Is Trump the Next Cyrus?

Looking at All Sides of the Coin

 

Have you seen the new half-shekel coin in Israel? Donald Trump’s face appears on it in raised relief alongside King Cyrus. The image implies a connection between the two world leaders—one an American president in modern times, the other a King of Persia from 2,500 years ago.

Mikdash Educational Center Coin 2
This coin minted by the Mikdash Educational Center in Israel implies a connection between two world leaders—one an American president in modern times, the other a King of Persia from 2,500 years ago.

Why this connection? After King Cyrus conquered Babylon, he allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and even financed the rebuilding of their temple (2 Chr 36:22–23). By doing so, he returned conquered territory to its previous owner. In similar fashion, President Trump’s recent announcement moving the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem sends a strong message confirming Jerusalem as the territory of the Jews and not the Palestinians.

Now the question is: Is this good or bad? The answer is: It depends on whom you ask.

Different Points of View

Orthodox Jews – The coin will not actually circulate as currency, of course. The new Sanhedrin and Mikdash (Temple) Educational Center minted only a thousand of these coins to honor America’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. They hope that with the support of Trump’s administration, they will be able to rebuild their temple—just as Cyrus helped them to do so.

Israeli Government – Prime Minister Netanyahu has recently embraced this comparison between President Trump and the great Persian king who was “appointed” by God to do his will as it concerned Jerusalem. President Trump hosted a VIP reception for Netanyahu on March 5, 2018. This was a large contrast to how President Obama had treated him for the previous eight years. For example, Obama publicly insulted Netanyahu by refusing to see him when he visited the United States in September 2012.

Palestinians – Palestinians are angry that America has broken with long-standing diplomacy and sided with Israel on the Jerusalem question. They say that this undermines the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iranian Government – The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) is set to wipe Israel off the map, and also is set to wipe Cyrus from Iran’s history. For the last 39 years, they have been trying to induce hatred towards Israel in the hearts of the people of Iran. They are developing nuclear bombs and intercontinental missiles to bring to reality to their goal of destroying Israel. Their first intended target will be Jerusalem. They have been backing the Palestinian cause and financially supporting Hamas since the 1979 revolution. They have been also trying to downplay the importance of Cyrus and the glorious history of Iran (Persia). Last October, they arrested some youth who were celebrating the birth of Cyrus at his tomb.

Iranian People – Most Iranian are very proud of their history, including King Cyrus. They compare the human rights declaration of Cyrus to their current situation and believe Iran was more civilized then than now.

Even though Iranians are not happy with Trump’s immigration laws restricting them from coming to a country they admire, they hope he will bring down the Islamic government and replace it with a secular democracy—but without war. There is such a great divide and distrust between the people of Iran and the Islamic government that they are furious their money is being used to support Palestinians. Also, after 39 years of government-sponsored rallies to shout “Death to Israel,” the people of Iran are saying, “Tell us again why should we hate the Jews and be against Israel? What have they done to us? Should we hate them just because you are telling us so? We do not trust you. We do not see a reason to hate Israel and the Jews.”

What Is Our Position at Iran Alive?

We at Iran Alive are committed to proclaiming the mind of Christ and the heart of God, as stated in the Bible, into every situation. So we follow the below policy when facing issues like this Cyrus-Trump comparison.

We never take sides in politics – We state the issues and discuss what the Bible has to say about those issues but do not take sides. We are neither pro– nor anti-government. But we are anti-injustice and pro social justice as is clearly commanded in the Bible (Isa 1:17, Zech 7:9–10). Our call is to transform Iran with the power of the gospel. We believe when a society is truly transformed, it will naturally impact the government that rules it.

We show that we value Cyrus and Iran’s glorious history – We take this position first because the Bible has much respect for Cyrus and the past of Iran. Cyrus’s name and birth were predicted in the Bible 150 years before he was born, and the Lord calls him “My Messiah” (Isa 45:1) and “My Shepherd” (Isa 44:28).

Second, we show the Iranians that we, as Muslims who have become Christians, have not forfeited our nationality to embrace a western religion. We want to signal to them that we are even more Iranian than before our conversion, and we have more love and respect for Iran and its past because of what is written in the Bible.

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This Persian New Year set at Iran Alive television studio helps connect with millions of Iranians who prefer their ancient heritage to Islam.

Third, this position is the best way to connect to the heart of millions of Iranians who have rejected Islam and are finding their national identity not in Islam but in Cyrus and the Persian empire. That is why for the Persian New Year week, we had a TV set that resembled Persepolis (see picture).

We promote Love and Unity among nations and racesOne of our goals is to help Muslim background believers to get rid of any hatred they have toward other nations. If they have any leftover hatred toward the Jews, we want to help them get rid of that. We teach them that since “God so loved the world” (Jn 3:16), we must also love all nations and races. On the Israeli-Palestinian issue, we state, “God loves both Israelis and the Palestinians. He loves both the Jews and Arabs and wants both sides to be saved.”

During my live broadcasts, I occasionally bring on a Jewish Christian, an Arab Christian, an Indian Christian, a black Christian, or a white American Christian for this reason, so they might teach our viewers to have the heart of God, to love all people and desire that all come to salvation.

I don’t know if God is using or will use President Trump as he did King Cyrus. That question in one for future history books to answer. But I do know Iran is turning to Christ in record numbers, and Iran will become a light to the entire Middle East as these Muslim background believers love their former enemies.

What people group is hard for you to love? I pray you reach out to them with the love of Christ today.


Related articles:

Associated Press. “Israeli Group Mints Coin Bearing Trump’s Image.” CBS News, February 28, 2018. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/israel-trump-coin-honours-recognition-jerusalem-as-capital/.
Ravid, Barak, and Natasha Mozgovaya. “White House Declines Netanyahu Request to Meet With Obama.” Haaretz, September 11, 2012. https://www.haaretz.com/white-house-no-netanyahu-obama-meeting-1.5160303.
Brennan, David. “Israeli Group Mints New Trump Coin to Honor U.S. Embassy’s Move to Jerusalem.” Newsweek, February 28, 2018. http://www.newsweek.com/trumpcoin-israeli-group-mints-new-coin-honor-us-embassy-move-823981.
“Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel Before Bilateral Meeting.” The White House. Accessed March 27, 2018. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-prime-minister-netanyahu-israel-bilateral-meeting-2/.
Wadhams, Nick. “U.S. Speeds Up Timetable for Moving Embassy to Jerusalem.” Time, February 24, 2018. http://time.com/5174043/us-embassy-jerusalem-may/.

