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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Betrayed but not forgotten...the continuing crisis of Saeed Abedini.

"I pray for this innocent man....
May God bring freedom for us all..Amen.
       (My dear Iranian friend...
         name withheld for security reasons.)

 "I never anticipated that I would have to battle my own government to secure his freedom!"
 In a tone of despair and frustration, Naghmeh Abedini, publicly proclaimed her outrage during her testimony at the congressional hearings concerning the fate of her husband Saeed who has spent the last 444 days of his life in an Iranian prison.
Naghmeh feels betrayed by her own government! Just recently when Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif in Geneva for the nuclear talks, the opportunity for a good faith initiative between the United States and Iran was right there at the table, but....nothing happened!
 The American Center for Law and Justice, (ACLJ) representing Saeed and his wife Naghmeh, were astonished that the United States passed by a golden opportunity to secure the release of Saeed as "pre-condition" before any negotiations for Iran's nuclear program were discussed. Instead, Iran was put on a six month probation and the weight of the international sanctions were eased against them, restoring millions of dollars to their economic woes.
The Obama Administration was satisfied that after 34 years, a new relationship with Iran was finally emerging and there was finally hope..but there is just one problem..
 An American citizen was left behind in the midst of the celebration and instead of addressing the horrors of the Iranian human rights violations, the United States instead rejoiced in the success of a major nuclear arms agreement.
While Iran and the U.S. shook hands, Saeed continues to experience deteriorating health conditions, internal bleeding and torture after being transferred to Rajar Shahr prison in Karaj, Iran. Rajar Shahr is "home" to murderers, drug addicts, and rapists on death row, placing Saeed in a very dangerous environment. The Iranian regime puts prisoners here that they want to disappear in an atmosphere of "silent execution," depriving them of any medical treatment or drugs and eventually they either die from disease or at the hands of other violent inmates.
Even though it appears that our government has betrayed Saeed by not mentioning him in the nuclear negotiations with Iran, there is one dear friend of mine who has not forgotten him.
For security reasons, I cannot mention her name except to say that she lives in Tehran. She is secretly a Christian. We have texted each other many times and I have helped my friend by sending her translations of the Bible in the Farsi language.
A few weeks ago, my friend listened to my radio program, "The Cross in the Desert." The topic on that program was about Saeed and the nuclear talks.
After listening, my friend sent me a beautiful email message in which she shared her heart with me about the desperate situation of Saeed. The following message is exactly in her own words:

           "I just heard your radio program, Randy. It made me sad because I realized how indifferent I am. And I have no fault because when you live here you learn that if you want to stay safe you have to be indifferent. The problems here are too much! We citizens are drawn into so many problems and yet we don't dare complain. We do not dare to defend innocent people in prison like Saeed. We have to remain silent and just watch!
I pray for this innocent man. I pray for his freedom. May God bring freedom for all of us. Amen!

Words cannot adequately express how much I appreciate my dear friend's honesty! In the midst of being forgotten by his government, Saeed has a true friend living right there in the heart of Iran. A beauiful, young,  21 year-old University student who desires to publicly speak out for him but has to remain silent in fear for her life. Yet my friend is praying for Saeed. She has not forgotten him! 
My dear friend's beautiful message of love and prayer for Saeed should stand as a rebuke to our government! They ought to be ashamed for not speaking up for their own citizen and doing
everything possible to demand his release! 
Even though my government failed to speak out for Saeed, my friend didn't! She let her voice and prayers be heard in a country that would immediately imprison her for making her views public.
What courage! What conviction! God bless you my dear friend for not forgetting Saeed!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Death in Borazjan: Remembering Shabnam

Fire ablaze within my eyes.
A smile concealing all my lies,
Screaming, begging, calling out,
A final, frantic, desperate shout...

They'll say I died of suicide
But no one knows how much they've lied,
It wasn't a rope, a blade or pills, that broke my soul and gave me chills,
I died inside so long before,
To live each day, an endless chore,
Pill could not kill what was already dead,
A twisted soul, an empty head....
        (Scarlet Tears...Coran Darling)

"Mouchette" is a 1967 French film directed by Robert Bresson and starring Nadine Nortier and Jean-Clauder Guilbert. 
Nadine stars as a a young troubled teenage girl named Mouchette, the daughter of a bullying alcoholic father and an ailing mother, living in an isolated french village.
Mouchette's life is filled with both tragedy and cruelty spending her entire day caring for her infant brother and bedridden mother. At school she is continuously mocked by her classmates and humiliated by her teacher when she sings off key.
One eventful day while walking home from school, her life is changed forever. She gets lost in the woods during a violent storm and seeks shelter at a nearby home.
The owner of the home, Arsene, is an epileptic alcoholic that takes Mouchette in from the storm and then schemes to use her in covering up the murder of a man he had a fight with.
After Mouchette agrees to help Arsene by repeating a cover story that absolves him of the blame, he then rapes her. Later on she reluctantly tells the cover story and explains that on the night of the murder she was with her lover Arsesne, giving him the perfect alibi.
Mouchette eventually returns home, filled with shame and humiliation, only to find her mother's condition worsening. Sadly, a few days later, her mother dies and Mouchette is devastated. Unable to cope with her grief and humiliation, Mouchette goes to a nearby lake and drowns herself.
Suicide. An all too common, sad ending to the lives of teenagers all over the world whose lives are broken from shame, guilt and misery. In Iran, suicide is the second leading cause of death. The major contributing factor to the suicide epidemic in Iran among the youth is the strict government supervision that leads to fear and oppression and an overall sense of hopelessness.
 The main victims of suicide in Iran are young women. In the Islamic society of Iran, women are viewed as subservient to men. The Quran, Islam's Holy book, proclaims that, "Men have authority over women, because God has made the one superior to the other...(Surah 4:34) Therefore the woman is treated as a possession of the man, relegated to the role of little more than a housewife and a mother who no expectations of becoming anything more.
The "superior male" worldview in an Islamic society is very oppressive to the woman. The Quran teaches a man can inherit twice as much as a female, (Surah 4:11), he can beat his wife is he suspects her of adultery (Surah 4:35) and can marry up to four women, (Surah 4:3).
 In contrast,  the woman must ask permission from her husband to leave her home and is forbidden from traveling alone. She is little more than a slave or a possession. In public she is required to wear a hijab and if the "morality police" discover she is showing too much skin or wearing makeup, she will be arrested and retained at the police station until a significant bail is posted for her release.
Shabnam Basiri, a 14 year-old teenager, full of life, full of great future expectations and dreams, 
was born into this kind of society, in Borazjan, located in the south of Iran.
Shabnam was like any other ordinary teenage girl, vibrant, full of life, excited to realize all of her dreams and yet underneath her smile, was an inner pain, a troubled soul, a deep despair. She witnessed the religious hypocrisy all around her and considered what her life would eventually become because of living in a male-dominated society. Reflecting on the destiny and fate of her life, Shabnam felt hopeless and trapped and decided to commit suicide rather than be another victim of female oppression. Like many other women in Iran had done before her, she set herself on fire, protesting against the dictatorship of the Islamic regime. 
Saddened and broken by her death, Shabnam's classmates laid flowers on her desk at school for several weeks, as a tribute to her life. Despite all of the sorrow and pain surrounding her, Shabnam found solace and comfort in the poems of Ahmad Shamloo, an Iranian poet of liberty, who was a humanist with a hope and passion for justice.
One of his most well known poems, "Aida in the mirror," is beautifully inscribed on her gravestone, a lovely tribute to a young teenage girl whose life was tragically cut short because of an oppressive society's archaic and medieval treatment of women.
In the midst of this painful tragedy, Nasim, Shabnam's beautiful sister, now carries the torch for women's rights through writing articles and speaking out. She has become a voice for impoverished and suppressed women in India and all over the world, working tirelessly to improve their societal situation.
There are many "Shabnams" in the world crying out for help, desperate for someone to hear their voices. This is the reason why I wrote my book, "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom." My book is based on the stories and experiences of my friends  in Iran, struggling for hope and freedom in a society just like the one that Shabnam grew up in. 
The suicide rate among women in Iran is frightening! There is a brokenness, a hopelessness and despair that is tormenting the soul of every young woman. Their only desire is to grow up normally and realize their dreams through hard work and education.
Who hears the cries of the "Shabnams" of the world? Who is willing to listen?
I know one person who does hear and who does listen. He is near to the brokenhearted and he saves the crushed in spirit.
His name is Jesus. He says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28)
Why not come to him today?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shiva Mahbobi: A Voice of Hope for Political Prisoners

"Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself.
 Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt 
their pain in your own bodies."
                     (Hebrews 13:3)

 The writer of Hebrews reminds us to never forget Christians being persecuted for their faith in prison. In fact he wants us to "feel" their pain in our prayers so much so as if it were actually happening to us!
Shiva Mahbobi understands that level of pain. At age 16, she was arrested by the Islamic regime and put in Iran's most deadliest prison for three and one half years of intense torture because she spoke out against the evil atrocities of her government.
When Shiva was finally released she vowed to never forget the cruel treatment of fellow prisoners. She has dedicated her life to being a voice of hope for Iranian political prisoners.
Just recently, Shiva was a guest on my blog talk radio program, "The Cross in the Desert," live from London, England via Skype. Shiva explained her role as Spokesperson for the Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI) as an outreach of compassion, hope and awareness about the unjust treatment of Iranian political prisoners. One such example of unjust treatment, is Zeinab Jalalian, a political prisoner that she features on her TV program and Facebook page. Zeinab was originally arrested by Iran and scheduled for execution. After much political pressure from human rights groups her sentence was downgraded to life. However Zeinab is suffering from a serious eye disease complicated by periods of intense torture and is being refused any medical treatment. Unless she receives immediate medical treatment she will go blind. This is where Shiva and the CFPPI come in. They begin by sending emails, letters, creating petitions, producing TV programs and making their case known worldwide throughout the media. Shiva interviews the parents, friends and loved ones of the prisoners on her television program, speaking out for their injustices and calling for their freedom. By creating worldwide awareness, CFPPI puts pressure on the Iranian regime and in some cases they listen and slowly respond by providing adequate medical care for the helpless prisoner.
"Don't let their heartbeats stop," is a recent media campaign with videos featuring political prisoners like Zeinab who are in hopeless conditions. Iran subjects most of its prisoners to what is called, "silent death' where they gradually let them die from lack of medical care and deplorable prison conditions. In this way the regime can plead  "innocent" because they didn't directly execute them.
Shiva told me that we must be relentless in sending letters and emails, organizing rallies and keeping the case of political prisoners in the media spotlight so they are never forgotten. She tells anyone who wants to be involved that
 the most important thing they can do is donate their time and their voices for these helpless prisoners who have no voice of their own.
The passion of what Shiva does comes from an unforgettable experience she had while in Evin Prison in 1984. Right before her eyes she witnessed her best friend being executed!
Shiva has never forgotten that experience. She has dedicated her life to being a voice of hope and compassion to the voiceless.
The write of Hebrews reminds us to never forget those who are in prison. Shiva has not. Her prison house of suffering became the catalyst for her mission in life. Shiva has dedicated and sacrificed her life for those behind bars in Iran.
She is calling us to join her in the cause. What will you do?

For more information or to become involved. Click on this link.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Shadi Paveh: A compassionate "voice for the voiceless."

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves:
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice."
       (Proverbs 31:8-9)

