quickly.
I trust you can see the clear parallel here between physical cancer and spiritual cancer. Both are deadly. One kills the body; the other kills the soul and spirit. But by their very nature, “cancer cells” cannot co-exist peaceably with “healthy cells.” One must destroy and devour the other.
The same thing is true between the healthy spiritual cells of the Judeo-Christian faith as revealed by God – and the “killer cells” of Islam counterfeited by the evil one. Hundreds of years of history have proven that they cannot and will not co-exist side-by-side. If both are true to their founders and holy books, they each must seek to evangelize the other. Not to do so is a denial of the essence of their faiths and global mandates.
But while Christians have sought to win the Muslims through love and compassion, Islam has sought to convert through the sword. So decapitation, crucifixion, flogging, maiming, stoning, confiscation of property – are no new phenomena. They are the logical result of the imposition of jihad in all areas of life. As a result, Islam ultimately produces regression rather than progression. It is either modernity or the Middle Ages.
Therefore, even a cursory examination of Islamic history – beginning with the prophet Mohammed – proves that Islam is spiritually, politically and socially carcinogenetic by its very nature. Everywhere its Sharia law has been applied, it has led to political, marital, societal and economic sickness and death.
I am thankful that my doctors did not play games with me. They told me the painful truth about my condition. And they gave me a clear diagnosis and prognosis of what I could expect on the basis of what I decided. I chose to take their advice and follow their plan of action to healing and health. While some of the side effects of the treatment were not pleasant, the end result was worth it.
It is my prayer that Americans will wake up to the realities of the spiritual cancer of Islam that is rapidly growing among us. Our future health or sickness as a nation will be determined by which voices we heed and which actions we take.
As you can see, the Lord impressed upon me to wear my “nun” T-shirt (*) on my last day of treatment to highlight our identification with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are still living under the rapidly growing cancer of Islam through groups like ISIS. We need your continued prayers and financial support to help more of them – especially the thousands of Christian refugees living in Jordan.
Sadly, these Christians who represent one of the most ancient traditions of Christendom, are basically being totally ignored by the Obama Administration. They are being passed over in favor of Muslims when it comes to possible repatriation to America. The political insanity of this decision is off the charts! If there were ever immigrants we should be eagerly welcoming with open arms, it is these Christian refugees!
Patt and I hope you will help us celebrate my victory over cancer by any gift to help those who are still living under this carcinogenic religion! Our Relief Fund for them is completely depleted. So whatever gift you can send will be greatly appreciated by them and by us.
Please click on the picture below to watch my brief exhortation before I “hit the gong”, signifying my victory over cancer through physical and spiritual radiation.
In His Healing Love & Power,
JL & Patt
(*) As a reminder, the Arabic letter "Nun" is the first letter of the word Nazarene - the Muslim word of contempt for Christians. We wear this symbol as an act of solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters who have been displaced by ISIS, and as a way to remember to pray for them.
“I always pray with joy because of your
partnership in the Gospel
from the first day until now…”
Dear Friends and Partners,
Because of the expanding and exponential nature of our partnerships and projects in a number of countries, we get many exciting reports each week - more than we can report on! As you know, Patt and I send a weekly eNewsletter that goes out each Wednesday morning. I usually spend most of Monday writing it from emails and reports from our key national partners. Then Patt proofs it (and tries to shorten it!) before Jane Fraser, our CFO and Ministry Assistant, lays it out and sends it to you.
We gladly spend all of this time and effort writing these reports for you because it is your prayers and financial support that make all of these Kingdom advances possible. So, they are our weekly “investor’s reports,” to share with you what you help make possible.
The Apostle Paul set the perfect example in this spiritual partnership when he closed his Letter to the saints in Rome. In Chapter 16, he specifically mentions 26 people and partners by name – the longest list in the New Testament. Between Acts and Paul’s Epistles, some 95 people are named as ministry associates of Paul – and 36 were his close fellow-workers whom he called his “…partners in the Gospel” (Phil. 1:5). Paul was a team-player throughout his life…and so are we.
But from time-to-time, I am compelled in the Spirit to write an op-ed about certain current events – like the recent email on the life and death of Mohamed Ali, titled “God’s Way to Greatness.” Also, my brief op-ed earlier this week on the recent terrorist attack in Florida titled “Taking the ‘Pulse’ of Orlando.”
However, in writing such commentaries, I fall behind in updating you on timely reports from our strategic national partners.
For the next few weeks, I will combine several reports under the heading of “A Potpourri of Partnership” (potpourri = “a mixture”). This week will focus on some of our partners and projects in Africa. Next week will focus on some of our Asian partners and projects.
So be blessed and encouraged as you see what your partnership is helping make possible in advancing His Kingdom in places where most of you will never go physically. But, you are there through your love, compassion, prayers and financial gifts!
YAW ASANTE, GHANA…
Evangelist Yaw Asante, one of the spiritual patriarchs
and pioneers of the church in Ghana, West Africa.
God first connected me with Yaw in 1991 in Amsterdam at the “International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists” (ICIE), sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Little could either of us have imagined that this sovereign networking would lead to a partnership that has now spanned several decades!
One of the things that impressed me from the very beginning with Yaw was his passion to reach the unreached in Ghana – especially those living in remote villages where others ministers and missionaries did not want to go. The same was true for the Muslim-dominated north of Ghana. In both places, life is very hard and harsh. So most preachers and evangelists migrate to the large cities where life is easier. This has led to a spiritual density in the cities – and a spiritual vacuum in the remote villages.
But even at the age of 71, Yaw has not lost his passion to regularly go to the remote villages with Gospel outreaches. In doing so, he fulfills Christ’s command: “Go out to the highways and along the hedges and make them come in, so that my house may be full” (Lk. 14:23).
Loading his truck with all the supplies he will need to live and minister in the
African bush for a period of time. Yaw and his team camp, cook their own
food, and sleep in village huts or schools in order to share the Gospel.
Since there are no church buildings where they go, they preach and teach under
trees - African style. It is here that most churches are born in Africa.
Wherever possible, they erect a simple "brush arbor" where they
can hold seminars during the day for those in attendance.
Because most people work in the fields from sun-up to sun-down, evangelistic
services are held after dark. Most of the time there is no electricity or lights.
Personal ministry to people often continues late into the night
as Yaw and his team pray for those who receive Christ,
for healing, and often for casting out evil spirits.
