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Friday, October 12, 2012

I Do Not Permit A Woman To Teach!

Recently, after coming back from a mission trip, a friend of mine, a dental school student, wrote the following article.   

           Over this last break, I made the executive decision to go on a mission trip to one of the poorest nations in the world. I would love to use prettier adjectives to describe my decision for going. Adjective such as: ‘wonderful opportunity’ or ‘blessed chance’, but in reality, I just saw a flier and signed up. I went overseas with the idea that I was going to help as many people as humanly possible.

The morning after we arrived, I and about 20 other students excitedly got on a bus that would be our means of transportation for the following 5 days. The first order of business was to introduce ourselves to our peers, when it quickly became apparent to me that not everyone had the same intentions for coming on the trip.

On the bus ride I heard several variations of, ”I am about to start student clinic and I want to get better at drilling teeth”, which immediately sent me back to a conversation I had weeks before my departure.

In a gathering of fellow students, the topic of mission trips had come up, and we were sharing our views. Most people involved in the conversation had a positive outlook on mission trips. That is until one of the fellow students asked,

”Why do you think the students are sent to these countries for mission trips?’ I thought I knew the answer—these are poor and impoverished nations that need our help. Then, why not go to poor and impoverished areas in America, and serve there?’ We ALL knew the answer to that question, IT IS ILLEGAL FOR THE STUDENTS TO DRILL UNSUPERVISED AT THIS POINT OF OUR DENTESTERY CAREER.

And why do you think it is illegal in America,’ he continued and then, not even waiting for our response, he said, “Because there are laws protecting the citizens of America from YOU.”

Jump back to the bus ride…

This is where my wheels really started turning. Our translators had told the natives that we were doctors. We were AMERICAN doctors. In the eyes of these poor people, those two credentials deified us. When in reality, we were students who, at most, had never drilled more than one tooth per week under the scrutiny of a professor, and on top of that, most of us had not been successful with that one tooth, anyway. However, that hadn’t stopped us from coming on a mission trip to a third world nation where there would be no judgment from the patients, no constructive criticism, and no real feed back other than the occasional smile and “merci.”

For most of the journey we were unsupervised. There were some licensed dentists on the trip. None had brought their tools of the trades with them, and our leader spent the majority of the days in the comfort of our air-conditioned bus because ”the heat exhausts [him].” If a student had a question, they were advised to seek out the help of other students.

The mission trip became student-training ground. Where else would we have had the opportunity to drill 60, 70, 100 people in a week at our skill level? Never in the United States of America!

HOWEVER, in this third world nation, we’re encouraged to practice on any type of dental problem that we weren’t confident in—regardless of its necessity. The second night on the trip, one of the doctors told the students, ”If you aren’t proficient in any type of drilling, just decide this in your head now, tomorrow, I am going to perform that technique on everyone. Every person who lays on your chair will get that treatment.” WHAT?!? I felt sick to my stomach. I immediately stood up and walked out of the meeting room.

How should we respond to a group of dental students who’re going to practice their drilling technique on third world children? Their skin color might be different, and their language may be foreign, but they are still human beings.

I don’t think the students should be held liable for their attitudes. We are encouraged to go on these trips to get better—to practice on these trusting people. The students come back from these overseas trips very encouraged by all they learned, and all the ”good“ they did. But in reality, these trips are monetarily profiting those who put it together. That is why, regardless of your level in school or your competency, if your check clears, you are qualified to go on a mission trip.

Let me leave you with the following proposal. For the next mission trip, I challenge you to give it a second, third, fourth thought before you choose to sign-up. If a pre-requisite for the mission trip were to drill holes in everyone’s tooth in your class, would you be confident and competent enough to do so? If you were handed your infant niece or nephew, would you be able to analyze their problem and drill their teeth properly? Are your fellow peers lining up to have you fix their teeth? If not, then you probably are not ready to serve as a dentist on a mission trip.