A continuous, reoccurring theme in the Bible is standing up for the oppressed and seeking justice for the helpless. As a Christian, this is the passion of my heart and in particular, I have this passion for my friends in Iran. 
Recently on my "Cross in the Desert" radio program, I had the privilege of interviewing Shadi Paveh, a prominent Iranian human rights activist, who shares the same passion that I have in speaking up for the hopeless and oppressed. Shadi is a witness to the inhumane torture and oppression of people having grown up in Iran during the 1979 Revolution.
One of the most painful experiences she experienced was saying goodbye to her father at the airport in Tehran. Her father was a military man under the Shah and was involved in a coup to overthrow Ayatollah Khomeini, the new dictator of Iran. Shadi vividly remembers her father telling her that if the coup was successful she would see him again and if not, she wouldn't. "There are some things worth dying for, "Her father proclaimed to her. Unfortunately that was the last time that Shadi saw her father. He and many other generals were later executed by Khomeini.
The unjust treatment of religious minorities in Iran
and particularly the Baha'i Faith, was the catalyst for Shadi to begin her campaign for human rights. Today she is busily involved in translating documents and letters from political and religious prisoners in Iran in order to expose their gross human rights violations and make them known to the world.
Shadi explained the emotional toll the letters she translates has on her and described how she finds herself weeping and sobbing for hours over their horrible conditions.
One prisoner urged her in a letter to tell the world that since Hassan Rouhani, the new president in Iran has taken office, the conditions in the prisons have worsened. Shadi pointed out that there are now approximately ten executions a day, instead of ten a month, since the installation of the new president. 
The conditions in the prisons are deplorable according to Shadi. There are 60 to 80 prisoners crammed in a small room together with no beds or pillows. Therefore the prisoners are forced to sleep on the floor together. Prisoners have no access to medicine. Many of them will die from infections and poisoned food if they don't first die from the continuous beatings and tortures that regularly occur almost every day.
When I asked Shadi how does she emotionally cope after reading about suffering and evil in Iran, she responded by saying that every time she receives a letter she prays and asks strength from God.
Despite the 34 years of grotesque crimes that the Iranian government has committed against its people, Shadi still has hope for a "Free Iran," one day. She believes that democracy and peace can only be achieved through forgiveness and hope. "Goodness always triumphs over evil," according to Shadi.
Being a "voice for the voiceless" is near and dear to my heart and Shadi Paveh exemplifies this is in so many wonderful ways. She approaches her job with much humility and grace with no intent to harbor hatred against the most vile of offenders. In our interview she continually emphasized forgiveness.
Forgiveness is what Jesus taught us to do when persecuted by our enemies. Forgiveness and mercy is who God is!
Shadi doesn't receive an income for her tireless work. She spends endless hours translating letters and being a voice for the hurting and oppressed. She remembers where she came from and has dedicated her time, life and energy to those who cannot speak up for themselves.
I truly respect and admire this courageous woman. Like her father told her for the last time, "Shadi, there are some things worth dying for."
Shadi has taken the last words of her father and given her life as he did in standing up for the voiceless. God is calling us to do the same. Will you be a voice today?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who will speak up for the little ones?

"Let the children come to me. Don't stop them!
 For the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who
 are like these children."
                              Jesus...(Matthew 19:14) NLT

Over three decades ago, the brilliant guitarist and Christian musician, Phil Keaggy wrote
a beautiful tribute song for the unborn, entitled, "Little ones."
The song was written to give a voice to the unborn children who were being selfishly sacrificed on the altar of "choice" by abortion rights activists.
 At the beginning of the song, Phil asks the all important question, "Who will speak up for the little ones, helpless and half abandoned? They have the right to choose life they don't want to lose. I've got to speak up, won't you?"
I immediately thought of this song after reading the horrific story of a three-year old girl that was gang-raped by Muslim men in Saudi Arabia. Police in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, reported that three men and two women have been taken into custody as suspects in the gang-rape of a three year old girl.
On September 13, a private hospital discovered the body of a three-year old girl that had been dumped off at the front gate. The young child was screaming in pain. Her clothes had been torn, her body was covered with bruises and she was suffering from vaginal bleeding. Shortly after being found she lapsed into a coma.
I was speechless after reading this story. To say that I was outraged would be an understatement. What kind of animals would do such a thing like this to a precious, innocent child? How can anyone stoop to such a level as to commit such a crime? How deep the human depravity! How deep the darkness and deceit of sin! Words fail me at this point! Needless to say, I was broken and in tears after reading this and I immediately posted the story to my Facebook page.
What kind of punishment do these animals deserve from such an act? In Saudi Arabia, under Sharia law, men and women are stoned for committing the act of adultery. The Judicial system beheads women who are guilty of practicing witchcraft and sorcery.  Women are banned from driving and obtaining licenses. Obviously, Saudi Arabia is a country that is well recognized for its discriminatory practices against women. That being said, my question is, in the case of this three-year old girl, will the judicial system stand up for her rights and severely punish those responsible for this atrocity? Whenever you read about rape cases in the Muslim world, the woman who has been victimized ends up being punished, because it is believed that in someway her behavior and dress contributed to the crime, bringing shame to the community. Will there be real justice for this precious and innocent child?
When I think of little children, I am reminded of the love and compassion that Jesus had for them. There is an incident in the Bible where parents brought their children to Jesus so that he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. In response to this, the disciples scolded the parents for bothering Jesus.  Yet Jesus responded by saying, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like these children."
The lives of children are precious to Jesus. Like the old nursery rhyme, "Jesus loves the little children..all the children of the and yellow black and white, they are precious in his sight..."

Hospital authorities sadly confessed that this child will be traumatized for life. I can picture, I can visualize, Jesus holding this precious child in his arms and praying for her.
The innocent lives of children are under attack. Just recently in Iran, a law was passed granting fathers the right to marry their adopted daughters.
We must speak up for the little ones! We must not allow any society to engage in the psychological and physical abuse of our children in order to gratify their sexual depraved lusts!
There must be justice for their precious and innocent lives. Please join me in praying and speaking out for the little ones so that they can grow up normally and not be traumatized for the rest of their lives!

Monday, October 14, 2013

A loss of shame and guilt

"Therefore the showers have been withheld and no spring rains have fallen.
 You have the brazen look of a prostitute. You refuse to blush with shame."
                                                ( Jeremiah 3:3)

