Thursday, October 6, 2011


The following is a letter from an Iranian Christian pastor who has been sentenced to death. Why? Because he refused to deny Christ on three separate occasions before the Iranian supreme court. I suppose it's trite, but I think times like this necessitate the asking of the question, "And what about you?" If they were going to hang you or cut off your head or kill your family or burn down your house, would you keep the faith? Jesus is all the more real when we live precariously in this world. By that I mean, when we realize that for the sake of Him we could lose everything, I think we are more likely to trust him and therefore gain everything.

This sad news from Iran corresponds with our Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC) National Gathering (our denomination) in Des Moines this week. We prayed as an assembly for this pastor. I hope we all pray individually for him and for his poor family, too. But later, in the church planting workshops which were held after the Gathering at our church, I heard first hand that suffering is very real in America, too. Not to death, perhaps, (although broken health is a death sentence merely postponed for a later date), but for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of Christ's church, the loss of pensions, savings, houses, cars, churches, friends and even family is quite common among those doing mission in our society today. It reminds all of us that Jesus' call was to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him.

Here are his words. May the Lord grant him grace to stand. Amen. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ

(This message has been translated from Farsi to English.)

Dear brothers and sisters, Salam

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I am continuously seeking grace and mercy to you, that you remember me and those who are bearing efforts for his name in your prayers. Your loyalty to God is the cause of my strength and encouragement.

For I know well that you will be rewarded; as it’s stated: blessed is the one who has faith, for what has been said to him by God, will be carried out. As we believe, heaven and earth will fade but his word will still remain.

Dear beloved ones, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you of a few verses, although you might know them, So that in everything, you give more effort than the past, both to prove your election, and for the sake of Gospel that is to be preached to the entire world as well.

I know that not all of us are granted to keep this word, but to those who are granted this power and this revelation, I announce the same as Jude, earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints.

We are passing by special and sensitive days.They are days that for an alert and awake believer can be days of spiritual growth and progress. Because for him, more than any other time there is the possibility to compare his faith with the word of God, have God’s promises in mind, and survey his faith.

Therefore he (the true believer) does not need to wonder for the fiery trial that has been set on for him as though it were something unusual, but it pleases him to participate in Christ’s suffering. Because the believer knows he will rejoice in his glory.

Dears, the “ judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Therefore those who are enduring burdens by the will of God, commit their souls to the faithful Creator. Promises that he has given us, are unique and precious. As we’ve heard he has said: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you”

How can it be possible for a believer to understand these words?

Not only when he is focusing on Jesus Christ with adapting his life according to the life Jesus lived when he was on earth? As it is said ” O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.”

Have we not read and heard: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Many attempt to flee from their spiritual tests, and they have to face those same tests in a more difficult manner, because no one will be victorious by escaping from them, but with patience and humility he will be able to overcome all the tests, and gain victory.

Therefore in the place of Christ’s followers, we must not feel desperate, but we have to pray to God in supplication with more passion to help us with any assistance we may need.

According to what Paul has said: In every temptation, God himself will make a way for us to tolerate it.

O beloved ones, difficulties do not weaken mankind, but they reveal the true human nature.

It will be good for us to occasionally face persecutions and abnormalities, since these abnormalities will persuade us to search our hearts, and to survey ourselves. So as a result, we conclude that troubles are difficult, but usually good and useful to build us.

Dear brothers and sisters, we must be more careful than any other time. Because in these days, the hearts and thoughts of many are revealed, so that the faith is tested. May your treasure be where there is no moth and rust.

I would like to remind you of some verses that we nearly discuss everyday, (Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.) but as long as our human will has priority over God’s will, his will will not be done.

As we have learned from him in Gethsemane, he surrendered his will to the father, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

What we are bearing today, is a difficult but not unbearable situation, because neither he has tested us more than our faith and our endurance, nor does he do as such. And as we have known from before, we must beware not to fail, but to advance in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, And consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to his name. He said: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

As a small servant, necessarily in prison to carry out what I must do, I say with faith in the word of God that he will come soon.”However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Discipline yourself with faith in the word of God. Retain your souls with patience. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly.

May you are granted grace and blessings increasingly in the name of Lord Jesus Christ.

Yusef Nadarkhani
Lakan Prison in Rasht

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What We Expect from People Who Go to Church at Zion

What are we asking of you, when you join Zion?

We know that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ and not by anything we do. But we don’t believe that Jesus intended his people to sit around and navel gaze. He told his followers: “Go! Make followers of me!” In order to make followers, you also have to be a follower, and that means devoting time every day to get to know our Master, Jesus, better.

The biggest commitment we ask you to make when you join Zion is the commitment to grow in your faith. We believe that your intention to join a church, specifically this church, means that you believe Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that you want to experience here and now the abundant life he offers in this life and the life to come in heaven. We aren’t a church of pew warmers - we are a church of Jesus followers. So we’re asking you to commit to “go” with us on the adventure of a lifetime. Having taken the new member class, and understanding that we are serious about what we believe, we ask you to give yourself to Jesus and his body, the church, in the following ways:

1. Commit to worship together weekly: We understand that “life happens,” and you’ll miss church sometimes. But we ask that you make it a priority, and part of your normal life routine. We don’t track your attendance, and you won’t get an angry note if you’re not in worship, but we believe that worshipping with other Christians is essential to the Christian life. We have 3 Sunday morning services and a Wednesday evening service, so there are plenty of chances to be involved.  Our belief is that part of being church together is worshipping together.  We believe that in worship, God is glorified and we are each edified, built up, refreshed, and equipped to be sent out into the world to serve Christ together and as individuals.  Weekly worship is the fuel that keeps us going day after day.  We also encourage our members to consider setting aside time every day for family and personal worship. See Exodus 20:8-9, Psalm 29:1-2, Psalm 95:1-7, Hebrews 10:24-25, Revelation 11:15-17. See Jesus do it: Luke 4:16-21.