 

Starving Christianity: Hungry for the Word of God

God is moving in Iran, bringing Muslims to faith in him at a higher rate than in any other Muslim nation. A vibrant church in Iran has the potential to change the face of the entire Middle East. But the church is heading toward a crisis.

In this series, I am writing about the three challenges that threaten the future of the church in Iran even more than the Islamic government. We have discussed the challenges of Shiite Christianity and Solitary Christianity. This third challenge—a growing crisis—threatens to uproot the foundation of the Iranian church.

Crisis 3: Starving Christianity

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Christians in Iran are starving for systematic truth and resources. They are passionate for Jesus and the Word of God. But the building churches are closed. Pastors and church leaders have been forced out of Iran. And the government makes it difficult to gather or talk to others openly.

The vacuum of mature teachers and experienced elders is a growing crisis for the 2 to 3 million believers that make up the Iranian church.

In America, amazing preachers and resources are everywhere. It is like a banquet table has been set for guests and filled with a feast made by top chefs. But few come. Few are hungry.

In Iran, Christians are so hungry for teaching about God’s Word that they fight for any dried-out bread crust they come across. They want it and they flock to it. But their table is empty—or worse—it’s filled with unwholesome imposters posing as real food.

In Iran, Christians are so hungry for teaching about God’s Word that they fight for any dried-out bread crust they come across.

Where can these new Christians go to find mature, faithful answers to their questions? Who will help them understand the whole counsel of God and separate what Islam has taught them from what God reveals in his Word?

Many wolves in sheep’s clothing are already stepping in, pretending to teach Christianity when they are really teaching something else. The church must make a move now to build a strong and deep foundation in Iran. Too much in the whole Middle East depends on it.

What Has Caused This Challenge?

As I mentioned in part two of this series, the Islamic government of Iran closed the doors to the building churches in 2013 and made it illegal to gather in homes. They also arrested a few key pastors and church leaders.

These arrests were no simple show of force but a distinct strategy to force all Christian leaders out of Iran. Avoiding persecution of high-profile leaders that might cause a worldwide outcry and pushback, they arrested lesser-known leaders instead and charged them with heavy offenses that carried long-term jail sentences. For others, after interrogations, they released the pastors, telling them to show up the following month for another court date and interrogation. And then they handed the leaders their passport. The message was clear: leave now or spend your life in jail.

They threatened a few pastors so that they could push all the leaders out through fear. If any Christian leader tries to go back to Iran now, they are arrested and charged. So all the mature, experienced leaders have been pushed out of Iran by force.

This purging has left the 2 to 3 million children of the faith without elders, pastors, or teachers that truly know the Bible. They are young and thirsty.

This purging has left the 2 to 3 million children of the faith without elders, pastors, or teachers that truly know the Bible.

The Immediate Danger: Cults

These Christians have so much passion—much more passion than many in the West who have good resources at their fingertips—but without biblical knowledge to have discernment, and without elders to guide them. The Bible is very new to them. They search out resources online and wherever else they can, but like hungry children who put everything in their mouths, they sometimes have difficulty knowing the difference between orthodox truth and cult heresy. How can they know what to eat unless someone older in the faith helps them?

Paul and the First-Century Church

This problem is very similar to the problem Paul faced with the first-century church. Despite opposition, the church continued to grow and spread quickly. The new Christians had only a few teachers and the Hebrew Bible. Gentiles often had neither the Hebrew Bible nor any background to understand God’s true nature. They were used to what they knew: capricious Greek and Roman gods and the type of worship those gods demanded.

In other words, they were very much like Muslim background believers who need to learn all over again the true nature of God and how he desires us to know him and worship him.

So what do we see over and over again in Paul’s letters to the churches? He warned them of cults (e.g., Acts 20:28–30; Rom 16:17). He had to explain how their cultural behavior and misunderstandings failed to fit with God’s Word and God’s standard (e.g., 1 John 4:1–3). He had to explain again and again who this Jesus was and what his followers should know to be true about God’s nature and their own salvation. He had to help them put together all the pieces of faith and knowledge and understand them systematically (e.g., 1Pet 1:18; Rom 5, 6).

Paul turned to the prevailing tool of the day to counter the rise of cults and the misunderstandings of the faith: he used high-tech media. Yes! At that time, the most advanced media was writing letters and passing them from city to city and village to village for believers to study and copy down. Today, media looks like social media apps, satellite TV, and the internet.

Opportunity 3: A Bible School through Today’s Media

The advances of technology mean that many Iranians do have access to some form of digital Bible that they can download and even pass on to others. But we cannot stop there and say, “They have God’s Word in their language. That’s all they need.”

If the Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8, who was likely a Jewish proselyte, needed Phillip to explain how Isaiah 53 shows Jesus coming as a suffering servant, how much do more Muslims—people who have been fed much misinformation about Jesus—need a Phillip to explain the Bible systematically?

Social media, satellite TV programs, and all kind of internet resources—this technology is a huge opportunity for the church to reach out to believers in Iran and help them mature in Christ.

The 412 School of Ministry

That is why we are using the best high-tech media we can to create an online 412 School of Ministry, based on Ephesians 4:12. This school will provide systematic training for the church of Iran, develop leaders who can discern truth, disciple others, and model Christ not only in their understanding but also their actions.

A Call to All

Iran is the Muslim country most open to the gospel. Islam is being defeated at an enormous rate, making Iran the gateway to Christ for the entire Middle East. If we leave them to themselves at this critical moment and do not help them to develop a mature faith and systematic understanding of the Bible that they can pass on to others, we will be responsible for one of the great failures of the church in the twenty-first century.

