ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and (greater) Syria.
They are the coalition of Sunni forces in Iraq and Syria.
Their immediate goal is to topple two Shiite governments in Iraq and Syria.
Their intermediate goal is to have a unified Sunni state that covers the whole region including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Israel.
Their long-term goal is to bring back a worldwide rule of Caliphates. They believe that they are mandated by the Quran to do so and use as much violence as needed to accomplish that goal.
They are much stronger than Al-Qaeda in numbers, unity, and finances. They have performed mass executions, even including women and children. They are so violent and brutal that Al-Qaeda looks conservative and moderate comparatively.
When in power, they will be the number one source of terrorism in the world.
Major events are happening in Iraq. They can have biblical significance regarding the prophecies for that region. Many Americans have asked me how the current events in Iraq are impacting Iran. Over the next several days, I will answer 5 questions, which I hope will help you better understand the situation.
What is happening in Iraq?
A Sunni group called ISIS is trying to take over Iraq by force. They already have control of many cities in the north and east of Iraq.
It is possible that Iraq as a country will cease to exist soon and divide into 3 countries: Shiite (south), Kurds (far north), Sunnis (north and west).
Saddam was a Sunni and suppressed the Shiites, who are the majority in Iraq. The new government under Jalal Talabani is ruled by Shiites. It has fired top officials that were Sunnis and in general, have marginalized the minority Sunnis in Iraq. So Sunnis in Iraq have joined forces with Sunnis in Syria to topple the Shiite Iraqi government.
Thursday March 20th, Iranians rang in the Persian New Year. Nowruz, meaning “new day,” always begins on the first day of spring. It represents two ancient symbolic concepts: Ending and Rebirth, or, more specifically, the ending of evil and rebirth of good.
Awaiting arrival of Nowruz, Iranians prepare the haft sin, or the seven ‘S’s. The haft sin sofreh includes seven items starting with the letter S:
sabzeh – sprouts, symbolizing rebirth
samanu – a sweet pudding made from wheat germ symbolizing affluence
senjed – the dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love
siib – apple, symbolizing beauty
somaq – sumac, symbolizing sunrise
serkeh – vinegar, symbolizing age and patience
sombol – hyacinth, to denote the coming of spring
For the remaining thirteen days of the New Year celebration, Iranians gather together and celebrate. Relatives come and visit the older members of the family and in return, the elders pay their respect by visiting them back. On the last day, as is the tradition, Iranians picnic in the suburbs, dance, sing, and play outside until the night forces them back to their homes.
The clerical establishment ruling Iran have long tried to stop Iranians from celebrating their long tradition of Nowruz. Even under though the people of Iran are under constant oppression, they have not given in and continue to be proud of their Persian heritage and cling to the hope of a fresh start.
Lets us pray that with this New Year that love will conquer hate and that the people of Iran will meet the only Source of true hope, Jesus.
Sometimes simple statements make large impressions. A few weeks ago, I received a brief email of encouragement from one of our Church 7 viewers inside Iran:
Hello Pastor Hormoz,
Today we participated in Church 7 with a few friends. Thank you so much for everything you do. Here in Iran, we count the days for the live Church broadcast.
Amir’s comments were short, but very sweet to me and our staff. With no other option available to 97% of the believers inside of Iran, Satellite TV provides the only source of spiritual nourishment and encouragement for these hungry people.
Join me in praying for Amir and the hundreds of thousands of believers in Iran who live under the constant threat of persecution for their faith in Christ. May the Lord grant them grace and mercy as they seek to know and follow Him.
Our Counseling Center Ministry recently passed this email from one of our viewers to me. I was greatly touched, as I know you will be, by the Lord’s great mercy and grace in the life of this young lady. Here is the message:
My name is Elizeh. I have a 16 year-old daughter who suffers from depression has often threatened us with committing suicide. As you can imagine, this has caused a great deal of concern for us.
We always watch the Church7 programs but my daughter would never pay any attention to them. One day, when we were watching the program, my daughter was not staring at the wall like she usually did, but she was actually listening. All of the sudden, she walked to the TV and placed her hand on it and started to cry out loud and said, “God I need you and I want to be your daughter!”
The whole family was in tears. As Pastor Hormoz was praying the salvation pray, she repeated after him and gave her heart to Christ.
Ever since then, we have seen great joy in her face. God has given her back to us. I want to thank each and every one of you for the love that you show us through Church7. We pray that you will always stand firm in Christ.
May we see millions of Iranians experience the life transforming power that comes only through our Lord. To Him alone be the glory!
*As with all of my posts, names and faces have been changed to protect the identities of those involved.
Recently, I received a touching email from one of our Church 7 members via our Counseling Center Ministry. God is penetrating the hearts of Iranians unlike any other time in history. Amir is being transformed through hearing God’s Word and applying it’s teachings to his life. Here is what he wrote to me:
Dear Pastor Hormoz,
I would like to share a testimony regarding the topic of the Samaritan woman, which you have been preaching about for the past few weeks.
I always tried to have a good relationship with my family and others, but it had been so difficult for me and I prefer to be alone because these relationships have caused me so much sadness and stress in the past.
