Most have heard of the daily protests across Iran. The people are demonstrating against the government as they feel hopeless and that life will not get better. This is a key time for Iran and the Gospel.
Demonstrations have erupted in nearly every province and the main cause for
these demonstrations is economic pain and desperation. Last Fall, Kathy and I had dinner with Dr. Hormoz Shariat and his wife Donnell. He shared with us how God is using his ministry in amazing ways in that country. Out of 36 channels broadcast in Iran – secular and spiritual – his is the #6 channel viewed by millions.
Dr. Shariat shared that in the past six months, about 30 percent of the incoming prayer requests have been related to the economic situation. One viewer said that she and her husband are so financially desperate they were considering selling their 3-month-old baby to traffickers!
Here are some of the reasons for the rioting.
- Basic goods such as milk, cheese, and eggs are unaffordable.
- More than 85% of the economy is controlled by the clergy and the Iranian Guard. Those in power live in luxury. More Lamborghinis, Ferraris, and Maserati’s travel the streets in Tehran than Beverly Hills.
- Unemployment is 25% and among young adults is as high as 40%. The highly educated have no jobs and struggle to find menial labor. Many must live with parents.
- Addiction is rampant.
- The Islamic government spends millions each month to support revolution in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and Iraq.
During this unrest, Dr. Shariat has broadcast every evening to the people. He has shared:
- God knows their pain and cares about what they are going through.
- God has a plan for Iran and wants the people to know his mind and heart for them.
- This plan is found in Isa al-Masih, Jesus the Messiah.
The people are crying out in pain and looking for answers. On January 25, I will be on the live, prime-time program. This will be noon to 1pm CST but in the evening in Iran. Later that afternoon, I will record a half-hour program to be viewed later.
Thank you for praying for these programs, for praying for Dr. Shariat’s ministry, and for the country of Iran.
– Jonathan Williams
WGS Ministries focuses on connecting mankind with the true story of the true God. Your tax-deductible donations help us tell the story of Jesus and the stories he told to the world in our program Stories of the Master, in our video The Renewal of All Things (now in 22 languages), and in our teaching programs The Heaven & Home Hour and Word of God, Speak. Thank you for your help! Use this link to give now.
I’m sure by now you have heard of the record smashing sale of the painting by Leonardo da Vinci that took place last month.
Before last month, the highest price for a painting was $179 million for “The Women of Algiers” by Picasso. The price paid for da Vinci’s was $450 million, more than doubling the record!
Da Vinci’s masterpiece has an interesting history. It was painted around 1500. It was owned by King Charles 1 of England who reigned from 1625 to 1649. It disappeared until 1900 when it was acquired by a British collector. It sold in 1958 and then was acquired in 2005, badly damaged and partly painted over, by a consortium of art dealers for less than $10,000! The dealers restored the painting, sold it to a Russian billionaire in 2013 for $127 million who then sold it last month for $450 million.
Less than $10,000 to $450 million!
There is a lesson in this, especially when we consider the subject of the painting. It is called “Salvator Mundi” which is Latin for “Savior of the world.” It is a painting of Jesus Christ!
The history of this painting presents a parable of the world’s reaction to Jesus of Nazareth. To some, he is the most venerated person on earth – the subject of a masterpiece by one of the great artists – Leonardo da Vinci.
To others, he is relative junk. He bounces from place to place. People deface him. They paint over him. They try to change the image. He is not valued, but he is there, waiting for his precious value to be discovered. Then, one day he emerges and people realize the precious possession they have and others will do anything to gain him once they realize how valuable he is.
What is Jesus to you? Not the painting but the real person. Is he a curious artifact of history that has little relative value, or the most expensive, the most precious object in the world?
What would you pay for Jesus?
Last night, my wife and I watched The Miracle Worker, the 1962 movie about the nearly blind Anne Sullivan working with Helen Keller to bring her out of the darkness of her deafness and blindness.
In one of many memorable scenes, Anne and Helen have a knock-down, drag-out wrestling match during dinner. Anne is determined to teach her manners and respect. Helen is completely spoiled and as stubborn as a mule. The battle goes on and on, but Anne prevails with a small victory. She teaches Helen to fold her napkin.
Then, when Helen leaves, Anne is left wondering this. “How can I bring this child out of her darkness? How can I awaken her soul to want to learn?” She reads about how people persevere to rescue a person who has fallen into a pit with mounds of rubble on top of them. But seldom do people persevere to rescue a child’s soul who remains in a pit of blindness and deafness.
As the story goes on, Anne breaks through, Helen begins learning, and realizes that she is loved. She becomes the famous Helen Keller whose story has inspired millions.
This morning when I awakened, I thought again of the movie and of Ephesians 5:14 – “Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead and the Lord will shine upon you.”
God calls us to awaken the “Helen Keller’s” of the world – to persevere with people and to draw them out so that they will want to learn about the Savior’s love for them and embrace him.
The picture on this post shows Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft who won Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress, respectively, for this inspiring film.
While we were praying and trusting God on our end, others were praying and trusting God on theirs. Peter Lamberti, CEO of Lion Mountain Media, a South African wildlife and family television production company, came to the NRB with his colleagues praying, “Holy Spirit, lead us to someone with an idea we can turn into a television series that will bring in a large harvest of souls around the world.” On the first day of the convention he walked up to our exhibit and told us his vision. Then, we told him ours and our hearts were united. God had done what was impossible for us, but easy for him! He connected us with people who had the heart and the expertise to answer our prayer.
- A replica of Nazareth in the time in which Jesus lived
- A higher education and trade school specializing in film industry disciplines
- A television studio to produce the epic television series, Stories of the Master, and other Christian based dramas and documentaries that will bring the truth of God’s Story into the world dramatically, accurately, thoroughly, and excellently
- Partnership with The Africa Vision Foundation to train Africans in the Gospel and in building sustainable communities
- Please Share this with others for their prayer.
- Send me a quick email to let me know you are praying with us. – jonathan@WGSministries.org
- If you have questions about this project, please email me and I will be happy to provide you with more information.
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.