Persian New Year, Nowruz – Ending & Rebirth

Haft Sin on the Iran Alive Ministries (Network 7) set
Haft Sin on the Iran Alive Ministries (Network 7) set

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:

  1. sabzeh – sprouts, symbolizing rebirth
  2. samanu –  a sweet pudding made from wheat germ symbolizing affluence
  3. senjed –  the dried fruit of the oleaster tree, symbolizing love
  4. siib –  apple, symbolizing beauty
  5. somaq – sumac, symbolizing sunrise
  6. serkeh – vinegar, symbolizing age and patience
  7. 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.

Counting the Days

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

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.

From Depression to Hope

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:

Hello,

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.

Elizeh

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.

Transforming the Masses by Reaching a Few

Without question, Satellite TV is a tremendous vehicle for reaching vast numbers of people with the saving Message of the Gospel.  In Iran, it is the safest, most effective and efficient method of reaching millions of people who are hungry for hope.

We believe that a conservative estimate of viewers of our network to be between 3 million and 6 million people inside Iran at any given time.  When you consider that there are around 1 million believers in Iran, the overwhelming majority of our viewers are Muslims who are seeking and not yet followers of Christ.  Many of these people are high-ranking government officials, top businessmen and key politicians who are looking for hope themselves.

Recently, one of these men called our Counseling Center Ministry to tell of his experience watching our programming.  Watch the video to hear his story and learn more about our 2-fold strategy.

Transformed by God’s Word

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“Thank you for teaching God’s Word to me. I am grateful for you all.” —Amir

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.

Amir

Please join me in continuing to pray that millions of Iranians will be transformed by the Word of God, just like Amir!

“What do You Want with a Bible?”

Just yesterday, a woman called in to our live broadcast into Iran and talked with me on air for about 10 minutes.  The topic of the program was Being the Light of Christ in Your Work Environment.Bible in Chains

Convicted by the challenge to operate in the work environment as salt and light to those around her, without engaging in dishonest practices common in the professional climate, this businesswoman began to share her struggles with the tension of her “Work” persona, and her “Christian” identity.

As we worked through this complex issue, I asked her how she became attracted to Christ in the first place.  Her answer, while not uncommon, encouraged and astonished me nonetheless.

Realizing that Islam only instills hopelessness and fear in people, she began a search for something else.  She knew that if there was a God, He simply could not be like the distant, uncaring God she knew from Islam.

After trying Zoroastrianism, an ancient Persian religion based on pantheistic beliefs, she decided to look for a Bible.  If you know anything about Iran and the government restrictions surrounding any non-Muslim religious activity, you understand that finding a Bible is a difficult and dangerous task.

She decided to try a small bookstore.  Cautiously and with much fear, she quietly asked the owner if he happened to know where she might be able to find a small Bible.

Shocked, the owner looked around the store and waited until no one else was around and asked, “What do you want with a Bible?”

She explained that she wanted to find out more about Jesus and didn’t know where else to look.  Disappearing to the back of the shop for a few moments, the owner returned and said, “I have one.”  He handed her the Bible and within days, she was transformed into a Follower of Christ!

My staff is working to translate the video, which I will post so that you can see firsthand, this amazing testimony.

God is about the business of transforming Iran into a Christian nation in this generation!  What a privilege to see it happen before our very eyes.

Iran’s Nuclear Agreement: A Good Deal or a Bad Deal?

John Kerry & Javad Zarif
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif at a recent meeting

Iran will temporarily halt parts of its nuclear program and allow for more inspection; in return, the West will provide immediate relief from some of the sanctions and will impose no new sanctions for six months.

Last week’s nuclear agreement between Iran and the western powers was historical.  To some, it may even seem to be a breakthrough given the tenuous relationships shared by Iran and the West. However, reading the news is confusing as some news articles report that it was a “total victory and a great step forward,” while others surmised, “it was a total failure.”

So which is it?  Was it a good deal or a bad deal? The answer depends on the perspective from which the deal is evaluated. Below, I look at this deal and make evaluations of my own, considering 5 unique perspectives from those who will be impacted most deeply.