So, what does drilling teeth have to do with Apostle Paul’s admonition, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man…”?

Isn’t in interesting that many Christian denominations who are strictly against women in authority over men, often have no problem sending the same women overseas to become teachers to non-American males? And even worse, frequently, these ladies are sent out unqualified or unprepared because they just want to get away from their families, their pastors want them away from the church, or their checks cleared. 

Pastor, if you’re not willing to let these ladies teach your fathers, brothers, sons, or other male members of your church, isn’t it hypocritical to have them teach other males? Don’t these third world males deserve to receive the true teachings of the Bible, which, according to you, can only be communicated by other males? Or, are you telling me only the Westerners deserve the proper teachings of the Word and the rest of us should be happy and honored with the crumbs we might receive under the table?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

You Are As Much A Missionary As I AM A French Chef!

“I’m a missionary,” said the pastor I’d just met.

“Which country?” I asked


“How long have you been a missionary to Russia?”

“About seven years.”

“Where do you live in Russia?”

“I don’t live in Russia! I live in Colorado,” said the man impatiently as if I was supposed to know better than to ask such a stupid question, and then continued,

“Twice a year I travel to Russia and teach for a week.”

“Do you speak any Russians?”

Another stupid question.

“Not really! I know a few basic words, but when it comes to teaching, I don’t need to know Russian. I have a good translator.”

This was not my first encounter with people like the above pastor. A few years ago, when I was the Middle East regional coordinator for a missions organization, I’d met several of those missionary-wannabes.

Invariably, some of these guys had ended up on a teaching trip to a third world country (I know the PC term is: “two third world country”!) and were blown away by how well his/her teaching was received; hundreds had come to hear the message and as a result many were saved, scores of people were healed and delivered.

The difference between the way these natives had reacted to the pastor’s message and his/her church’s reaction was like the difference between the Sun and the Moon—one seemingly responsive and burning with fire and the other unresponsive and cold. As the result, the pastor was convinced that God had called him/her to the mission field.

A majority of us, Iranians, admire Americans for their gullibility. No! Not in an offensive way, but rather marvel at how trusting they are, which often leads them to accept things at face value. In third world nations, churches are always packed when a Westerner shows up to teach. Often, through misunderstanding, or not wanting to disrespect the guest teacher, many people raise their hands or come forward (for the hundredth time) to receive Christ or declare their healings due to the Westerner’s teaching or prayer.

And, to be even more cynical, so often, the above Westerner, justifiably so, is perceived as a cash cow. The local pastor makes sure his church is packed to please the Western pastor in the hope of receiving a well-needed financial support from his/her church. Shoot, I knew one third world pastor who had revolving church signs. Depending on what denomination was visiting his church, the appropriate sign was put up to please the guest speaker.

After having such a great experience, taking everything at face value, the above American pastor who hasn’t spent any length of time in the mission field, or studying missions, is now convinced that God’s called him to be a missionary, which in itself could be a tremendous calling if it was properly acted upon.

A true mission work is incarnational. A genuine missionary is one, who like Jesus, “dwells among” the people he/she desires to reach for the Kingdom. By immersing one’s self in the culture and the language of the respective people, the missionary must learn how to convey the Gospel in a contextual way that his/her audience can understand.

How greatly arrogant for the above pastor and pastors like him to call themselves missionaries! How utterly insulting to the great men and women of God such as William Carey, who lost both his wives in India; Samuel Zwemer who watched his two daughters succumb to death in Bahrain; or CT Stud who lost two of his children in China. These brave missionaries often carried their own coffins to the foreign lands they were called to knowing well that they would die there. For months, they traveled thousands of miles by ship, trains, carriages, camels and foot to reach their destinations and fulfill the Great Commission. They literally tented among the people the Father had called them to, so by becoming like them, they could reach them.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I have many friends who travel to foreign lands to bless the believers. Whether it is Nate with his outstanding gifts of encouragement and teaching or Pastor Chris, a great entrepreneur and a businessman, they all travel around the world to bless the church with the gifts God has bestowed upon them; however, these friends don’t call themselves missionaries because they know that it takes more than a two week overseas trip to become a missionary.

