Rouhani Gained the Upper Hand by Skipping Lunch with President Obama

Rouhani gained the upper hand by skipping lunch with President Obama and later receiving his phone call while leaving the country.

To a Westerner, both of these events may seem insipid or commonplace.

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to the U.S.

President Rouhani simply explained, “A meeting between the two presidents needs some preparation, and since the ground was not prepared, this meeting did not take place.”  As a result, President Obama picked up the phone and called Rouhani since they were not able to meet in person.  This gesture exhibited both respect and hospitality from a Western point of view.

However, both events, which seem ostensibly harmless, were great PR plays by Rouhani to the Persian culture.

By skipping a planned appointment with President Obama, Rouhani illustrated his stature of importance to the people of Iran and the rest of the Middle East whose culture recognizes this as a display of power.  Rouhani is so mighty and dominant, that even the President of the United States of America does not get his time.

By calling President Rouhani as he was leaving the U.S., President Obama displayed an act of contrition and weakness in the eyes of the Persian culture.  In my native Iran, this is viewed as chasing after the person who is in the more dominant position.

Rouhani would never have extended such a gesture, as he would be subject to public emasculation and humiliation for bowing in this way.

Our opinions of a skipped lunch and the intentions of President Obama’s phone call are completely irrelevant.  President Hassan Rouhani left the United States with an important public relations victory on the largest stage Iran has been on in 34 years.

I wonder if President Obama is going to take Benjamin Netanyahu’s call…the one when he tells Obama to be wary of his new “friend.”

Conversation with Joel C. Rosenberg

I recently had the privilege of sitting down in our studio with my dear friend, Joel Rosenberg.  You may know Joel through his many NY Times bestselling books, his educational and charitable organization, The Joshua Fund, or his blog (http://flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com) and Twitter account (@joelcrosenberg), both of which I follow and strongly recommend you do as well.

I know Joel as passionate Follower of Jesus Christ, whose heart for the Gospel to be proclaimed and embraced in the Middle East, even in Iran, is unmatched and genuine.

During his visit, Joel and I sat down and had a wonderful conversation about the Middle East and specifically his thoughts related to Iran in the Scriptures and the unique role the Lord has in store for this dangerous, beautiful and spiritually open country.

A Life Transformed: Roghiyeh’s Redemption

Last October, I had the privilege of speaking live on the air with a troubled woman living inside Iran.  She had very recently attempted suicide and had plans to follow through with a successful bid to take her own life later that day.  She had spoken several times with one of our Counseling Center ministers over the course of few weeks, but felt that her life was worthless.  She was completely hopeless.  She called that day to apologize to our counselor and let her know that what she was about to do was not her fault.

As the Lord graciously laid out the timing, Roghiyeh called while we were broadcasting our live program.  Our counselor convinced her to speak with me on air before doing anything further.  She agreed.

What you will see is a shortened version of a 20 minute conversation, in which I struggled to convince Roghiyeh that death was not the answer.  She was actually more afraid of converting to Christianity, than death!  Islam feeds on controlling people through fear.  Roghiyeh felt trapped.

Through God’s endless grace and mercy, she was transformed before our eyes in that conversation from hopelessness, to joyful hope.

Following my conversation with Roghiyeh, you will get a very recent update on her life, which I think you will find very encouraging.

Iran has the Fastest Growing Evangelical Population on the Planet!

Take a moment to let that sink in.

Operation World Chart of the Fastest Growing Evangelical Nations - 2010
Iran has the fastest growing Evangelical Christian population. Operation World, 2010.

Iran…the world’s only theocracy and home to such infamous leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ali Hosseini Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Khomeini, who ushered in the brutal Islamic regime in the revolution of 1979…the same country whose government counts such countries as Lebanon, Venezuela and Syria, China and Russia as friends…the same nation that has labeled the United States as the Great Satan and Israel the Little Satan and is among the most public anti-Semitic, anti-Christian and anti-women’s rights nations in the world…this Iran, has the fastest growing Evangelical population in the world!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Well, if the Evangelical population has grown from 10 to 1,000 people, that explains rapid growth, but it is a bit underwhelming.”  Actually, conservative estimates place the Evangelical population of Iran around 1,000,000!  Compare that with the estimated 500 Christians that were believed to exist in Iran in 1979 when the Islamic Revolution took place.  The fact is, more Persians have come to Christ in the 34 years since the Islamic Revolution than in the 1,400 years prior, combined.  Most of these have occurred in just the past decade, as satellite TV has become a pervasive tool for safely and effectively taking the Gospel into the homes of the 55 million Persians who have access to satellite dishes.