This opportunity is not just a call for me and Iran Alive but for all mature followers of Jesus Christ to use the media of today to provide a sound, systematic foundation for a hungry church.

If we leave them to themselves at this critical moment and do not help them to develop a mature faith and systematic understanding of the Bible that they can pass on to others, we will be responsible for one of the great failures of the church in the twenty-first century.

Let’s take some of the banquet feast from our table in the West and share it with our brothers and sisters in Iran. Join Jack Graham, Pete Briscoe, Child Evangelism Fellowship, Recovery International, World Amity, Michael Yusef, and Christ for Crescent Moon—some of the people and ministries who already partner with us—to send systematic Bible teaching to millions of Christians who are waiting and ready to learn. These believers have a chair and want to pull it to the table, if someone will only put something good to eat on their plate.

We need you to join us. Don’t miss this great opportunity.

For more information on how to partner with us or how you can be a part of our 412 School of Ministry, you can contact me at hormoz@IranAliveMinistries.org or (469) 982-0000. Or text “Iran” to 74784 for more information.

 

 

Solitary Christianity: We Must Awake and Arm the Sleeping Giant of Iran

In December 2017, I began a series about the three unique challenges that are creating a crisis for the church in Iran and the three opportunities we have as a Church to address this crisis. This article is the second challenge in that series.

What challenges are causing this crisis for the Iranian church?

The first challenge is Shiite Christianity. Without intervention, the Iranian church will allow Shiite cultural behavior norms to destroy the developing Christian community and the church’s witness. As individuals, Iranian Muslim background believers are very passionate about their faith and very grateful for their salvation. However, they have no knowledge nor experience of a vibrant Christian community. They need to be taught biblical principles for Christian fellowship because they have never before encountered fellowship in this manner.

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At least 9 out of every 10 Christian live between the walls of their homes and apartments feeling small and powerless, not knowing that in truth they are one part of many making up Iran’s sleeping giant—the church.

The second challenge is Solitary Christianity. At least 9 out of every 10 Christians in Iran have no Christian fellowship or live connection with other known believers. They are alone. They have no models, no mentors, and no support. They live between the walls of their homes and apartments feeling small and powerless, not knowing that in truth they are one part of many making up Iran’s sleeping giant—the church.

How and Why the Church Got Put in Such Isolation

Did you know that the history of Christianity in Iran goes back to the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:9)? Yes, Parthians, Medes, and Elamites were all residents of Persia. Aramaic-speaking Assyrian Christians formed some of the earliest churches, and Armenian Christians joined them in the early 17th century, settling deep in Iran. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Protestant missionaries arrived in Iran and began evangelizing the ethnic Persian Muslim community. But growth was very slow.

At the time of Islamic revolution in 1979, there were more than 500,000 Armenian and Assyrian Christians. Most have left Iran since then and that number is currently less than 100,000. However, during the same time span, the number of Muslim background believers (MBB) has gone from less than 500 in 1979 to an estimated 1–3 million today. Today there are no churches in Iran where MBB’s can attend. There are a few Assyrian and Armenian churches left, but they are forced to worship in their own language and are forbidden to allow any MBB in their midst.

In the last 40 years, the number of MBB’s has exploded, creating unprecedented growth of the Christian population and one of the highest growth rates of Christianity in the world. This tremendous growth has occurred despite the government forbidding conversion from Islam to Christianity and responding with arrests, torture, and death. This growth has threatened Iran’s Islamic government and has caused them to persecute MBB’s out of fear.

The number of Muslim background believers (MBB) has gone from less than 500 in 1979 to an estimated 1–3 million today.

How many MBB’s are in Iran? The most conservative number is around 400,000. Many concede that a more accurate estimate is more than 1 million Christians, with a majority being MBB. My experience and close work with Persians in Iran—and recent events that have contributed to yet another explosion in conversions—tells me that the real number sits easily somewhere between 2 and 3 million. Our underground house church leaders put the estimate even higher.

The reaction of the Islamic government fits with this higher number. They are scared that their oppression tactics are not reducing or even slowing the growth of MBB Christians.

In 2013, the government tried to stomp out the threat by quarantining individuals. They imprisoned many pastors, forced the rest to flee the country, locked the doors to every Farsi-speaking church, and banned and burned Persian Bibles. Evangelism is illegal, gathering in public places is illegal, gathering at home is illegal, reading the Bible is illegal, and Christians continue to be persecuted, tortured, and sometimes killed.

The Islamic regime intends to stop, silence, and suppress any expression of Christianity that might seduce the growing masses of Muslims disillusioned with Islam.

The Resulting Challenge

The result is that 95 percent of Iranian Christians live in isolation from one another just as if they were imprisoned in solitary cells in their homes. They hunger for the bread of life that comes from the Word; they thirst for the connection in the Spirit with other believers. But they worship and pray alone.

The result is that 95 percent of Iranian Christians live in isolation from one another just as if they were imprisoned in solitary cells in their homes.

Without connections and resources, they are immature in their knowledge yet supernaturally hungry for spiritual truth and growth. Unlike a large portion of the Church in the West that is content with spiritual immaturity, the number one request we receive daily from these Christians is “train us, teach us, equip us!” They want to pour out their lives for the One who saved them. But they don’t know how or where to start.

If no one steps in to help them, the Islamic government’s tactic of separation will succeed. Alone, these Christians are allowing their witness and supernatural gifts to stay hidden, asleep.

The Opportunity: Wake and Arm the Sleeping Giant

What would happen if we could encourage, equip, and mobilize this “sleeping giant” church throughout the country? Two to three million believers throughout Iran who are ready to be salt and light and share the gospel would impact families, friends, neighbors, and all people in their circle of influence in astonishing numbers.

