Lifeline from Nuclear Deal Helps Iran Oppress Its Own People

Last summer I said that the nuclear deal gave the Islamic government of Iran a lifeline. I predicted that the money would be used to (1) oppress the people of Iran more and (2) persecute the Iranian Christians outside Iran, including Iran Alive.

In the last few weeks there have been several news stories about the government of Iran starting two new organizations:

1) They have created a “non-visible” police. These are 7,000 undercover, plain-clothed agents who will mingle with people and have full authority to arrest anybody who does not follow Islamic law or who criticizes the regime. 7541.jpgThe government made this program public because they want to put fear in the hearts of the people. They know this program will make Iranians afraid of each other and afraid of sharing anything in public with anybody they do not know because that person could be an agent.

The undercover police are one way the government is increasing its oppression of the people, by making them afraid even to talk with each other. This will make public witnessing even more dangerous to Christians. Please pray that members of our many underground churches will continue to be bold to share their faith despite the danger.

2) They have created a new organization to stop and destroy their “opponents” outside Iran. The goal of this organization is to do whatever it takes to annihilate any activities outside Iran that could threaten the existence of the Islamic government of Iran. The fact is that there is currently no movement inside or outside of Iran strong enough to threaten the future of the current regime, except one: the growth of Christianity and its underground house churches.

The government has destroyed their political opposition rather successfully inside and outside Iran. The only opposition they feel is out of control is the Christians with their fast growing numbers and house churches. Iran’s leaders are well aware of the impact outside Christian organizations such as Iran Alive have on the masses inside Iran. So the number one goal of this new organization is to stop or slow down activities of Iranian Christian organizations outside Iran.

They are publicizing this program widely to put fear in hearts of Iranian Christians worldwide. They may even murder some of them as they have done in the past, to tell us all that they are serious. We desperately need prayer covering for Iran Alive and myself as the threats against us are increasing in number and seriousness.

A Threat with a Silver Lining

These moves by the Iranian government and the police of Tehran are a serious threat not only to Iranian women, whom much of the media has been most concerned about due to the dress code laws, but also to Christians inside and outside Iran who are willing to die on behalf of Jesus to share His love with others there.

But we can take comfort in the fact that the government felt compelled to initiate these organizations. It shows that they know they are losing—or have lost—the backing of the people. Most of the nation, especially the young people, does not want this government, or its policies, or the Islamic faith it adheres to. Many have taken to social media to protest the new policies.

We believe as the government increases its persecution of Christians, the number of Iranian Muslims coming to Christ will also increase—as well as their strength in faith and commitment. The Islamic government of Iran is on a losing spiral.

Let’s pray for the persecuted Church in Iran, and let’s do whatever we can to add fuel to the fire of revival that the Lord has started there.

 

How Does ISIS Recruit Operatives in the US?

As we continue to see homegrown terrorist attacks in nations across the globe, it is important to ask certain questions about our own vulnerability:

  • How are Americans radicalized despite the long distance between ISIS (the Islamic State) and us?
  • How does ISIS use social media to indoctrinate Americans so they will kill and die for them?
  • Why are ISIS leaders able to attract so many Muslims around the world who become dedicated enough to the cause even to die for it?
  • How ISIS influence some of the Islamic Centers (mosques) in the West so much that these mosques turn into recruiting centers?

 

Many journalists and researchers have given answers to these questions in past months, but the true answer is simple and shocking: The main strategy of ISIS is not to promote itself on social media and through local mosques. For the most part, the leaders of ISIS do not directly call Muslims around the world to come join them. So why they are so successful?

ISIS Strategy: A Call to Faith

Contrary to what many people believe, the main emphasis of ISIS online and around the world in Islamic Centers is not to promote itself; the main emphasis of ISIS is to call all Muslims to be serious in their Islamic faith.

You see, most Muslims are lukewarm Muslims who do not strictly follow the teachings of Quran. They have learned to pick and choose from the verses they like and obey the ones that they agree with. (Don’t some of us Christians do the same?) The politically correct name for these lukewarm Muslims is “moderate Muslims.”

One question people ask is, “Why don’t the moderate Muslims speak up against ISIS?” The answer is that they cannot speak up because they have no basis in Quran to support their position.

But any Muslim who decidesone-million-irani-school-children-memorizes-holy-quran to dedicate themselves to the teachings of Quran and follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad will easily become a candidate for ISIS recruitment.
Any Islamic Center (mosque) with a leader dedicated to teaching the whole Quran and who asks the people to obey Quran opens the doors to ISIS recruiting, even if the leader does not intend to do so.

