Muslim convert on ‘miraculous’ ways God is ‘radically transforming’ Iran despite persecution – The Christian Post

Dedicating his life to sharing the Gospel with Muslims in Iran was never something Hormoz Shariat, head of Iran Alive Ministries and founder of the largest Muslim convert church in the United States, thought he would do. 
— Read on www.christianpost.com/news/muslim-convert-on-miraculous-ways-god-is-radically-transforming-iran-despite-persecution.html

A Former Muslim Shares The Cost of Leaving Islam


Leaving Islam meant death, meaning I would face death penalty, and not just from my own family, whenever they see me again, [but] the Islamic government, if I ever lived under, but also from any Muslim around the world. The apostasy law still applies on me today as I’m speaking, meaning once a Muslim finds out that I used to be a Muslim, that means he or she has the right to kill me. It would be easy, of course, for them to do it in a Muslim country rather than a Western country, because, according to Sharia law, they would get away with it! They are honoring Islam! They are doing away with the apostate. That is why when I share the gospel with a Muslim seeker, that he is really close and he wants to follow Christ, I must share with him or her the cost of following Christ. There is a sense of mourning. There is a sense of loss and loneliness and pain to follow Christ, all in the process of making that decision. That’s why it is so critical for the body of Christ, the church, to step in and help the converts who came out of Islam through this difficult time of transition and time of loss. The church must become his or her new family because they lost the family that they came with and the identity they had all their lives.—Elijah Abraham (founder and executive director of Living Oasis Ministries)

From Berean Call

New Law Requires Chinese Christians Fully Submit to Communist Party

The Chinese government has tightened its reign on its citizens by announcing that all religious personnel of any faith must submit to and evangelize about the Chinese Communist Party.
“In practice, your religion no longer matters, if you are Buddhist, or Taoist, or Muslim, or Christian: the only religion allowed is faith in the Chinese Communist Party,” said a Chinese Catholic priest, according to CBN.
Starting on Feb 1, all religious groups must adhere to the new rules, which consist of six chapters and 41 articles. They require government approval for any type of gathering and total submission to the Communist Party.
One law, Article 17, states: “Religious organizations must spread the principles and policies of the Chinese Communist Party, as well as national laws, regulations, rules to religious personnel and religious citizens, educating religious personnel and religious citizens to support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, supporting the socialist system, adhering to and following the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics…”
Manuscripts from each religion are also not immune to censorship. The Daily Mail reports that the Communist Party intends to complete a “comprehensive evaluation of the existing religious classics aiming at contents which do not conform to the progress of the times.” As Christian Headlines previously reported, this means that books such as the Bible or the Quran will be rewritten to “reflect socialist values” and any paragraphs that the government deems “wrong” will be changed.
“In many ways, the Chinese government’s control, including censorship of the Bible and the Quran, has twisted the doctrines of these religious texts and thus the religions,” said Patrick Poon, a China Researcher at Amnesty International. “There is simply no genuine religious freedom.”
The new laws come after finishing off 2019 with the “worst religious persecution in the country’s history,” according to the Federalist. A pastor of house church Early Rain Covenant Church, Wang Yi, caught international attention last year when he was arrested and later sentenced to nine years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power” and “illegal business activities.” His family wasn’t even sure if he was alive until they heard about his sentencing.
(Mikaela Mathews, “New Law Requires Chinese Christians Fully Submit to Communist Party,” ChristianHeadlinesOnline Tuesday, January 7, 2020)

Andrew Brunson: US ‘increasingly hostile’ to Christianity; following Jesus will come at personal risk – The Christian Post

— Read on www.christianpost.com/news/andrew-brunson-us-increasingly-hostile-to-christianity-following-jesus-will-come-at-personal-risk.html

Communist China and The Christian Church: A Glimpse Into The Future

Chine Creating “system of persecution for the future”, Open Doors warn.

WASHINGTON — China is creating a “blueprint” “system of persecution for the future” that could be sold to persecute people across the globe, head of the prominent Christian persecution watchdog agency Open Doors USA has warned. 

Open Doors CEO David Curry, joined by pastors from China, issued the dire warning about how China could be shaping the future of international religious minority oppression through its use of surveillance technologies to monitor Christians and other religious adherents. 

Open Doors, which operates in 60 countries, released its influential annual World Watch List data report Wednesday at an event attended by representatives of the Trump administration, Congress and human rights activists. The annual report ranks the top 50 countries where Christians are most persecuted.

