Pray for Our World: Iran

The Islamic Republic of Iran (formerly Persia from the Bible) is a desert region that strategically surrounds the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Turkey, Iraq, Caspian Sea, and Persian Gulf.  A wealthy country in oil and natural gas, 80% is export earnings and only 20% is private sector.  28% of the young people are unemployed.  The theocratic Islamic Republic was declared in 1979 after the Shah was deposed in the Shi’ite Muslim Revolution.  It is a religious dictatorship.  The courts can impose a death sentence to male apostates, and life in prison for female apostates.

The most amazing thing that has come out of the dictator revolution is that the forced Muslim regime has left many Iranians disillusioned about the religion and more open to the Gospel than ever before.  Massive numbers of Muslims have recently been coming to Jesus.  Never since the 7th century has the Church in Persia grown so fast as post-1979, and even more amazing for a country that imposes the death sentence for doing this.  There have been numerous stories of dreams and visions, signs and wonders, happening in the underground church.  I have heard some of them myself directly from Iranians who have escaped to the U.S.  These people risk everything in search of hope and meaning in life.  One man I spoke with had literally been chased from his home with only the clothes on his back, to escape to Turkey where he could be baptized.  “I never knew that God could be my Father!  My Father!”, he exclaimed with tears of joy and relief in his eyes as he told his story.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to move in this country, to shed a light to the darkness.  Pray for the underground churches and the new Christians.  May the people know the true joy and hope that can only be found in Jesus Christ.  It would be a shame to keep such knowledge from them, when we know and have the truth with us every day.  Do not take it for granted!  Do not keep it hidden.

In Jesus’ Words: To Fulfill All Righteousness (Matthew 1-3)

dcredletterchristiansbible

I have often said to those I meet, “Just read Jesus’ words in the New Testament and you will be amazed at what He says.”
Tune out all the noise and constant bombardment of our society; disregard the rhetoric of those trying to determine if or what parts of the Bible are true; put aside the politics and debates over man-made laws; and for awhile, just come and listen to Jesus’ words.  If Jesus is who he said he was, then the only thing that truly matters are His words.

I too was curious about my own advice.  I have studied the Bible and devotions over the years, but I’ve been longing for some time to tune out and listen intently to what Jesus had to say; to quench my own thirst.  I went to the bookstore in search of a book written solely about Jesus’ words from the Bible but could not find anything.  So I decided to go directly to the source instead: the red-letter words of the New Testament and only recorded sayings of Jesus Christ, and read them for myself.  I hope you will join me on this journey of discovering what Jesus said to us.

~ Matthew 1-3:  To Fulfill All Righteousness ~

To keep it simple, I started with the first book of the New Testament, even though the books are not written in chronological order.  There are several authors who contributed to the Bible at different times.  This is good, because unlike the Quran, the New Testament is written by many witnesses who personally experienced Jesus over many years and places.  The first recorded words of Jesus in the New Testament are found in Matthew 3:15.  Here is a little background leading up to Jesus’ first written words.

Matthew begins by telling us the background of Jesus.  He shows the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to David and Abraham.  He explains how Jesus was born, the Magi that came to visit him, Joseph and Mary’s escape to Egypt, and how they later return to Nazareth after King Herod dies.  “So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets, that he would be called a Nazarene.” Matthew 2:23

Next, Matthew introduces us to John the Baptist, who went before Jesus speaking of  “the One who is to come” and telling people to repent and be baptized.  This was a new type of thinking in those days.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.”  Then John consented.  Matthew 3:13-15

Jesus had come to fulfill all righteousness.  But what did these first words mean?

Jesus’ act of baptism performed here at the beginning of his ministry, and his final act of dying on the cross, are the two most meaningful actions that Jesus performed. Baptism represents repentance, and Jesus had come to show them the way to repentance and forgiveness of their sins.  Through this act of humility, Jesus announced his mission and promise to all mankind.  He did not come to be an earthly king or warrior, but a humble servant who came to love and save mankind.  This was the fulfillment of all righteousness.

feet with waves cropped