When I heard the sermon, Christ met me like He met the Samaritan woman and changed my life. I now love to meet new people, spend time with my family and I even love my enemies. It is so strange, but I do not feel like I did before and I am not upset with anyone anymore.
I have a joy that comes from the inside and I like to transfer this joy to others. I really receive more than I give and I enjoy these relationships with people in ways that I never thought I could. Now I understand what life is really all about.
Thank you for teaching God’s Word to me. I am grateful for you all.
Please join me in continuing to pray that millions of Iranians will be transformed by the Word of God, just like Amir!
As you know from reading my previous posts, there are no above ground churches inside Iran. Until a few months ago, there was actually one building church, the Central Church of Iran, that was allowed to exist. It was highly regulated and everyone who walked in the door was registered with the government. Many of them were harassed and persecuted as a result, even though the church was allowed to exist.
It too has been closed, leaving every Christian in the country with the choice of finding an underground house church, or plugging in to Church 7, our global satellite Church for Iran. You can read more about this strategy in my post, “Our House Was Converted into a Church”.
Below, I have copied an email we just received from a Church 7 member, whose family found themselves orphaned after the Central Church of Iran closed it’s doors. I know you will find it encouraging. There is no doubt the Lord is using Satellite TV to transform Iran into a Christian nation in this generation.
My name is Amir and I am a member of Church 7. Through this letter, I want to thank you for not leaving us alone. You provide food for us who are alone in Iran.
My wife and I always cancel our plans on Friday nights in order to participate in Church 7. Sometimes we even invite friends to come to Church with us by telling people that Church has not been closed after all. We record all of Church 7 programs and when we gather with our friends, we watch them and worship together.
The Lord has been faithful, just as he promised, and has not left us alone. Even after the closing of the Central Church of Iran, of which we were members, we have not become orphans. We have a Church to go to, where we worship and receive our teachings.
I want you to know that we love you all and to let you know that for us, your programs are a living hope.
One of the ministers in our Counseling Center Ministry gave me this note of encouragement from a Church 7 member/viewer inside Iran. I think you will find it encouraging as well. It beautifully illustrates the openness of the people of Iran to the Gospel and their distrust of Islam.
My name is Mahmoud (name changed for security) and I am contacting you from Iran. I am a member of Church 7 and love you all.
My friends an I used to attend the prayer meetings held by the Mullahs. They would always say bad things and curse at Christians, Jews and other religions. They always thought that they were better then everyone else. You guys are different than the Mullahs here. You are full of love and kindness. I wish that everyone here was more like you.
When I watch the Church 7 programs, I see that you guys even pray for your enemies. This is very touching and it caused me to feel a change in my spirit. I am so happy that I have found Jesus and know that I will be living with God the rest of my days.
I pray for all of you. Continue doing what you do because we need you guys!
I have previously written about the amazing fact that Iran is home to the fastest growing Evangelical population in the world according to the extensive research of Operation World. Considering that at the time of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, there were an estimated 500 total believers in Iran, compared with 1 million by conservative estimates today, it is not difficult to see the tangible expression of Operation World’s research.
Due to the stifling persecution of Christians by the Iranian government and resulting reluctance of believers to trust the security of plugging into community with people they do not know, the most liberal estimates assume that 30,000 people are members of underground house churches inside Iran.
While this is worth celebrating, it is also merits noting that there are at least 970,000 believers inside Iran who have no connection to fellowship with other believers. This is a staggering reality that must be addressed.
This June, we launched an initiative called Church 7, which is intended to concentrate on meeting the needs of these 97% of believers who desperately long for a church community. Because of the power of Satellite TV safely and privately bring the Gospel into the homes of millions of Persians, we are able to create a church service for a nation.
Rather than broadcasting a service from an existing church with a congregation, where the viewer is simply an observer, we have a very simple set and let the viewers know that they are the church. Every Friday, which the the weekly holy day of Shia Islam and a holiday for all Iranians, we have church in Iran!
We are in the process of developing programming throughout the week that will meet the needs of the Body. For example, on Wednesday nights, the youth will watch “gather” for youth group and watch a special program intended for their development, like any church with a Youth Ministry. The same will be true throughout the week for Men’s and Women’s Ministry, Marriage, Singles, Children, etc…
This is a very exciting time to be engaged in Kingdom Building in Iran!
Below, I have copied a Facebook post from one of our newest Church 7 members. I think you will be encouraged have a greater understanding of the potential of this opportunity:
Hello Dear Brother,
We thank God that after a long time we experienced being at Church.
Yesterday when your program started, we placed our chairs in front of the TV, put on our best clothes, brought our Bibles and sat in front of the TV. We worshiped, heard a sermon and took notes. Our house was converted into Church.
Dear brother, our spirits were lifted. I don’t know how to thank God for the fact that we now belong to a Church. Our prayers have been heard. The doors have opened. Thank you Father, thank you.
Please accept us as your members.
Praise God for you. Praise for Christ who is alive.
Be strong and go forth. We are praying for you all.
We love you guys so much. I feel like we are old relatives. I feel like I have known you for many years.