The average cost for one of these outreaches to the villages is $500. It would cost thousands of dollars for foreigners to come in and try to do the same thing! So we hope that some of you would sponsor one or more of these evangelistic outreaches in the near future. As a result of past missions like this, a number of “bush churches” have been established. We have recently sent Yaw funds to build two such churches at $5,000 each.
Fortunately, Yaw is also a skilled builder and will personally supervise the building of these churches – doing follow-up and discipleship in the process. Future newsletters will report on the completion and dedication of those churches.
Now let’s move one country east from Ghana to Togo…
KOMIVI AYIBOE, TOGO…
Just as with Yaw Asante, we first made contact with Komivi at the ICIE in Amsterdam in 1991. He was one of over 200 national leaders who came by our booth and filled out an application for partnership. Later, he traveled from Togo to Ghana for a Leadership Conference we were sponsoring there with Yaw. That strengthened our partnership, which has continued from then until now.
While Komivi is a bi-vocational pastor who also teaches school, he leads periodic evangelism missions into rural villages. Christmas and Easter are especially good opportunities for such missions since the children are on break from school.
Most of Togo is very rural and poor. So there are many challenges and opportunities that constantly face Komivi as a minister of the Gospel – like feeding hungry children.
Because of the giving of our American partners like you, we have had the privilege of building a home for Komivi and his wife and family. Since God graciously provided a home for Patt and me to live in through the generosity of my mother, we have always had a passion to help provide housing for many of our key national pastors.
Recently we were able to sponsor Yaw for a visit with Komivi in Togo. Because of his building expertise, we sent him there to help add an addition on Komivi’s home for a corn-grinding mill. This is one of our many Kingdom Entrepreneur initiatives to help national leaders become self-supporting.
The addition to the outside wall of Komivi's home that houses the
corn-grinding mill. Sadly, the electricity is very sporadic in Togo,
so it is a challenge to operate the mill on a consistent basis.
Please continue to pray for Komivi as he leads strategic evangelistic outreaches in his area of Togo. Also for the success of his corn-grinding operation to support himself and his family.
Now, let’s jump on our plane for a long flight from Ghana and Togo, West Africa to Kenya, East Africa…
STAKWELL YURENIMO, KENYA…
Stakwell became our “spiritual son” over two decades ago when he was a young adolescent boy of the Samburu Tribe. God had providentially taken us to Kurungu in northern Kenya where the Samburu Tribe is concentrated. We were invited there by missionary friends, Dale & Susanne Beverly, pioneers with African Inland Mission (AIM). After we were able to sponsor the building of a simple “African Bush Church” for the young congregation there, we began to build friendships and relationships with key Samburu leaders.
We quickly saw in Stakwell great leadership potential. So we first sponsored him through school – all the way through Bible College through ministry partners, Bud & Maribell Chittenden. After he finished his education and training, he wanted to return to his home area and minister to his Samburu people. But because God had used Sports to win him to Christ, he wanted to start a Sports Ministry to reach other tribal young people. As a result, the “Samburu Sports Camp” was born.
Over time we carved out a basic Sports Camp in the thick African Bush. In the years that followed, scores of sports events, children’s camps and VBS programs were held.
Scores of tribal children like these were helped and sponsored in school.
These annual sports events brought together different tribal groups – formerly hostile toward each other – in friendly competition. The Sports Camp became a “Peace Camp,” where tribal hostilities were overcome and friendships were built.
LAKE TURKANA WIND PROJECT
Little could we have realized that this strategic sports ministry by Stakwell would not only be an end in itself – but a means to another end beyond our imaginations. Through the initiative of several Kenyan entrepreneurs, the Lake Turkana Wind Project (LTWP) was conceived. It took over 6 years of research and development to bring this almost inconceivable “wind farm” into existence. It would be one of the largest in the world with over 300 turbines – costing over a billion dollars. And since it would be built in contested territory between the Samburu and Turkana Tribes who had been hostile to each other for millennia, a lot of peace-making and bridge-building had to take place. And who better suited for this challenge but Stakwell!?
So because of the years of peace-making among the children and young people, he was naturally and supernaturally prepared to become the liaison among all of the diverse tribal groups in the area.
He has worked now full-time for the LTWP as their agent to keep peace and unity among the formerly hostile tribal groups, and has also worked to make sure that there are fair and equal job opportunities from the various tribes and villages. Since the LTWP now employs over 1,000 local people – this has been a HUGE challenge and opportunity!
Stakwell, and his wife, Francesca, have also become entrepreneurs in their own right. We have helped them capitalize on this mega-operation by further developing the Sports Camp into a “Safari Lodge” to house the many workers for the LTWP. This has been timely in providing more income and jobs for his people.
Recently we helped him buy and install a new larger generator for the Camp. He also put in a “Petro Station” to sell fuel to the many people now traveling by car from Nairobi to the LTWP.
New generator and pump for the "Samburu Service Station!"
One of the first places I will be traveling to after I finish my radiation this week will be to Kenya, to be with my beloved Samburu Family! We covet your prayers for that trip which will probably be around the end of July. I will again have Arie VanWingerden traveling with me to help advance the greenhouse and gardening projects for Stakwell and Francesca. Until then, please continue to pray for Stakwell and Francesca as they continue to be God’s “salt” and “light” in this unique project.
Stakwell, Francesca, and their 3 beautiful daughters:
Wendy, Maribell, and Victoria.
There are several other key African partners I will be reporting on in a future eNewsletter that will focus on our growing agricultural projects. As you know from previous reports, agricultural development will always be a priority for us – because it is a priority for God. Since He started man in a garden, He designed and created farming as the foundation of man’s life on this earth. No country can ever rise above it’s agricultural base. Until a people can feed themselves, they can’t develop and prosper in any other area. They will live with hunger and malnutrition which will override all of their other creative abilities. A hungry stomach always wins over an empty mind.
As we all know, hunger and malnourishment is still rampant in our world today – even in America. So be watching for that report on our practical agricultural partnerships. They will parallel the personal gardening that many of you are doing this summer in your own back yards.
Until then, know how much Patt and I appreciate your continued prayers and giving during the summer months when there is often physical drought and financial drought!
In His faithful, fruitful and forceful love,
JL & Patt
“In spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message
with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
And so you became a model to all the believers…
the Lord’s message rang out from you…
your faith in God has become known everywhere.”
