Zahra, an elderly woman living in a remote Kurdish village of 200 in west Iran, had never learned to read or write. She could not read the Quran; she could not read the news; she could not read any important documents. Neither could anyone in her village.
Recently, she called to pray with the counselors at Iran Alive Ministries. The counselor realized she was already a believer. Zahra could not read the Bible. How had she learned about Jesus? The counselor prayed with Zahra so that she would have assurance of her salvation. The story Zahra then shared with her amazed her. Here is her story:
“Our village is in the mountainous areas where we get snow for six months a year. We are so remote that when it snows, we are practically cut off from the city. My family has a ranch that raises cattle and sheep. I am illiterate but have been watching your satellite programs for a long time. Through those programs, I got to know about Jesus.
“One day when I went to the river to wash my clothes, I had an encounter with Him. The water was very cold, and my hands were freezing. But when I saw Jesus, He put his pierced hands on mine, and my hands got warm.
Then He said, “Believe in me.” Right there, I told Him, “I do believe in You!”
This beautiful lady talked to the counselors for over 40 minutes, during which she quoted scriptures repeatedly. The counselor, being impressed, asked her, “You said you are illiterate. How come you know so many verses by heart?” Zahra replied:
“We have only one Bible in our village. All of us are illiterate except my son. We have no school, but my son has been going to the city a few months a year to learn to read and write. So after I encountered Jesus, I asked my son to get me a Bible the next time he went to the city. He got a Bible and has been reading it to me daily.”
“So I have memorized verses and told them to everyone in my village. As a result, many in our village have come to Christ. Many gather in my home regularly to watch your TV programs, receive your teachings, and listen to my son reading the Bible to them.”
Friends, I have been hearing stories like this for 40 years, from well-grounded, scripture saturated, mature leaders of the Church. I hope you will rejoice with this woman, her village and with what God is doing in Iran, throughout the Middle East, and the world to advance the Gospel.
On Saturday night April 30, our good friend, Hormoz Shariat, will share about the revival in Iran and stories like this that will warm your heart with the touch of Christ. We hope you will come and bring many friends.
The event is free, but we must have a count in order to prepare adequately. This link will take you to the right place to register for our April 30 WGS Vision Casting Night. We hope you will join us!
Early in Jesus’ ministry he caught the attention of the common people (not that he was trying) and the attention of the religious authorities by his miracles. Many said they believed, but Jesus did not believe their words of praise and faith. He knew their hearts and went home.
But one man followed, saw where Jesus was staying and visited him that night. He was “a visitor in the dark.” Listen to this retelling of a familiar story, freshly recorded with dramatic music added, and see what Jesus said to him and what he may say to you, today.
Stories of the Master is a ministry of Word of God, Speak. Listen to all Stories of the Master, heard around the world, at http://wgsministries.org/stories-2/.
A few months ago, an Iranian woman was watching the Iran Alive broadcast via satellite in her home in Iran. She was captivated by the message of new life found in Jesus Christ brought by Dr. Hormoz Shariat.
She called the number given on the screen to learn more and over the phone prayed to receive Christ. The ministry sent her a Bible and connected her to an underground church. Every week as she attended church with other believers, she had only one request, “Please pray for the salvation of my brother.”
Several months later, this young Christian woman said, “God is working in my brother! He is now watching the same program I was watching.” Two more months passed and this sister in Christ told her pastor, “I believe my brother is ready to receive Christ. Please, please come and speak with him.” The pastor agreed and this is his story of sharing Jesus with this woman’s brother.
When I came to the house, it was not a regular house. It was more like a mansion. I said to myself, “This man must be extremely rich!” And there I met the brother of the member of my church. He was a respectable and serious man. When we sat down, he told me that he had been watching Christian television and had some questions.
His questions were sincere and after hearing my answers, he looked down and thought quietly for a few moments. Then he lifted his head, looked into my eyes and said, “OK, I am ready. What do I need to do to become a Christian?”
I joyfully led him in a salvation prayer. After the prayer, he asked, “What should I do next?”
