Getting To Know Jesus

As a young man I always had a strong desire for adventure. At the age of fourteen I ran away from home to join the merchant navy but my attempt met with failure. I later forfeited a university bursary to spend some time in the Air Force, still without really determining what to do with my life. I was restless and unfulfilled. I longed for travel and adventure but was not sure how to accomplish it. When certain events transpired that brought me to faith in Christ and the prospect of becoming a Christian and possibly beginning a ministerial life, I thought my opportunity for adventure and travel had been lost forever. How wrong that proved to be!

Several experiences in the Air Force brought me face to face with death and caused me to think seriously about what lay beyond the grave. I attended a number of plane crashes and helped to extricate several persons and a number of bodies from the wreckage. I saw some young men blown into tiny pieces. The only remains we found of one young pilot, fitted into a small cardboard box which I carried back to the base. On another occasion I helped to rescue a young pilot who had suffered multiple fractured bones. During the months of his recovery we became very close friends.

However, it was with a young amateur boxer in the R.A.F that I experienced the most poignant feelings. He was a young man with whom I had frequently sparred and trained. This particular night he was fighting in a tournament and I was in his corner. Towards the end of the second round he took a powerful right hand to the jaw and the back of his head hit the canvas with a sickening thud. When he got back to his corner he was obviously very groggy but was able to converse with his seconds and he said that he wanted to fight on. However, in the third round it became obvious that all was not well and the referee stopped the fight. Soon after he got back to his corner he lost consciousness and in this condition he was admitted to the Base Hospital about 10 p.m. that night. By 2 a.m. the following morning he was having severe seizures and it had become obvious that his condition was far too serious for the small Base hospital to handle. It was decided to transfer him to a much larger and better military hospital some twenty miles away. I sat in the back of the ambulance with him on the journey and after a while he became extremely restless. Of course he was not conscious but he began to writhe around, lashing out with hands and feet and trying to get off the cot. I could not tie him down but had to wrestle with him to try to save him from more bodily harm and injury. Arriving at the hospital a doctor and orderlies met us as soon as the ambulance door opened. Seeing his condition they immediately decided to bore into his skull to relieve the intense pressure that had obviously built up inside it. Unfortunately every effort was in vain and my friend soon died in my arms, still struggling. His death and subsequent funeral were both very emotional experiences for me sobering my mind considerably and causing me to think very seriously about the fragile nature of life.

It was actually during my term in the Air Force that I came to “know” Jesus. I had been hospitalised in a military hospital having suffered severe corneal damage to my eyes. Receiving expert attention from very fine doctors, my head was swathed in bandages and I tensely awaited their removal to test my sight afterwards. My spirits were very low as I lay in bed for some weeks. I was heavily sedated with morphine against the intense pain. At this time I “knew” something about Jesus having heard about him as a very young boy but had never met Him experientially.

Then, late one evening, as I lay in a state of mental depression, I “sensed” someone near my bed. Not being able to see, I quietly asked, “Who is there?” A calm voice responded within me, “I am Jesus! What do you want me to do for you?” My surprised response was, “If you could just ease the pain and let me sleep properly for one night I would be grateful!” In reply He said, “I can do more than that. I can heal you!” I evidently fell asleep right away for the next thing I knew it was the following morning. Although my eyes were still covered, I knew within that all would be well and that when the bandages were removed my sight would be restored. And so it was, though it was not perfectly restored right away. Initially, as I looked across the ward, I could see a white blur where each bed was though I could not distinguish who was in each bed. Nevertheless, I “knew” with that inner knowing that I would recover perfect sight in God’s good time. I felt somewhat like Job when he said. “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ears but now mine eyes see you.” I did not know about this scripture until some time later but when I eventually read it, the application was clear to me.

God’s Prophecy For Israel

What is recorded in Isaiah 60:1 is obviously a continuation of the preceding chapter, i.e. Isaiah 59:19-21. (When the Bible was originally written, there were no chapters and verses divisions). The Redeemer will come to Zion declares the Lord.

