My heart is heavy as once again a person professing allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has carried out an attack on Western soil in Orlando and now in Istanbul, Turkey. Toward the end of last year, I said I hoped that I was wrong, but that we would begin seeing an increase in terror events in Western cities (along with ongoing terror in nonwestern cities). I am greatly grieved by the horrendous mass shooting in an Orlando, Florida, nightclub and the mass killing in Istanbul’s international airport. That follows the Paris terror event and the San Bernardino terror event and the Belgian airport bombing, but I am not surprised. I wish I were.
God is moving in important ways in the Muslim world, but so is the enemy. How we respond to this event in coming days matters to God’s kingdom. For that reason, let me once again address the problem that we face.
Our Natural Instinct Is to Blame Outwardly and Move Inwardly
These gunmen are dead, and it is natural that people want answers that he can no longer give. We want to know who we can blame for his actions and what can we do to prevent the next random attack. We failed to prevent the loss of life in Orlando and Istanbul , and we desperately want to prevent terror in the future.
As a nation, the U.S. is lashing out in the dark right now at anything and everything that might contribute to the next attack. The news media and political figures have focused on several details of the attack: Orlando’s terrorist attack was the worst mass shooting in America, with 49 dead and 53 injured. The attack singled out gay men. The attacker used guns that he was licensed to own. The gunman was Muslim.
The nation and investigators will spend the week and month trying to determine what group has the greatest fault for allowing this senseless tragedy to happen. Some will follow the president in refusing to blame the attack on radical Islam and will fault the violence instead to a lingering anti-gay sentiment in the U.S. Some will blame our law enforcement for failing to sniff out this man’s intentions when they checked his background for his security job or when they investigated him for a Syrian connection in 2013. Some will be encouraged by current efforts in Congress to reign in gun ownership. And some will follow those who think that by banning every Muslim from the U.S., we will protect ourselves. None of these approaches will prevent the next attack.
When people are afraid, their natural instinct is to retreat to a “safe zone”—to a zone filled with people like themselves, like-minded, like-religioned, and like-skinned. After an event like this massacre, Christians and Muslims alike will move inward and allow suspicion and fear to grow stronger between them. But is this the best way for us to respond to acts of terror?
True Islam Requires Adherents to Hate Outwardly and Persecute Inwardly
Despite the many possible causes investigators and the media are blaming for the attack, the truth is that the gunman in Orlando revealed his motive. He called 911 to declare that the attack was an act of allegiance to ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS). We do not know if the shooter was present three months earlier when an imam in Orlando preached death as the correct response to homosexuals. But we do know that the imam did preach what Islam teaches: that gays should be executed. And we do know that the shooter targeted the Pulse club because it caters to gay men.
I have said many times that despite many Muslims who live peacefully in the U.S. and who proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace, the holy book of Islam and the works of its prophet show a religion of violence. The teachings of the Quran and Muhammed call for violence against “infidels.” Americans Muslims are not so much radicalized by ISIS as they hear the teachings of the imams and discover that true Islam looks like ISIS, and they want to follow true Islam. And true Islam requires that its adherents hate infidels. What we call “Radical Muslims” are indeed just “Committed Muslims.”
Does this mean we should agree with those who wish to call all Muslims terrorists and ban them from our country or severely restrict their freedom here?
Christ Asks Us to Love Outwardly and Forgive Inwardly
Whether by a Muslim or someone else, terror attacks occur because of hate. The more we marginalize other human beings, the more we will contribute to a culture that explodes with hatred. Christ calls us to something radically different. Yes, we are to love and pray for those in office, even when they do not follow our agenda. Yes, Jesus tells us to radically love those who offend us, to pray for those who do not yet know him, to forgive those who hurt us and to share with them how we were also forgiven.
So what does this mean? How should we prepare for and avoid terror? If we are to follow Jesus, the way to prepare for and avoid terror is to love our enemy and to share the Good News with those who most want to do us harm.
Many Muslims do want a peaceful religion. They just do not know the right way to find it. We must show them. Muslims who wish to make Islam a peaceful religion find that they have to ignore much of what Islam teaches. If a Muslim wants to know a God of peace, they must find the God who became our peace—and that is Jesus. There is no other way.
We Must Be Ready to Share Peace
Muslims transformed by the God and by the love of transformed Christians do not shoot masses of people. It is true that we must wisely recognize the harmful intent of the Islamic agenda while at the same time see the vast numbers of Muslims ready to come to Christ in the West and even in the Middle East and Iran if only we are willing to share Christ’s love with them. These terror events force Muslims everywhere to look harder at their religion and see it for what it is. Many Muslims worldwide are coming to Christ even now, especially in Iran.