Twenty years ago, when famed Actor-Director, Woody Allen, was accused of having an affair with the adopted daughter of his ex lover, Mia Farrow, he staunchly defended his actions by saying that he hadn't crossed the line. Allen denied that his affair was incestuous and explained that Soon-Yi Farrow had asked him to take nude photographs of her.
The example of Woody Allen should result in a cultural outrage by the public, but instead it is carefully explained away by Woody Allen and a liberal media that excuses and justifies indecent behavior under the claim of, "it's none of your business. It's my life!"
 Sin has a numbing effect. When sin is denied and left un-confessed, the conscience is seared and there is a loss of shame and guilt. That is the problem with our culture. We have created a "god" in our own image to justify our sin and because of that, we have ignored His holy standards, resulting in a loss of shame and guilt.
Unfortunately, there is another outrageous example making news headlines. Just recently, the Islamic republic of Iran passed a law allowing stepfathers the legal right to marry their adopted 13 year-old daughters. The Iranian parliament passed a bill to protect the rights of children and instead opened up the door for incest and pedophilia. Under this new law, the "caretaker" can marry his adopted daughter if the court ruled that it would be in the best interests of the child. According to statistics, some 42,00 children between the ages of 10 and 14 were married in Iran in 2010. 
While the Guardian Council has the final say on the implementation of this new law, it should be noted that in passing this bill, the Iranian parliament is in essence justifying incest. The young children of Iran are not being allowed to grow up and mature normally. Their childhood is being stolen away for the sexual gratification of older men!
 While most Muslims will deny that is consistent with Islamic practice, yet all one has to do is examine their history.  One of the wives of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was six year-old Aisha. Aisha was the daughter of Abu Bakr, the first Caliph to succeed Muhammad after his death. Historical sources say that Aisha was only 9 years old when Muhammad finally consummated their marriage.
The history of Islam seems to play a major role in the justification of the new child marriage law in Iran.
This new law if implemented by the guardian council of Iran would pave the way for rape and child abuse. Young children would no longer be allowed to grow up normally but could potentially be victimized for the rest of their lives with the painful scars of sexual abuse.
 When we ignore the "warning sirens" of our conscience, screaming at us to stop and not do that, we slowly become numb to the shameful acts we are engaged in. When a pilot is flying his plane too low, there is a warning siren that goes off in the cockpit, urging him to pull up! If the pilot ignores that warning, the plane is certain to crash and everyone will perish.
In the same way, when we ignore the warnings of God's Word, we too will perish.
 God declared to his people, "You refuse to blush with shame."
Our only hope is repentance. The only remedy to keep the plane from crashing is to obey the warning sirens and pull up!
My prayer is that Iran will understand the horrible consequences of implementing this new bill and instead recognize what it will do to thousands of innocent children. 
Please go to my Facebook page and sign the petition and speak out for these innocent children!
 Let's together put an end to this shameful act and save the childhood of these beautiful young ladies!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Prayer Vigil: A Tsunami of God's Glory

Today, September 26, 2013 marked the one-year anniversary of Saeed Abedini's captivity in an Iranian prison.
It has been an incredible year for Saeed's wife Naghmeh as she worked non-stop day and night traveling all over the nation, giving interviews, appearing at fund raisers and speaking at the United Nations in Geneva.
Saeed's imprisonment has thrust Naghmeh into becoming a single mom for her children, Rebekkah age 7 and Jacob age 5.
This courageous "single mom" spent the last three months organizing a world-wide prayer vigil that went way beyond anyone's expectations. Over 70 cities hosted groups of loyal Christians gathering at their state capitols and government centers to cry out to God for Saeed's release. Amazingly, the prayer vigil was not restricted to the United States alone but extended out as far as East Jerusalem and the country of Spain to name just a few!
Leading up to this very special day, Naghmeh was able to hand deliver a letter written by Saeed to the delegation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. President Rouhani just happened to be staying at the same hotel as Naghmeh. To add to the list of unbelievable occurrences this week, world renowned evangelist and statesman, the Rev. Billy Graham, now 95, wrote a special letter to the president of Iran, pleading for Saeed's freedom.
This incredible, emotional week for Naghmeh culminated today in the worldwide prayer vigil.
 As I sat in front of my computer today, worshiping to songs by Chris Tomlin and praying for Saeed and Naghmeh, suddenly I experienced what I can best describe as a vision of the effect of thousands of Christians praying! I rarely have experiences like these so I was totally taken by surprise. I saw "in the spirit" a huge wave, like a tsumani, towering hundreds of feet into the air and washing over everything in its path. Then I heard a "still small voice," which turned out to be an exhortation, an encouragement for Christians participating in the vigil all over the world. I immediately downloaded a picture of the wave that I saw in my "vision and quickly began typing out what I heard the Lord speaking to me. I have never done this before and I was both excited and fearful!
Here is what the Lord gave me for Naghmeh and all Christians participating the prayer vigil today:

"As you pray today, as you raise your hands and hearts to surrender to me, I will unleash an unstoppable wave of my glory..I will unleash a wave of my power for you.
This is a wave of cleansing, a wave of My glory that will cover the whole earth.. a wave of unstoppable love to melt the hardest of is a tsunami of My glory.
Come..come now and jump into this wave..ride this wave of my refreshed.
As you pray today, I'm coming to you as a wave..prison walls are falling..hearts are being cleansed.
\There is no stopping my wave. I will speak to the nations..This is My glory wave..
So lift your hearts and voices...I'm answering your prayers..I will confound the enemy..The battles is mine..prisoners will be freed today!"

When I finished typing, I was astonished at what I wrote! This very rarely happens to me. I am humbled by this powerful word that God gave me. As I carefully read it, Im not surprised! This is consistent with the character of God. He wants to encourage all of us who have been working so hard together with Naghmeh to keep Saeed's perilous situation alive in both the media and government.
There is enormous power in prayer when Christians come together with one heart and mind and spirit and cry out to God! God desires to answer the prayers of His children. For His sovereign purposes God delights in using the prayers of His children to shape history. One of the many "pictures" of the character of God in the Scriptures is that of a well of living water that quenches the thirst of spiritual seekers. It is easy to understand that God describes himself like a wave washing over the earth and cleansing our hearts. He is the living water, the mighty wave that is unstoppable, a wave of unconditional love cleansing us from our guilt and shame.
Prayer is powerful because it is ordained by God in our hearts. The Bible proclaims in James 5:20 that, "the earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results,"
It was a beautiful sight today to see our elected officials in Congress on their knees praying for Saeed's freedom. The mighty wave of God's spirit was indeed washing over the hearts of thousands, perhaps millions of Christians today as they set aside an hour of their busy life to cry out to God.
God visited each of us today in a profound way. Has His mighty wave visited your life yet?
He is the well of living water. Drink from his well today. You will never be thirsty again!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


"When I see their faces, I'm learning how to live,
 I'm learning how to love and I'm learning to forgive."