Some will take up that challenge to study Quran and the life of Muhammad seriously. They decide in their hearts to do what Quran says and to do what the Prophet did in the first Islamic century to fight with and destroy infidels. It is then that they wake up and realize that ISIS is doing exactly those things: following Quran and Muhammad. It is then that they are attracted to ISIS and its mission. It is then that they are convinced that today’s situation is similar to the situation when the Prophet led the first Muslims, and that Muslims should respond as he did: with violence.

This is when these Muslims start to admire ISIS and believe the Islamic State’s cause is from God. This is when American Muslims decide to join ISIS to advance its cause.

So all ISIS needs to do to radicalize Muslims in America and around the world is to challenge Muslims to read Quran and do what it says. Radicalization follows naturally. They are just asking moderate Muslims to be dedicated Muslims. Becoming radical is automatic.

So what is our answer to this strategy?

Our Response: A Call to Faith

Many of us, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, could also be called “lukewarm.” It is time for us to call our fellow believers in Christ to move from “moderate” to “dedicated”—to study the Bible and the life of Jesus and do what He did: love our enemies, lay down our lives for others, comfort the brokenhearted. If we do these things well, we, too, will be called “radical.” If we do these things well, as Jesus did, we will bring peace to those who have none.

As an army of radical Muslims spreads hatred and brings death around the world, an army of radical Christians can spread love and bring life wherever they go. We will be winners because we are promised that we can overcome evil with good (Ro 12:21). And we know one thing: the light always overcomes the darkness (John 1:5) no matter how dark the darkness appears to be.

Related Articles:

Norris, Daniel K. “Obama Says ISIL Does Not Speak for Islam—Is He Right?” Charisma News.

Will Iran’s Election Bring Change?

Many friends have asked me about the recent election in Iran. We certainly cannot entirely trust what news sources report, especially when the news facts come from the Iranian Government. Below is a Q&A, which I hope is helpful to those who want to know more.

 

What happened?

On Friday, February 26, 2016, there was an election in Iran. The people chose their parliament representatives and also elected members of the Assembly of Experts, whose job is supposedly to keep the supreme leader in check and choose the next leader in case of the death of the current leader, Ali Khamenei. With the age of Khamenei (76) and his failing health, it is very likely that this elected Assembly of Experts will select the next supreme leader.

Who won?

The “moderates” and “reformists” had a great victory. But don’t celebrate and become hopeful for a major and meaningful change yet. These moderates and reformists are not truly moderates and reformists._88448319_88443659 Please remember that all aspiring candidates were vetted for election by the super-conservative clergy who are in power (the Guardian Council). So the terms moderate and reformist are relative terms. When super extremists are running the country, extremists will look like moderates and reformists by comparison.

Why did many people not vote?

A large number of people did not vote, believing that their vote would not make any difference. The Guardian Council approved only 161 of the nearly 800 aspiring candidates registered for the election, leaving an average of fewer than two candidates per seat. Therefore, a large number of the people’s favorite candidates were not put on the ballot, and many “moderate” candidates ran unopposed.

So why did some people vote?

No one knows how many really voted, but we can reliably assume the number is much smaller than Iran has reported. Historically, the Iranian government has reported a hyper-inflated number of those who participated to give the appearance of a democracy and a government supported by the people. Many of those people who voted Friday declared that they did so to choose between “bad and worse.” They voted knowing that their vote would not cause a major change, but their logic was this: “a minor change in the right direction is still better than no change.”

If Iran is a dictatorship, why was there an election?

There are only two centers of power in Iran: (1) The clergy determine the policies, especially the supreme leader, who has final say on all matters both domestic and international. He can veto all decisions made by the elected officials of the parliament and even the president; (2) The Revolutionary Guards have financial and military control of the country. These two centers of power know that for survival, they need each other. Therefore, they always mutually support each other.

What is the role of the elected government in Iran?

The elected government in Iran does not have any true power. Its role is to implement the policies determined by the clergy and the Revolutionary Guards Corps. Its goal is to give an appearance of democracy when in fact the people truly do not have any power. The main responsibility of the government is to keep people in check so that the power of the clergy and the interests of the Revolutionary Guards will not be threatened. Therefore, President Rouhani and all these freshly elected officials do not have any real power. They are there to serve the interest of those in power and NOT the people.  As was President Khatami’s role in the 1990s, Rouhani’s role is to give people false hope and keep them busy and under control for another eight years.

