Qasem Soleimani Assassination: Impact on Iranian Christians

This entry is part [part not set] of 3 in the series Understanding the Impact of Soleimani Assassination

Iran’s government has been heading down a troubled path for many years. In this third post, I consider what we may expect spiritually in Iran in the coming months.

The Iranian government is between a rock and a hard place. It has too many multifaceted problems and is fighting too many unwinnable wars. Besides their internal problems, now they must respond to Trump’s action and threats. These issues impact how the government will treat Christians and how the people will respond to the gospel message. 

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.

Funeral of Qasem Soleimani, Tehran, Iran on 6 January 2020.
Photo: Maryam Kamyab and Mohammad Mohsenifar
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

The Islamic Regime’s Problems

  1. Bad economy. The economy is bad because of sanctions, poor decisions, and weak economic infrastructures. Iran can solve none of it. A lack of financial resources will continue to pressure the government. They have been reducing subsidies. If they become unable to pay salaries to government employees and especially the revolutionary guards, the whole government will implode. Even if they suddenly want to shore up the economy’s foundation, they cannot because the system is not designed for such corrective action. So the economy is an unsolvable problem for them. 

  2. Corrupt government. Corruption is so rampant that it has become an integral part of how the government governs. The US$150 billion that they received under Obama’s administration sped up corruption in Iran. Many people in power wanted a piece of that pie. Those who want to eradicate corruption cannot do it because the top clergy and their families are the major players in it. So corruption is another unsolvable problem for them. 

  3. Oppositional population. The people are against them. They came on the streets to protest the economy, and they faced bullets. As a result, their hatred of the government and even Islam itself has increased. The regime reportedly killed over 1,500 people within the past two months. They have not allowed the families of the dead to gather and mourn, and they arrested those who tried. That means the parents of some of those who were killed are now in jail because they publicly mourned the loss of their son or daughter. The government has lost the people’s heart, and there is no way to gain it back.

  4. Military Threat. Now they have President Trump threatening them with action. It started with the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, but Trump made it very clear that he is ready for more. They have no solution for that. If they do nothing, they look weak. For 40 years, they have lied to the people of Iran, telling them that Iran is a superpower. Now they are in danger of being found out and losing respect and credibility. This threat may give people hope that their government is not as strong as it claims and that it could be toppled. If so, this hope will encourage them to continue their protests and oppositions. 

The Spiritual Impact

  1. More salvations. I predict that in the next six months, we will have an accelerated number of Iranian Muslims who will come to Christ. This expectation is not new. We saw a similar occurrence ten years ago. During the Green Movement in 2009, the government killed, raped, and tortured many people. The government’s brutality unmasked the true face of Islam to many: a heartless religion that devalues human life. Because of what they saw, many people who were undecided about Islam beforehand became sure that Islam is not the way. Thus, they became open to the message of the gospel. Even some fanatic Muslims—people who were sold out to Islam and opposed Christianity just a few months prior—came to Christ. How do we know? Because they contacted us and shared their stories. Likewise, we expect that in the next six months, we will see a surge in salvations among those who used to be devoted Muslims—even among the clergy and government officials!

  2. Fewer persecutions—temporarily. Because the government has too many problems to fight, for the next few months they will not focus on destroying Christianity as they have when they have had the money and time. If their negotiations prove successful, however, and they can bring back a more normal situation to Iran, then they will start a new wave of Christian persecution. 

  3. More intense persecution. They will arrest fewer people, but they will act harshly toward them—that is, long jail terms and even execution. They will want to make an example out of the few they arrest to put fear in the hearts of other Christians and stop them from evangelizing, fellowshiping with other Christians, or connecting to organizations outside Iran such as Iran Alive. As Christianity grows and the government feels more out of control, it will intensify the persecution. 

  4. Greater opportunity for Christians to be salt and light. As the darkness grows, the light can have more impact because it has the power to destroy the darkness. Light in the midst of the darkness is easily seen and very attractive. So this is the time for Christians to be different. In the midst of the nation’s desperation and hopelessness, Christians can bring the hope of Christ. 

On our channel, we encourage Christians to behave differently than their culture expects. We ask them not to be afraid, not to lose hope, but to continue in faith, to love others, and to share their faith with others. We tell them that no matter what happens, even if there is a war, God will still be with them and stay faithful to His promises. We tell them, “Continue to show Christ to the people around you in your actions and talk because no matter what, you know that you are the winners. Iran will eventually be a Christian nation according to Jeremiah 49:38.”

These are critical times. What happens in Iran will impact the Middle East, and what happens in the Middle East will impact the world. Let’s be awake and alert. Let’s see where God is working and join him. 