I told him, “You need to read your Bible and attend our house church so I can teach you the basics of Christian faith and life.”
With authority he replied, “I cannot and will not do that.”
“Why not?” I asked.
He replied, “Do you know who I am?”
“No,” I said, and then his answer shocked me. He then described his high ranking position in the government and how one of his tasks was to discover Christians and arrest them! I was scared and speechless because he could have ordered my arrest and execution at that moment!
But he said, “I cannot come to your house church because it will cause both of us a great deal of trouble. I will read the Bible and watch the show. However, we shall also do this. You shall come to my home once a week from now on and you shall teach me about the Bible privately. And one more thing, let me make it perfectly clear, if you do not come, I will send after you!”
This high ranking government official is still in his position and the house churches in his area are growing rapidly with minimal persecution.
I learned this story from the ministry of Dr. Hormoz Shariat who has been called “The Billy Graham of Iran.” This is one of thousands of stories of God’s mighty works in this important country that is so much in the news.
It has been our privilege to be on this show twice before and later this Fall we will be on it again to introduce our video – The Renewal of All Things – in Farsi. The video will be beamed via satellite into Iran and will be part of the outreach of Iran Alive to the precious Iranian people.
Do you have Iranian friends? Love them, share Christ with them, and show them this 16-minute presentation of the Gospel in Farsi on You Tube with this link.
Remember to pray for us and we thank you for your donations which make our ministry possible. As soon as we get a firm date when we will be on the show again, we will let you know. – Jonathan & Kathy Williams, Word of God, Speak!
Ten years ago Kathy and I celebrated our anniversary in the beautiful seaside city of Mazatlán, Mexico. We had no idea what a life-changing experience it would be. We met a young Mexican man, Jesus Antonio Samano Garay.
Antonio was a member of the very dangerous Sinaloa drug cartel. When we met him, we did not know it, but he was carrying a gun! He was also still involved in using and selling drugs, but he was very open to the Gospel and committed his life to Christ.
Now ten years later, Antonio is known as Pastor Antonio! That’s right. He is a pastor of a church in Mazatlán. Kathy and I visited him and his family recently. We attended church on Sunday where I shared the story, “The Prodigal Son and His Prodigal Father.” Later that night, Antonio preached it himself!
On the Sunday we were in Mazatlán, before I preached my sermon, Pastor Antonio shared a story with the children. After the sermon, he led the entire church in the Lord’s Supper. Think of it – a former gun-carrying, drug cartel member now speaking gently to children about Jesus and leading the congregation in remembering the sacrifice of our Lord!
Only God could do such a work of grace!
It is a work he does in all of us and a work he wishes to do in multitudes more. We rejoice in the privilege to share the Gospel around the world and with those next to us – in our neighborhood, at work, on vacation – wherever and whenever!
We are also delighted to announce that the Spanish version of The Renewal of All Things is now online. Please click here, then scroll to images and place your cursor over them and select Spanish. Please tell your Spanish speaking friends to watch. In addition, for those churches with outreach to Spanish speakers, this video is a great resource to introduce them to Christ as they hear the story unfold with dramatic video and music. We will also soon have the follow up booklet for download to be used for personal reflection or small group study in Spanish.
Please keep us in your prayers and in your giving to continue spreading the Gospel around the world! If you would like to contribute to WGS, click here. Thanks so much in working with us to advance the Gospel. – Jonathan & Kathy Williams
It is rare to find someone who does not admire Jesus. After all, he has given the world the highest ethical teaching and world-shaping, unforgettable stories like The Good Samaritan and The Prodigal Son.
But a pernicious problem plagues this high respect for Jesus – people don’t know who he truly is – or, they don’t want to know. Do people want to honor Jesus as a great teacher? Absolutely. But he is much more. Do people want to follow his example of love? No doubt. But he is much more. Do some people think him to be a prophet? Yes! 1.5 billion Muslims revere him as a prophet. But he is much more.
The Gospel presents him as the world’s Savior and the true Lord of heaven and earth. Jesus is Lord of all.