It is for this reason that I have spent the past 11 years devoting my ministry efforts into satellite TV programming and launched a 24/7 Farsi network with the objective of taking the message of Hope into the homes of these millions of hopeless and desperate people.

You can see in the chart below, taken from the research of Operation World, that the highlighted countries are Farsi speaking nations, which our satellite TV signal reaches with 24/7 Christ-centered programming.

I like to tell people that God is running a special on Muslims right now.  There has never been a more exciting or fruitful time to be about the business of Kingdom building in Iran than Right Now!

Chart courtesy of: Jason Mandryk, Operation World:  The Definitive Prayer Guide to Every Nation (Colorado Springs, CO: Biblica Publishing, 2010), 916.

70% of Iran’s Population is Under the Age of 35

This is a startling statistic, which is changing the face of Iran and has the potential to impact the entire Middle East.  Let me explain.

IRAN GREEN MOVEMENT2
An image from the Green Movement of 2009, led by Iranian youth to protest presidential election results

When I was a young college graduate, living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, I was part of a generation that was demanding change.  At the time, we did not know that we were exchanging something we perceived as bad, for something much, much worse than we could ever have imagined.  Today, only 30% of Iran’s surviving population was even alive at that time.  The overwhelming majority of the population knows nothing but the incredible persecution and oppression that they have experienced under a government that they never asked for and certainly do not want.

Perhaps this helps to shed some light on fact #5, The Mosques Are Empty.  The younger generation has seen only a lifetime of misery and hopelessness, while the older generation has seen broken promises and a system that has failed them completely.

As a result of this youthful demographic, Iran has established itself as a top consumer and producer of social media in the Middle East, despite the fact that the government attempts to restrict Internet access and intimidate people from engaging with Facebook, Twitter, personal blogs and other forms of Social Media.  However, as with all younger generations, Iran’s youth possesses technological savvy and continues to stay ahead of the government’s attempts to stem the tide.

You need only look at the Green Movement of 2009, when tens of thousands of young Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran to protest the presidential election results.  The horrific shooting death of Nedā Āghā-Soltān was captured on a cell phone, uploaded to the Internet and viral within hours.

Pray for the youth of Iran, as they are the key to reaching the country for Christ.

The Church in Iran was Born on the Day of Pentecost

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.  Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven.  And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.  And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?  And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”  —Acts 2:1-13

persian-empire-2
A map of Iran (Persia) from the time Acts 2 was written

As we read Luke’s account of the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, something amazing occurs, which may not jump off the page to you at first.  As the Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and their followers, giving them the ability to speak in each other’s languages, the multitude around them was bewildered by what they were witnessing.  Recognizing that these men were from various regions, each with it’s own language, they were amazed to hear them speaking to each other in their non-native language.

Luke goes on to record their astonishment by quoting the list of nations present.  Notice the first three mentioned; Parthians and Medes and Elamites.  All of these are people groups were from Persia…known today as Iran!

Actually, Iran has a significant presence in Scripture, which I will unpack in future posts.

Persians Love Americans

ImageMy friend, who recently traveled to Iran and took the photo of the empty mosque in my previous post, was also blown away by the overwhelming warm reception he received from the people of Iran.  Even though I told him to expect the people he would meet to be intrigued by an American visiting Iran, he was not prepared for the welcome he received in every city he toured.

In fact, he told me, “I have never been high-fived or hugged so much in my life just for being an American than I was in Iran!”  He was invited to people’s homes, asked for photographs and even told while being embraced by a stranger in a park, “You are my brother.  I am so glad you are here.”

What is portrayed in the media is quite different than the reality of what exists inside the borders of one of the least understood countries in the world.

I want to be clear, however.  The Islamic controlled government  and clergy are indeed extremely dangerous, violent and hateful people who in fact do not love America, Americans or anyone who does not identify themselves with Islam.  This group represents only a fraction of the population.  Unfortunately, it is the only segment we ever see in the West.