(I Thess. 1:6-8)
Dear Ministry Friends and Partners,
The Scripture verses above written by Paul to the persecuted and poor saints in Macedonia are so relevant to our friends and partners in Mali, West Africa. Because of Islamic terrorism, hundreds of them had to flee the cities of Timbuktu and Gao in 2011 for the semi-safer refuge in the capital city of Bamako. Since we have not reported on their on-going ministries “under the gun” of the Muslim jihadists in quite some time, I want to update you through this weekly eNewsletter.
A funeral service for the two church members
who were killed by Islamic jihadists was held
in the Evangelical Baptist Church in Timbuktu.
The members were employees of Radio Tahanint FM,
owned and operated by the church.
Just as Paul exalted the example of the persecuted believers at Macedonia, I am highlighting these strategic and beloved partners in Mali. God sovereignly graced us with a covenant friendship and partnership with them over two decades ago. Since then, I was privileged to make a number of trips to Timbuktu for ministry, and Patt was able to accompany me on several of the trips to minister to the women there.
Fati and Patt.
Sadly, in late 2011, after the fall and death of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, ethnic Tuaregs who had fought as mercenaries for him returned home “armed to the teeth.” They soon joined forces with the home-grown Islamic radicals, Ansar Dine (meaning: “Movement in defense of the faith.”). These Malian Muslims were in essence a franchise of al Qaeda. Their goal was to radicalize Islam in all of Mali and impose Sharia law – beginning in the ancient city of Timbuktu.
Because of their experience and superior fire-power, these Tuareg/Ansar Dine radicals quickly overran Timbuktu and most of the North of Mali. Christians had to go underground or flee south to Bamako – where most still live as refugees in their own country. As they fled, they basically had to leave everything behind – which the Islamist terrorists quickly confiscated, occupied or destroyed. Through the support of partners like you, we were able to help out in the relocation and rebuilding process.
As a result of the French intervention in 2013, the jihadists were killed, routed or driven deep into the Sahara Desert. But, most of these Tuareg “lords of the Sahara” were not destroyed because they have survived and thrived in the desert for millennia. Since then, there have been periodic invasions and acts of terrorism across Mali – but especially in the north.
During one of the lulls in the fighting, I was able to make a fast, clandestine trip to Mali, Timbuktu and Gao from Bamako. I was accompanied by retired Colonel Jack Franck – a longtime friend, Board Member and traveling companion. By God’s grace, we were able to get in and out without incident or capture (please click here to review that trip).
The latest major terrorism in Mali was the assault on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako this past November 20, 2015. Twenty-one hostages were killed before the Hotel was secured by Malian and UN Security Forces. But this terrorist siege again revealed the boldness and strength of the jihadists and the fragile nature of life in the capital city – especially for national Christians and foreigners.
However, with the kind of “forceful faith” that Jesus spoke about in Matthew 11:12, the Christians in Mali continue to boldly practice and propagate their faith in the Lord Jesus.
Baptizing new believers in Timbuktu and commissioning national missionaries
for evangelism and church-planting in Goundam and Niafounke.
Like their Biblical predecessors in Macedonia, the Malian believers have also faced “severe suffering” for the cause of Christ. As a result, they too are “…models to all the believers” because of the fact that “…the Lord’s message rings out from them.” And because of the impact they are having in their country and culture, we want to help make “…their faith in God known everywhere” – especially to you who are their spiritual and financial partners through us.
So I hope you will be blessed, encouraged and freshly motivated to pray and partner with these strategic brothers and sisters in Mali. While I cannot report on all of our partners in this strategic West African Nation, I will share an update on the “top 3” with which we work the most closely – and have for many years. I will share their updates under the headings of the Patriarch, Professor and Proclaimer.
Without a doubt, Pastor Nouh Yattara is the Christian pioneer and patriarch in Mali. Converted from Islam as a young boy, he grew up to become the first national pastor in the ancient city of Timbuktu. The Evangelical Baptist Church in Timbuktu was his primary base of operations for decades. Because of the “belt of misery” that surrounds this mystical city in the Sahara, his ministry was holistic from the very beginning until now.
It has been our privilege to be in partnership with Pastor Nouh and his dear wife, Fati, for some 2 decades. And since he is a scholar on Islam in general and folk Islam in particular, I will be forever grateful for his mentoring in these areas. God has used him to deepen and enrich my understanding of Islam – especially as it relates to this fourth holiest city of Timbuktu (following Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem).
Pastor Nouh continues to carry out an Apostolic role in the church in Mali far beyond the bounds of the Evangelical Baptist Church in Timbuktu. In addition to being one of the pioneer preachers and church planters, he has been the catalyst for many social programs to empower the poor – especially women – who are so disenfranchised in Islam.
Pastor Nouh is also a member of the Executive Committee for the Association of Evangelical Churches in Mali. He is a regular guest preacher in various churches in Mali, as well as a favorite lecturer at the Bible Institute and Seminary – both now relocated in Bamako.
He has also helped in the translation of the Bible or New Testament into the Tamasheq language spoken by the Turegs and Bellahs, as well as into Hassania, spoken by the Beidans and Harratins.
Without a doubt, there is no national Christian who has made a bigger spiritual footprint and fingerprint in Mali than Pastor Nouh. It was our privilege to help him rebuild his house in Timbuktu that had been occupied by the jihadists, as well as expand his current home in Bamako to better accommodate his 5 adopted children. (Please click here to review this project).
Pastor Nouh, Fati, and their extended family.
Their 3 grown sons and their families live in America.
Professor Mohamed-Ibrahim Yattara is the nephew of Pastor Nouh, who led him to the Lord, and discipled him as a young Christian. Following in his uncle’s spiritual footsteps, Mohamed zealously pursued Biblical and theological education – both in Mali as well as in America. He ultimately returned to Mali to serve the growing evangelical church there that desperately needed leadership and pastoral training.
He became the head of the Biblical Institute in Gao that has become the resident Bible College for young leaders of the growing evangelical church in Mali. Sadly, both the Institute and his home in Gao – along with the local Evangelical Baptist Church – were captured and occupied by the Islamic jihadist (please click here to see a report from my visit to Gao and the ravished Bible Institute). As a result, Professor Mohamed, his wife, family and the Bible Institute all relocated to Bamako, where he continues his ministry of training pastors.