What Can We Do?

Let’s listen to God more than we listen to the news. When we listen to the news, we will be reactionary—reacting to what has happened—that is, reacting to what Satan has done. But when we listen to God, we will be proactive. If we listen to the news more than God, then we will always be a few steps behind Satan because we must first hear what he is doing and then try to stop him. But when we listen to God first, we stay several steps ahead of Satan. God wants us to be proactive and be several steps ahead—not behind—what Satan is doing. God wants us to listen to him more than we listen to the news. 

Know the will of God and do it. This is the time to act. I have felt a great urgency in my soul the past few months that we should act and act now. With what we see happening in Iran now, I know that feeling of urgency was and is from the Lord. The time is short, and the days are evil. We must be wise and not fools. We must know the will of God and then do it (Eph. 5:15–17). Before us is a historic opportunity to make Iran the first Islamic nation that turns to Christ. We know it will surely happen because He promised it (Jer. 49:38), but we also know that He wants to accomplish His will through us. Let’s join together to do His will and make history in Iran and the Middle East. 

Why Are Persecuted Christians So Thankful?

You have probably read stories of persecuted Christians who have said with all sincerity that they were “honored to be tortured for Christ.” How is it that the persecuted church can be so thankful in the face of such horror, even death?

Persecuted Christians can indeed inspire and challenge us to be thankful no matter what circumstances we are in. But how do they do it? What motivates them to have that attitude of thankfulness? Here are some reasons that they are thankful even in hard situations. Maybe we can learn something from them.

1. They have first-hand experience of the transforming power of Jesus.

You see, when you come from darkness, you appreciate the light even more.

In America and the West, we often don’t realize how many Christian values have become an expected part of the culture. Yes, Western society has many problems, but we still value kindness, mercy, love, and human dignity as a part of our framework. We notice and are even outraged when these points of spiritual light are missing because we are used to them and take them for granted.

27119899 - open hands holding cross, symbol of christian faith

“You see, when you come from darkness, you appreciate the light even more.”

In Islamic countries, there is such spiritual darkness. People live with cruelty, judgment, and death as expected norms. In Islam, individual lives do not have much value. This kind of dark environment creates such hopelessness in people that Muslims who become Christians experience major change and joy.

From hatred to love, from hopelessness to hope, from darkness to light, from bondage to freedom—many Muslim-background Christians experience change in an extreme way.

This extreme change from darkness to light creates a great appreciation—thankfulness—for the One who brought about that change. And so these believers are willing and ready to suffer for Christ and not deny him, no matter how harsh the persecution.

2. They realize their desperate need for walking with Jesus.

Persecuted Christians easily realize that Jesus is all they need, so he is all they want. Walking daily with Jesus is not an option for them but a desperate need. Being willing to suffer for Christ is tied directly to thankfulness.

For many of us in the West, we know what Jesus did for us, but we do not see our desperate need to walk with him daily. If we do not read the Bible daily, pray regularly, or go to church weekly, we often don’t notice an immediate, negative impact in any kind of major or tangible way. For us, a vibrant, deep spiritual walk with the Holy Spirit seems optional. Therefore, for us in the West, we have to be intentional about remembering what Jesus has done for us. When we do that, we will be more thankful—and as a result, make a decision to walk with him daily.

3. They see suffering as a way to say “Thank You” to Jesus.

When persecuted Christians suffer for Christ, what they are doing is actively saying “Thank You” to Jesus in the best way they can. They are replying to his sacrifice with sacrifice of their own. And they are honored to do it!

Many persecuted Christians are even willing to give their lives for Jesus. Of course, Jesus does not ask such martyrdom from every believer. But we can still welcome suffering for him out of our thankfulness. The giving of time and finances is a sacrifice that the Lord recognizes and appreciates—especially when it is a result of our thankfulness for what he has done for us. It truly blesses him! Can you imagine the joy it is to know that Jesus feels blessed by something you do? The thanks you give him by willingly choosing to sacrifice your time, talents, and treasure for him?

In this season of thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to give your time and finances—not because you should, not because of obligation—but out of thankfulness.

Consider the darkness Jesus has delivered you from with his sacrifice. If you are thankful for the light, then reply with sacrificial thanks giving.

“We have to be intentional about remembering what Jesus has done for us. When we do that, we will be more thankful.”STACKED #GT Logo

Tuesday, November 28 is #GivingTuesday, a global thanksgiving movement that is helping to spread light throughout the world. If you are thankful for Jesus, would you partner with us and give sacrificially to what he is doing for Muslims and persecuted Christians in Iran?

