Too Many to Jail

Let me start by saying Too Many to Jail by Mark Bradley is available until April 5 for just $.99 on Kindle – and you need to order it now by clicking here.  The book tells the story of the Christian church in Iran – a country where you’d expect the church to be dieing – but to the contrary, Iran is the country with the fastest growing church in the world, growing at a rate of nearly 20% every year!

In the book Bradley provides several chapters that give a brief overview of the history of Iran since the Islamic Revolution, with an eye towards explaining both Christian persecution during that time and the growth of the church.  He goes into detail regarding five house churches, and the book really is a study of the growth of the house church movement in Iran.

Rather that provide you with any further details about the book, though, I’d like to share what the book has forced me to think about – and reminded me of.  Overall, it has led me to reflect on my own witness for Jesus (0r lack thereof) – I’ve had to ask myself, “Why is it there are so many people in Iran who are willing to go to jail, be tortured, or even die for sharing the Gospel and I’m afraid to talk to people here in America?”  The boldness of these believers is both inspiring and convicting.

The book also addresses why people are so open to Christianity (and, honestly, why do I assume they aren’t open to it here?)  The biggest reason?  It’s really simple: the primacy of Jesus Christ.  Bradley writes, “Ask an Iranian why they are attracted to Christianity and the answer is often very simple: Jesus Christ” (p. 104).  It makes me wonder, why don’t people in America say that?  Is it because we’ve done a lousy job of showing them Jesus?  Several times in the book Bradley wrote about how in the house churches Christians told others (evangelized them) simply what God had done in their own lives – it is the story of testimony.  Yet here in the American church we struggle to get people to even see the movement of God in their lives, yet alone tell others about it!  There’s also an emphasis in the book on the practice of church discipline in the Iranian church: “[The church] is particularly string in two areas: sexual relations and gossip” (p. 131).  The process?  People who fall in these areas are first warned and asked to live pure lives, but if they continue they are asked to leave the church.  It’s that simple.  And do you notice the two that have been picked?  Wow!

The other reason the church is growing?  Christians aren’t afraid to share Jesus with people!  Even in the presence of persecution, Christians share the good news:

“The policy for Christians who do not actively threaten the status quo of the Shia state is discrimination, which often leads to the ordeal of emigration…It is true that many hard-line Muslims in Iran interpret the Sharia law as demanding death for male apostates and life imprisonment for females.  Hence, in more colorful publication,s the impression can be given that a Muslim in Iran who becomes a Christian spends every waking moment in fear of being murdered or dragged of to a kangaroo court to be sentenced to death.  However, even Iranian officials can be uncomfortable with this image and there is no record of any Christian facing that sort of treatment in Iran – as long as they are quietist and not active at all…The issue is that many Christians are not quietist” (p. 165-6, emphasis mine).

Read that again – if Christians in Iran would be willing to put up with some discrimination (political, economic, etc), they could live their lives without fear of torture or murder.  But even know that they do not remain quiet but insist on sharing the good news of Jesus with non-believers! Bradley also writes, “One man closely involved with house churches made this striking comment, ‘The people are so open that you can get away with anything in evangelism if you go about it the right way.’  In other words people want to hear about Jesus, and if approached in the appropriate way they will make a commitment” (p. 147, emphasis mine).  Why aren’t the Christians afraid to suffer persecution for the sake of Jesus?  Apparently they actually believe what he said, and they believe it enough to risk it all – but they’ve also found that when they share Jesus with others people actually respond by also taking on the risk of following Jesus.

When was the last time you heard anyone in America talk like that?

Overall I’m giving this book 5/5 stars – if you’re willing to confront your own fears about sharing Jesus with others.   If you’d like to check out an excerpt before spending the $.99 for the book (see link at top of page) you can find one if you click here.

For the record, I did receive a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily favorable, review.




Keeping Secrets (Issue 1.29)

Originally Written for 3/31/09

It’s hard keeping secrets, especially good ones.  Several weeks ago Melissa’s mother and sister began planning a surprise baby shower for her, which happened this afternoon.  For the past several weeks, and especially the last couple of days with everyone in town, it’s been very difficult to not slip-up and say something to ruin the surprise.  As of now, though, everyone has left the house and the plan is under way – in about 15 minutes (or, when you’re reading this, about three hours ago), Melissa should walk into a friend’s house and hear “Surprise!”

Have you ever had a secret that you wanted to share but knew you couldn’t?  Perhaps it was a promotion at work that wasn’t public yet, or an award you were going to receive, or a birthday party you had planned…  In any case, whatever the event, you had to watch what you’d say because if you said the wrong thing you’d let the “cat out of the bag” and ruin the whole thing.

Except in one area.  Too often when it comes to sharing our faith we box it up and hide it so no one knows.  How come it’s so hard to keep the “Secret of the Baby Shower” but so easy to keep the “Secret to Eternal Life and True Contentment”?  Jeremiah says, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention [God] or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” (20:9)

I know this is a short devotional, but I’d like us to meditate on that verse some.  Why is it so easy to go to someone at work and share the most recent gossip on a colleague, but so difficult to run and share what God has taught us over the weekend?  Why is it hard to keep the secret of the sin someone’s doing but easy to keep the secret of the forgiveness offered the sinner?

Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 8:38).  When people come in contact with you do they find the spring that shoots forth living water, or do they find it shooting something else?  Maybe it’s time to begin sharing your “secret”.

Street Pedlers (Issue 1.9)

Originally Written for 10/19/08

Yesterday we went to the State Fair.  Chloe got to ride the ponies and the carasol, and we ate elephant ears and sweet corn while we visited the Village of Yesteryear and saw all the exhibits in the buildings.  We saw builders of outdoor chairs, awnings, and sheds, intersected with peddlers of steam carpets, special miracle-cloths, and personal bug zappers, and had to endure the sights of thousands of political stickers and posters.  At one point I asked Melissa if her father had ever tried selling his water systems at a fair (he produces, sells, and services RO water systems).  We saw at least three people in the short time we were there selling some kind of water system – so I thought maybe he had tried it before.  Afterall, if some guy could make money selling the personal bug-zapper or ultimate hose-nozzle, why couldn’t someone make a living something someone may actually need?

One thing I didn’t see much of, though – actually, I didn’t see at all – was people trying to pedal God.  Not once did someone come up and ask me a question that impacted eternity, and no one ever wore a sticker that said, “Jesus Christ Loves Me” – though I saw plenty that claimed they were loved by either McCain, Obama, Dole, or Hagen.  People had a lot of fun, and they ate good food, but I didn’t see anyone claiming to have the bread of life or the ticket to this ride we call life.  Nope, didn’t see any of that.

Maybe it’s good I didn’t.  I mean, how many people do you know that have come to the Lord through the chastisement of a street-corner preacher or because they paid money to see the “world’s biggest, smallest, fattest, tallest, whatchamacallit” behind the curtain.  Maybe trying to reach people for God like just someone else at the fair isn’t such a good idea.

So I ask myself, how many other people left the fair thinking the same thing I did – people I had interacted with?  Did they see him smile at them through my smile?  Did they experience his love when I held the door open so they could enter?  Did they hear his voice when I said “Thank you” or “Have a great day”?

Phillip Yancy suggests that the reason we’re told to pray for others is so that we can see needs we can meet in their lives.  Maybe it’s the same thing with noticing God’s absence.  Maybe I need to make a greater effort to shine His light in every situation I find myself in – even in, perhaps especially at, the State Fair.  Perhaps the reason God allowed me to see the lack people proclaiming Him was because He wanted me to do the job myself.

And not just at the fair, either.