Recently, another graduation from their Bible Institute in exile was held, and Pastor Nouh gave out the diplomas to the graduates.
The majority of the young pastors in Mali today look to him as their “professor” – who is also their mentor and friend. The story that follows is a good example.
It has been my privilege to preach and teach alongside Professor Yattara on every trip I have made to Mali. I love having him as my interpreter because I know he will always preach a good message, regardless of what I say!
Like his uncle, Pastor Nouh, Professor Mohamed is a much sought after preacher and teacher in Mali and in other African countries. He is often invited to be the spokesman for Mali at Conferences on the African continent. This month he will be speaking in Nairobi, Kenya, at a Trans-African Conference. The theme he has been asked to speak on is “Supporting and Strengthening the Church in Times of Pressure and Persecution.” His experiences in Mali over the last few years have especially prepared him to speak on this timely topic.
Just a few days ago I received an email from Professor Mohamed with this shocking news:
“Please pray for me. I was shocked this morning when the owner of the house we are renting called and said he will not renew the lease. I signed a one-year renewable contract from November to October. He did not give any reason. I suspect pressure from the community or family. I was told that I am not allowed to use a Muslim place for a non-Muslim activity. I was just shocked! I have heard of other Christians who were expelled from the places they were renting for the same reason. The house owner told me again he didn’t know I was a Christian leader. He thought I was just a “simple Christian.” He said he saw me preaching on TV and in some Christian gatherings. I think the “Islamic community” is putting pressure on him.
I just don't know what is happening after all our investment. Hope time will tell. I pray the Lord will change this otherwise I need to be looking for a house to rent beginning September and new schools for children. I am not discouraged but just shocked because this is the last thing I was expecting. Thanks again for praying,”
Professor Mohamed, Fatouma, and their wonderful family of biological
and adopted children.
Meet Pastor Mohamed Aly, one of the evangelists in Mali. And like most of his contemporaries, he was trained and mentored for the ministry in the Bible Institute by Professor Mohamed. I call him the “Proclaimer” because his passion is to proclaim Jesus through preaching, teaching, music and the distribution of audio Bibles.
On my very first trip to Mali and Timbuktu, I was particularly drawn to Pastor Mohamed because he is also an indigenous musician. As most of you know, our organization began as “The New Directions” (NDI) musical ministry back in 1968. Because of that fact, I have always had a heart for national musicians who are using music to share the Gospel – especially outside the church walls, just as we did for many years through NDI.
Because he writes and performs music in the native languages and dialects of Mali – performing in traditional dress – he and his group have become well known across the country. They are often asked to perform at special cultural events and on national TV – especially at Christmas and Easter.
He and his group were recently asked to perform at a “Concert of Reconciliation” in Bamako. This is highly unusual in a Muslim majority country. It has been our joy to help him in the recording and distribution of some of his music through CDs and DVDs.
In addition to music, Mohamed Aly loves to share the Gospel through the distribution of audio Bibles – which are appropriately called “The Proclaimer.”
We were blessed to be able to present
a new motorcycle to Mohamed Aly after
his motorcycle was stolen by
After my eNewsletter last week on God’s Way To Greatness that focused on the world-famous prize fighter Mohamed Ali, Pastor Mohamed Aly sent me this email:
“Thank you for the time you took to tell us about the life of Muhammad Ali. I think pride prevented him from coming to Jesus Christ. It’s the same pride that prevents many Muslims from seeking salvation in Jesus Christ.
Speaking of racism, I think there's more racism in Islam than in so-called Christian circles. There is more intolerance in Muslim majority areas than in Christian countries. The lie of Islam in all areas where it is a minority is that it is tolerant and good – not racist. But this is wrong. It's just a lie to attract the discouraged people of society and make them the children of the perdition.
I am another Muhammad Ali…but without a great name. I'm not known in the world. But I know Jesus Christ and one day I will see Him. Merci.”
Pastor Mohamed Aly
Another strategic ministry that Pastor Mohamed Aly
assists with is Operation Christmas Child Shoe Boxes,
provided by Samaritan's Purse.
Please pray for Pastor Mohamed, his wife and 4 active sons, as they continue their ministry in exile in Bamako and wherever God leads them in Mali. In my book – and in God’s – he is a real champion for the Kingdom of God who is “…fighting the good fight of the faith” (I Tim. 6:12)!
On my last trip to Mali after the French routed the Islamic jihadists, we visited the cities of Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu. In each city we walked through the rubble and ruins of what al-Qaeda had tried to destroy – especially the Christian churches and pastors’ homes. As I shared above, we were able to help in the renovation and rebuilding of the homes of Pastor Nouh and Professor Mohamed. But there were many more that needed our help.
Recently, we were able to help finish the renovations on a Pastor’s Home in Gao that we visited. The home had been totally plundered by the Islamists. Through the timely and skilled help of missionary friends, Rich and Anna Marshall, the parsonage has now been completely renovated. We are thankful and humbled by the part we were able to play because of the giving of our ministry partners.
Two special couples and dear friends to Patt and me:
Pastor Samuel & Nana, and Rich & Anna Marshall.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read through this update on some of our key partners and projects in Mali. This picture was taken several years ago on top of the Guest House we funded for the Evangelical Baptist Church in Timbuktu, founded by Pastor Nouh. The times were more peaceful then – although the Islamic storms were brewing – just like the famous sand storms that suddenly come up in the Great Sahara and enshroud everything in sandy darkness.
Pray with us that these dark days of Islamic radicalism will be blown away by the stronger winds of the Holy Spirit. And until that sovereign blowing that will allow all the Christians to return to the north of Mali, pray that their “forceful faith” will continue to grow and embolden them to stand firm for the Lord Jesus. More persecution from the bloody sword of Mohamed is almost a certainty – not just against them, but against Christians worldwide. So their story is a reminder that we too must “suit up for battle!”
We also boldly ask for your financial support for these brave and beloved Christian leaders in Mali I have written about in this report. We urge you to pray about becoming a monthly supporter for these strategic men with a pledge of $100, $50, $25, or a one-time gift of whatever amount the Lord prompts you to give. And as always, we will deploy your gift 100% as you designate.
In His partnership with them,
JL & Patt
PS: If you haven’t read my book, A Christian Perspective on Islam, I hope you will do so. It is “Islam 101” for Christians who want a basic overview of this fast-growing religion that is the only serious spiritual and global challenge to Christianity and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Please click on the picture of the book at right to order your copy today!