This opportunity is why we have started the 412 School of Ministry (based on Eph 4: 12—equipping the saints for the work of ministry) in 2018, to equip and train Iranian Christians so they can multiply and mobilize others. This need is why we responded to the December 2017 and early January protests with nightly, live prime-time broadcasts. We shared God’s message of love to a hurting nation and showed believers how they could reach out to the people around them during this time with the gospel.

The number one request we receive daily from these Christians in Iran is “train us, teach us, equip us!”

We have already started to see results from work we are doing to encourage and equip these Christians. Almost every week we hear testimonies of how Persian Christians have found ways to share their faith and bring others to Jesus. By watching us, they learn how to witness.

But we cannot awake this sleeping giant alone, nor arm it fully with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, and the sword of the Spirit without the help of the larger Church body (Eph 6:14–17).

We need the Church to work together on a larger scale, to reach out to the Iranian church with us, helping them learn to give and serve according to their gifting.

We need your help!

In addition to your prayers and your financial support, we need you to join us according to your gifting and calling. Others like Jack Graham, Pete Briscoe, Bill Hybels, and Michael Yusef already partner with us to broadcast their teaching in Iran and surrounding countries. Would you consider joining them and us?

You do not need to know Farsi to help us make good discipleship, theology, and Bible training available to Persians. We have resources for great-quality voice-over translations. We match the translation voice personality with the teacher’s mannerisms, tone, and passion. And we add subtitles when needed. We just need willing teachers and preachers with a heart for Iran.

We need teachers to record broadcasts and courses, and we also need technology specialists that can help us establish our online school. How are you gifted? Can you help with internet administration? Graphic design? Production? Course administration?

We need teachers to record broadcasts and courses, and we also need technology specialists that can help us establish our online school.

The task is enormous, but God has called us to it. Will you help us accomplish what he has asked of us?

The Church claimed Iran in the first century but was squeezed out. Now it’s time that God will set his throne in Elam (ancient Persia) and restore her fortunes (Jer 49:38–39). This time, if we equip her well, the Church will not only remain in Iran, it will spread and impact the whole Middle East and even the world. This is the pattern we are seeing.

Iran is the Muslim nation most open to the gospel. Iranians are hungry and coming to the Lord by the many. Even whole families at once! And Iran is positioned across the Middle East so that changes in Iran will affect the entire region.

Don’t miss this opportunity. Help us awaken and arm the sleeping giant. Help us equip an army of isolated Persian saints who want to bring light to the rest of the world.

I thank you for answering the call.

If the Lord is prompting to respond or inquire, you can contact me at hormoz@IranAliveMinistries.org or (469) 982-0000, or text “Iran” to 74784 for more information.

Signals of Change: How Christian Broadcasters Are Changing Iran

World News recently published a feature article that highlights what Iran Alive and other Christian broadcasters are doing to contribute to the fastest growing evangelical population on the planet.

I have reposted an excerpt here, with a link to the full article on their website. I pray you will find it encouraging, and remember us in your prayers as well.

Signals of change

by Mindy Belz

Protests in Iran have met censorship and brutality, but Christian broadcasters use daily media to spark lasting reformation. (Associated Press)

It’s noon in Dallas and 8:30 in the evening in Tehran when Hormoz Shariat, founder of satellite television’s Iran Alive Ministries, steps to the camera to begin the station’s daily live satellite broadcast. The 62-year-old Iranian-American pastor, wearing rimless glasses and a suit and tie, strikes a friendly posture whether he is preaching to a large studio audience or seated in comfortable chairs with his co-hosts. But he takes the one-hour live show very seriously: With a prime-time slot beamed from Texas into the Islamic republic, Iran Alive’s Christian programming has an estimated audience of 6 million people.

That’s nearly 8 percent of Iran’s population of 80 million, the overwhelming majority of whom are Muslims. Whether Iran has 2 million Christians—an estimate Shariat believes is not inflated—or closer to 500,000, as some experts claim, “that’s a lot of Muslims watching us,” he concedes. In addition to Iran Alive, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) has Persian-language programming in the Middle East, and Cyprus-based SAT-7 PARS also carries round-the-clock Persian-language Christian shows.

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What Are the Differences between the 2009 Green Movement and the 2018 #IranProtests?

God is the God of history. He uses historical events to advance his purpose. In this blog, by looking at the recent uprising and comparing it to 2009 Green Movement, we will see that in the midst of all these events and even chaos, God is advancing the people of Iran, step by step, toward the fulfilment of his promise in Jeremiah 49:38: “I will set my throne in Elam (Iran).”

Protesters in Tehran's Valiasr avenue overturned a police car-VOA
Protesters in Tehran’s Valiasr avenue overturned a police car on 31 December 2017. (VOA)

Two Uprisings

In 2009, the Iranian people rose up in protest against the government and demonstrated in the streets. In late December 2017 and early 2018, the people again took to the streets in protest, tore down pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and chanted death slogans. Government forces responded brutally both times, arresting thousands and killing scores of people.

But these two uprisings are very different. Their outcomes will be different, too. This time, the eyes of the people have opened.

What Happened in 2009?

The Green Movement of 2009 happened because the people protested fraud in an election that declared incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad the presidential winner. A majority of people had voted for a moderate candidate, yet the election result did not reflect that vote. The demonstrators, protesting in a few large cities, demanded a recount.

After a brutal crackdown, the people also began demanding civil liberties promised them in the 1979 Revolution.

In 2013, a moderate candidate, Hassan Rouhani, won the election, and the people celebrated.

The Clerical Government’s Political Game

Over and over again, the Islamic government of Iran has deceived its people with a political game: alternately “electing” a hardliner or a moderate candidate to the president’s office. This game show has been going on since the mid-1990s. The people of Iran would become so desperate after a period of a hardliner rule that they would feel victory and relief when they got to elect a moderate president.

They celebrated on the streets when Rouhani was elected in June 2013 and again in May 2017. The majority failed to realize that this election was just a staged political play to keep them busy year after year, for president after president.

During last year’s election campaign for Rouhani, the people were very excited and involved, not fully understanding the implications of having only two clergy-approved candidates: Ebrahim Raisi (with a black turban) and Rouhani (with a white turban).