2. Commit to reading the Bible every day: Sure there will be days when you don’t get to it, but we ask you to make it your daily habit. A great way to get started is to read 3 chapters of the book of John every day for a month. Every week you’ll finish the entire book (seven days x three chapters = 21 chapters in the book). You can also easily find daily reading Bibles or Bible apps that will guide you through the Bible in a year. Or maybe you’d rather set your own course and read as you feel led. We’re happy as long as you’re engaged with the Scriptures. We’re ready to answer your questions in person or by e-mail and we’re happy to take the time to help you get started. See 2 Timothy 3:14-17. See Jesus do it: Luke 24:25-27.

3. Commit to pray every day: Simply find a few quiet moments and open up your heart and mind to the Lord. Prayer is first and foremost a conversation between you and God. It involves both talking and listening. Through daily prayer, we learn to turn over control of our lives to God and we believe that you will begin to experience his presence more and more as a result. We recommend that if you're new to this discipline, you start with about 15 minutes a day and then try to add more time as you become comfortable with the practice. There are as many different styles and ways of praying as there are people. We offer classes on praying and also have a helpful guide on our website called, “Easy Steps to Homemade Prayer,” if you’re looking for help getting started. See 2 Chronicles 7:14, Matthew 6:5-13, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, James 5:13-16. See Jesus do it: Mark 1:35.

4. Commit to giving: This includes time, talents and treasure. We ask that you make a commitment to give of yourself to the church, to other people, and to God. This isn’t always easy, and you need to make tough decisions some times. We believe it’s ok to say “no,” so that when you say “yes,” you mean it. In other words, not every mission or program is the right one for you. But seek God’s call and live it out. We want you to give from a cheerful heart as God leads you to Zion and other holy causes- with your time, talents and treasure. We believe that we are called to be generous, as God himself is magnanimous with his grace, so we should be generous and magnanimous with our giving.  So we ask our members to give and give generously.  We encourage our members to give electronically, so that their offerings come in on a regular basis, even when they are away.  This also helps us with our budgeting and stewardship of offerings. See Mark 12:41-44, Luke 6:30, Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 9:6-8. See Jesus do it: Mt 14:13-21.

5. Commit to serving: Simply put, it is not enough that we should learn about Jesus. If we are to follow him we must also do the things that he does. One cannot be a disciple only in the classroom. To be a follower of Jesus Christ we must follow him from the classroom to the boardroom and the market place, into the life of our neighbor and to the ends of the earth. In a very real way the Church of Jesus Christ throughout the world has been given the task of carrying on the ministry of Jesus. Guided and united by the Holy Spirit we are the body of Christ and each individually members of it. (1 Cor 12). All of us have a role to play in ministering in Jesus’ name to the world. We believe that acts of selfless service are done for Jesus himself, even if they benefit others.  So we ask our members to be part of our mission together.  We ask that you join a ministry and volunteer.  Perhaps serving in the church when we get together on a Wednesday or Sunday or maybe serving in an outreach ministry to the neighborhood or the world.  Check out the Zion Missions Magazine at the info desk or look online for opportunities at Zion to get involved. If you don't feel that you can make that kind of on-going commitment, we invite you to drop by the "Just Do One Thing" board in the Fellowship Hall where special needs or projects are posted.  Just grab one of the items off the board for a quick and easy way to serve. We’re also very open to new opportunities into which the Lord might be leading you. See Ephesians 4:11-13. See Jesus do it: John 13:1-16

6. Commit to take a class: Following Jesus is a growing experience. We can't outgrow Christian faith. As modern day disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to move from spiritual infancy to spiritual maturity (Philippians 3:13-14, Ephesians 4:12-14). For this reason we strive to bring people into an ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19). This growth best happens in small groups (Acts 2:42-47) and so we offer a number of classes to help you know Jesus and his teachings. As we grow in faith, we turn our hearts to God, giving of ourselves and our resources -- freely and cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7). We invite you to commit to being a life long student of Jesus. See 1 Timothy 4:13. See Jesus do it: Luke 2:41-50.

7. Commit to struggle against sin in your life: Jesus forgave our sin on the cross and because of his blood, we are reconciled with the Father. But we still sin. A part of following Jesus is to seek to eradicate sin from our lives so that Jesus might be wholly and completely Lord of our life. As John the Baptist once said, “He (Jesus) must increase, I must decrease.” You are not a vacuum, you will be filled with something. As sin decreases, Jesus increases (and vice versa). We strive to die everyday to our old, sinful selves, and to rather live to the new, reborn self through Jesus Christ. See 1 Cor. 10:13, Ephesians 4:22-5:12, 1 John 1:8-9. See Jesus do it: Mt 4:1-11; Mark 14:35-36.