“But wait! In recent years new Gospels have been discovered – we can now read the Gospel of Judas, the Gospel of Philip, of Mary Magdalene, and Thomas. They present a different Jesus. Why do you insist on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?”
These kinds of questions and issues form the third challenge the Church faces today. I call it “The Mystic Messiah.” This is the challenge that relativizes the uniqueness of Jesus and reduces him to a mystic like other mystics and teachers of “timeless truths.”
We have combated this spirit of syncretism by quoting a few key verses:
- I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but by Me (John 14:6).
- And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12)
- For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).
These are great words and potent weapons. But let me suggest a far more powerful weapon – the weapon of connecting the story of Christ to the greater story of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Let me explain.
Why should we believe, for example, the Gospel of John over the Gospel of Thomas or the Gospel of Mary Magdalene? Today, many advocate giving equal weight to them all and speak of the different versions of Christianity in the ancient world. If one Gospel is as good as another, why would John 14:6 take precedent over a verse, say, in Thomas?
Here is how we answer this question. We ask, “which Gospel connects to the Narrative of Power in a cohesive way? Which Gospel completes the story begun in ancient times with the stories of Abraham, Moses, David, and the prophets? Does Thomas complete the story? Does Luke? John? Which ones?”
When one examines the Gospel of Thomas, one discovers there is no narrative at all! It is just a collection of sayings; some identical to the traditional Gospel statements, some roughly similar, and some completely different. But because Thomas has no narrative, one can take a “Jesus saying” and place it within whatever framework he likes to tell whatever story he likes! Actually, the sayings in Thomas do tell a story of sorts, or, at least provide a perspective, but it is not Christian. It is a Gnostic work providing a strange conclusion to a centuries long story that was headed in another direction.
This is more apparent in the Gospels of Mary Magdalene and Judas. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene provides some narrative, but when we examine it, we discover that it is telling another story – the Gnostic story – which has a different approach to life, a different worldview, and a different destiny than the controlling narrative of Scripture – the kingdom of God. Imagine telling your children the story of the three pigs as you tuck them into bed at night. You build up the story line and you get to the climax of the big bad wolf trying to blow down the house of bricks, but as you do so, you suddenly start telling the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. He climbs down the beanstalk with the giant who steps on the house smashing it to pieces and the wolf, who turns out to be hero, gobbles up the selfish pigs. You start with one story line but end with another. Your kids would look at you and say, “What are you doing? You are messing up the story!”
The other Gospels so many hear about today are doing exactly that – they are messing up the Story! When we understand the sayings and events in the life of Jesus within the history long narrative of the kingdom of God, we put it in its right context and have a bulwark against the spirit of syncretism that relativizes Jesus and reduces him to a teacher, example, or prophet only. Failure to put the Gospel of Christ within the larger Story line of the Kingdom of God opens us to dire consequences.
Without the overarching Story, we can more easily reduce Christ to another religious teacher with timeless words of wisdom about the mystery of life. The uniqueness of his message and identity are lost. Without the Story, we can synchronize Christ’s words with eastern religions or incorporate them into other religious tales that present a vastly different view of reality, the purpose of life, and how people return to God. But with the Story, we can confidently affirm the biblical Gospels over today’s trendy embrace of these other Gospels that tell a different tale.
Jesus was no “Mystic Messiah,” no “teacher of timeless truths.” He came with the urgent message of the kingdom of God that would transform people and will eventually transform this world. He died for all, rose on the third day, and is enthroned as the world’s true Lord.
Equip yourself and learn these vital truths to share with your friends.
You know about fortune cookies. You are at a Chinese restaurant. You have enjoyed a good meal with friends, but there is a ritual to perform at the end of the meal. Your server brings you a small tray with the bill and a fortune cookie for all. Everyone eagerly tears off the wrapper, breaks the cookie, reads their fortune, and shares it with others – a fitting and fun end to a great meal.