Both candidates were required to implement the will of the mullahs. The real choice that Supreme Leader Khamenei was giving the people was this: Do you want a president with a black turban or white turban?

The people did not realize that moderate candidates are just a faction of the extremists who want to give the people a little freedom (e.g., letting a woman show her hair a little more without threat of arrest). Otherwise, in policy and decision making, moderates are still committed to obey the Supreme Leader Khamenei and implement his wishes.

“Over and over again, the Islamic government of Iran has deceived its people with a political game: alternately “electing” a hardliner or a moderate candidate to the president’s office.”

What is Happening in 2018?

What is happening now is that the people of Iran are finally waking up to this game. They realize that the mullahs in power have been manipulating them for decades: keeping them busy with governmental politics while advancing their own agenda domestically and internationally and personally benefiting from their positions of power.

They now know that electing a moderate president is a hoax and will never do them any good. We are seeing a big shift in awareness and a desperation for something different, something more.

After the first large-scale demonstrations died down, many mainstream media outlets reported that the spontaneous uprisings had fallen apart. But the eyes of the Iranian people are now open, and this hunger will not go away. I am not the only one saying this. Alireza Nadar, a senior policy analyst at RAND corporation recently wrote the following:

There has been speculation that the uprising will die out or be crushed by the regime. However, a key barrier has been broken: Iranians are no longer contained by the wall of fear created by the Islamic Republic. Not only has Iran’s theocracy lost its legitimacy, but it has lost its ability to control the public through the instruments of violence. Unlike in past protests, countless Iranians have demonstrated that they will no longer participate in the political game of “reformist vs. conservative” (better known as “moderates vs. conservatives” in the West). For them, no one from the establishment, including the so-called reformists, can make their lives better. For them, the entire system has to fall for a new Iran to be reborn.  —Alizera Nadar, Politico Magazine

The #IranProtests are the beginning of change. It will take time, but change will happen in the next couple of years. The clerical government likely will not stay in power.

Consider these differences in the response of the people:

  • In 2009, the people rejected the result of an election; now they are rejecting the whole Islamic rule, even Islam itself.
  • In 2009, the people chanted, “Where is my vote?”; now they are chanting, “Death to the Islamic Republic” and “Death to Khamenei.” Even Rouhani, who was popular and celebrated in the streets after the May 2017 election, is facing “Death to Rouhani” slogans.
  • In 2009, the demonstrations occurred in only a few large cities; this time they started in scores of smaller cities and towns before getting to the big cities. The voices of some of these rural people have not been heard as a group since the revolution of 1979.

 

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“This time, the eyes of the people are open.”

How You Can Pray for Iran

The hopelessness and desperation that brought about these protests are real. Iranians are suffering. Officially, forty percent live below the poverty line. In reality, the number is probably higher. They cannot find work. They cannot buy food or gas. Drought and water mismanagement has made it difficult to grow crops.

During our live, prime-time, daily programs in January, we encouraged people that God loves them and cares about their suffering, just as we do. We also shared that God has a plan to save and bless Iran. We showed Christians how to reach out to the demonstrators and provide love and hope. Many did.

Please pray that, God willing, we will be able to continue to mobilize the 2 million Christians in Iran to share the gospel and be the light and love of Christ to a hurting nation.

Pray that their pain will be a bridge to salvation.

Pray that their eyes remain open.


To learn even more about what is happening in Iran and how Iran Alive is responding, read this article by Mindy Belz in World Magazine, “Signals of Change.” You can also text “Iran” to 74784 to sign up for updates and testimonies.


Related articles:

Belz, Mindy. “Signals of Change – WORLD,” February 3, 2018. https://world.wng.org/2018/01/signals_of_change.

Nader, Alireza. “Why the Iranian Uprising Won’t Die.” POLITICO Magazine.  http://politi.co/2mcuSiD.

Trump’s Nuclear Ultimatum: Now What?

My Expectations for the Next 120 Days and Beyond

Trump’s speech on the nuclear deal with Iran on January 12, 2018, has caused a jolt around the world. His ultimatum giving 120 days to fix “disastrous flaws” in the Obama-led nuclear deal has created shock waves not just in Iran but Europe and other countries as well. The reason is that the continuation, cancellation, or even modification of this deal will impact many countries in several tangible ways.

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Below, I give a summary of the reactions, the reasons behind them, and what I think various sides of this agreement will do. I hope this will benefit your thinking through the different opinions on this hot-button issue.

 

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)

For the IRI, there is panic and fear. They know that if sanctions are restarted, it will put much pressure on both the government and the people of Iran. The government will become weaker, and the people, who are already fed up with the situation, may develop a more effective uprising that threatens even the IRI’s existence. It is a known fact that the previous set of sanctions imposed from 2012 to 2015 was bringing the government of Iran to its knees. The nuclear deal and the resulting $150 billion given to Iran was truly a lifeline to them, enabling them not only to survive but to thrive.

Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rohani speaks to the media in Tehran.

The previous set of sanctions imposed from 2012 to 2015 was bringing the government of Iran to its knees.

Nevertheless, the IRI has several ways to stop America from imposing new sanctions. How? Many European countries have made lucrative financial deals with Iran since the removal of previous sanctions, and they receive a substantial portion of their oil from Iran. Therefore, new sanctions will not only damage Iran but will also damage these countries. Russia and China will also join the pack supporting the IRI, not because of financial gain—they benefit either way because they will continue a financial relationship with Iran secretly even with sanctions—but because they do not agree with US policy.

So, it is very possible that the IRI will persuade the other countries to stand up to any U.S. demands to negotiate a new deal and impose new sanctions.

 

The People of Iran

Surprisingly, most Iranians support Trump’s policy towards Iran. It is interesting to note that the U.S. mainstream media covers the reaction of the IRI to Trump’s remarks regarding rewriting the nuclear deal, but they do not cover what the people of Iran say about it. Why? Because contrary to the mainstream media, the Iranian people are mostly pro-Trump on this issue.