One day as I was browsing through the Voices of The Martyrs monthly publication, I was mesmerized by the pictures of the many suffering Christians. The expressions on their faces saddened my heart and I found myself weeping with conviction. There was one girl whose face had severely deformed by acid, one who was weeping over the execution of a family member, and one who was smiling with joy over receiving her first Bible.
 Everyone of their faces had an incredible story to tell the world why it was worth following Jesus in a hostile environment.
 As the result of this powerful experience I found myself composing a song that has changed my Christian life in so many ways.
 Then just last week, I came across a picture on the internet, a face that literally broke my heart. I cannot shake this haunting image from my mind and I instantly knew I had to write about it.
 Anyone who knows me and reads my blogs understands that I am not given to exploitation or sensationalism. Whenever I produce my videos or write my blogs, I strive to be Biblically balanced and try to avoid using sensationalism to prove a point.
It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The picture that I discovered speaks volumes and a thousand words could never convey the emotions and convictions of my heart as I gazed at it.
I struggled with whether or not to post her picture. I don't want to be accused of exploitation and yet her face has an incredible story to tell, a very painful lesson for all of us Christians who live in the comfort zone of our churches.
There was no name attached to her picture. I don't think it's important. But when you gaze upon her, you will never forget her face.
She lives in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam. Every year millions of Muslims flock to Mecca, the capital of Saudi Arabia to take part in their pilgrimage which is one of the five important pillars of Islam.
Saudi Arabia is not friendly to Christians and especially women. Women are the property of many powerful Muslim men. They live a sheltered life behind their veils being totally submissive to their husbands. In a country that is dominated by a medieval code of lifestyle and ethics, women are forbidden to drive cars. They have very little freedom.
When I first saw her picture, I cringed in horror! It was repulsive to look upon her face.
Her left eye had been bloodied and was sewn shut with sutures! Her lips were also swollen and her mouth had been sewn shut!
I turned away in shock! Composing myself, I forced myself to look again. The caption on the picture said that this brave young girl had publicly confessed Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Outraged, her master decided to teach her a painful lesson by sewing her eyes and mouth shut, so she could never again speak about her love for Jesus.
Her disfigured face spoke powerfully to my heart. I began to weep thinking about my comfortable and cozy Christian life. Then I remembered the words of Jesus to his disciples.
"If anyone of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.
                                    ( Luke 9:23)

Jesus did not "sugar-coat" the path we would take. He warned us in advance that there was a cost for following him.
Paul said in Philippians 2 verse 16,
"For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ, but also the privilege of suffering for Him."
 The subject of suffering is not a popular topic in Christian circles, especially those of us in the west who are not accustomed to having their eyes and mouths sewn shut because we believe in Jesus.
Most of us live a fairly comfortable, unchallenged Christian life. It is difficult for us to comprehend and understand the incredible suffering of Christians in the middle east.
Yet there is her picture, staring us in the face, reminding us of the painful cost of following Jesus in Saudi Arabia.
I hear of amazing stories of Muslims all over the world who are being visited by dreams  and visions of Christ, persuading them to leave Islam and follow Him.
I wonder if this girl had one such vision?
Do you understand what her face is saying to us? I believe its saying that following Jesus may cost you your life but it's completely worth it! Knowing the love and forgiveness of Christ is the most precious gift in the world! There is absolutely nothing that can compare to it! There is nothing that compares to his unconditional love and grace!
Her face is screaming out to us and challenging us to be faithful in the darkest and severest of trials! Her face reminds you and me of the brutal marks and scars Jesus endured when he was scourged by the Roman soldiers before his grueling crucifixion!
Her face is saying you can sew my mouth shut but I can never be silent about Jesus. 
You can beat me and scourge me and disfigure me but I won't deny my Lord!
Instead of hatred and retaliation, I have nothing but love and forgiveness for you. I don't have a religion, I have a love/relationship with the God of the universe and He promises never to leave or forsake me!
I cannot forget this beautiful girl's face. Her face bears the marks and scars of loving Jesus.
When I gaze upon her face its very difficult to accept the claim that Islam is a religion of peace.
What is her face saying to you?
I want to close this blog with a short excerpt from my song, "Faces."
Please keep this precious Christian girl in your thoughts and prayers!

"They put them in prison. They torture them. They tie them in chains.
 But they won't deny Jesus no matter what the cost or the pain.
 They pray and forgive them and even after all of their shame.
 They want to be like Jesus. They want to be worthy of His name.
 I see their faces and they taught me how to live.
I see the love that's
in their eyes.
I see their faith and they're willing to forgive.
I feel so ashamed. It makes me break down and I wanna cry when I see their faces.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Iran: promising freedom and playing politics with the world!"

"You are free!"
  These are three liberating and incredible words that Nasrin Sotoudeh will not soon forget!
   The 49 year-old world renowned human rights attorney finally walked out of Evin Prison on Wednesday, September 18 after spending over three years in captivity. Besides Nasrin, ten other political prisoners were also released in a bold move by the Iranian government coming one week before President Rouhani's historic meeting at the United Nations in New York City.
In a brief interview shortly after her release, Nasrin Insisted that her goals haven't changed and that she would continue her work in restoring justice and defending the rights of protesters.
Nasrin had been sentenced to 11 years in prison with a 20 year ban on her legal practice and a 20 year restriction against traveling abroad for "acting against national security."
Prior to her imprisonment, Nasrin had publicly spoken out against the unjust practice of child executions in Iran and
had spent most of her legal career standing up for the rights of protesters.
Just one year ago, the bold and courageous human rights defender staged a 40 day hunger strike in Evin prison protesting the traveling restrictions against her 13 year old daughter Mehraveh and won!
After worldwide media attention and intense suffering, the prison officials finally removed the restrictions and restored her visiting privileges with her family.
When I heard the news about Nasrin's release, I rejoiced! For more than a year on my Facebook page, I posted the latest developments about her imprisonment, urging people to speak out and pray for her. I truly believe the Lord honored all of our praying and speaking out, resulting in her freedom. In my book, "The Rose of Nowruz,"  Nasrin Sotudeh is listed on the dedication page as one of Iran's women freedom fighters for human rights.
While I rejoice in the release of Nasrin and the other political prisoners, I can't help to step back a moment and pause in the midst of this celebration. Once again, I believe Iran is playing politics with the lives of human beings! They promise freedom but there is a price! It's no accident that the release of these political prisoners is conveniently timed to Rouhani's visit to the United Nations. U.N. special Rapporteur, Ahmed Shaheed, has been investigating the flagrant abuses of human rights in Iran and has extensive documentation that is embarrassing to the regime and their image to the western world. What better way to restore that damaged image than to suddenly have a change of heart by releasing political prisoners before the visit! In doing this Iran hopes to repair their image and announce to the world that they are willing to bring real reform.
Make no mistake! Rouhani is merely a pawn on the political chess board. Iran's Supreme Leader has the final word, not the president. Rouhani is a clever diplomatic strategist sent to paint a new picture, a new image on the face of Iran. Iran is suffering economically from the international sanctions and is strategically making moves for their own benefits. Don't fall for the deception that Iran suddenly cares about the value of human rights! They care about their own pocketbook!
Inspite of all of the political deception involved with the convenient release of prisoners, I truly am happy for Nasrin's freedom. She is finally home once again with her beautiful family.
Yet my heart is still sad! My dear friend Saeed Abedini still remains behind bars! Why wasn't Saeed one of the prisoners released? I thought deeply about this question. If Rouhani should meet with President Obama at the United Nations, wouldn't the release of Saeed, an American citizen, be the ultimate bargaining chip for restoring relations with the United States once again?
I can't comprehend what's in the mind of the Iranian regime! Its so sad and disgusting to play politics with the lives of human beings.
In the midst of this political game playing, I take comfort in the promises of Scripture. God doesn't play games with the lives of people! He has no political motivation or deception in mind. The lives of human beings are precious to Him!
He promises to "rescue the poor when they cry to Him and help the oppressed who have no one to defend them." (Psalm 72:12).
The lives of human beings are precious to God. He promises to redeem them from oppression and violence.
The lord heard all of our prayers and freed Nasrin. I know one day very soon he will do the same for Saeed. Our lives are precious to Him!