Imagine the joy of Jesus when you say to him, “Thanks, it is an honor to serve you.”


To receive stories about persecuted Christians in Iran and learn more about how to support them and reach other Muslims hungry for the gospel, text “Iran” to 74784.


Related Articles:

Seymore, Julia A. “Christianity Thrives in Iran Despite Severe Persecution.” ChristianHeadlines.com, April 4, 2016.

Lessons from the Persecuted Church: Do You Take Jesus for Granted?

A 9/11 Prayer for American Unity

A prayer for unity between one another…and between us and God

 

At this anniversary of 9/11, I am reminded of how much I love America. This country is where I was saved and my life was changed. I got my education here, and I’ve served the Lord here for many years. I thank God for America.

Watch my message here.

But my heart grieves when I see Americans stepping away from God. Here we are free to worship Jesus, but He doesn’t always seem that important to us.

I am constantly humbled by our dear persecuted brothers and sisters in Iran—for them, to choose Christ is to choose to be transformed; it’s not just a conversion to another religion. What good would it do them to be persecuted for Christ but not have His peace? What good to claim His name but not new life?

Suffering Brings Unity

Yes, for these dear brothers and sisters, their circumstances drive them into a closer relationship with the Lord. Suffering can bring unity—both with God and with others who are suffering.

This unity with God and others is what I am praying on this 9/11 anniversary for America.

Disasters Bring Suffering

In the past few weeks, Americans have sadly seen much suffering in terms of fires and flood. Fires up and down the state of California have burned tens of thousands of acres and property.

California Fire
At least 19 large wildfires were burning across the state over Labor Day weekend, including a record fire in the Los Angeles area

 

People in Houston, Texas, are sorting through what remains after Hurricane Harvey dropped nearly four feet of water over a huge area.

Flood-Texas
A wide area along the coasts of Texas and Louisiana experienced devastation and record flooding August 25 to 29

And Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina are just beginning to see what must be done after the fury of Hurricane Irma.

Flood-Florida
After hitting hard several Caribbean islands, the record-breaking Hurricane Irma swept over the entire peninsula of Florida and into Georgia and South Carolina

Many, many people have lost loved ones, property, jobs, school, and hope for economic prosperity in the near future. This suffering is similar to what our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in Iran experience on a regular basis.

Are Disasters God’s Judgment?

Some people are saying that all these disasters are a judgment from God. I don’t know if we can make that claim or ever know that for sure. Disasters fall on the righteous and unrighteous alike. The difference is the end result.

So I am praying that through this suffering, more of us in America will come to God—that we will know and love and lean on Christ. I am praying that through this suffering, more of us in America will work to bring peace and comfort to our neighbors.

Romans 8:28 reminds us that God can use everything for our good. May all this suffering in America bring much good to the hearts and souls of America.

And may we always rise above our own suffering to help our persecuted brothers and sisters. If we have each other and God, we have much.

__________________________________

Category: Current Events

Keyword(s): praying for unity

Tags: persecuted church, anniversary of 9/11, God’s judgment, Christian transformation, suffering and loss

Related articles:

“Hurricane Irma’s Path of Destruction Retraced.” NBC News. Accessed September 14, 2017.

Shariat, Hormoz. “Lessons from the Persecuted Church.”

Wang, Amy B. “Largest Fire in Los Angeles History Forces Hundreds to Evacuate.” Washington Post, September 2, 2017, sec. Post Nation.

Lessons from the Persecuted Church: Do You Take Jesus for Granted?

This entry is part [part not set] of 3 in the series Lessons from the Persecuted Church

A couple weeks ago I asked if you were ashamed of the Gospel. Today I have another question: If you truly appreciate what Jesus has done for you, you will love what He loves. If not, you may be taking Him for granted.

 

  1. For many in the West, experiencing Jesus daily is not a desperate need but a mere option.

 

For the persecuted church, walking with Jesus and experiencing Him daily is not an option but a desperate need. Their lives are so empty of hope and joy that Jesus is the only source and strength they have.Family in front of TV 2

 

In the West, we have many resources for comfort—something that most of the world only dreams about. We live with abundance and rarely feel a desperate need to spend our waking moments in Jesus’s presence. Yes, sometimes in our troubles we cry out to Him, but this is rarely a daily thing.

 

  1. Our relationship with Jesus is often based just on need, not true love for Him.

 

The persecuted church not only has a continuous need to experience Jesus, but also it has a deep love for Him. Coming from darkness, they appreciate light. Coming from the depths of hopelessness, desperation, and loneliness, they value His constant presence. Understanding well what He has done for them, they are ready to live and even to die for Him. Someone has said, “You don’t know Jesus is all you need until He is all you have.”