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Surprisingly, most Iranians support Trump’s policy towards Iran.

Here are the reasons:

  1. In 2012 when the previous sanctions were imposed, the people of Iran stood behind their government and blamed the American-led sanctions for their bad economy and hard life. But now they have seen that even when the sanctions were lifted and the Obama administration gave the IRI $150 billion, the people’s situation remained the same. They are desperate and know that with or without sanctions, they will have a hard time earning a living, they will be oppressed, and they will be killed if they protest. They feel they have nothing to lose. They are so utterly hopeless that Trump’s standing up to IRI and trying to restore sanctions gives them some hope that they desperately need. It gives them a faint hope that maybe the future could get better.

 

  1. Trump is addressing the human rights issue in Iran. President Obama never did that. Even during the uprising of 2009, he was silent and gave not even a word of encouragement or support to the Iranian people. Trump, in contrast, has put 14 Iranian individuals on the blacklist. One is Mr. Larijani, who is the head of judiciary in Iran and has been directly involved in the arrest and execution of the young people in 2009 and 2018. This gesture by Trump gives Iranians a feeling that finally somebody is caring and talking about the human rights violations in Iran and doing something about it.

 

  1. Trump’s tough stand against the IRI gives the people of Iran hope that maybe this administration somehow will remove the brutal dictatorship from Iran. They deeply desire this and will support Trump even if it means they will have to suffer through another set of sanctions. Through eight years of Obama’s foreign policy that appeased the IRI, the people of Iran lost hope that the U.S. would ever do anything to help them and even doubted that the U.S. cared at all. Do not forget that the Iranian people love and admire the U.S. If they were given a choice, they would choose to have an American-style democracy established in Iran. They even desire that Iranian society would adopt American social norms and lifestyles.

 

The European Governments

They will not support Trump’s call to renegotiate the nuclear deal and impose new sanctions. Why?

  1. They have much to lose. Just as Trump’s “America First” financial policy puts America’s financial interests above the interests of other countries, the European countries will also put their financial gain above Trump’s foreign policy toward Iran. Currently, Iran is sending 40 percent of its oil export to Europe, and these countries are dependent on that oil for their economy. Many have made lucrative long-term deals with Iran in the past two years. For example, the French energy giant Total has closed a deal with Iran to invest US$4.8 billion there.

 

  1. In general, these countries do not care about U.S. foreign policy, and they may even be against it. It is not an issue for them when Iran stands up to the U.S. in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. They are not alarmed when the IRI threatens to wipe Israel off the map—and for certain they are not ready to pay a price just to diminish that threat to Israel.

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European countries will put their financial gain above Trump’s foreign policy toward Iran.

Russia and China

They most likely will side with the European countries and stand up to Trump trying to renegotiate the nuclear deal.

  1. Russia and the IRI both have similar goals for the Middle East and in many cases are working together to accomplish those goals (such as in Syria). A weak Iran could mean that the U.S. gains the upper hand in the areas where the IRI has been effectively meddling.
  1. By supporting Iran against U.S. demands, they will improve their relationship with the IRI even more both politically and economically. Iran needs them to help stop new sanctions and will probably offer them new trade deals if they help defend against Trump’s ultimatum.

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Iran will probably offer Russia new trade deals if they help defend against Trump’s ultimatum.

Summary

It looks as though Trump does not have enough support or leverage with the world powers and European countries to renegotiate the nuclear deal and muster up new sanctions. Of course, the U.S. could put sanctions on Iran unilaterally, but that would not be effective. Canceling any American financial dealings would create a vacuum that would be gladly filled by offers from Russia, China, and European countries.

As a result, Iranians will continue to be oppressed by a dictatorship that has shown that its main goal is survival and not caring for its own people.

There remains one possible hope for Iranians: the Revolutionary Guards, with or without direct help from America, could topple the rule of the clergy and establish a secular government. For the foreseeable future, that seems like the only way the government in Iran might—and probably will—change.

Meanwhile, Christianity is fast growing in Iran. The current events are the perfect storm through which the Lord is weaning Iran from Islam and attracting them with his love. Through all the bad news in Iran, he remains as the only good news.

Unfortunately, if the government of Iran changes to a secular democracy, the spiritual hunger of the people will die down very rapidly. So the time is short for Christians to work in Iran while this supernatural spiritual hunger exists.

We must work together to establish a strong church now. If we wait for Iran’s government to change, it will be too late.

The time is short for Christians to work in Iran while this supernatural spiritual hunger exists—so we are starting an equipping school called the “412 School.”

In 2018, we at Iran Alive are focusing on strengthening the underground church in Iran through equipping each Christian to be an agent of transformation. We are starting an equipping school called the “412 School” based on Ephesians 4:12—equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

Would you join us to make this happen this year? Without friends like you, we are not able to do what we are called to do. We are issuing a “Macedonian call” to come and help us. Please contact me if you feel led to answer this call.

To express interest, you may send an email to info@IranAliveMinistries.org, which I check daily, or call (469) 982-0000. We will contact you to explore possibilities for partnership.

How Will the Iran Demonstrations Affect Christians?

In this series, I have been addressing the spontaneous protests that began in Iran on December 28, 2017, in response to rising economic distress and the corrupt government. Since the demonstrations started, we have been broadcasting special live programs every evening at prime time in Iran to comfort the people and share the heart of God with them.

48011682_sThe 2 million or so Christians in Iran now have a chance to be the voice of real hope—hope that only exists in Christ.

Even though at least four thousand are reported arrested and are being tortured in prison, there is a bright spot in what is happening right now in Iran: the uprising creates a window for increased Christian activity and evangelism. Its impact will be in three areas:

1) It reduces persecution of Christians. The uprising alleviates—at least for a while—the focused persecution of Christians. The outbreak of mass dissent in the past two weeks is “one of the most serious crises Iran has faced in the past 25 years.” Right now the government has a more urgent matter than arresting Christians; they must work to bring the current situation under control.