How should we live with the threat of terror? We can become an army of love like the underground church of Iran. We should refuse to allow suspicion and blame to divide us and paralyze us. We should move even faster, stronger, and bolder to love the one who hates us and even hates his own people and make Christ known among them. I pray that you will ask God how you can begin doing this even now.
To the Glory of God and the transforming of Iran.
Iran will be a Christian Country. In part 1 and part 2 of this series, I showed how the Bible supports this claim and the research confirms it. Now let me share how we are seeing this transformation happen before our very eyes every day.
Reason 3: Our Numbers Confirm That Many People of Iran Are Trusting Christ
God used me to plant six churches among Iranian Muslims in northern California. Following the 9/11 attacks, on December 1, 2001, we bought one hour of broadcast time from a secular satellite TV station to share the love of God with millions of Iranian Muslims in the privacy of their homes. From day one, we saw a great response.
Over the last 14 years, we have collected the names of over 32,000 people who either prayed with us to receive Christ or told us that they had done so while watching our TV programs. From experience, we know that this number represents only a fraction of those who have received Christ. Many choose to follow Jesus but do not reach out with a dangerous phone call or email to tell us.
In 2011, we moved to Dallas to start a 24/7 Satellite TV channel because we wanted to establish God’s Church in Iran while the window of opportunity was open. I am not a typical televangelist, and our channel is not a typical Western-style Christian channel. I am a pastor and a church planter, and our channel delivers the services of a church to every home. By His grace, we have planted hundreds of underground house churches in over 100 cities in Iran!
Our goal is not just conversion but transformation. We want them to become growing disciples of Jesus, being transformed and at the same time transforming those around them. As an example, let me share with you Ali’s story.
Ali is a young man in his early twenties in Iran who didn’t believe in God and who used alcohol and girls to find peace and change the monotonous emptiness of his life. Feeling lonely when he went away to college, he went to a gym where a man began sharing his testimony and stories from the Bible with him.
Here is what Ali wrote to us in a prayer request for his parents:
Week after week, this teacher told me stories. The further we went on, the more I became closer to God and knew Him. I realized that Christ was my savior. When I learned that, I felt I had finally found the half of me that was missing. It was a strange feeling I had never experienced before. Now I really feel God, and I can’t deny his presence.
Through this man’s teaching and your teaching through your satellite television programs, I found out more about God and understood that I must daily live with Him and obey His word. I read the Bible stories to seven friends, and I thank God that they all came to believe in Jesus, too. When we obeyed God’s word, our lives began to change.
All I want now is to give God’s word to anyone who wants God in his life. Please pray for my parents. I read the stories to them, but they have a political background and they are afraid. They think I may be killed, and my father is sick because of that thought. They have put much force on me to stop and will not let me leave my house or serve God by seeing my groups and sharing God’s word. It’s my dream to be God’s coworker. Please pray that these restrictions will be lifted soon.
In a very short time, Ali changed from a young man that lived for partying to a young man who lives—and is willing to die—for God. We have many, many more stories just like his. Our goal is discipleship that brings about transformation.
My dear friends, Jesus said, “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Contrary to natural appearances, it is “day” in Iran. The Lord has opened the spiritual eyes of Iranians to see the Light.
Would you pray with me that the church in the West will wake up to this unique historical opportunity before it is too late? Indeed the Lord has done His part to open that nation spiritually through 35 years of oppressive Islamic rule. He is also giving visions, dreams and miracles to many people there. As I say often, I believe He says to His Church: “Look! I love these people. I am doing my part. Come and do your part as I have commanded you.”
How will you respond?
Category: Lives Transformed
Tags: visions in iran, shabakeh 7, televangelism in iran, christians in iran, iran becoming a christian country, underground church iran
Seymore, Julia A. “Christianity Thrives in Iran Despite Severe Persecution.” ChristianHeadlines.com, April 4, 2016.
Chui, Angie. “Underground Churches Thriving in Iran despite Persecution.” Christian Today: World, April 7, 2016.
In a previous post, I explained that the Bible says Iran will become a Christian nation. Even as Islamic terrorists bomb airports and subways in Brussels, even as a disgruntled Muslim Taliban member in Lahore, Pakistan, bombed women and children celebrating Easter at an amusement park, God is right now drawing the people of Iran to Himself in the greatest defeat of Islam in its 14 centuries of existence.