 

I don’t want to put down the faith of my brothers and sisters in the West. But this is a reality we must face: The persecuted church desperately needs Him and continuously seeks His presence; we don’t think we need Him as much and continuously do not seek His presence.

 

That is why for us walking with Jesus must be intentional. We must make a conscious decision to read His word, obey Him, and walk in the Spirit. We must choose to be faithful to His Church. We must decide to love what He loves and who He loves.

 

  1. The Church in the West is experiencing Jesus less and less because it is obeying His command to “Go” less and less.

 

In Matthew 28:19–20, Jesus promises His continuous presence when we obey His commandment to go: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…And surely I am with you always.” It is in the going that His presence goes with us. In the comfort of us staying and focusing on our lives—to make them a little more comfortable—it is hard to experience deeply the presence of Jesus. The Church in the West is experiencing Jesus less and less because it is “going” less and less. The persecuted Christians have a zeal to share their faith even when they know they may end up in jail or be killed for it.

 

We are moving toward worldwide chaos and violence. The Islamic State (ISIS) and militant Islam will not fade away. Muslims have a mandate by Quran to take over the world by violence. ISIS is actively doing it, and more and more Muslims are waking up to that call. Members of ISIS are not fanatic Muslims but committed and obedient Muslims.

 

The disturbing point is that ISIS is obeying its mandate more vigorously than most Christians do. They are commanded to “go,” and they are ready to kill and die to obey that mandate.

 

We Christians also have a “go” mandate. How are we obeying the mandate of our Lord in Matthew 28? As ISIS brings death and the bad news, we must bring life, love, and the good news. The Gospel is much more powerful than the message of the Quran (obey or die)—but only if we share it. We have the Holy Spirit and the power of God’s word. We can defeat any dark spirit and theology of death—but only if we go and get into the action.

Will you decide today to walk with Jesus? Will you love what He loves? God has prepared Iran for a major transformation. The people of Iran are ready.

“And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” —2 Cor 5:15, NIV

 

 

Are You Ashamed of the Gospel?

This entry is part [part not set] of 3 in the series Lessons from the Persecuted Church

Lessons of Gratitude from the Persecuted Church

As we transition from Thanksgiving to preparing for Christmas, the birth of our Savior, let us ponder about the great things God has given us that sometimes we take for granted.romans-1-16

It is just at this time of tradition and comfort and abundance—even overabundance—that we in the West should ask ourselves:

Am I thankful for my salvation? Am I sure?

People who are thankful share their gratitude with others. When was the last time you shared the Gospel with someone?

We hear the Gospel so often in the West that we have gradually forgotten its true meaning and power. We are so familiar with it that it fails to move us anymore. We take the Gospel for granted.

Does this shock or surprise you?

When I, as a student at the University of Southern California, began comparing Christianity and Islam, I had many questions. The more I compared, the more questions I had because I came to realize that both couldn’t be true. Then when I heard the simple message of the Gospel, it changed my life dramatically.

The Gospel has power.

The simple Gospel has three simple truths:

1) God created you, and He loves you.

2) He is perfect, but you are not. To reach Him, you must be perfect because He is perfect. You can never be perfect; therefore, you can never reach Him on your own.

3) Because He loves you, He did for you what you could not do for yourself. That is what Love does. You could not reach Him so He reached out to you. He came on earth to meet you and save you.

It’s that simple.

In the persecuted church, we see how this simple Gospel has the power to transform individuals, families, and even societies and nations. We see drug addicts being set free; hopeless, desperate people at the verge of suicide change into persons with joy and love for others. They discover not just a reason to live but find a mission to live for: to love God and to share this life-changing Gospel with others.

The apostle Paul also endured beatings and imprisonment, death threats, and even martyrdom. He travelled far and wide to share the simple truth of God’s gift of salvation. Yes, he saw God’s power transforming lives! So on his third missionary journey, Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16, ESV).

In the West, if we are honest, most of us are ashamed of the Gospel. We may not call it “ashamed,” but we are shy about it. And if we are shy and ashamed of the message we have to share, why would God show us its power? We must be confident that the Gospel is THE ANSWER to personal, family, and society problems. I am not saying we must be rude, but we must be bold.

If you are thankful for your salvation, show it by sharing the Gospel with love and humility—but also with confidence—during this Christmas season.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you more lessons of gratitude we can learn from the persecuted church—from the people who must live their faith on the front lines of spiritual battle.

In the meantime, give thanks for the Gospel and pray for the persecuted church everywhere, especially in Iran.