It was a bad deal for Israel and the Gulf countries

  1. Since 1979, Israel and the Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Emirates have been afraid of Iran. Countries in the region such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria have watched Iran aggressively increase its influence. They feel that a nuclear-armed Iran will pose a serious danger to their respected national security. They also believe that Iran will at least use its nuclear arsenal to bully them and the rest of its neighbors. Iran is already doing that now, but with a nuclear bomb, its bullying and meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region will increase dramatically.  This new deal does not remove the danger to Israel and Gulf countries, but increases it exponentially.
  2. Netanyahu has called this deal “a historic mistake” and has stated, “it turns the world into a much scarier place.” For the first time Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are agreeing with Israel.

It was a bad deal for the US and President Obama’s credibility

  1. It damaged the US’s relationship with Israel and important allies such as Saudi Arabia.
  2. Some have called it a “fool’s deal” as it seems that the West has agreed to an immediate action, (removing some of the sanctions, stopping the addition of new sanctions, and releasing 7 billion dollars of Iranian assets), in return for unverifiable promises in the future.

It was a good deal for the government of Iran

  1. As Obama is under fire and trying to defend the deal in the US, the government of Iran is celebrating their perceived victory.
  2. Iran got money and time to continue its nuclear program with little more commitment than a promise to not build new centrifuges in the next 6 months. The deal, however, left the nuclear infrastructure intact. Iran now has the money to do what it wants to continue with its nuclear program plans and goals.
  3. This deal helps Iran to prepare better for possible future sanctions. So even if new sanctions are imposed in 6 months, it will not have as much impact as it could have.
  4. Iran knows that President Obama does not want to go to war, which puts the US in a weaker position. Iran has been declaring that they are not afraid to go to war and that they are ready for it. They feel they have caused Obama to blink and agree to a favorable deal for their purposes.

It was a good deal for the lives of people in Iran (physically)

  1. It has an immediate impact in increasing the value of Iranian currency (more purchasing power)
  2. It seems to postpone the possibility of war. The possible attack on Iran, when it happens, will bring much suffering to the people of Iran and will take the lives of so many innocent Christian and Muslim people.
  3. This deal takes away the fear of imminent attack on Iran which has put stress in the hearts of the ordinary citizens of Iran for the last two years. People of Iran will live in less fear for at least the next six months.
  4. The people of Iran are happy about this deal because it gives them temporary relief. All the Iranians that I have talked to are convinced that the Iranian government deceived the West to get this deal and soon will find out that this was a deception and reinstate the strict sanctions and threats of military attacks. When I ask them what they think about this deal, many just laugh and say, “Americans are so naïve.”

It was a bad deal: for the lives of people in Iran (spiritually)

  1. This deal gives the people of Iran a false hope. They have been open spiritually because they have been living in fear and hopelessness for so many years. This new deal gives them a false hope and reduces their fear. This may cause them to be less open spiritually.
  2. It distracts them. They feel they have 6 months to secure themselves and prepare for the hardship that is coming. They will be busy making money and spending it for an unknown and unstable future. This can distract them from spiritual pursuit.

Join me in praying:

That the Lord will postpone the war and give the people of Iran a chance to know Him.

That the people of Iran will not invest in a false hope, but that their hopelessness will lead them to the true source of eternal hope: Jesus Christ.

Nuclear Deal with Iran – Joel C. Rosenberg’s Perspective

Iran Nuclear Deal
Now What?

My dear friend and Middle East expert, Joel C. Rosenberg (@joelcrosenberg), has been posting his thoughts on the nuclear deal recently struck by the US, Russia, Germany, UK, France and China with Iran.

I highly recommend reading his most recent post, as he highlights the major points of the deal and gives wonderful insight regarding the implications on Israel and the West.

In the coming days, I am going to post my own thought on the issue, from the perspective of Iranians…specifically those who follow Jesus.  Check back for these posts, as I will provide a unique perspective that may be helpful as you learn about the impact of this significant event.

“We Are No Longer Orphans”

Although illegal to own, satellite dishes are pervasive inside Iran
Although illegal to own, satellite dishes are pervasive inside Iran

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.

Hello,

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.

Amir

“We Need You Guys!”

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A family watching satellite TV

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!