(Op-ed on The Life & Death of Mohamed Ali)
“He who is least among you all – he is the greatest.”
Dear Ministry Partners,
The news this week has been dominated by the death of boxing legend, Mohamed Ali. It is hard to name a sports icon more universally known than Ali. Perhaps Michael Jordan would be his only serious contender for national and international name recognition.
At the height of his career, Ali was unquestionably the most renowned and recognizable person in the world. No small feat for a person from a humble background in Louisville, Kentucky. And yet, Ali’s controversial life and career became a global phenomenon long before he died this past week on June 3rd.
The review of his illustrious life, tumultuous career and death from Parkinson’s disease has temporarily eclipsed the current rancorous and divisive presidential primaries – now primarily between Trump and Clinton.
As the original “Louisville lip,” the famous braggadocios bellicose of the former Cassius Clay was a past prelude to the current egotistical pontifications of Donald Trump. Both claim to be the “GREATEST!” But, Ali was the original master of “trash talk” against his opponents! It became a defining part of his psychological warfare against his rivals in the weeks leading up to their matches.
This kind of vitriolic and verbal vilification is also how Trump eliminated his 17 Republican rivals – each a strong contender in his or her own right. No doubt it will be how he intends to knock Hillary Clinton out of the ring for the American presidency!
The Ali and Trump playbooks are parallel in many ways when it comes to “trash talking” against one’s opponents! They both are contenders for being the “GREATEST” when it comes to verbal assaults and beating up your opponent with negative words!
ALI THE RING MASTER…
Unquestionably, Mohamed Ali was one of the best professional boxers of all times – if not the “greatest.” The only boxer in modern history who rivals his achievements was welterweight and middleweight champion, Sugar Ray Robinson, who has often been referred to as the “greatest boxer of all times.”
Ali is credited with ushering in and presiding over the “Golden Era” of boxing. During his long and tumultuous career, Ali defeated other great heavyweight boxers like: Larry Holmes, Leon Spinks, Sonny Liston, George Foreman, Floyd Patterson and Joe Frazier. His hard-fought victory over Frazier in 1975 was probably his crowing achievement. After being defeated by Frazier in 1971 at Madison Square Garden in what was called the “Fight of the Century,” Ali’s comeback was one of his greatest victories. It was literally almost a fight unto death for both of them. But, at the end of round 14, Ali was declared the winner by a “technical knock-out” (TKO) as Frazier’s coach conceded the fight.
After his early fights as a Golden Gloves boxer, Clay went on to win the Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics. Later, he threw his medal in the Ohio River to protest America’s racism.
Because of his unmatched record in the boxing ring, Sports Illustrated proclaimed him “Sportsman of the Century” in 1999.
Just like Donald Trump is defying traditional political standards and still drawing record crowds, Ali did the same in the boxing world for years. His fights drew unprecedented crowds – many with unique titles given by Ali himself, often called the poet laureate of boxing:
On three separate occasions, Ali won the title of “World Heavy Weight Champion” (1964, 1974, 1978) – a feat that has never been repeated by any other boxer.
By any standards, Ali was a world-class athlete in every sense of the word. Some even consider him the single greatest athlete of the Twentieth Century – if not of all times. His fancy footwork and rope-a-dope strategy were unique in the ring. His boxing record is very impressive:
"ME AND ALI"…
Since I am a contemporary of Ali, it has been interesting to revisit his career this past week through the many news media stories – all of which I remember well from the actual events. While our lives have taken very different trajectories, there are some interesting parallels:
LOSSES OUTSIDE THE RING…
While Ali experienced some 56 victories in the boxing ring, he experienced even more defeats outside the ring. While not detracting from his impressive performances in the ring, it is timely to reflect on his losses – not just in the boxing arena, but also outside the arena of life where wins and losses have such lasting impact. Just as he experienced 5 defeats in the ring, I believe he experienced more serious defeats outside the ring – losses with both temporal and eternal consequences.
As I have been reflecting this week on his triumphant and tumultuous life and career, I see 5 strategic fights that I think Ali lost outside the ring. These are losses for which he is now being judged by Jesus Christ, the ultimate Judge of the universe – not by Allah. (Matt. 19:26; Jn. 5:22-30; Acts 10:42; 17:31 Rom. 2:16; 14:10; II Cor. 5:10; II Tim. 4:8; Ja. 5:9; Rev. 19:11, etc.)
As I share this op-ed about Ali, please realize that I am painting with a broad brush. I am only able to give a few bare essentials of some of his long and complicated personal history inside and outside the boxing ring. If you are interested, I urge you to do further research on your own.
THE EMOTIONAL FIGHT…
It doesn’t take a trained psychiatrist to confirm that Ali had passionate emotions! In many ways, he was a “high manic” who quickly and loudly vented what he was feeling, whether good or bad.
Those who know his early story remember how at the young age of 12 he was ready to “pick a fight” with someone who stole his bicycle. Apparently for young Cassius Clay, that was a natural way to vent his anger. Fortunately, a policeman stopped him and advised that he learn how to box before he picked a fight with an unknown boyhood thief. That chance encounter with the policeman is what started his boxing career.
The highly emotional Cassius Clay’s early career was synonymous with intense and frenzied outbursts. It was part of his persona. His emotional and verbal outbursts and “rhymes of ridicule” became part of the theatrics that served as a drawing card for his fights. Almost every public interview brought new and provocative emotional and verbal tirades.
Apparently he learned to tame his emotions as he grew older – especially as Parkinson’s disease took more and more control of his life. But, until that time, his “untamed emotions” took their toll on his wives, children and friends.
Sadly, the young fighter never learned the truth and wisdom of Proverbs 25:28: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.”
So, Ali often lost the high ground through his fight to control his emotions – instead, he let them control him. It was a fight that he lost multiple times.
But there was another crucial and defining fight that Ali lost…
THE RACIAL FIGHT…
Growing up in segregated Louisville, Kentucky, young Cassius Clay saw and experienced the racism and prejudice that was the norm for that day. While he was from a more middle class family, he still saw and experienced the ugly discrimination, injustice and inequality that were accepted as “normal.” Simply put: “white and might was right!” To believe or practice otherwise was to be “put in your place” quickly and decisively – because the laws and bars of justice were against you if you were a person of color.