What is the impact of this election?

Do not expect any major change in internal affairs and international policy of Iran. As the supreme leader has said, USA and Israel will continue to be enemies of Iran—and that will never change. The proud and overconfident clergy of Iran used to think that they did not need anybody’s goodwill and that the sanctions would not hurt them. But they were wrong. One lesson they learned is that they need interaction with the rest of the world so they can survive economically. Therefore what we will see happen because of this election is more free trade between Iran and western countries. On the other hand, I predict (and I hope I am wrong) that Iran’s support of terrorism against the United States and its citizens will increase now that they have more financial resources to do so.

Related Articles:

Sabet, Farzan. “Why Iran’s Assembly of Experts Election Is the Real Race to Be Watching.” The Washington Post, February 24, 2016.

We Are Obsessed with the End Times, But Not with Its Author

We Christians in the West seem to have a growing appetite for writing and reading books about the end times. We want to know how the events of the Middle East relate to the prophesies in the Bible. We want to know how nuclear Iran and militant ISIS and Russia are part of the end-time events. End-time prophecies get our attention.

Understanding the end times is a good thing.

But what are we doing with all that knowledge? Most of us are satisfied with just knowing and forget what the Lord commands us about doing. We forget that whenever there is talk of the end-time events in the New Testament, that discussion is for three purposes:

(1) to give courage and comfort to persecuted Christians

(2) to motivate Christians to live a holy life

(3) to remind Christians to get busy doing the Lord’s work

Much is happening around the world that should concern us as Christians because we can make a major difference.news-end-times-google God reveals future events with an intention for us to get busy. He wants His church to be a part of History (His Story) and make history.
Most of us, however, are merely observers, at best keeping ourselves busy by matching Bible prophecies to events. Very few get involved in what God is doing.

Bible prophecies should motivate us to keep occupied with His work until He comes back.

You Are the Solution

Every night, we watch news about Islamic violence around the world: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mali, Paris, San Bernardino. The list goes on and on. It looks like nothing shocks us anymore. Nothing can make us wake up from our spiritual drowsiness. We hear what ISIS and other terror groups (including Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas, and wings of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard) are doing around the world, not realizing that we are called to be a major part of the solution.

We have the answer to ISIS, and we are quiet.

The military alone cannot stop ISIS and other terror groups. Islam is a religion of violence that feeds on, grows, and gets stronger with violence. We have seen this occur in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and many other places. The answer is the love of Jesus. It’s the love of Jesus through you. As Ephesians 4:15 tell us, sharing the truth of the Gospel with love is the key that unlocks the closed doors of Islam and will set Muslim captives free.

So many in the U.S. (and in this election cycle) want to push Muslims out of our country and let the Middle East destroy itself. Will you decide to reach out to your Muslim neighbor and get to know him? Will you share Jesus with the woman wearing a hijab walking down your sidewalk or in your grocery store? Millions of Iranian Muslims are desperately waiting for you and me to do our part. Will you see what God is doing in Iran and join the cause to transform Iran into a Christian nation in this generation?

You have Jesus’s love. What will you do with it? I pray you will join me and get busy.

Iran Frees Iranian-American Prisoners – Now What?

Please Pray for Saeed and Naghmeh

Right after an early morning interview on Saturday, January 16, I heard the good news that the Iranian government had released the four Iranian-American prisoners and an imprisoned American student. I was particularly happy to hear the Saeed Abedini was among those released.

As many of you might know, Saeed is my relative. He is married to my niece, Naghmeh, who in my opinion is a hero, fighting for the release of her husband tirelessly for the past three and a half years. I had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with Naghmeh when she was nine years old. She came to Christ while she stayed with us for a couple months.

I know many of you have been praying for the release of Saeed.pastor-saeed-abediniPlease continue to pray for Naghmeh and Saeed. They face great challenges ahead of them. In November, Naghmeh shared with the public that her relationship with Saeed had been filled with abuse for many years. Now that they are back together, they need our prayers and support even more for personal and relational restoration. I am so glad that Franklin Graham himself has offered to do marriage counseling with them.

 

Why Did the Iranian Government Free the Prisoners?

I believe the Iranian government wanted to project a positive image to the world as the sanctions were being lifted. They wanted no one doubting that removal of the sanctions was and is a good idea. The government released the captured American sailors so promptly and treated them so gently for this same reason.