After listening to the above wannabe missionary, I told him,

“So, let me understand this. You don’t live in Russia and don’t speak any Russian. You don’t even have the most basic understanding of intercultural ministry--that language is culture and culture is language. But, you’re a missionary to Russia because, thanks to today’s technology, twice a year, you can fly there in 12 hours to teach for a week. Bro, by that definition, I’m a French chef because twice a year, on the Fourth of July and Labor Day, I throw a couple of hotdogs on the barbeque and use Dijon mustard on my buns.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

The $5 Sinner’s Prayer

 The other day my wife, Karen, was channel surfing when she came across a very well known preacher who’d just finished his Sunday morning message.

With a perpetual smile on his face, the preacher said something like, “As it is our custom at this church, we’d like to give everyone the opportunity to become a Christian. So, if you want to become a Christian, please repeat after me.” He then went on to pray a traditional sinner’s prayer. What got my attention was what he said after he finished the prayer.

“If you repeated this prayer, you’re now a Christian. Make sure to find yourself a good Bible teaching church,” he said as he continued to smile.

His statement reminded me of the something that happened to me over 35 years ago.

In those days many people hitchhiked. I’d been one of those people for several years. So, when I finally bought my first car, wanting to pay my debt back to all those who’d at one time or another given me a ride, I’d picked up any hitchhiker who came across my path.

One particular day going home from work, I picked up this homeless guy off the freeway on-ramp. He was a tall thin man in his 30s. As soon as he got inside the car, he began coughing and sneezing blowing his nose in the used tissue paper I had stuck in my ashtray—Yes, those days all cars had ashtrays.

As it was my custom when I had a hitchhiker in my car, I began to share the Gospel with the man. Before I could even finish my sentence, he stopped me and said something that I’ll never forget for as long as I live. Very calmly and as a matter of fact he said, “For $5 I’ll repeat the Sinner’s Prayer for you.”

I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. I’d never had someone selling me his sinner’s prayer. He honestly thought he was doing me favor. Apparently, he’d been through this many times and by now he’d realized that by repeating some words, he was going to give me the satisfaction of thinking I’d brought him to Christ and therefore I owed him a few bucks – $5 to be exact.

Is it really true that by repeating some words one automatically becomes a Christian? Only the Lord knows since it is the faith in our hearts and not just the confession our mouths that saves us (Rom. 10:9). Could the above man had gone through the rest of his life repeating the prayer over and over again while making some money, but still end up in hell?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe a simple prayer can save a man’s soul. On the other hand, just because a man has repeated a prayer doesn’t make him a saved person. To assume that is to practice Islamic theology and cheapen the Gospel.

In order to become a Muslim, all you have to do is repeat the following phrase (known as the Shahada) in Arabic: “I testify that there’s no god but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger.” Although it’s desired that one recites the phrase form the heart, a Muslim will rejoice in hearing you repeat the Shahada and will consider you a Muslim. And, it doesn’t matter if you understood a word you’ve said. Case in point, the following video-clip.

In this clip, an Arabic speaking sheikh (Muslim cleric) is guiding a Portuguese soccer player to become a Muslim by repeating the Shahada. Those who speak Arabic will find the clip quite funny, which is not the goal of this blog. My goal is to expose the danger of automatically calling someone a Christian because they have recited the words we put into their mouths.

What is the difference between this sheikh and the above pastor?

PS. I never asked my hitchhiker to repeat after me. Instead, I took him to a restaurant and bought him a nice chicken fried steak dinner.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where's The Christian Outrage?

In response to an accidental burning of a few Qurans, the whole Muslim nation of Afghanistan rises up against the very people who’ve sacrificed their country’s best to liberate them forcing the Christian leader of the most powerful country on the face of the earth to apologize to Afghans, but where is the Christian outrage towards the Muslim nations who are persecuting our brothers and sisters every day? Who will speak on their behalf?