His natural anger against this racism drew him to the prideful racial separation being preached by the Nation of Islam (NOI). It had been founded in the city of Detroit back in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad. He preached that the American Blacks – and all other people other than whites – were descendants of a lost superior African nation known as the Tribe of Shabazz. His interpretation of “Black History” was more mythological than factual. But this message of Black superiority seemed to resonate with a young Black man like Clay, who was struggling to find his racial identity and dignity in the context of the prejudice and discrimination of a segregated America.
Clay first encountered these Black separatists in Chicago in 1959 at a Golden Gloves Tournament. As a result, he attended his first meeting in 1961. Soon Clay started attending their services regularly – but primarily secretly for the first 3 years for fear of how it would affect his boxing career.
Malcolm X quickly became his friend and mentor. He schooled this young boxer and racial fighter in the early stages of the “Black is beautiful” mentality. The white man was the “devil” and the evil oppressor of God’s superior race – the Black man and woman. White was not right – it was a blight on the history of the Black race! So “whitey” must be rejected in every way – and by force whenever necessary.
Finally, in 1964, Cassius became a “Black Muslim.” He rejected his birth name of Cassius Clay, saying that was his “slave name” imposed on him and his family by the white slave masters, and changed his name to Cassius X. But he went further and took the name Mohamed Ali (meaning: Mohamed = “Beloved of God”; Ali = “exalted”). The rest of his adult life he lived, and died, with that name.
Soon the Nation of Islam had its most famous and vociferous spokesman for their cause of Black superiority and racial separation. This racial activism caused him to become even more controversial and polarizing – resulting in the loss of a lot of popularity almost overnight. This was especially so because professional boxing was largely dominated and controlled by white men. Or to quote Ali: “Boxing is a bunch of white men watching Black men beating each other up.”
Over time, the boxing world adjusted to his Muslim faith and new Islamic name. And, in the process, Ali opened the door for many other Black athletes to “come out of the Islamic closet” and openly declare their Islamic identity.
Ali’s attraction to the NOI or Black Muslims is certainly understandable in light of the decades of racism in America – especially in parts of the South. Nevertheless, through his sojourn into Black Islam, Ali lost his fight with racism. That’s because he only exchanged one form of prejudice for another. He exchanged “white superiority” for “black superiority.” Through this movement, the racial pendulum swung from whites separating themselves from blacks to the blacks separating themselves from whites. In both cases, neither race wanted to have anything to do with each other. At best it was to be a tense truce of “separate but equal.” It was a separation based on alienation – not reconciliation.
Ali eventually broke his relationship with the more incendiary Malcolm X – who rejected the Civil Rights Movement because of its emphasis on interaction rather than separation. Malcolm X was more committed to Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. Because these forms of extreme separation were against the focus of both the Nation of Islam and the Civil Rights Movement, Malcolm X separated from them and led his own movement until his death. He was reputedly murdered by extremists from the Nation of Islam.
Regardless of their separation and alienation, Malcolm X had made an indelible impact on Ali’s racial and spiritual DNA. Later in life, Ali confessed that one of his greatest regrets was that he never reconciled his relationship with Malcolm.
This racial journey into the Black Muslim movement brings us to another crucial fight that Ali lost…
THE RELIGIOUS FIGHT…
I think it is impossible to separate the racial fight from the religious fight in Ali’s life. They are inseparably connected.
As a young boy, Cassius Clay had grown up in the Centennial Olivet Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. There he saw only pictures of “white Jesuses” – one of which was painted by his own father, who was an artist. In his mind, this “white Jesus” was a turn off. He was the Savior of the white man – not the Black man! And this “white Jesus” was nothing more than a chaplain for the segregationists.
Sadly, Christianity was tainted with white bigotry, racism, segregation and all forms of injustice against the Blacks. So Ali threw out the “Baby Jesus” with the racial wash water of white Christianity. As far as we know, he never went back.
Ali with his life-long greatest supporter,
his mother, Odessa O'Grady Clay.
It is interesting to read what Ali wrote about his beloved mother in an excerpt from his biography, Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times:
“My mother is a Baptist, and when I was growing up, she taught me all she knew about God. Every Sunday, she dressed me up, took me and my brother to church, and taught us the way she thought was right. She taught us to love people and treat everybody with kindness. She taught us it was wrong to be prejudiced or hate. I’ve changed my religion and some of my beliefs since then, but her God is still God; I just call him by a different name.”
Both of Ali’s parents remained faithful to their Christian faith and churches. And they continued to love and support Ali in spite of his defection from Christianity.
Ali with Elijah Mohamed, spiritual head of the Nation of Islam.
In 1964, Ali denounced the Christian faith of his childhood and converted to the Nation of Islam. It would appear that it was a “conversion” that was far more racially motivated than spiritually inspired.
So, in my humble opinion, this is where Ali literally lost the fight of his life! While he soon moved away from the more extreme version of spiritual and racial separation that was propagated by Malcolm X, Ali remained in the Nation of Islam under the spiritual headship of Elijah Mohamed.
At least during this tenure, Ali humbled himself to the degree that he acknowledged that he was no longer the “Greatest” – Allah was! But he was still the “second greatest” – but no longer with a capital “G.”
In time, Ali moved away from this Americanized version of Islam that was primarily focused on the plight of the Black man and his separation from everything white. The Nation of Islam and the Black Muslim movement was fragmenting and waning in influence.
But it was during this time that Ali’s racial stance took political expression against the Vietnam War. He is credited with influencing Martin Luther King, Jr. to do the same and make the Vietnam War a part of his peaceful demonstrations for human rights and racial equality.
Even though he received the 1-A classification to be drafted in the US Army, Ali refused to go. In the minds of many, Ali became a “draft-dodger.” And his refusal to be inducted and go to war put him at odds with the American Government. He took the position of a “conscientious objector” as an ordained Muslim cleric. His plea was rejected. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison and stripped of all of his boxing titles. But, he valiantly stood his ground. And he never served a day of that 5-year sentence.
Ultimately he appealed to the Supreme Court – which exonerated his position. But during these long series of legal proceedings, several of Ali’s prime years as a boxer were forever lost. Yet, he still made the historic come-back in boxing that has never been matched.
For the rest of his life, Ali’s Islamic faith was constantly morphing from one sect to another. After leaving both Malcolm X and Elijah Mohamed, in 1975 Ali became a Sunni Muslim (the majority branch of Islam; Shia Islam is the minority branch. For a further study of this, see my book: A Christian Perspective of Islam).
