Letter from an Iranian Prison

Saeed AbediniHe is Iranian-born, but now an American citizen. His Christian faith has put him in prison. Pastor Saeed Abedini sought to take the gospel to his homeland, a nation that is vehemently opposed to that message. Sentenced to eight years in prison after being arrested in 2012, he hasn’t seen his wife and children since then. While his wife and concerned Christians worldwide work for his release, he has been subjected to brutal treatment—beatings and other physical abuse—that has now landed him in the prison system’s hospital. Probably the only reason he is receiving any medical aid at all is the pressure from world opinion being brought to bear on his behalf.

Yet, in the midst of this severe trial, his faith remains vibrant and strong. Abedini follows in the footsteps of other Christians throughout history who have been imprisoned for their faith. From his hospital bed, he penned an Easter letter that has recently been made public. The apostle Paul wrote letters from his prison; Pastor Abedini’s letter has Paul-like qualities. Here it is, in its entirety:

Saeed Abedini 2Happy Resurrection Day.

On the Eve of Good Friday and Easter I was praying from my hospital room for my fellow Christians in the world.  What the Holy Spirit revealed to me in prayer was that there are many dead faiths in the midst of Christians today. That Christians all over the world are not able to fully reach their spiritual potential that has been given to them as a gift by God so that in reaching that potential, the curtain can be removed and the Glory of God would be revealed.

Some times we want to experience the Glory and resurrection with Jesus without experiencing death with Him.  We do not realize that unless we pass through the path of death with Christ, we are not able to experience resurrection with Christ.

We want to have a good and successful marriage, career, education and family life (which is also God’s desire and plan for our life). But we forget that in order to experience the Resurrection and Glory of Christ we first have to experience death with Christ and to die to ourselves and selfish desires.

Jesus said to His Disciples:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Matthew 16:24)

This means that we should not do things that we like to do (that God does not want us to do) and to do things that we do not like to do (but God wants us to do) so that He may be glorified.

So in addition to spending our days and night in doing the works of faith as described above, we should also transform our dead faiths into living and active faiths through the resurrection of Christ which is an active and constructive love that is effective.

In conclusion, let us resurrect our Dead faiths to living faiths by first dying to our selfish “resurrected” self and experiencing the cross of Jesus. Then we are able to experience the Glorious resurrection with Christ.

A Glorious life with Christ starts only after a painful death (to self) with Christ.

We will start with Christ.

Pastor Saeed Abedini Prisoner in the Darkness in Iran, but free for the Kingdom and Light

Abedini’s Christian witness is extraordinary. May the Lord use this witness to draw people to Himself. And may Abedini be freed and reunited with his family. That is my prayer.

When a Nation Loses Its Mind

Why am I so attracted to the use of cartoons in this blog? Well, I don’t think it’s some sort of wish to return to childhood. Political cartoons have always been one of the best ways to make a point succinctly, without excess bloviating. I try to collect them according to theme/topic. Sometimes, I get a smattering of excellent cartoon commentaries without one particular unifying theme. At those times, I like to offer them as an overview of topical trends. This is one of those days.

For instance, I haven’t written anything of substance yet on the rancher/BLM controversy in Nevada, where tension exists between a rancher and the federal government over his continuing use of ostensibly federal land to graze his cattle. I haven’t had time to look into all the legalities of the issue, but there are a couple of things that do stand out to me as this drama unfolds. First, one has to question why the federal government claims over 80% of Nevada for itself. That should elicit some genuine debate. Second, it’s fascinating to watch Nevada Senator Harry Reid fulminate on the controversy. He seems to get more outrageous by the week. Take this comment, for example:

Real Terrorist

Can he really be serious? Sad to say, I think he is. And his attitude is fast becoming the worldview of his party. This doesn’t bode well for freedom.

We’ve also gotten to the point where the federal government is more and more the provider of all goods and services. We used to call this socialism. We used to believe this was not wise. We used to believe . . .

Cruel Heartlessness

That cartoon is a wonderful display of gentle sarcasm to make a salient point about the expectations and delusions that seem to be increasing.

We also continue to be told, despite evidence to the contrary, that global warming—I’m sorry, I mean climate change—is going to kill us all. In fact, it seems to be the root of so many of our problems:

Excuse for Everything

President Obama has assured us this is settled science, and there should be no more debate on this issue. He’s also claimed Obamacare is a success and that Republicans need to move on—no more debate. And all those backward people who still believe in real marriage, and not the artificial construct we are currently attempting to foist on the country? Why, they shouldn’t be tolerated anymore. They are obviously hatemongers. What to do with all these remaining heretics?