Unfortunately, that’s the way many Christians approach the Bible. It has become a book of “sayings,” “promises,” “principles,” and “commands” – only. Kind of like fortune cookie sayings. We read them, memorize them, pray about them, claim them, and sometimes obey them – all good. But too often we don’t realize these individual sayings are pieces of a larger narrative that exists to change people … and the world. Far too many Christians treat the Bible as a book of “Fortune Cookie” sayings. Their faith never rises above individual statements and never connects to the history-long, world-shaping narrative of God’s plan. They go their merry way with their spiritual Fortune Cookie saying for the day.
The Gospel of the Kingdom of God is a powerful remedy to this problem for it tells us that our Gospel connects to a world-wide and history-long story. The Story tells of a God who created a beautiful world and placed image bearers to live in it, to cultivate it, and to manage it for his glory. But the story took a dreadful turn. The image bearers rebelled against the King and in spite of his loving efforts to restore them, they continued to rebel and set up defiant kingdoms in the world and created offending caricatures of the true God. The world plunged into darkness.
Yet, God continued to reach out to the world of men, promising through his people Israel that he would restore his reign upon the earth. Those rebels who submitted to his kingdom could find release from sin and the restoration of his image in them. God would create a people for his glory, and he would one day fill the earth with his glory – paradise would be restored.
This is a long ways from “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!” Although a true statement and one that God has used to introduce countless men and women to Christ, it is only a crumb from the Master’s table when he invites the Church, and the nations through the Church, to his Gospel banquet. Or, to use the Story metaphor, he invites us to explore, learn, and tell the full story and not just a portion of it. We are part of a history-long, world-wide story! When God’s people learn and embrace this Story, the Narrative of Power – The Kingdom of God – they will find themselves letting go of Fortune Cookie Christianity for something far greater.
In my book, Changing the Stories of the World, I explain how large segments of the Church have truncated the Gospel by not connecting it to God’s kingdom plan. Jesus did not preach a Gospel of “pray this prayer and you’ll go to heaven when you die.” He proclaimed the kingdom of God. So did Peter, Philip, Paul, and all the apostles. The opening verses of Acts tells us that Jesus taught his disciples the kingdom of God during his 40 days after the resurrection. The last verse of Acts tells us that Paul was proclaiming the kingdom in Rome.
I hope you will get a copy of Changing the Stories of the World, deepen your understanding of the Gospel, and share your faith more confidently and fully for the glory of God in his world.
The Church, like ancient Israel, has always faced the enemy of false gods. To ancient Israel they looked like the faces of Baal or Astarte, gods and goddesses of fertility or like the faces of Bel and Marduk, the gods of Babylon who had conquered Jerusalem.
But the enemy has a different face today for it is telling its story in a new way. The new story is “your god is OK. My god is OK. Everyone’s god is OK as long as we believe. Right?”
And this is where we must humbly say, “No. Not right.”
We live in a country where 94% of the people claim to believe in God. Big deal! In Paul’s world, I would guess that 99.9999% of the people believed in God. An atheist was a rare commodity. The problem was that they believed in the wrong God, and the problem for us is that when people say they believe in God, they don’t have a clue what they mean about “God,” or, they have another version of God in their mind. This is why our message must include “the Gospel of God” – an explanation of who he is, his nature, his creative purposes, and his promises to restore the world to himself. When we do not present the Gospel of God to people, we may not be giving the proper theological context, worldview perspective, or narrative background for our presentation of the Gospel of Christ.
Today, the promotion of Generic Theism is in full swing. We hear of:
- The higher power of Alcoholics Anonymous
- The intelligent designer of academic debates
- The human-evolved-into-the-Father god of Mormonism
- The Great Mind or Soul of Hinduism
- The pantheistic god of new age spirituality
My guess is that these beliefs substantially pad the 94% of survey results. We no longer have the luxury of assuming that “God” means the God of the Bible to everyone. We certainly would not assume that in India. We should no longer assume it in the West. And for this reason, when we present the Gospel, we may first need to present the Gospel of God – the good news of who God is, what he is like, what he has done, and his call for absolute allegiance and solitary worship.
Would you like to learn more about the Gospel of God and changing the stories people believe about God, about the world, and about themselves? We hope you will get a copy of this important book, study it thoroughly and equip yourself to share the Gospel with clarity and conviction to the confused. Order here.