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Maryam and Marziyeh: A beautiful fragrance of Jesus."

"But thank God! He has made us His captives and continues to lead us
along in Christ's triumphal procession.
Now He uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere,
like a sweet perfume. Our lives are a "Christ-like fragrance," rising
up to God.
But that fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved
and by those who are perishing.
To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom.
But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume."
           ( 2 Corinthians 2: 14-16)

Recently I had the wonderful privilege of interviewing, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, authors of the incredible book, "Captive in Iran." Maryam and Marziyeh were guests on my blog talk radio program, "The Cross in the Desert," which is broadcasted live on the internet every Thursday afternoon.
"Captive in Iran" was a life-changing book for me as a Christian. It challenged my commitment and walk with Christ and taught me many valuable lessons on what it means to suffer and be persecuted for my Christian faith. 
Maryam and Marziyeh's powerful story is nothing short of a miracle! For 259 days they endured sickness, endless hours of interrogations, the threat of execution by hanging, but didn't focus on their desperate condition. Instead, they turned their prison captivity into an amazing opportunity for the gospel! 
Evin Prison became their church! Although Maryam and Marziyeh were imprisoned because of handing out bibles all over Iran, they refused to remain silent but prayed and shared Christ with all of the other women prisoners. Many of the other inmates came to them asking for prayer and inquiring why they were in prison. For nearly a year they reached out with compassion and love to political prisoners, drug addicts, lesbians and prostitutes who were spiritually empty and desperate for answers. Islam had not satisfied their heart's longing and many of them found a new life, a new beginning by accepting Christ as their lord and savior.
What was it that attracted these prisoners to Maryam and Marziyeh? It's really very simple.
Maryam and Marziyeh are humble, dedicated followers of Christ with a heart of mercy and compassion like their Savior. They are a beautiful fragrance of Jesus!
The Bible teaches that God is pleased to use us as His ambassadors, those who proclaim the life changing gospel of Christ to hungry and thirsty souls desperately searching for meaning in their lives. God says that we are a like a "sweet smelling perfume," and a fragrance of Christ. Our lives are to have a beautiful, sweet smelling aroma that will be attractive to the hurting and broken people that are all around us.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14-16, The Apostle Paul paints a vivid picture of a conquering Roman general riding into the city after winning a major conquest. There was a parade and a huge celebration, called the Triumph where the general was honored with a large procession. Walking behind the general were two groups of people, the slaves and the condemned. The group of slaves were beginning a new life of total obedience to the Roman empire, while the condemned group were on their way to a certain, vicious death. Ironically, the human race is divided into to these two groups, those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
During the procession, the sweet and attractive aroma of burning incense could be smelt all over the city. Crushed flowers were strewn on the ground under the hooves of horses.
Paul uses this illustration to point out to us that like the Roman general, we too are victorious because of the great triumph won by Christ as the cross. Christians are part of the great triumph and procession, daily going out into the marketplace proclaiming the glorious good news that Jesus has forgiven all of our guilt and shame. As ambassadors of Christ our lives are to be characterized by His mercy and compassion. Our lives should carry the sweet smelling perfume of life, a persuasive aroma drawing and attracting people to our message.
Under the Old Testament, the priest poured the fragrant anointing oil all over his clothes and garments so that everywhere he went he carried the fragrance of his commitment to the ministry. In the same way Christians are called to carry the message of the gospel with great dignity and humility so that wherever we go we carry the fragrance of God's truth to a hurting and broken world.
Paul goes on to point out that to, "those who are being saved,"  that is, those who are seeking the truth, we are to them the sweet smell of life. However to those who reject our message and have no desire to hear the truth, to them, we are the smell of death.
Listening to the incredible testimony of Maryam and Marziyeh, it is easy to see why prostitutes,
drug addicts and political prisoners were drawn to them. Their lives were characterized by mercy and compassion. They were bathed in the sweet smelling aroma of the beauty and love of Christ.
What kind of fragrance are you giving out to people? Are they attracted to your message?
Do you have a sweet smelling aroma that flows out from a life of compassion and mercy?
I want to close with the Message translation of this passage of Scripture. I think it best sums up how we are to look as ambassadors of Christ.

In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.
Through us, he brings the knowledge of Christ.
Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance. Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent arising to God,
which is recognized by those on the way to salvation, an aroma redolent with life,
but those on the way to destruction, treat us more like the stench from a rotting corpse."

Monday, September 2, 2013

"Dear Mr. President..."