Isaiah 60:1-3 (New Living Translation)
1 “Arise, shine, Jerusalem, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Close examination of this chapter proves that it is definitely directed initially to Israel rather than the Church. There are specific references to numerous features of the desert, from which many people will come from there to worship the Lord Yahweh. The prediction is that in the Last Days the whole world will be covered in gross spiritual darkness, into which darkness God will direct a powerful, brilliant light that will be focused directly upon Jerusalem. This light will draw the attention of all nations towards Jerusalem and Israel, which is where God will be at the time that we are presently anticipating. I believe this verse describes the time when Zechariah 12:10 will be powerfully fulfilled. The spiritual darkness mentioned is undoubtedly emanating from Islam. But there is also grave darkness arising within the Church at that time. Unforeseen pressure is coming upon the Church in many countries. Several big historic denominations are now denying the very basics of Christian doctrines. They are applying the strongest pressure on Christians to forsake the Faith that was once delivered to the saints.

Isaiah 60:4 describes a great re-gathering of God’s people, a great “homecoming,” a joyful “family reunion.” This prophecy began to be fulfilled many years ago and was accelerated in 1948 with the foundation of the new State of Israel. Jerusalem is commanded to lift up her eyes, look around, and see what the Lord is doing. As Jerusalem responds to God’s command, she sees a great re-gathering of her exiled sons and daughters as they are brought back home to their city and their land. Just as surely as the Lord brought His people out of the Babylonian captivity and back home to Israel, so He will bring all His redeemed into His eternal kingdom from the whole world.

Isaiah 60:5 says Jerusalem shall be “radiant with joy, her heart will throb and swell with happiness.” Jerusalem shall shine with delight when she beholds the wealth of the world being brought to her. The merchant vessels are portrayed as sailing to her ports on the Mediterranean, filled with their precious cargo (verse 5b). When Israel looks to the East from Jerusalem, she sees the caravans crossing the desert to bring their unique cargoes of treasures. The camels are loaded down with gold and frankincense (verse 6a). All the flocks of Kedar and the rams of Nebaioth are gathered to Jerusalem where they are offered up as a great and acceptable sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord Yahweh (verse 7a). What this passage is poetically portraying is the abundance of wealth and blessing that the Lord will finally bestow upon His people at the end of this present age, as well as their expressions of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord their God, and the acceptance of their worship by the Lord as they finally dwell with Him when heaven and earth are united in the renewed creation.

Many People From Islam Will Come Submissively To Jerusalem
Isaiah 60 also reveals that many of the worshippers of Ishmael will travel from Arabia to Jerusalem to worship the true and living God. Ancient historical Arab nations will travel to Jerusalem to worship Yahweh who will be enthroned there. These verses confirm that many former Muslims will make the journey to Jerusalem in that day. These and other scriptures confirm the redemptive covenant that God made with the descendants of Ishmael. Specific mention is made of their camels etc.

Isaiah 60:6-7 (NKJV)
6 The multitude of camels shall cover your land, The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah; All those from Sheba shall come; They shall bring gold and incense, And they shall proclaim the praises of the LORD.
7 All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered together to you, The rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you; They shall ascend with acceptance on My altar, And I will glorify the house of My glory.

Nebaioth and Kedar were the first-born sons of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13). Their descendants became large tribes and eventually passionate followers of Islam even until this present day. On which land on earth is a multitude of camels likely to appear? Obviously it will not be Europe, or the USA. It will be land adjacent to Israel emanating from the great Eastern wilderness that is peopled by the historic Arabic nations.

Lebanon which is presently dominated by Islam, will be liberated and many Lebanese people will travel to Jerusalem to worship the King. They will bring costly gifts to present to Him.

Isaiah 60:13 (NKJV)
13 “The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, The cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, To beautify the place of My sanctuary; And I will make the place of My feet glorious.

Nations like Germany and Russia who once severely afflicted, tormented, tortured and killed so many Jewish people will humbly bow down before Jews, falling prostrate before them in humility and calling the city of Jerusalem the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. God will make His people an eternal excellence and the joy of many generations.

The Church In Iran

The Story of Iran’s Church in Two SentencesBy Mark Howard Provided byThe Gospel Coalition
The Story of Iran’s Church in Two Sentences
“Despite continued hostility from the late 1970s until now, Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.”

Everyone loves a good story. As Christians, we especially love stories that tell us how, when all seems lost, God makes a way.

