March 21, 2012

Radiant Joy

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 “Those who seek the LORD for help will be radiant with joy…” (Psalm 45:4 NLT)


What’s the difference in joy and happiness?  I think of “joy” as being something deep inside, something lasting, while “happiness” is more on the surface and temporary.  Think of the joy that comes from your sense of pride in your child’s accomplishments compared to the happiness that comes from getting that much-desired promotion at work.


I normally associate seeing joy on someone’s face with them having some good news.  Maybe the woman longing for a first child who gets a positive pregnancy test.  Or the expectant father.  Maybe newlyweds on their honeymoon.  Or the couple celebrating their 50th anniversary.  Maybe parents holding their newborn for the first time.  Or the grandparents holding their first grandbaby.  Joy can’t be hidden.  You know it when you see it.


The common denominator to those examples of joy is “good news.”  And that’s the same thing that inspired an Iranian Christian pastor who we will call Mansoor.  We sat in a mall in Istanbul, Turkey, and listened to him talk about becoming a Christian, establishing house churches, his arrest and persecution, and his dream of ministering to Iranians.  Pastor Mansoor had joy.  He had good news.  In fact, he had the Good News!


As we listened to Pastor Mansoor, we were inspired by his words, but I think we were equally moved by the joy on his face.  A radiant joy like the psalmist described in Psalm 34:5 (NLT), “Those who look to [God] for help will be radiant with joy…”


Pastor Mansoor had a mini Saul-like story, where he did his best to shut down Christianity, to turn people away from Christ.  After pursuing that path zealously for two years, he found himself giving his life to Jesus Christ.


He and his wife moved to Turkey and established a house church to minister to Iranian refugees.  First there was one house church; then two, then three.  But there was a tug on his heart.  A tug to return to his beloved Iran.  When he approached his wife about what was on his heart, she said, “I know.  Me too.”  They returned to Iran and established a house church there.  The church grew and life was good, until one Christmas service when there was a police raid.


Pastor Mansoor, his assistant, and 70 church members were arrested that night.  The congregation was released after a few hours of harassment.  The pastor and his assistant were jailed for three months.  He said he wasn’t beaten or mistreated, and added that he did face psychological persecution.  Upon his release, he and his wife left Iran, knowing he could no longer effectively minister there.


Pastor Mansoor and his wife went back to Turkey and again began running a house church for Iranian refugees.  They will be leaving the country soon and he looks forward to attending seminary and continuing to pastor to Iranians around the world.


Praying for Pastor Mansoor and his wife.  He has the Good News of Jesus Christ in his heart and he has that radiant joy on his face.  You can see God’s hand all over the pastor’s story.  God’s hand of patience, provision, and protection are so evident.  The LORD has clearly touched Pastor Mansoor and anointed him for service to the Kingdom.  It was such a blessing to spend time with him; to see the “evidence of the grace of God.”

“News of [the Gentile believers] reached the ears of the church at Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. When he arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”  (Acts 11:22-23 NIV)



Loving the Journey,


Kevin

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