As the summer season comes to an end, America pauses to celebrate Labor day, before gearing up for the busy Fall season. Labor Day is a day to celebrate and remember the American worker. But can we really celebrate the American work ethic with so many people unemployed?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 90 million Americans are unemployed and most of them have stopped looking for work. The current unemployment rate nationally is 7.4%, still much too high to reflect any economic recovery or job growth.
Under the Obama Administration, the black unemployment rate has risen to over 12.4% with a staggering figure of more than 41% of black teens out of work! To add to that statistical misery, the "Obama healthcare fiasco" is stunting small business growth and will certainly raise private health insurance premiums creating a recipe for more unemployment disaster in the future!
Americans are suffering under the Obama economic train wreck and the 17 trillions dollar deficit is projected to go higher unless there is a changing of the guard soon in Washington.
I have a very dear friend in Iran who is also experiencing deep economic hardship. Her name is Atefe. She lives in Tehran and like all other Iranians, she is struggling financially to stay alive.
Iran's economy has been crippled by the ongoing economic sanctions that the world, including the Unites States, has imposed on it to put a halt to their nuclear program.
The sanctions have caused double digit inflation in Iran to a staggering 37% undermining the value of its currency, the Rial and the Tomman. The unemployment rate is sky high at 15.5% and the price of food has escalated by a staggering 58%!
Perhaps hardest hit is Iran's dependence of crude oil exports, facing a monthly loss of 1.5 billion dollars that are accumulating in restricted overseas accounts. Frozen assets, double-digit inflation and soaring prices have devastated Iranians creating increased drug use, suicide and hopelessness amongst its youth.
Recently I asked my friend Atefe if she would write a letter to President Obama and tell him in her own words, how she feels about the economic crisis in her country. Atefe has a wonderful way with words and I have published many blogs featuring her stories about life in Iran. She was the source of many experiences that I wrote about

in my book, "The Rose of Nowruz" which is being read by many Iranians and human rights groups all over the world.
I want to share with you Atefe's letter to President Obama in her own words, so that you can enter her world and feel what she is feeling.

Dear Mr. President:

I have always dreamed about living in your land. A land which is called, "the land of opportunities."  I have always dreamed about how it feels to be free, to think free and live as you wish. But during these days I came to the conclusion that although the land you rule in may be "magic" for those who live in it, it is severely destructive for those living outside of it, being labeled as enemies of the U.S.
Imagine that day when you wake up and find yourself feeling "numb!" This is the way that we find ourselves every single day in our life! No one hears us, neither our leaders who claim they care for us or you Mr. President, who says that these sanctions and troubles are for our own safety. You probably can never understand how it feels to live in a country where everyday your mind must be preoccupied with what to wear so that they don't arrest you in the street and at the same time you have to endure all of these difficult problems. Can you imagine how hard it is to try and survive under the weight of these sanctions and the economic chaos?
However, even inspite of their problems and troubles, Iranians still count on you to be their friend and to care about their future.
Unfortunately, I don't believe that you really think about these things because you may hear the voice of your guilty conscience which will prevent you from living a happy life....

Can you feel the pain and anguish in Atefe's letter? She is one among millions of Iranians suffering in an economic crisis because of the policies of her government? She is not a terrorist, so why does he have to be treated like one?
In the same way, you and me are enduring an economic hardship because of the policies of our government and yet, we have the freedom to do something about it without fearing torture and imprisonment like Atefe faces if she dares to speak out!
I desperately want my country to the be the haven for the hopes and dreams of honest Iranians who are seeking a better life.
President Obama needs to read this simple yet profound letter from a suffering Iranian woman. There must be a better way to hold her government accountable without punishing Iranians who are already suffering enough under a dictatorship regime.
On this Labor day, let us remember those in other countries like Atefe who desire to enjoy the same freedoms that you and I take for granted everyday.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Silent in the face of injustice

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!"
              Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.
               Letter from Birmingham jail
                        April 16, 1963

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 will mark the 50th anniversary of the historic, "I have a dream," speech that was given by Dr.Martin Luther King, jr, at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.
In this historic speech, Dr. King prefaced his outcry's against racism with the famous opening line of, "I have a dream" and then spoke of the day when blacks and whites would join hands together instead of at each other's throats. Dr. King dreamed of the day when racial inequality would be a "thing of the past" and America would once again return to its godly roots.
Before this historic speech, Dr. King sat in a jail cell in Birmingham, Alabama and wrote in a private letter proclaiming that, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Today, my dear Facebook friend, Naghmeh Abedini, had to face a cruel twist in the ongoing injustices committed against her husband in prison in Iran. The Appeals court in Tehran rejected an appeal by Saeed Abedini and refused to reduce his eight-year sentence.
 The news was a devastating blow to Naghmeh and the American Center for law and Justice which is handling her case.  Once again the government of Iran has shown its disregard for the human rights of Saeed by refusing to allow him the God-given right to practice his Christian religion
Yet what is most offensive and troubling about Saeed's case is not only the reckless disregard of Iran to deny his basic human rights. That is expected. Iran treats it's own citizens that way, by imprisoning lawyers, political activists, journalists and bloggers for daring to speak a word of criticism against the brutal regime.
What is unexpected and even more offensive is that President Barack Obama, Commander and Chief of the freest nation on earth, refuses to speak a word of defense for Saeed. He has been utterly silent in the face of injustice. Perhaps if President Obama had publicly denounced the imprisonment of Saeed and demanded that Iran release him unconditionally, the decision today may have been drastically different. Why has our President been reluctant to decry the human rights violations of an American citizen who is rotting away in an Iranian prison? Why does our President speak out for gay basketball players coming out of the closet? Why is he quick to publicly denounce the evils of racism and yet remain silent in the face of evil?
Who will speak out for Saeed? Who will defend Naghmeh and come to her aid?
As I pondered this very sad news today, I was immediately reminded of a dire situation for Jehoshaphat in the Book of Chronicles in the Bible.
The armies of the Ammonites, Moabites and Menunites had declared war on King Jehoshaphat. Terrified by the news, Jehoshaphat sought guidance from the Lord and ordered an immediate fast. Soon after the prayer, The spirit of the Lord fell upon Jahaziel who gave a message of encouragement to the people.
  "Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem. Listen King Jehospsohat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid of this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but the Lord's!"
These are incredible words of encouragement. Naghmeh is facing the battle of her life to free her husband and God is saying, "Naghmeh, don't be discouraged by armies that are against you. This is my battle!"
The armies of Jehoshaphat did not stand by idle. The next morning they went out to face their enemies and sang praises about the greatness of their God. God kept his promise and brought confusion among the armies and they ended up attacking each other. He confounded the enemies of Israel and brought a mighty victory to King Jehoshaphat.
In the midst of this terrible injustice God is reminding us that he is Sovereign, 
that He is still in control. The Battle is His!
 In one month, on September 26, there will be a worldwide prayer vigil for Saeed and all Christians enduring persecution for their faith. I believe as we go out and gather at our state capitols in obedience to God, that He will speak to the government of Iran.
He is calling us to rest in his faithfulness because He is God and the battle ultimately is His!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

"Yours is the voice they need to hear!"