Since the late 1970’s, I have heard story after story of Jesus appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions to speak to them about who he is. It has come from every conceivable source, numerous well-respected organizations, and trusted friends. Why does he do this with Muslims and so frequently? I don’t know, but it thrills my heart every time I hear a new story. It reminds me that we are speaking the truth, Jesus is alive, and he is Lord of all.
Last weekend I heard another story of the mighty power of Jesus. Kathy and I were in Ft. Worth at the Muslim Background Believers conference. On Saturday night we had dinner with Hormoz Shariat and his wife Donnell. Hormoz is the founder and president of Iran Alive Ministries which God is using to bring Muslims to Christ in the thousands in Iran. Here is what he told me.
A Muslim man in a village watch Hormoz week after week speak of the love and life giving message of Jesus. Then, one night he trusted Christ as his Savior. He wanted to know what to do with his new-found faith and the Lord spoke to him to share this good news with others. The man obeyed and started sharing with the other men in the village but three of them took offense at his message and beat him severely.
The new Christian went home badly beaten physically and greatly discouraged. He fell asleep and soon Jesus appeared to him in a dream. The man said, “Lord, why did this happen to me? I have obeyed you and look what happened! Are you sure this is what you wanted me to do.” Jesus told him, “Yes, I wanted you to speak with them and very soon you will see that I can turn your enemies into friends.” Then, the man fell into a deep, restful, and healing sleep.
In the morning he was awakened by loud knocking on his door. When he opened it, there were the three men who attacked him! In fear, the man tried to shut the door, but they said, “Please, no, wait. Last night we could not sleep. We felt so bad about what we did to you. We had a dream and we want to learn more about Jesus.” So the four men began watching Hormoz’s broadcast and soon they trusted Christ as Savior!
Then, they started telling others in the village. Soon, the entire village was in the man’s home watching the show. Eventually, everyone in the village became a follower of Jesus!
This is only one of many gripping stories we heard last weekend at the conference we attended to equip God’s people to minister to Muslims. Islam has always presented a great challenge to our faith, but we heard repeatedly that we are not to give in to our fear. We have a greater message, a greater story, a greater Lord.
To assist you in your outreach to others, we have created a 16-minute video, The Renewal of All Things. You can purchase a DVD, purchase the download, or watch with this link on the web. We have also created a follow up booklet to guide people through the video with discussion questions. We hope you will take advantage of these resources to share your faith with others.
When we heard the news, saw the pictures, and imagined what it was like we were all sickened. The news channels covered it and depending on the channel you watched commentators either railed against the President for doing nothing or commended him for his restraint in the face of barbarism.
But another story has emerged from this terrible act. One mother lost two sons in this incident and has spoken out. Another of her sons, Beshir, has gone on television and spoken of losing his two brothers when he called in to the television show which was speaking of this atrocity. Here is a summary of what was said:
Beshier: “I did not lose one brother … I lost two. Bishoy who was 25 and Samuel was was 23. I am proud of them. They are a pride to Christianity. They make me walk with my head high.”
Host: “Great is your faith.”
Beshier: “ISIS gave us more than we asked when they did not edit out the part where my brothers and others declared their faith and called out to Jesus Christ. I thank ISIS. ISIS helped us strengthen our faith. Yes … believe me! This only helps us endure such crises because the Bible tells us to love our enemies and bless those who curse us.”
Host: How did your mother respond? What would she do if she saw one of these killers on the street?
Beshier: “I did talk to my mother about this. I can tell you that she came to this resolution in her heart. She said, ‘If I were to see one of these killers on the street, I would invite him home and ask God to open his eyes!'”
Beshir then prayed on air and asked God to open the eyes of the ISIS killers that they might turn from the lies they have believed to the truth. Everyone in the studio was deeply moved by this story and by the fact that it was being heard by tens of thousands all over the Muslim world. Phone calls poured in from people of various religions or no religion who saw this. The atrocities of ISIS, the faith of Christians, and the witness of
Christians reaching out in acts of kindness and faithful Gospel witness are causing them to turn to Jesus!