In this largest sect of Islam, Ali made the required Hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca. In the process, he visited and inspired Muslims around the Arabic and African world. All of this only increased his stature as a global phenomenon. He was not only one of the “greatest” athletes in the world, he was also an avowed and devout Muslim.
In many ways, Ali’s increasing unflinching public stance as an unashamed Muslim opened the door wider for other prominent Black athletes to go public in their conversion to Islam – usually with Muslim names to match their spiritual identity.
In his latter years, Mohamed’s Islam changed again as he became a Sufi Muslim – which is the more mystical branch of Islam. (He followed the teaching of Hazart Inayat Khan, an Indian born Sufi master who lived from 1882 – 1927.) This branch of Islam is more focused on prayer, worship and reciting the names of Allah. So, Ali’s Islamic faith was always evolving from one sect to another. He lived all of his adult life a faithful Muslim – and died a Muslim while his adult children recited Islamic prayers to him.
Ali had earlier written this about his eclectic Muslim faith that still had some of the admixture of Christianity:
“Rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, oceans all have different names, but they all contain water. So do religions have different names and they all contain truth, expressed in different forms and times. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family.”
Ali “drank the spiritual Kool Aid” of religious pluralism that was growing in his day – and that has become so widely accepted today: that it doesn’t matter whether you are “in the ring” or “out of the ring”…whether you are “in the church” or “outside the church”, you still belong to God, whatever you perceive him to be.
While sounding sympathetic and pietistic, spiritual pluralism and religious egalitarianism is a toxic theological potion that leads to death and destruction! And Jesus said it, not me (Matt. 7:13-14).
Whether you are the “greatest” or the “least,” no amount of sincerity can change the “wrong road” into the “right route.” No degree of dedication can change the “wide gate” into the “narrow gate.” No amount of prayer and piety can transform the “path to destruction” into the “path of life.” You are either right or you are wrong. There is no median or middle ground. And every person – including Mohamed Ali – “bets his or her life” on one path or the other.
So spiritual purity – not spiritual piety – is the “truth test” upon which a person’s salvation hangs. And only Jesus Christ is that “…one Mediator between God and man” (I Tim. 2:5). As God’s perfect incarnation in human flesh, only Jesus is the “…way, truth and life” that leads to eternal salvation by knowing the One True God (Jn. 14:6). And the Name of that one monotheistic God is Abba, Father – not Allah (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). All other roads are spiritual dead ends!
So here again, Mohamed Ali lost the fight of his life!
THE MARITAL FIGHT…
Another related fight that Ali lost outside the ring was in the arena of sex and marriage. Early in his career, he developed the reputation of a man with a “perpetually roving eye,” as one of his wives described him. As a result, Ali was married 4 times. So unlike normal Muslims who are allowed multiple wives simultaneously, Ali was a serial polygamist. During his lifetime, he married the following women:
Through these 4 women, Ali fathered at least 9 children – 7 daughters and 2 sons. Sadly, he was also known as a serial adulterer outside the ring – which produced at least two more known daughters, often referred to as “love children.”
While Ali’s passions worked for him in the boxing ring – they worked against him outside the ring. He left a legacy of broken marriages and extra-marital affairs that will live on long after him – most prominently in the conflicts between his former wives, children and step-children.
Which brings me to the next great fight that Ali lost…
THE LEGACY FIGHT…
Ali with most of his adult children.
As I have already shared, Mohamed Ali fathered at least 9 children through his 4 wives. In reality, there are probably several more.
Whether in or out of the ring, Ali generated hundreds of millions of dollars for himself and his sponsors. In his earlier years, he often lost the fight when it came to the wise use of money. But he seems to have done better in later life. While the financial facts are not yet fully known, he has left a sizeable fortune in the neighborhood of 80 million dollars. And Ali may prove to be more of a wealth-producer in death than in life – as often happens after the demise of a superstar.
Sadly, however, there is already intrigue and infighting among his fragmented family over the control of his estate. Even more grievous is the fact that each of the children seem to have embraced to some degree their father’s Muslim faith – as reflected in their names and affirmations.
In my mind, then, the spiritual legacy of Islam that he passed on to them is far more dangerous and deadly than the financial legacy he left them. In all probability, some of them will continue to fight – and lose, the wrong battles.
There are many other thoughts I would like to share about this contemporary of mine – but this Op-ed has already morphed into a small book! So let me summarize with a few final words about “The Champ,” who has long since taken off his gloves and hung up his robe.
While Ali was at times anti-white, anti-military, anti-war, anti-establishment and anti-American – he did not seem to stay in the political or social extreme forever. As he aged, some of his positions mellowed and matured, and he became a humbler person. While Ali no longer could “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee,” he continued to have positive impact outside the ring.
He became an “Ambassador of Peace” for the United Nations, traveling to many countries to promote peace, prosperity and equal rights for all.
In his latter years, Ali became a generous philanthropist and supported many worthy causes – especially research for Parkinson’s disease that he was diagnosed with in 1984. While he fought it valiantly, Parkinson’s increasingly became a losing battle for him. As the disease took more and more control of his body that had been such a specimen of masculinity and athletic prowess, he became more and more reclusive.
In spite of the infirmities of his Parkinson’s disease, Ali represented America at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta by running the last leg of the relay and lighting the Olympic torch. It was an electrifying moment for everyone.
His one-time-feud with the America Government was also healed to the degree that he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 by George W. Bush.
While the majority of other Muslim leaders remained silent about the horrific events of 9/11, Ali boldly spoke out with these words:
“Killing like that can never be justified. It’s unbelievable. I could never support hurting innocent men, women and children. Islam is a religion of peace. It does not promote terrorism or killing people…People say a Muslim caused this destruction. I am angry that the world sees a certain group of Islam followers who caused this destruction, but they are not real Muslims. They are racist fanatics who call themselves Muslims, permitting this murder of thousands.”
Ali also gave his quick rebuttal recently to Donald Trump concerning his proposed ban on Muslim Immigration to the United States:
“I am a Muslim and there is nothing Islamic about killing innocent people in Paris, San Bernardino, or anywhere else in the world. True Muslims know that the ruthless violence of so called Islamic Jihadists goes against the very tenets of our religion.
