Secret Police Arrest Long-time Convert


From Compass Direct, via my dad.Â

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Christian held under interrogation in northern Iran for past three weeks.

May 22 (Compass Direct) – An Iranian Christian who converted from Islam 33 years ago is under arrest and interrogation in northern Iran, where secret police have held him incommunicado for the past three weeks.

Ali Kaboli, 51, was taken into custody on May 2 from his workshop in Gorgan, capital of Iran’s northern province of Golestan. With the exception of one brief telephone call, he has been refused contact with any visitors.

To date no charges have been filed against Kaboli, who has been threatened in the past with legal prosecution for holding “illegal” religious meetings in his home. He could also be charged for converting to Christianity, which under Iran’s apostasy laws calls for the death penalty.

Since Kaboli’s arrest three weeks ago, a number of the Christians attending Kaboli’s house-church have been called in by the police and questioned, one by one.

Kaboli is married with five grown children; his family has declined to comment on the situation.

A carpenter by trade, Kaboli has for decades hosted house church meetings in his home, which was once burned down by unidentified arsonists. Much of his spare time has been spent as an itinerant evangelist, leading small meetings for worship, Bible study and discipleship in various towns and cities along the Caspian Sea coast.

He has been threatened, arrested and interrogated numerous times for his Christian activities. Twelve years ago, he received verbal threats that he was an apostate who should be killed.

More than once local police have ordered him for months to stay within the city limits of Gorgan and sign in daily at police headquarters.

“Everyone knew that his house was under control [police surveillance] for many years,” an Iranian Christian now living abroad said. “They even pushed him to leave the country about three years ago, but he told them he preferred to stay inside the country, even if it meant living in an Iranian jail.”

“He loves Jesus very much,” said an Iranian pastor who has known Kaboli since his conversion to Christ as a teenager in Tehran. Another Christian added: “And he is very bold.”

Relentless Intimidation

According to outside observers close to the mushrooming Protestant house church movement inside Iran, local authorities and police interrogators in the Golestan and Mazandaran provinces of northern Iran have been “notoriously difficult” for their tough stance against converts to Christianity.

Six months ago, another Muslim convert to Christianity was stabbed to death in nearby Gonbad-e-Kavus, 60 miles from Gorgan. The body of Ghorban Dordi Tourani, 53, was thrown in front of his home a few hours after he was arrested from his home on November 22, 2005.

Since last year’s election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranian authorities have ratcheted up their pressures against the handful of remaining Protestant congregations still allowed to meet in official church buildings.

Nearly two years ago, local Protestant denominations had been ordered to cut their ties with any house church groups meeting throughout the country. Government officials warned that such fellowships were holding “illegal religious meetings” and would be duly prosecuted.

Since then, church leaders have been under relentless intimidation to compromise with government investigators by providing the names of their members, particularly any who are converts from Islam.

“So they must either give the police these names, or resign from pastoral ministry – or give up and leave the country,” one Iranian Christian told Compass. “Well actually,” he continued, “there is a fourth alternative: they can go to prison.”

It was lay pastor Hamid Pourmand’s refusal to compromise his Christian faith that landed him in jail in September 2004. Another long-term convert from Islam, the former army colonel is serving a three-year jail term at Tehran’s Evin Prison for allegedly “concealing” his conversion to Christianity from the Iranian military.

Peace and Hope (Romans 5.1-5)


What are the benefits of justification by faith?

Before I answer that question, let reiterate what we have learned so far about Paul’s letter to the Romans:

The theme of Romans is “a righteousness that is by faith from first to last” (Romans 1.17).

  • According to Romans 1.18-3.20, all people are sinners. Consequently, “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin” (3.20).
  • So, according to Romans 3.21-4.25, if anyone is declared righteous in God’s sight, it is because of faith-just as in the Old Testament, Abraham’s faith “was credited to him as righteousness” (Romans 4.3, 22).

So, to return to our opening question, what are the benefits of justification by faith? The most obvious benefit, of course, is righteousness itself, the gift of being able to stand before God our Judge as innocent men and women-innocent because of the death of Christ for our sins and in our place (Romans 3.25-26).

But the benefits of justification do not stop there. Romans 5.1-8.39 details numerous blessings that flow to us from God through Christ. Consider, as a beginning to this detailed list, what Paul writes in Romans 5.1-5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

Two words stand out here: peace and hope.

Peace is not merely the absence of conflict between two individuals; it is also the presence of harmony. Nations at war do not achieve real peace simply by laying down their arms against one another. They achieve real peace when they establish and maintain ties of friendship and reconciliation. Similarly, we are at peace with God not merely because he is no longer angry at us because of our sin. Rather, we are at peace with God because he has given us “this grace in which we now stand.”

This peace with God gives way to “the hope of the glory of God.” Those to whom God gives grace will see him “face to face” (1 Corinthians 13.12). Such hope provides believers with an optimistic perspective on suffering. Suffering is not an obstacle to our relationship with God. Properly handled, it can become a vehicle of spiritual and moral growth: “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” And it can also be a means of drawing closer to God. Why? Because God gives us “the Holy Spirit.” This is his personal presence. And during times of suffering, as we realize that God’s Spirit is with us, we are reminded of his never-failing love for us.

Righteousness through faith produces peace and hope. That’s good news, isn’t it!

Faith: Irrational or Rational? (Romans 4.18-25)


Is faith an irrational leap in the dark, or a rational trust in the evidence?

At first glance, Romans 4.18-25 seems to answer both ways. Here’s what Paul wrote:

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

The background of this passage is Genesis 15.1-6, in which God promised a childless Abraham that he would nevertheless father a child. According to Genesis 16.1-4, when Abraham and Sarah were unsuccessful in producing a child, Sarah suggested that Abraham father a child with her Egyptian maid Hagar, which Abraham proceeded to do. But this child, Ishmael, was not the child God had promised. So, in Genesis 17.15-22, God reiterated the promise that Abraham and Sarah would produce a child, even in their advanced old age. The birth of Isaac in Genesis 21.1-7 at last fulfilled God’s longstanding promise.

With this biblical background in mind, you can see why some people view faith as an irrational leap in the dark. It is a simple biological fact that post-menopausal women like Sarah simply do not get pregnant. Nevertheless, Paul wrote, “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.” Hoping when there is no hope seems to be irrational.

And yet, Abraham very rationally took into consideration the overwhelming power of God. According to Paul, he was “strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” In other words, Abraham’s hope-against-hope was built around the entirely rational premise that the God who created the world out of nothing has the power to create life in a barren womb too. In our day and age, medical doctors have been able to induce pregnancies in women well past their child-bearing years. Doesn’t it seem a bit foolish to deny that Almighty God might have the same ability?

So, faith, which seems a bit irrational in the beginning, turns out to be a very rational response to the promises of an all-powerful God. That God created us, and through Christ, he is saving us. Do you trust him? It seems like the only rational thing to do.