It comes as no news-flash, the international community is struggling to meet mounting economic challenges. Entire nations are on the verge of bankruptcy and borrowing vast sums has drawn even the United States of America into serious debt for generations.
So why is it so many people go through every day accepting the progressive failure of life on earth? What happened to ‘good will to me with whom He is pleased’?
Surely our critical circumstances call on all of us to look for the answer to our dazzling decline. Oh some will not even notice the rise in the cost of living. We simply borrow more and hit the credit cards to carry on regardless.
The bible reveals the alternative. “In the ways of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death.” (Proverbs 12:28)
That is a verse filled with promise but the reverse is also true. When the chosen lifestyle is less than righteous, there are sad, demeaning, death-creating circumstances ready to consume us.
Proverbs 14:34 is more specific – “Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
There was a time we knew these things. But today we have learned to live on the never-never. Borrowing is a way of life and extended credit has many in the claws of disaster. In this process the crisis is delayed not cured.
We also close a blind eye to outrageous behaviour. We once considered ‘love thy neighbour’ to be an important quality for the righteous. Now the mightiest powers on earth show themselves to be ignorant or impotent when the most disgusting behaviour poses even as law.
Take the defiance of Iran for example. The published Wikileaks documents reveal a chorus of concerns about Iran and its nuclear ambitions. Those cables show a critical conversation has taken place and it involves the Arab nations along with most others.
President Obama has opted for diplomacy and sanctions. He loves to speak about ‘biting’ sanctions, while Iran goes about its activities immune from his threats.
If you are considering overseas holidays any time soon, I suggest you avoid Tehran. Iran’s Supreme Court has upheld a sentence which can only be considered barbaric. A man was found guilty of throwing acid into the face of his lover’s husband. The victim was blinded. Under Iran’s Islamic code, the guilty man will have drops of acid poured into his eyes as punishment. He will be permanently blinded. In Sharia this ‘eye-for-an-eye’ retribution is called ‘qisas’. To ensure the outcome the prosecution asked for forensic specialists to ‘oversee the blinding of the convict.’
Apart from avoiding the place for holidays, Iran is also not a good place for journalists. Mashallah Shamsolvaezin is head of the Journalists Association of Iran. He was the editor of several reformist dailies, which were closed down in 1998 and 2000.
He now faces 16 months in jai, charged with insulting the Iranian Islamist regime. Among other things, he called Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a megalomaniac.
“I was sentenced to one year in prison on the charge of undermining the establishment for giving interviews to foreign TV networks and news agencies,” Shamsolvaezin said.
“I was also given a four-month sentence for calling Ahmadinejad a megalomaniac in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV.”
Then there is the ‘Soccer Scandal.’
Three soccer players and a coach in Iran’s major soccer league were arrested after being caught at a mixed-gender party in Tehran.
The Iranian Soccer Association announced this week that the soccer players caught at the illegal party were immediately suspended and summoned to a disciplinary committee. The website Tabnak reported that it was the second time in recent memory that soccer players were caught taking part in mixed-gender parties.
This week a woman who is sentenced to death by stoning ‘confessed’ on Iranian state television. She is said to have helped a man kill her husband and the television broadcast accompanied her as she reenacted the alleged crime.
It was the fourth time Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani has been shown on TV as Tehran has faced an international outcry over the announcement that she would be stoned to death.
Authorities announced her conviction in the murder case only after the uproar over the stoning sentence erupted last summer, and her lawyer — who has since been arrested — said she was never formally put on trial for the killing and was tortured into confessing. Iranian authorities could use the murder charge to justify executing Ashtiani by hanging instead of stoning.
Iran’s War on Christianity
I downloaded the following report from www.persecution.com.au
This affair also suggests international action has gone way passed its used-by date.
“There is a war raging in Iran and Christians like Rachel and Ali live on the brink of eternity. Beatings, kidnapping, rape, arrests and death all once considered unthinkable have become punishment for Iranian Muslims willing to take the Christian walk. Rachel and Ali had their first run-in with the secret police in 2005 when they were attending a house church meeting. Police, armed with automatic weapons, stormed into the prayer meeting and arrested the group of Christians. The police confiscated their Bibles and wrote down family names, phone numbers and addresses.
Months later, Rachel and Ali were called to the police station again and questioned about their religion. Rachel was born into a Christian family, but Ali converted from Islam. He risked being declared an ‘apostate,’ someone who rejects or abandons his faith. In Iran the penalty for this crime ranges from imprisonment and hard labour to death. So they both told the police they were Christians. Ali did not mention his Muslim conversion. Three months later, the couple received a phone call from the secret police. They were asked to meet the policemen at a bridge near the capital city of Tehran. “After we were there a few minutes they took Ali in one car,” Rachel said. “They took me in a different car.” Blindfolded, Rachel could not see where they were going. She ended up in a small room, empty except for a blanket on the floor and a camera on the wall. She was interrogated in that room for hours, and then she was forced to sign a notebook. “It was explaining that my name was Rachel and that I promised the (answers) to the questions (were) true but if it is not true then they will (charge) me with Iran law.”
They also forced her to write that she would not go to church. Following the incident, Rachel and Ali were required to report monthly to a government building in Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square to sign a notebook. Every month for 10 months, the couple signed the notebook. In September 2007, Rachel went to sign the notebook as usual. But this time she encountered an evil so dark, she can barely speak about it today. “. . . I was taken to the underground and I felt very afraid,” she said. “. . . something very bad happened there (rape) . . . I don’t want to speak about it . . . I’ve been going to the doctor about it for my mind and it’s very hard for me, I can’t forget it.” Violated and traumatised, Rachel refused to return to the government building to sign the notebook as required. She could not face her rapist and relive the terror.
Now six police officers had come because Rachel and Ali were found guilty of ‘mortad’ which means ‘traitor to Islam’. Overpowering the couple, the secret police rifled through Rachel and Ali’s small apartment. In the couple’s bedroom, the police noticed a photo on the nightstand. It showed Ali being submerged in water. They demanded an explanation. Ali told them the truth, it was his baptism photo. “Then the man hit him very hard and I screamed,” said Rachel. They cut him and blood splattered onto the floor. The men grabbed Ali by the throat, tied his hands and feet, taped his mouth shut and proceeded to beat his body with a steel cable. Rachel received similar treatment. “After that the women held my feet and hands and they hit me,” said Rachel. “And it was very difficult for me because it was very painful and I am not very strong, but there was nothing we could do because we were two and there were six of them. The law was in their hands, not in our hands.”
Rachel and Ali have left Iran for their safety. Despite everything they’ve been through, their faith is still strong. ‘It is from God, not from us,” Rachel said. “We just got something from Him and all we have to do is pray. I accepted Jesus and believe in Him and I will stay with Him forever.”
I’m sorry. I could not edit that report. I hope and pray you took time to read it all. Beware of the persecution and suffering being inflicted on our brothers and sisters, even as we rejoice in the loving revelation of Christmas.
2011 must be the year when we make much more serious demands on our leaders. They must govern in the way that commands a blessing. That means a clear and precise call to righteousness.
The alternative is not an option.