2) It will give Christians greater opportunity to evangelize. The 2 million or so Christians in Iran now have a chance to be the voice of real hope—hope that only exists in Christ—to a hopeless, aimless, and desperate young generation.

Reaching this generation with the gospel will be easier because they have shown that they are desperate enough to take huge risks with their lives to oppose the government. Over 60 percent of the population is under age 30, meaning that at least half the country is now even more open to the good news of Christ.

3) It gives us an opportunity to train fearless young leaders for Christ. The demonstrations give Christian leaders like us at Iran Alive a historic opportunity to train mighty young men and women of God for his service. We have a great opening to bring to faith and train a generation that has no hope for this life so that they can wholeheartedly live for Christ.

These are brave young people who are not afraid of death. As one young Christian told me, “I am not afraid of death because I was dead anyway before I came to Christ.” Another said, “I am not afraid of them [the government]; in fact, they are afraid of me and my message. That is why they want to put me in jail.”

How You Can Help

Would you pray especially for those young people being tortured in prison and their families who are demonstrating outside, hoping to hear news of their loved ones?

Would you also pray for boldness among Christians in Iran, to use this unique opportunity to share Christ with many? As you may know, we have a large number of underground house churches in Iran and many leaders who are serving them. These leaders are already spreading the gospel without fear of what will happen to them. Pray that God would protect them and embolden others to do the same. Pray for open hearts to receive Christ.

My friend Mani Erfan predicted a year ago that Christians would make up 10 percent of Iran’s population by 2020. I believe that is quite possible. This new level of desperation and hopelessness expressed in these demonstrations indicates that millions more are open to the message of the gospel, and the number of Christians in Iran will continue to grow exponentially as it has the past 10 years.

Just imagine what would happen if we join together and equip, encourage, empower, and mobilize 2 million Christians for Christ.

And would you pray about contributing to a training initiative for Iran? We at Iran Alive are beginning a new 412 School, based on Ephesians 4:12, “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” With this school, we can multiply our efforts to reach and disciple millions in Iran for the gospel. Just imagine what would happen if we join together and equip, encourage, empower, and mobilize 2 million Christians for Christ. I believe not only Iran but also the whole Middle East will be impacted by the gospel.


Related articles:

Garcia, Carlos. “The Christian Church Is Exploding Underground in Iran despite Oppression.” TheBlaze, December 1, 2016.

Smith, Alexander. “Iran ‘dodged a Bullet’ over Protests but Danger Lurks for Regime.” NBC News, January 10, 2018.

What Will Result from the Iran Uprising?

In this series, I have been addressing the spontaneous protests that began in Iran on December 28, 2017, in response to rising economic distress and the corrupt government. At least 22 people have been killed—likely a higher number is true—and a minimum of 1,000 arrested, most under the age of 25.

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What is the goal of the protestors?

The demonstrators have no clear vision or clear demands. These demonstrations are the groans and pains of society. The people are crying out because they feel pressured economically and see no way out. They see social injustice and oppression and no hope for any better future.

We must remember that this uprising is not like a Western demonstration, where people fill the streets to protest an issue or stand up for a cause—and then go home. These Iranians know that they can be killed for protesting. Several have been killed already; thousands of others are under arrest.

The protestors’ hopelessness and frustration are so deep that they do not care anymore if they die.

Will violence and arrests stifle the uprising?

The demonstrations have no leadership that can guide them toward a common goal; they are just protesting out of pain, hopelessness, and desperation. Therefore, the movement is not coherent yet, and it has no clear direction to keep it going against repressive violence. So it is very likely that it will be stopped through upcoming violence.

When the uprising quiets down, will that be the end of it?

Even if the demonstrations quiet down, the divide between the people and the government will deepen. The movement will continue as an undercurrent that will show its head again later, stronger than before.

One thing is for sure: the people will no longer be deceived by the “moderate clergy candidate” political play by the clergy. This political show has kept the people entertained and busy for the past 20 years. It will not work any longer.

They may, however, be deceived by the offer of a “secular” or “nonreligious” candidate. This type of candidate will be a deception once again because the government always creates an illusion of change on the surface while doing nothing to change a system where the clergy and the Revolutionary Guards maintain the main economic, military, and political power. As an Iranian proverb says, “It is the same donkey, but the saddle is changed.”

What will result from the uprising, in the near future?

We will most likely see a surge of violence. Plainclothes mercenaries from Syria will shoot and kill hundreds on the streets just as they did in the 2009 uprising. Many young people will be arrested, tortured, or simply disappear. The University of Tehran is already trying to track some of its students who have disappeared.

The Supreme Leader, to appease the people, may blame the situation on a few people in government positions, order their arrest, put them on trial, and execute them. This way, he can show the people that he has heard them, cares for them, and is taking care of the problems of corruption and social injustice.

By eliminating these few, Khamenei will both appease the people and at the same time remove some of those who are causing him trouble. One of these potential figures is the ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He has lately been causing some trouble for the power structure. His life may be in danger in the next few weeks and months. The government may blame this mess and corruption on him, arrest him, and put him on trial.

What is Iran Alive Doing?

Since the beginning of the protests, we have been broadcasting a special live program at noon CST (prime time in Iran) every day, even on Saturdays and Sundays. Our goals are to show that

  • God knows their pains, and so do we;
  • God cares about what they are going through, and so do we;
  • God has a plan for Iran and is active in the midst of this chaos and suffering, and we all need to align what we do with what he intends to do in Iran.

We teach them that to do the will of God, we need first to have the mind of God and the heart of God.

Family in front of TV 2
Iranian family watches the Network 7 broadcast.

We know that Iran will be saved according to Jeremiah 49:38, and this is just another step towards that end.

Every day in our live program, we look at the events of the day from a biblical point of view.

  • We evangelize by telling people that they will be again disappointed if they put their hope once again in men.
  • We tell them that if they do not change, then even if the government changes, they will still be miserable.
  • We point out that if they have personal struggles, if they have marriage problems, and if they have an addiction, a change of government will not solve that. Their only hope is Jesus Christ, who can make a true and eternal change both in their lives and also in the society.
  • We also teach Christians to be salt and light in the midst of this darkness. They must be active in helping people who are suffering and at the same time share the gospel by telling others that only Jesus is the true solution to the problems in Iran.