We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda. They have alienated many from learning about Islam. True Muslims know or should know that it goes against our religion to try and force Islam on anybody.
Speaking as someone who has never been accused of political correctness, I believe that our political leaders should use their position to bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.” (HNGN)
So while we can and should acknowledge and admire the unparalleled accomplishments of Ali’s life, as Christians we must NOT go to the extreme and “drink the Kool Aid” that will be served by the gallons at his funeral this Friday.
Ali's body arriving in Louisville in traditional Muslim fashion.
We are told by family members that Ali himself planned his funeral months ago down to even the smallest detail. He wanted it to be the final “Big Event” for his fans – great and small. No doubt it will be the largest event that the city of Louisville has ever experienced.
While his funeral will definitely have strong Islamic overtones, it will still no doubt be a pluralistic, inclusive, inter-faith, event where all religions will have their say. It will be a star-studded service with renowned athletes, movie stars, past presidents, current politicians and world leaders sharing their respect and reflections. Because of its historic significance, I plan to watch it.
But as I watch it, this haunting question from the lips of Christ will continue to resonate in my heart and mind:
“For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
That verse was the first one the Holy Spirit impressed on me when I heard the news that this world-renowned “Champ” had died. If there has ever been a man in my lifetime who seemed to have “…gained the whole world” – it was Ali. But I fear in my spirit that in the process he “…lost his own soul” through his belief in the false god of Islam. Only God knows the final eternal fate of a dying soul. So, I leave Ali in the hands of the only true and just Judge of the universe. One thing for sure, His judgments are perfect. And whatever judgments He renders about Ali’s life and career will be final. There will be no rebuttals…no reviews of the score cards…no higher appeals. The judgment will be fair and eternal in its consequences.
Ali often projected a cocky confidence before his fights as he assured himself and others that he was the “GREATEST!” By contrast, I love the humble confidence expressed by another real spiritual champion, the Apostle Paul.
“I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me
the crown of righteousness,
which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
will award to me on that day –
and not only to me, but also to all
who have longed for His appearing.”
(II Tim. 4:7-8).
Paul’s fights were also often bloody. He paid a great price in his body for the many battles he fought for the Lord (Col. 1:24). But Paul died in the confidence that he served a GREAT and GRACIOUS God of love, mercy and grace. And because Paul fought for Him, he knew his fights were “good fights” because they were “godly fights.”
Therefore, Paul lived and died in the confidence of the “crown of righteousness” that he would receive from the “righteous Judge” of all men – the Lord Jesus Christ! He would receive it because of God’s grace, not because of his own greatness.
In contrast to Paul’s spiritual certainty about his coming reward, Ali lived and died in the spiritual uncertainly that Islam offers. Because it is totally based on “works righteousness,” every Muslim has to spend his or her life trying to do enough good works to “earn a place in heaven.”
Sadly, Ali spent the last years of his life desperately trying to do just that by propagating Islam, attending charity events, giving money and signing thousands of personal autographs. As a result, Ali died hoping he had done enough good works to make it to heaven and please Allah. But he never knew for sure.
(I would encourage you to watch an excellent 60 Minutes rerun of a 1998 interview with Ali about his Islamic strivings to gain heaven).
The confidence Paul had as a Christian was just the opposite! He lived and died in absolute certainty! He had been trained by the “Master Coach.” From Him he had learned the true secret of greatness – self-surrender…self-giving…self sacrifice…serving others. Like the Lord Jesus, he gave up his life for others. As a result, he secured his eternal destiny. And immediately after pouring out his life, Paul heard His Father say:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy prepared for you from the foundation of the earth” (Matt. 25:34).
“Fighting the good fight of the faith,”
(I Tim. 1:18; 6:12)
PS: If you haven’t read my book, A Christian Perspective of Islam, I hope you will do so. It is “Islam 101” for Christians who want a basic overview of this fast-growing religion that is the only serious spiritual and global challenge to Christianity and the fulfillment of the Great Commission. Please click on the picture of the book at right to order your copy today!
“If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there Your hand will guide me,
Your right hand will hold me fast.”
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the clouds on laughter-silvered wings…”
That’s because the dancer did indeed dance the clouds on his way to Abaco, Bahamas.
Yes, ‘tis true! J.L. escaped the confines of North Carolina and is now in Abaco! (The cancer clinic was already going to be closed for Memorial Day and the radiologist-oncologist ok’d J.L.’s request to postpone Tuesday’s radiation. Actually, I don’t think “request” is the right word – I think he begged!) He and Arie VanWingerden will be working on more of the details for a farm project that employs Haitians.
I’ve included some pictures from Abaco of J.L.'s ministry in a Haitian church on Sunday. This was Mother's Day on the Haitian calendar. You will be getting a full report on his trip soon about the Haitian community and how the farm project is progressing.
J. L. with some of the mothers in attendance.
J. L. is pictured at left with the oldest mother present, age 83. Delivering
the message, the first time ever with a woman intrepreter. At right, Arie
is pictured with the Haitian lady who worked for our DHA project.
We have asked for a lot of prayer for J.L. during the treatments for prostate cancer–by the way, that’s 24 down and 16 to go! God has certainly answered them. Thank you, Lord! And thank you, dear friends! I hope you know how much your cards, emails and calls have meant to J.L. and me. It truly is a comfort to be loved so well by so many.
And, rejoice with us that even though the 6 side effects are VERY annoying, they are not debilitating. But, then, as I’ve said before, J.L. has never been very much in tune with his own personal discomfort. And, that’s another praise report: God has given him the perfect temperament to persevere regardless of how uncomfortable he may be.
J.L. will be back in time to continue his radiation on June 1st and, as always, he’ll be looking for ways to be a witness to those he encounters while he’s at the ARMC Cancer Center.
One more thing. I wanted you to know that since J.L. left, we have received some really great news from Bishop Trevor Manhanga and the “Soul-Mates”, from Pastor Gyan Sunawar about the Mt. Everest Base Camp Bible School graduates, and Pastor Soia on relief efforts for the “Hill People” whose homes were destroyed by a severe hailstorm. So, be on the lookout for further email blasts from J.L. on how God has answered your prayers, and how your financial support has provided for His saints in Zimbabwe, Nepal and Manipur.
Finally, please pray for J.L.’s safe arrival tonight as he dances down through the clouds on those “laughter-silvered wings”!
In God’s tender care,
Patt and J.L.