Debate Is Over

Yes, as a nation, we are quickly losing our moral bearings and, along with that, our collective mind.

The Lamb of God Who Takes Away the Sins of the World

The words of this song by Twila Paris, combined with the haunting beauty of the melody, have always affected me greatly. While some may think this is more appropriate for Good Friday, I think it is a proper Easter offering as well, as we consider the new life Jesus promises through His sacrifice. Easter celebrates what He did two days before. Please read these words carefully, meditatively, then play the short video of this song that follows. It should lead you from deep grief over sin to an even deeper appreciation of what God has done for you. May this be your most blessed Easter ever.

Your only Son, no sin to hide
But You have sent Him from Your side
To walk upon this guilty sod
And to become the Lamb of God

Your gift of love, they crucified
They laughed and scorned Him as He died
The humble King, they named a fraud
And sacrificed the Lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

I was so lost, I should have died
But You have brought me to Your side
To be led by Your staff and rod
And to be called a lamb of God

Oh, Lamb of God, sweet Lamb of God
I love the holy Lamb of God
Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Oh, wash me in His precious blood
My Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God

Lewis: Flippancy vs. Humor

There’s a world of difference between real humor and cocky snarkiness. I think C. S. Lewis caught that distinction well in The Screwtape Letters as senior devil Screwtape instructs junior devil Wormwood on how to twist the character of the human he is trying to drag into hell:

C. S. Lewis on TimeFlippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny.

Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it.

If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the other sources of laughter.

It is a thousand miles away from joy; it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practise it.

We are surrounded by flippancy in our society, but genuine humor seems to be in short supply. There’s nothing wrong with humor; in fact, God created it. We just need to be sure our humor isn’t tinged with the sad trait Lewis describes here.

Good Friday

Crucifixion & Resurrection

Thank you, Jesus, for willingly laying down your life for a people who don’t deserve your love.

U.S. Influence: The Great Vanishing Act

When writing on domestic policy and the Obama administration, I continually point out the overreach: Obamacare, IRS, ruling by executive fiat. If one were to concentrate wholly on the domestic side, it would seem as if everything Obama does lends itself to an incipient tyranny. Shifting to foreign policy, however, sheds a different light—not an admirable one, mind you, but different. Benghazi was/is an exercise in utter incompetence and cluelessness (coupled with a determined coverup, of course). Responses to nations that don’t have our best interests at heart reveal weakness and lack of seriousness, as if we don’t really grasp the threats.

Let’s take Russia, for instance. Putin continues to push the international envelope in many ways, the latest being in Ukraine. What decisive American policy has gone into effect in this crisis? What will it take to get the leader of the free world on board with real action?

More Warnings

Then there’s Iran, busily pursuing nuclear weapons while we think we can talk them into being a nice government that will put trade above ideology. They simply take advantage of our foolishness:

Negotiate

Meanwhile, our president seems more intent on proving his opponents as wrongheaded and portraying himself as focused on the “real” threats:

Doing Nothing

And our influence in the world?

Poof

As if by magic, it has vanished.

The Sebelius Rollout

The resignation of Kathleen Sebelius as HHS secretary was more than overdue. Don’t get me wrong; she wasn’t the whole problem, merely the public face of the problem. The disaster that is Obamacare still rests at the feet of the president; it’s a failed policy erected on a false philosophy of government and economics. But she was tasked with the rollout of this monstrosity. We all know how that went. Her resignation was kind of a rollout also:

Rollout

Even though she botched the job terribly, President Obama knew he couldn’t get rid of her right away because that would have been an admission of failure. First, he had to concoct phony numbers of Obamacare registrants to clear the way for her departure. There had to be some sort of closure to her tenure, a way for her to say she had completed her job so she could walk away with some sense of dignity. Well, she certainly completed what she started:

Work Is Done

As part of her grand exit, there was a ceremony at which both Obama and Sebelius spoke. Almost on cue, another glitch occurred: a page of her speech was missing. Somehow, that just seems appropriate as a testimony to her competence. And of course, the president had nothing but praise for her efforts. Perhaps he should have saved his biggest “thank you” for how she was used as the target for the botched system. Her greatest achievement, in his view, was probably how well she shielded him from more direct criticism:

Got Covered

She served her purpose and then suffered the same fate as all Obama associates when they have outlived their usefulness:

Under the Bus

I don’t think we’ll ever hear her name mentioned again at the White House.