Foolishness & Iran: A Deadly Combination

Saeed AbediniMake no mistake about this: I’m thrilled that Saeed Abedini, the pastor who has been held in horrific conditions in an Iranian prison since 2012, has been freed. Thousands have been praying for him during this long ordeal. What we have here is one of God’s blessings in the midst of an ongoing policy that continues to endanger the world.

Abedini was held by the terrorist government of Iran for no apparent reason other than his Christian faith, as he had been in Iran merely to encourage fellow believers. Yes, I rejoice that he now is able to rejoin his family.

Other Americans, including a journalist, were part of what has euphemistically been called a prisoner exchange. They sent us five; we sent them seven. One big difference, though: none of the Americans released were guilty of any crimes, while the seven our government set free either had been convicted in a court of law with proper legal procedures or they were indicted and about to be held for trial. Their actions were all connected to support for the Islamic state and providing material aid in spite of sanctions.

So this was not an even trade: the American prisoners should have been released as part of any “deal” reached with Iran. Instead, we not only carried out this uneven swap, but we paid Iran $1.7 billion (for supposed remuneration for events before the Iranian revolution back in 1979) and we are now poised to release approximately $150 billion to that terrorist state to use as it sees fit.

This foolish policy will now lead to even more captives and demands for ransom, not only in Iran, but throughout the Islamic world.

I think one cartoonist has captured the Obama administration’s policy position quite well:

Position

That “position,” of course, is what American sailors had to assume when they were captured by Iran last week. The Iranians made sure to take photos and broadcast them to the world, illustrating the humiliation of America:

Iran Policy

Yet because the sailors were released the next day, both Obama and Kerry celebrated this as a sign that we are on the right track in our relations with Iran, which never would have let those sailors go if it had to deal with a Republican administration that would have rejected the nuclear agreement.

Back on Course

I’ve often written of the fantasy world in which Obama resides. In international relations, nothing reveals it more than the idealistic approach he has taken with Iran. Remember, this is a nation that publicly states it wishes to destroy the state of Israel and that still allows chants of “Death to America” to fill its streets. Trusting a nation such as this to keep its promises is akin to trusting Hitler to keep his back in the 1930s. We all know how well that worked. Sadly, we may have to learn that lesson again:

Fireworks

God, please have mercy on us, a foolish, foolish country that chooses leaders who reflect our foolishness.

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.

Iranian Persecution of the Christian Faith

Iran continues its persecution of Christians. The latest victim is Saeed Abedini, who is now an American citizen. Last week, he was sentenced to eight years in prison by a judge known for his particularly harsh sentences. What did Abedini do to run afoul of the regime? In the early years of this new century, when he was still an Iranian citizen, he converted to Christianity and became a leader in setting up a network of house churches. This, in Iran, is unlawful because those churches might help turn young people away from Islam and lead them to the Christian faith.

Since then, Abedini moved to the United States, became an American citizen, and currently lives in Idaho. He was back in Iran to help establish an orphanage. According to a news report, Iranian authorities pulled him off a bus last August and threw him into the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran. He has an Iranian lawyer, but he was given only one day to prepare his client’s defense. Stalin himself would have been impressed by this new version of the “show trial.”

The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) represents his family in the U.S. The ACLJ has released this statement:

This is a real travesty—a mockery of justice. From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights. We call on the citizens of the world to rise up in protest. We call on governments around the world to stand and defend Pastor Saeed.

I know the ACLJ needs to make such statements to publicize the case, but I’m not all that hopeful that either “citizens of the world” or “governments around the world” will care all that much. The U.S. State Department has called for Abedini’s release and is supposedly in contact with him, but given who is running the State Department these days, no one should expect any effective action there.

What we see in Iran is a microcosm of what is happening throughout the Islamic world. Christians are not allowed to worship freely. If they share their faith, they are persecuted. If anyone converts to the faith, that person is subject to the death penalty. The United States under its Constitution has never had such a policy toward religious minorities. What those minorities need to consider is that it was the Christian foundations of the country that led to religious liberty. Most understood, over time, that religious beliefs must be voluntary, not coerced by the government. No one becomes a Christian by government fiat. The only genuine Christianity stems from a personal encounter with the Living God.

It’s not politically correct to call Islam a threat. We’re only supposed to place the threat in a form of radical Islam that promotes jihad. However, I’m convinced the problem is deeper: all Islam is a deviation from Biblical truth and carries the seeds of violence within it. Some just take it more seriously than others.

Meanwhile, Christians need to pray for Saeed Abedini’s life. Those eight years of imprisonment may be only the beginning for him. A tyrannical regime based on Islamist ideology, such as the one running Iran, is not going to be reasonable. It will take an act of God for Abedini to be released.