How should we pray?

Many families have been torn apart. Many reports tell of people congregating around Evin Prison in Tehran, hoping to secure the release of family members. Some young people have been killed, and many have disappeared. Please pray for these young people and their families.

People are also suffering economic hardship, no longer able to buy milk, cheese, or eggs. Pray that they would come to know that God loves them and cares about their situation. Pray that the leaders in Iran will have compassion on their people and instead of treating them as thugs, accusing them of being CIA agents, and heartlessly killing them, that they would care for their felt needs.

This is a great time for Christians to shine. Pray that the 2 million Christians in Iran will reflect Christ’s character by their love and actions. Also pray they will bring true hope and lasting change to the lives of millions by sharing the gospel.

And finally, please pray for Iran Alive. God has graciously positioned us to have a tangible impact on at least 6 million people according to a recent poll. This is the number who watch us regularly and for whom we are their favorite channel. Pray that the Lord will give us wisdom and provide for us financially so that we can have maximum impact during this historic time in Iran.

Look for parts 4 and 5 of this series later this week.


Related Articles:

CNN, Laura Smith-Spark. “Iran Protests: University Tracks Detained Students.” CNN. Accessed January 9, 2018.

What Started the 2018 Demonstrations in Iran?

In the final days of December, Iranians took to the streets in protest against the government and shouted, “Death to the dictator” (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) and “Death to Rouhani” (the president). Through this first week of 2018, demonstrations have erupted in nearly every province in Iran.

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The main cause for these demonstrations? The economic pain and desperation of the people. In the past six months, about 30 percent of our incoming prayer requests from Iran have been related to the economic situation. One of our viewers shared last week that she and her husband are so financially desperate that they were considering selling their three-month-old baby to human traffickers!

Basic Goods out of Reach for the People

In recent months, the price of some basic goods like dairy products, meat, eggs, and gas has risen sharply. For the past two years, many families in Iran had to cut their consumption of meat to once per month. Now they cannot even afford that. Forget meat; now they cannot afford milk, cheese, or eggs.

While the Corrupt Elite Enriches Itself

What makes the people’s pain worse and makes them even more angry and frustrated are the following realities:

The religious elite controls the economy. More than 85 percent of the economy is controlled by those in power (the clergy and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard). The people see this as the elite taking advantage of the common people so even though they are rich, they can be richer.

Corruption within the government continues freely. Every month the people hear news of large embezzlement by those within the government—but no arrests or accountability. While common people continue to suffer, those in power steal the oil income and store it in foreign banks. They steal instead of investing that money in the country’s economy because maybe they also see that their end is near.

The powerful live in luxurious abundance. Daily, the people see the elite living in luxury homes and driving luxury cars—more Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maserati’s travel the streets in Tehran than in Beverly Hills.

More than a quarter of the country is unemployed. The unemployment stated by the government is 12 percent, but in reality, more than 25 percent are unemployed. Unemployment among young adults is as high as 40 percent. Noticeable segments of society in their 30s and even 40s are educated (often highly) but have no jobs—not even low-level jobs such as driving taxis. They still live with their parents, cannot find jobs, and cannot get married. They battle a hopelessness with deep depression that they often relieve temporarily with some addiction. Most families in Iran are impacted by addiction because at least one close family member (father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister) is addicted. Unemployment and addiction are prime causes for people being on the streets, the majority of these people being under 30 years old.

The children of the elite “inherit” the best paying jobs. The people have seen that those in power have the best paying jobs—and now the elite are passing on these jobs to their kids, a generation of spoiled children with no education. Children of the powerful receive a job without earning it while millions with education cannot make a living.

The Islamic government cares more for supporting regional allies than its own people. The people now see that the Islamic government has no heart for the suffering of its own but spends millions of dollars monthly to help Hezbollah in Lebanon and President Assad in Syria. They know that the government is spending large sums of money to take control of Yemen and Iraq. They were hoping that the $150 billion that Obama administration gave Iran’s government would benefit them, but as I predicted in 2015 and again in 2016, the windfall did not benefit them but was used instead to oppress them and persecute Christians even more.

What Can You Do?

Throughout this time of unrest, we have broadcast live every evening during prime time to share God’s heart and mind with the people. They are crying out in pain and looking for answers. Would you pray that millions will hear and receive God’s love and concern for their suffering?

In the next few days, I will be posting more on this issue. I will let you know what I expect will be the outcome of this mass demonstration, what the differences are between this uprising and the Green Movement of 2009, and yes, how this uprising will help Christians and the cause of Christ in Iran—at least for the short term.

If you wish to read more stories and stay up to date on issues in Iran and with our ministry at Iran Alive, please text “Iran” to 74784.


Related articles:

Erdbrink, Thomas. “Hard-Liners and Reformers Tapped Iranians’ Ire. Now, Both Are Protest Targets.” The New York Times, January 2, 2018, sec. Middle East.

Lister, Tim. “Protests Die down, but the Anger in Iran Won’t Go Away.” CNN. Accessed January 5, 2018.

Shariat, Hormoz. “Lifeline from Nuclear Deal Helps Iran Oppress Its Own People.” June 2, 2016.

Shariat, Hormoz. “The Nuclear Agreement with Iran: Is It a Good or a Bad Deal? (Part 2).” September 22, 2015.

Urgent! Iran Needs Your Prayers

I’m sure you have heard by now of the daily protests across Iran. The people are demonstrating against the government because they feel utterly hopeless that life in Iran can get any better.

This is a critical time not only for Iran but for the Gospel. Please watch my short video message and stand with us for Iran in prayer.

Would you specifically pray that we can communicate God’s heart and mind to the millions of Christians and Muslims watching our daily, live prime-time broadcasts during this time of unrest?

Thank you for standing with us.

To receive more stories and information about what is happening in Iran, text “Iran” to 74784.