Iran’s government was struggling to survive because of those sanctions. The nuclear deal threw them a financial lifeline that will help them survive for the next ten years. They are about to receive over $100 billion dollars to pursue their goals around the world. These goals include opposing America in every aspect. Unfortunately Iran will use some of this money to support terrorism against American citizens. I hope I am wrong, but it is very possible that we will see an increase in anti-American terrorism around the world and in the U.S. itself.

One thing is for sure: the release of these American citizens does not mean that the Iranian government is changing its policy towards United States. The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, was very clear when he warned, after freeing the hostages, that Iran should remain wary of its old enemy the United States and its “deceit and treachery.”

 

Please Continue to Pray for Iranian Christian Prisoners

In many ways, Saeed had become the face of persecution in Iran. This was a good thing because it reminded us to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran. Now that Saeed is free, let us not forget those who remain.

Christianity continues to grow in Iran, and the government continues to react to it by increasing persecution. Even now, many heroes in Iranian prisons are suffering for their faith. Their names may not be in the media as Saeed’s was, but God knows their names and cares for them. So let us obey the Scripture that says, “Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Heb. 13:3, NIV).

 

Please Join Us in Supporting the Persecuted Christians in Iran

With your support and the help of organizations such as The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), we are serving persecuted Christians in Iran. We provide assistance with the emotional, spiritual, and financial needs of families who have a member imprisoned for his or her faith. Our 24/7 satellite TV broadcast serves the millions of persecuted Christians in Iran who are living in isolation and in fear of arrest, imprisonment, torture, and even death. Together, we are able not only to inspire and encourage them to stand up for the Lord and not give in to fear and pressure, but also to share their faith with their persecutors. We believe these actions are God’s will for His children—and that is what we will do.

 

Related articles:

Dorell, Oren. “International Sanctions against Iran Lifted in Landmark Nuke Deal.” USA Today, January 16, 2016. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/01/16/usa-iran-diplomats-nuclear-deal/78892802/.

Wilkin, Sam, and Sharafedin Bozorgmehr. “Iran’s Khamenei Welcomes Sanctions Lift, Warns of U.S. ‘Deceit.’” Reuters, January 19, 2016, sec. World. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-khamenei-idUSKCN0UX10Q.

Terror in the US

Last year, in the months approaching Thanksgiving, I travelled extensively and spoke at many churches and conferences. One thing I said over and over was this: “I hope I am wrong, but soon we will see ISIS sleeping cells in the western countries and the U.S. start their terrorist activities.” It turned out that this prediction came true sooner than even I thought, first in Paris, and then in the United States.

 

The Paris attack and last month’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, has made even more clear the global strategy of the Islamic State (ISIS).San_Bernardino_shooting_suspect_vehicle
They are calling on all sympathizers and sleeper cells to carry out lethal assaults in the West. They want everyone to know that no one is beyond their reach.

 

The overwhelming result of these attacks is a rising fear about terrorism. According to polls, fear has reached a level not seen since the aftermath of 9/11. Such fear gives excuse to political frontrunners like Donald Trump to exercise hatred toward an entire people group. And many leaders and citizens are following in his footsteps. When they do this, they are handing a victory to the prince of darkness.

 

Satan’s plan through ISIS is to put fear in our hearts and foster hatred towards all Muslims so that we do not reach out to them. Sometimes, I can hear his dark voice saying, “They (Muslims) are mine, do not touch them. Fear and hate Muslims. Because if you love them, you will steal my captives from me.”

 

On the other hand, some do not take the threat of terrorism seriously enough. We see this position from political leaders that follow President Obama. They count low-level terrorism as an unavoidable necessity in our world full of “radical fringe” groups. It happens, they say, but not as often as car crashes, shark attacks, or lightening strikes. Fear of terrorism is overrated.

 

Peter Baker, a New York Times news analyst, recently showed this low view of imminent danger in a summary of President Obama’s off-the record comments: “He would send significant numbers of [ground] forces to the Middle East . . . only in the event of a terrorist attack in the United States so catastrophic that it all but paralyzed the country with fear.” The president apparently does not feel that there is a high probability of such a catastrophic event.