"Believe that yours is the voice that needs to be heard!"
  Erika Harold, former Miss America 2003
  speech at SGC, August 10, 2013

Standing up for the rights of women in Iran is a blessed priority in my life. Almost every day on Facebook, I put up postings speaking out against the injustices and the violation of human rights against my friends in Iran. Being their voice to the world is the joy of my life.
One year ago, I published my epic book, "The Rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom," and sent over 200 pdf files of the book to my dear Iranian friends, including human rights organizations in in both Canada and Iran. The Rose of Nowruz is the story of a young woman concert violinist who has finally seen enough injustices committed against her friends and rises up to become an activist!
Writing a book is one avenue to get the message of my friends out to the world and make a difference in their lives. Just recently, another avenue opened up for me to talk about my Iranian friends to other people. My wife Becky and I traveled to Indianapolis, Indiana to attend the Smart Girls Political Summit. Smart Girls Politics is a nationwide online Conservative movement, empowering women to connect their political convictions with the culture. The Summit featured many inspiring speakers who shared their experiences in order to motivate and empower other women to make a difference in the culture around them. One such motivating speaker was Miss Erika Harold. 
Erika Harold had the enormous privilege of being crowned Miss America in 2003. A graduate of Harvard Law school, Erika worked hard to rise up and be a voice to her generation. I had the honor to spend a few minutes speaking with Erika and sharing with her the story of my friends in Iran and their struggle for equal rights and freedom. She was saddened to hear of their plight for freedom, but promised to read their story that I wrote about them.
In her excellent speech at the summit  Erika stressed the importance of being a role model in order to transform the lives of those around us. She shared about her involvement with the late Chuck Colson's Prison Fellowship ministries, taking the message of her Christian faith to the inmates on death row. For Erika, the gift of religious freedom, is a gift that we should never take for granted.
Erika admonished women to, "not let the fear of failure keep you from the destiny that you were created to be," and concluded by saying, "Believe that yours is the voice that needs to be heard!"
The inspiring and motivating speech that Erika gave that day reminded me of what true freedom can do to empower women. I immediately connected with what Erika said to my friends in Iran. They too desire to be empowered, to be free, to have true religious freedom. They also have a voice that others need to hear.
I believe Erika is an excellent role model for my Iranian friends. She has truly been privileged to realize her dreams in a country blessed with freedom. She is moving on now from being Miss America to aspiring to be the next congress woman in Illinois's 13th district.
Religious freedom, self empowerment and being a voice for others in their culture are the dreams of my Iranian friends. My friends long for the day to finally be free from government oppression. They long for the day to wear the clothes they want to wear and to say whats on their minds without the fear
 of imprisonment.
God bless you Erika for taking the time to listen to the story of my friends. I pray that your achievements will make a difference in their lives so that they can one day too realize their dreams.

Monday, August 19, 2013

"Embracing your trials."

"When trouble comes your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
 For you know that when your faith is tested,
 you endurance has a chance to grow."
                          James 1: 2-3

I think all of us would agree that life is filled with tests, trials, sorrows and disappointments. Whether it is the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or facing a life-threatening illness like cancer, none of us are exempt from the everyday trials and tribulations that find a way to interrupt our hectic lives.
Suffering and trials will come our way and the question is, how will we respond to them?
My Facebook friend, Naghmeh Abedini says that we should embrace our trials.
Embrace our trials? Most of us, if we were honest, would rebel at such a proposition. It's human nature to want to run from trials and avoid them. Trials interrupt our comfort zone, creating chaos and fear, and our first reaction is to run from them, not embrace them.
Recently, Naghmeh Abedini was a guest on my live blog talk radio program, "The Cross in the desert." Naghmeh is the wife of Pastor Saeed Abedini, who is suffering for his Christian Faith in Evin Prison in Iran. 
Naghmeh knows first hand what trials and tribulations are all about. She has been separated from her husband for over a year now and is left to raise their two beautiful children, Rebekah and Jacob. Her life has been turned upside down, but Naghmeh has chosen to face her circumstances head on without fear. Instead of running away from the pain and suffering, Naghmeh has boldly faced her trials by fully trusting in Christ. She has been very busy appearing at churches, media outlets, tv programs, to fight for her husband's freedom and speak out for the human rights of persecuted Christians all over the world. Through the incredible support from her Facebook friends, Naghmeh has organized a nationwide prayer vigil for her husband and all persecuted Christians, that will take place on September 26.
When I asked Naghmeh how she coped and handled the pressures of trials, she immediately responded by proclaiming that, "we should embrace our trials instead of running from them." When we embrace our trials, our faith and endurance will grow. This will be a great testimony to the watching world of the power of Christ in our lives. We can be an encouragement and example to others of what the Word of God is doing in our lives when we embrace our trials."
 Naghmeh is right! This is what the Scriptures teach. James admonishes us in the midst of trials to, "consider it an opportunity for great joy."
Why would James instruct is to be embrace our trial with joy? Trials are anything but joyful. Sometimes they are very painful.
James gives us the reason to have a joyful attitude, he says, "when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow."
Trials "perfect" our faith and draw us closer to dependence on God. Without trials, our faith would not have an opportunity to grows. Let's face it! Trials reveal if our faith is genuine and for the Christian that is a very important test to pass!
 The writer of Hebrews declared that, "
looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross..." (Hebrews 12:3)
How could the pain and agony of the cross be an occasion for joy? The cross was an instrument of cruel death! Yet Jesus embraced his suffering and trial, knowing that his sacrificial death would bring salvation for the world.
On the night before his suffering, during prayer, Jesus cried out to his father in agony, "If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me."
 Was Jesus afraid? Why did he pray that? Because on the cross, he would be bear the wrath of God for our sins and be separated from his father, something he had never experienced before.
Yet Jesus embraced his suffering, he didn't run away or cower in fear. The next part of the verse says, "Yet I want your will to be done, not mine!" (Matthew 27:39)
 Jesus submitted to his trial. He embraced it. The result was our salvation.
Naghmeh is a beautiful example of her Savior, Jesus. She has embraced her trials knowing that God has a purpose and plan for her suffering. She is a great example of "grace under pressure" to all of her friends.
 All of us can learn a valuable example from Naghmeh's patient endurance. Trials are never easy, but we have a perfect Savior who embraced them and because of that, we can now have an intimate relationship with God.