During a briefing, Curry warned that the “greatest threat,” in his opinion, to human rights worldwide is China, which rose in the rankings from No. 27 to No. 23 in the 2020 report. 

Although the communist nation is not ranked as highly as other violators on the list, Curry stressed that the implications lie in China’s development of surveillance to control its people. 

“Its implications are not just for Christians within China but for every country and for religious freedom generally,” Curry said. “Let me put it together. It is like a puzzle. The pieces are there but it is not until you put it together that you see it clearly. When you see it clearly, it is frightening.”

David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, addresses the rise of global Christian persecution at the 2020 Open Doors’ World Watch List press conference in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 15, 2020. | Open Doors USA

The pieces of this puzzle, Curry said, involve China’s use of a social score system that grades its citizens based on their actions and the government’s creation of a network of surveillance cameras that have been put on street corners and in churches. 

“Imagine a system where citizens are given 2,000 points and every time you do something they government disagrees with, you are marked down for it,” Curry detailed. “Eventually, your travel is restricted, your children won’t get into the best schools. You lose points for taking your children to Sunday School. That is what the experience is like for many Christians in China.”

Curry traveled to China just a few weeks ago. 

“I saw with my own eyes the surveillance on the street but also in the churches, watching their congregation,” he said. “Facial scans when you come in and then tracking you and generating reports [with] assumptions built into their artificial intelligence system that is tracking Christian behavior.”

Curry said that the more often a person is seen going to church, the more often they are to be labeled a “radical.”

“They are shutting down house churches at a massive rate — 5,596 churches shut down, many because they refuse to put surveillance cameras up to watch their congregation.”

Pastor Jian Zhu, who was raised in China but now is the director of the China Institute at Lincoln Christian University in Illinois, told those in attendance that China’s persecution against house churches is now the worst he has seen since 1979. 

“The Chinese government now has placed severe restrictions and policies on the house churches, asking neighbors to spy on one another, pressures school teachers and college professors to betray and sign a statement to denounce their faith as well as to do the same to the students,” Zhu said. 

Zhu explained that many churches are asked to take down crosses inside and outside their buildings and put up pictures of President Xi Jinping at the center of their worship stages. Underground churches are also accused of illegally fundraising because they collect offerings from congregants. 

Zhu said he has heard of cases where some cities have shut down all house churches.

“Now, they are trying to eliminate Christianity from public life,” he said. “Cameras are all over to watch church and Christians go to Sunday service. Families are threatened to not go to church or they will be punished or their relatives could be in trouble.” 

One Christian from China who attended the Open Doors event told The Christian Post that he and his family fled from China after the house church he attended was shut down.

Curry stressed that the data “seems to point to the fact that China seems to be resurrecting the god-as-government state.”

“We are all threatened by this: atheists, Jews, Muslims, everyone,” Curry said. 

“They are using this artificial intelligence and surveillance to a whole new level,” he added. “All indications show that in 2020 — and this is why we are highlighting this — they are bringing these two systems together. They are merging the social scoring system and surveillance and artificial intelligence to give them the tools and the power to oppress the people.”

Curry said that the indications are not “just fear” or “unfounded.” 

“It is already happening in a very grave way: not to Christians but to Uighur Muslims,” he said, noting that hundreds of thousands if not millions of Uighur Muslims have been sent to “re-education centers” in Western China. 

“Muslims are forced to give up their faith and their culture. It’s only a matter of time before the world is going to jump on this technology because China is selling it to Iran, they’re looking to sell it to Egypt and other countries as well.”

When asked why China was not ranked lower on the World Watch List, Curry told CP that the World Watch List scores across measurements of private life, national life, violence, and others. 

“So while China is No. 23, we are highlighting it because of what I think is this blueprint,” Curry contended. “They are creating a system of persecution for the future and we have to call it out now. Otherwise, it will be too late. Otherwise, they will sell it to Iran and others to oppress their religious minorities. That is why it needs to be really highlighted. Within five years, it would be almost too late to stop them.

Curry said that Open Doors has asked the White House and others to support proposed legislation that he says would provide steps to “control the use of artificial intelligence and facial recognition around the world.”

“What assumptions are being built into this that we need to know?” Curry asked. “Does going to church make you a terrorist in China? These are things we need to know.”  