We rejoice in the faith of our martyred brothers. We rejoice in the faith of a grieving, but strong, brother and mother. We rejoice in the faithful witness of God’s people who continue to reach out in these lands through acts of kindness and faithful Gospel witness!
Soon, the Arabic translation of The Renewal of All Things will be available in Arabic, Farsi, Kurdish and other languages where it is difficult to follow Jesus. Please join us in prayer for God to use this video as people hear the true story of the true God and Lord of the world.
Watch the 16-minute video here. Scroll down below the trailer to watch in six languages.
To my dear friend, and now sister in Christ, Susan
Once a group of theologians were sitting in a conference room discussing what, if any difference, existed between Christianity and other religions. Many ideas were proposed but no one could quite put their finger on what made Christianity unique. Then, C.S. Lewis, the professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature in a great British university walked into the room. Lewis had been an atheist for most of his adult life but his conversations with J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings, had convinced him of the truth of the Gospel many years before.
Lewis asked, “What’s all the rumpus about?”
Someone replied, “We are discussing what makes Christianity unique? We can’t quite put our finger on it. What do you think?”
And Lewis replied, “That’s easy. It’s grace!”
The others sat still for a while and then one by one gave their assent. Lewis had quickly identified the core component of Christianity’s uniqueness – the grace of God. Every religion is an effort by man to find God, to please God, and to make amends for bad things. It is man’s effort. Christianity is just the opposite – it is about God seeking after man and what he has done to restore sinful, weak humans to himself. This concept of God’s work to save us is called the grace of God. Grace is the personal work of God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and to do what we will never deserve to have done for us because of our sin. All of that is wrapped up in the one little word – grace. Religion is man’s efforts. Christianity is God’s efforts.
But there are other important attributes of Christianity that are unique.
- Most religions in the world are a variation of Greek philosophy which teach that matter (the physical part of creation) is eternal, in chaos, and is something to be escaped. Biblical teaching is that matter is not eternal but was created by God. When he created it, it was good. It became corrupted when mankind rebelled against God, but God’s purpose is to restore creation to its original, pristine state of goodness and perfection.
- Most religions in the world do not have a historical narrative. They deal with mythological beings in other worlds. Biblical teaching is that history is important – the history of nations, families, communities, and our personal history. God interacts with this world and is very interested and concerned with what happens on this planet. God’s ultimate goal is not to help people escape a fallen world. His ultimate goal is to restore what was lost. The bible does not present itself as myth. It presents itself as history with real events happening in real places.
- Jesus never came saying, “I will show you the path of enlightenment and inner illumination by which you can find your true self, your true divinity, and can be reunited with the divine.” If he had said that, no one would have paid any attention to him in his nation. Instead, he came with the message of the restoration of all things (this is why we call our video – The Renewal of All Things) – the restoration of people to God, to one another, the healing of the image of God, and the healing of earth.
- Jesus always claimed to be more than a teacher and a prophet. He was a teacher and prophet, but far more. He claimed to be the Anointed One prophesied by the prophets of Israel who would restore all things. One of these prophecies calls him “Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) and Jesus claimed to be this Mighty God (see the Gospel of John).
- Teachers of other religions never claimed to be sinless, never said they would offer themselves as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and never said they would rise again from the dead in three days after they were executed. Jesus staked everything on this. He claimed to be the sinless anointed one. He said his death would be a ransom payment to rescue us from sin, and that it would all be proven by the resurrection.
What every person must do is to verify if these things are so. They must examine the historically verifiable documents of ancient history which we call the Bible, and especially the New Testament to see if this is what is really being said. Then, once they see that this is, indeed, what the New Testament is teaching, they must then ask themselves – was Jesus lying, was he deluded, or was he telling the truth? When people discover he was telling the truth they must call upon him and ask the living, resurrected Jesus to be their Lord and then spread that good news to others in the world.
It is crucial for everyone to learn the big difference. In Changing the Stories of the World I share how we must change people’s stories and the world’s stories by presenting the unique message of the Bible. Get a copy of this important book today and learn how you can change the stories of the world.