 

ISIS and other Muslim groups/nations do have a political agenda. Islam does actively promote the use of fear and terror to spread both its spiritual and political borders. We see this regularly in Iran, not only in the government’s persecution of Christians and its own Muslims but also in Iran’s continued launching of banned missiles despite last year’s nuclear deal and its continued support of Shi’ite terror regimes (such as Hezbollah and the Houthis) in the Middle East.

 

Yes, it is right to be wise about our borders, but not by hating a group of people both within and without. Terrorism from foreigners and domestic sleeping cells, such as the recent New Year’s Eve attacks on women in Cologne, Germany, will continue until we make some changes. Shunning Muslims is not the answer. Embracing them and allowing love to transform them is.

 

The real solution to terrorism and fear is to reach beyond our borders to people who are disillusioned with Islam and Islamic governments, to those who are more open to the Gospel of peace than at any other time in history.

 

God is at work in Iran and among the flood of refugees from Syria and Iraq. He is bringing hearts to Him and breaking down “the barrier of the dividing wall” between Christians and those born captives of Islam (Eph. 2:14, NASB). We must remember that, once, we too lived “according to the prince” of darkness and were “by nature children of wrath” (Eph. 2:2, 3).

 

We must be cautious, but we must not fear or hate. God calls us to love Muslims so much that we are willing to share life with those who know only death—the life of the Gospel.

 

Won’t you pray for how God wants you to love Muslims this year? Steal Satan’s captives! Prevent more terror by helping bring Muslims to Christ in Iran, in America, and everywhere.

Related Articles:

Howell Jr., Tom. “Chris Coons, Delaware Senator, Calls on White House to Punish Iran.” The Washington Times.

 

Baker, Peter. “Balancing Terror and Reality in State of the Union Address.” The New York Times, January 11, 2016.

Obeidallah, Dean. “Donald Trump’s Horrifying Words about Muslims (Opinion) – CNN.com.” CNN. Accessed January 12, 2016.

Should the US Accept Syrian Refugees?

As fallout from recent Islamic State (ISIS) attacks in Paris continues, more than half of the United State’s governors have said they will bar Syrian refugees from coming to their states because they pose a great risk to national security. New Jersey governor and presidential candidate Chris Christie declared his state would not take in any refugees—“not even orphans under the age of five.”maxresdefault

Congress has also joined in, voting on November 26 to make the process for Syrian and Iraqi refugees coming to the U.S. more difficult.

The issue is far from simple, and I respect that even Christians will have varied opinions on the right course of action. Yet this is what is on my heart:

  1. As Christ-followers we must have compassion for those who suffer.

The parable of the Good Samaritan instructs us to be sensitive even to the needs of our enemies (Luke 10:25–27). Many Old and New Testament verses teach us to serve strangers and refugees (Lev. 19:33–34, Heb. 13:2). So as Christ-followers, we must help these refugees. Thank God many Christian organizations are already helping the Syrian refugee camps in Turkey and Europe and because of them, many refugees are becoming Christ followers. Let us also not forget that the United States was founded by refugees.

In terms of mission opportunities, refugees are right now the most open Muslim group to the Gospel. We Christians should share God’s love and the Gospel with them. Many will respond to that. The American Church should step out of its comfort zone and take advantage of this great mission opportunity. Moreover, a good number of these refugees are already Christians. Are we not called at least to help our brothers and sisters in Christ?

  1. Yet we must be wise and alert.

The Lord admonishes us in Matthew 10:16 to be as wise and alert as serpents, understanding the cunning of our enemies. ISIS sends people pretending to be refugees to infiltrate western countries such as the U.S. They come with the mission to start hidden cells for ISIS and to recruit American youth.

I know from experience that some of Iran’s “Christian” refugees have been Islamic government agents trying to infiltrate western countries and Iranian Christian communities worldwide. Iran’s government boasts that they have spies and agents in every western country who are supported by the host country because they entered as a refugee. Not surprisingly, these pretend refugees are usually supplied with false but compelling evidence documenting their torture while many Christians who have truly suffered for their faith have little documentation to verify their stories.

So we must extend compassion with our eyes wide open.

  1. We are already conquered if we let fear rule us.

I think that maybe especially due to the recent events in France, many in Congress and some governors have acted out of fear. A priority goal for ISIS is to spread fear (terror) worldwide. This is how they gain power. If we act out of fear, they have accomplished their objective.

Please pray with me that more and more refugees will hear the Gospel and discover and embrace God’s perfect love.

 

“Perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).

 

Recommended Reading: “Syrian Refugees in America: Separating Fact from Fiction in the Debate”