Iranian Authorities Order Death Warrant for Pastor Nadarkhani
A US-based ministry has received a report out of Iran that the Iranian courts have signed an execution order for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani…
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Christian Arrests Indicate Renewed Crackdown is Underway
Iran's 1979 revolution, many Iranians believed that an Islamic-based government would offer the reforms and freedoms they had long sought under the Shah...
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Iranian Christian convert sentenced to two years in prison
A Christian convert whom security authorities arrested in her home has been sentenced to two years in prison by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran…
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Historical Christian Cemetery in Iran turned into Residential Area
The graveyard of English Christians is one of the historical sites in Bushehr, Iran, which was also used by Armenian community of Bushehr for the same purpose, but is in serious disrepair and slated for redevelopment.
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Iran Ministry of Intelligence issues halt to Farsi speaking services
Iran's Ministry of Intelligence has ordered the last two officially registered churches holding Friday Farsi-language services in Tehran to discontinue them…
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Iranian Christian convert sentenced to one year of deprivation of education
In the latest approach of the Islamic Republic of Iran to oppose the growth of Christianity, a Christian convert was sentenced to one year of deprivation of education by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran.
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Church elder seized and imprisoned
A prominent elder of Narmak's Assembly of God Church in Tehran has been arrested at work by the Islamic Republic's Ministry of State Security agents…
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Christian arrested in Shiraz
A number of Christian converts were arrested in Shiraz after security authorities raided the residence of a Christian being used as a house church…
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Christian convert, Farshid Fathi, goes on trial in Iran's Evin Prison
The trial of Farshid Fathi, a Christian convert who has been held in prison for more than a year, has finally been held after being postponed several times for various reasons...
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Concern over health condition of Pastor Farhad Sabokroh in prison
Concern is growing in Iran over health condition of Pastor Farhad Sabokroh who was arrested together with two other Christian converts. They have now been in custody for over 40 days…
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Friday, February 3, 2012

The Appearance Of Evil?

A few years ago, when I worked for a Christian missions organization, I got into trouble for carpooling. Well, not so much for carpooling, but carpooling with a female. This is what happened.

Three of us who worked together and lived in the same area decided to start to carpool—two male and one female. It was good for the environment and even better for our pocketbooks. All went well till the day my other male carpool buddy had to run an errand after work and needed to drive his own car. We never thought anything of it; as usual, I picked up my female co-worker and drove to the office.

As we entered the parking lot, another co-worker was just entering the building and saw us pull into my parking spot. Within a few minutes, I was reported to the boss for carpooling with a female, and was called into his office.

I was basically told that carpooling with a female had the appearance of evil, and I shouldn’t do it. Although I should have been flattered that my boss thought so highly of my multitasking abilities—being able to maneuver L.A. freeways while driving and, at the same time, performing whatever else it was that they thought I was doing—I was deeply offended and felt dishonored. In any case, I refused to obey, and continued to carpool with and without the third party.

What infuriated me even more was what took place a couple of weeks later when I approached my boss on the same subject.

“Don’t worry about it. We just found out that our president has been carpooling with his secretary for the last 20 years. So, you can now continue to carpool with a female in your car,” he said so nonchalantly.

Talk about being frustrated and angry! When I did it, it had the appearance of evil; but when the president did it, not only it was righteous, but also it became a moral and spiritual precedent for the rest of us peons. And all this time I’d thought Jesus was my moral guide. It wasn’t long after that the president, my moral compass, had to resign because of some financial irregularities.

What is this “appearance of evil” that we should avoid? Who decides that?


I’m flying back to Burbank from Springfield, Ore., and have a two-hour layover in San Francisco. It’s Monday night, and a Monday Night Football game is on. My favorite team is playing against the Steelers—any team that plays against the Steelers is my favorite team. I decide to sit at a bar, order a hamburger and, while eating my dinner, I watch the game.