From The Christian Post

The Insanity of Sacrifice

“Coming out of an environment of debilitating persecution and death in the Horn of Africa, we set out to visit other believers in similar settings to discover for ourselves if Jesus was trustworthy. Is Jesus able to accomplish in the Somalias, the Afghanistans, and the Syrias (and in every other place!) of today what He did among the Roman Empire of His day? Was His resurrection simply an isolated historical event –or is that same resurrection power available to those who walk with this Living Jesus today?

Within a brief time, we were given the opportunity to travel the world and learn from brother and sisters in Christ who had survived —and who were continuing to survive—in settings of severe persecution. Over the next decade, we visited more than seventy-two countries, and interviewed more than six hundred followers of Jesus who live in environments of persecution and the possibility of imminent death. Much to our amazement, we discovered that these fellow followers of Jesus were not merely surviving —they were thriving in their faith. And God was blessing them in remarkable and startling ways.

What we learned were life lessons from believers living in persecution, who are living out the resurrection —even today. Our search through countries revealed dramatic testimonies of believers who have come to know God intimately as a faithful friend —a friend who calls us to a life of sacrifice modeled after His own.

This matter of sacrifice is a challenge for all of us. And we will be wise to approach any conversation about it with a spirit of humility and prayer. It is our sincere hope that, through the stories contained in these devotions, God will change all of us. It is our prayer that God will give you a heart for the world. It is our desire that you will embrace the privilege of sacrificing for His glory.

God, we are so thankful for Your sacrifice that allows us to know You as Father, Savior, and Lord. God, we recognize that You have sacrificed Your Son for us. And we wonder if maybe that sacrifice should be the end of the story.

But You invite us to join You in sacrifice.

Why is our sacrifice still needed? Following You is so much harder than simply studying about You. Please give us courage as You call us forward.”

Excerpt from The Insanity of Sacrifice, A 90 Day Devotional by Nik Ripken with Barry Stricker, p. 6 – 7

Other recommended books by Nik Ripken:

The Insanity of God

The Insanity of Obedience

Please pray for an abundance of God’s grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit to be with those suffering persecution and the possibility of imminent death, in many nations today, for the cause of Christ. Do not forget them. May God fulfill every desire for good works that are in your heart and the desire for resurrection power.

Carl

The Importance of Kindness

To him who is about to faint and despair, kindness is due from his friend, lest he forsake the fear of the Almighty.

Job 6:14 Amplified Bible

Though I have read the Book of Job several times, I did not remember this verse until I heard a sermon on kindness.

Job is addressing one of his friends who came to “comfort” him. Job was faint and in despair from the trial he was undergoing and he needed “kindness” from his friends instead of judgementalism. Satan’s goal in Job’s trials was to have him curse God to his face which would amount to forsaking the “fear” or “reverence” of the Almighty. He would cease to conduct himself in the healthy, wholesome, overwhelming, profound, adoring, awed respect (reverential fear) which manifested itself in obedience.

After hearing this sermon, I couldn’t help but wonder how many times I had walked right by another Christian who was “faint and despair” and did not stop to offer a word of encouragement or to tell them that God had not forsaken them, but would see them through the deep waters they were going through. I wondered if a brother or sister in Christ had turned their back on the Lord due to my lack of sensitivity and just common kindness.

God put several Christian hospital workers in my wife’s path when she was receiving treatment for breast cancer. They were an unbelievable encouragement to her and me during this time of spiritual fainting and despair. Just to know that the Lord had not forgotten us, was such a blessing.

Do you know anyone that is fainting and in despair due to some trial they are undergoing? If you do, show them kindness. Encourage them to not let their trial deter them from continuing to offer the Father the profound, adoring awed respect that He alone is worthy of. Remind them that He chose them in Christ Jesus before the foundation of the world, to spend eternity with Him as His adopted child. And how He has lavished His grace upon them by sending the Lord Jesus to die on the Cross for their sins while they were yet sinners.

In closing, remember our brothers and sisters in foreign lands that are being persecuted and murdered for their faith in Christ. One way to express our kindness is to ask the Father to strengthen their faith, give them an abundance of grace and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

Let us heed the Holy Spirit through the writer of Hebrews:

[Therefore beware] brethren, take care, lest there be in any one of you a wicked, unbelieving heart [which refuses to cleave to, trust in, and rely on Him], leading you to turn away and desert or stand aloof from the living God.

But instead warn (admonish, urge, and encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called Today, that none of you may be hardened [into settled rebellion] by the deceitfulness of sin [by the fraudulence, the stratagem, the trickery which the delusive glamor of his sin may play on him]. Hebrew 3:12-13 Amplified

Carl