One such story is about the church in Iran—and it’s one of the greatest stories in the world today.

It’s a simple story that can be summarized in just two sentences: Persecution threatened to wipe out Iran’s tiny church. Instead, the church in Iran has become the fastest growing in the world, and it is influencing the region for Christ.

As simple as it is, such an amazing story is worth examining deeper.

Growth Amid Persecution
The Iranian revolution of 1979 established a hard-line Islamic regime. Over the next two decades, Christians faced increasing opposition and persecution: All missionaries were kicked out, evangelism was outlawed, Bibles in Persian were banned and soon became scarce, and several pastors were killed. The church came under tremendous pressure. Many feared the small Iranian church would soon wither away and die.

But the exact opposite has happened. Despite continued hostility from the late 1970s until now, Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.

Despite continued hostility from the late 1970s until now, Iranians have become the Muslim people most open to the gospel in the Middle East.

How did this happen? Two factors have contributed to this openness. First, violence in the name of Islam has caused widespread disillusionment with the regime and led many Iranians to question their beliefs. Second, many Iranian Christians have continued to boldly and faithfully tell others about Christ, in the face of persecution.

As a result, more Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together since Islam came to Iran. In 1979, there were an estimated 500 Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today, there are hundreds of thousands—some say more than 1 million. Whatever the exact number, many Iranians are turning to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

More Iranians have become Christians in the last 20 years than in the previous 13 centuries put together.

In fact, last year the mission research organization Operation World named Iran as having the fastest-growing evangelical church in the world. According to the same organization, the second-fastest growing church is in Afghanistan—and Afghans are being reached in part by Iranians, since their languages are similar.

Three Changed Lives
The testimonies of Iranian men and women who’ve come to Christ are powerful.

Kamran was a violent man who used to sell drugs and weapons. One day, a friend gave him a New Testament. After reading for five consecutive days, Kamran gave his life to Jesus. When his family and friends saw his transformed life over the ensuing months, many of them also came to faith. A church now meets in Kamran’s house.

Reza was a mullah (a Muslim scholar) who hoped to become an ayatollah (a Shiite leader). One day, while studying at an Islamic seminary in Iran, he found a New Testament that had been boldly left in the library. Out of curiosity, he picked it up and was deeply shaken. Over time, he fell in love with Jesus. Today Reza is a trained church planter serving in the Iran region.

Fatemah’s earliest memories were of being raped by her brothers. At age 11, she was sold in marriage to a young drug addict who abused her and then divorced her when she was 17. Upon returning home she was raped again, until she decided to leave. On the streets she heard the gospel preached, and she trusted Jesus. In time, she married a Christian man. As they were receiving training in evangelism and church planting, Fatemah felt called to go back home and witness to her family. Her entire family repented and gave their lives to the Lord. The first church Fatemah and her husband planted was in her childhood home.

Fatemah felt called to go back home and witness to her family. Her entire family repented and gave their lives to the Lord.

I’ve had the privilege of hearing Kamran, Reza and Fatemah share their stories. I’ve heard countless other testimonies that are equally remarkable. Each one is a painful and yet marvelous celebration of the gospel’s beauty. Each one is a powerful reminder that despite trials and persecution—perhaps because of the suffering—the gospel of Jesus shines and the church of Jesus grows.

Story God Is Writing
We’re living in a time when many Christians are suffering for their faith, particularly in Islamic contexts. People often react by preaching fear and hatred of the Muslim world. Yet the apostle Paul reminds us that we are to “rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer” (Rom. 12:12). This is our call.

And the story God is writing for Iran reminds us that we have every reason to rejoice and remain confident in our sovereign Lord and the power of his gospel. Jesus will build his church. It’s a promise (Matt. 16:18).

I ask that you would keep the people and nation of Iran in your prayers. Please pray for:

• Many more Iranians to give their lives to Christ.

• Endurance and joy for Iranian Christians suffering in prison for their ministry—many have testified to sensing the prayers of the global church while imprisoned.

• More trained leaders to serve as evangelists, church planters and pastors to disciple the many new Iranian believers.

Persecution threatened to wipe out Iran’s tiny church. Instead, by God’s mighty hand, his church is growing rapidly. Praise him!