I notice my phone is dying, so I ask the bartender if I could plug in my charger anywhere. He places a power strip on the bar in front me and tells me to help myself. That’s when a very pretty young lady who was sitting behind me moves over and sits right next to me.

“My computer is dying. Do you mind if I share the power strip with you?” she asks.

I’m very used to this. Almost always female strangers start conversing with me without any hesitations. This has nothing to do with my charming personality, but a gift the Lord has given me. People, especially women, find me trustworthy, a man with no agenda, who cares.

We spend the next half an hour talking. She tells me she’s waiting for her friend to join her, so they can go paint the town together. As I’m talking to this young, beautiful lady, I’m so grateful that I no longer work for that missions organization, which would have frowned upon seeing one of their top men talking to a strange young woman in a bar. OMG, talk about the appearance of evil.

As I get up to leave, I’m impressed to do something.

“Do you like to read?” I ask her.

She says, “I love to read.”

“I’d like to give you a gift. It’s my new book.”

“I love it. Thank you!”

I autograph my book, hand it to her, and say goodbye.

On occasions, I’ve given my book to strangers, but have never heard from any of them until the above young lady. For almost a month I’ve been thinking and praying for June (not her real name) when I get a long email from her. This is how she starts it:

“It was a real pleasure meeting you that day, and after reading
(devouring?) your book I only wish I had spoken with you more! Your
book really resonated with me. It was written in such a way that I
felt a close connection with you; the way you wrote about your
experiences was like a friend sitting next to me telling these
stories. It gives me hope in my struggles as a young woman.”

Even if I were still working for my old employer, I’d have still risked being accused of “giving the appearance of evil” to experience the above interaction. But, thank God, I don’t. I wonder what Jesus would have done?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Honestly, I'm Only An Evangelist And Not An Apocalyptic Expert!

The year was 1979. The Islamic revolution in Iran was in full swing, the American embassy in Tehran was occupied and the American Christian End Times enthusiasts were printing out books like there was literally no tomorrow. One author, referring to an incident in Abraham’s life, called all Iranians “kidnappers” from day one. Another gleefully printed the above photo putting words in Yasser Arafat’s mouth saying, " And then the Lord will put a hook in your mouth and we'll all head for Israel—Ezk. 38" According to these authors, Iran was hell bound. But was she really?
In the last two months, thanks to my publicist, I’ve had over a dozen radio interviews concerning my new book, Shame On You—rising from the ashes of shame to face guilt. The book is about my Muslim upbringing in Iran and it also contrasts my shame-based Iranian culture with the guilt-based culture of the West. The book has nothing to do with the End Times or what the Islamic Republic of Iran is going to do with her WMD once she develops it. However, that has not stopped some of the interviewers from asking my opinion about the future of Iran.
Questions go like this:
“So, do you think Iran has the bomb yet?”
“What do you think Iran is going to do with it?”
“Should Israel attack Iran?”
“What do you think our government should do?”
“Do you believe Mehdi is the antichrist? ”
I’m one interview away from responding with the following:
“Just because I was born in Iran doesn’t make me and expert on the Iranian government any more than you being born in America makes you an expert on what the US government should do with the military drone that is now in Iranian hands. I’m here to talk about Muslim evangelism.”
What’s more interesting is that almost none of these people have ever paid any attention to what the Lord is doing in Iran. They’re completely ignorant of the rate by which Iranians have been turning to Christ since 1979 when they were all supposed to be hell-bound. The rate is so high that it has created a great concern for the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Why such a fascination with death and destruction instead of love and salvation?  Why do we hardly hear the good things that the Lord is doing In the Middle East? As we start 2012, let us be thankful for the God-given freedom so many of us take for granted in this country, rejoice with those Muslims who are entering the Kingdom and pray for the ones who are being persecuted simply because they’ve called upon the name of Jesus for their salvation.