How can I say this?
Reason 2: The Research Confirms That Iran Is Becoming a Christian Nation
Establishing an exact number of people following a forbidden faith in a closed country is difficult, but there are processes that help us.
Operation World is a well-known and respected missions research organization that publishes a manual reviewing the condition of every nation in the world. Its latest edition lists Iran as the fastest growing evangelical population in the world, with yearly growth at 19.6 percent. That means the number of Christians in Iran is doubling almost every four years.
In 1979, at the time of the Islamic Revolution, there were less than 500 Muslim Background Believers (MBB’s) in Iran.
By early 2012, Open Doors, a nondenominational organization tracking Christian persecution, estimated that at least 370,000 new Christians from a Muslim background had been added to the rolls, with further growth continuing explosively. Today a conservative estimate of total Christians in Iran puts the number around two million. Iran as a nation has rejected Islam. After 35 years of Islamic rule, the people of Iran have concluded, “Islam is not the answer, but the problem.” As a result, in Iran right now, Islam is experiencing its greatest defeat in history.
The work is far from done, however. The government of Iran and the Revolutionary Guard continue to put obstacles in the way of sharing the Gospel. They are afraid of the growth of Christianity in Iran because they have been powerless to stop it despite arrests, persecution, and torture. They have closed all church buildings, yet they know that the number of MBB’s and underground house churches are growing.
So we can expect the persecution to increase as more and more Muslim-born Iranians turn to Christ.
Will the government be able to stop the nation from becoming a Christian country? God willing, I don’t believe so. By God’s grace, we are seeing the underground church spread throughout the nation, and an “army” of transformed, discipled Christians are loving their family members and neighbors into the arms of Christ.
This transformation that is changing a nation will be the subject of my next post.
Are you shocked? You are not alone. Most people are shocked when I say that Iran will be a Christian country. I don’t blame them. They have formed their view of Iran based on the information they receive from the secular news sources. As a result, when they think of Iran, they may think of nuclear bombs, threats to “wipe Israel off the map,” and chants of “Death to America.”
Knowing what is happening inside Iran, I have a different view.
Over the next several weeks, I will unpack for you the reasons for my confident statement.
Reason 1: The Bible Says So
Many Christians are familiar with Jeremiah 3:17 where the Lord promises that He will set His throne in Jerusalem:
“At that time they will call Jerusalem The Throne of the LORD, and all nations will gather in Jerusalem to honor the name of the LORD. No longer will they follow the stubbornness of their evil hearts.” (NIV11)
This prophecy is indeed an amazing and encouraging statement, inclusive of not only people of Jewish heritage but also “all nations.” Yet I do not rely merely on God’s promise that “all nations” will subject themselves to His throne when I declare that Iran will be a Christian nation.
In Jeremiah 49:38, God specifically declares, “I will set my throne in Elam.” (Elam is an ancient, biblical name for a region that is a part of Iran today.) Most Christians are unaware of this prophecy, made in the sixth century before Christ and as yet unfulfilled.
But what does it mean that the Lord will set His throne in Iran? I believe it means more than seeing millions coming to Christ, as is currently happening in Iran, or having a country with churches on every corner. I live in Dallas, Texas, where a great number of Christians and large churches populate the area, yet I do not think the Lord would say that His throne is established in Dallas.
I believe our Savior would say this only when He is worshipped by the nation and obeyed in every area of personal conduct, in families, the marketplace, the media, and in education, art, and the government. Yes, this is the future of Iran according to Jeremiah 49:38! Do you believe it? I know when you look at the secular news, believing that Iran will be a Christian nation might seem too big a leap of faith. But the Bible says so, and that settles it.
In times like ours, where widespread war and terrorism make it seem like the enemy has the upper hand, fear of the future often rules our hearts. But the Bible clearly declares God’s victory over physical and spiritual evil in Iran and the world. What are you doing to join God in making it happen? Are you hindering or helping the cause? I pray that you would consider the times and the opportunity before us.
Even as terrorists bomb airports and subways in Brussels, God is drawing the people of Iran to himself in the greatest defeat of Islam there in history. How can I say this? The research confirms it. I will share more on this with you in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, especially as we celebrate this week our Lord’s victory on the cross, I pray that when your neighbor or coworker despairs over the battle against Islam, you will tell him or her, “Iran will be a Christian nation, God willing, in our generation.” Then, as the Lord leads, partner with me to make it so.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.