Lunch w/ Dr. Jay Sekulow – Pray for Pastor Saeed in Iran Prison

I had lunch today with Dr. Jay Sekulow.  I appreciate so much all his organization is doing to see Pastor Saeed Abedini, a dual U.S. – Iranian citizen, released from a cruel prison.  Saeed has been detained in Iran since the summer of 2012 and was incarcerated in Evin Prison.  A former Muslim who became a believer in Jesus Christ, in the early 2000s, Pastor Saeed became prominent in the house church movement in Iran.  He is credited with establishing about 100 house churches in 30 Iranian cities. With the election of Mahmoud Ahmedinejad in 2005, the house church movement was subjected to a crackdown by Iranian authorities and the Abedinis moved back to the United States.

Abedini’s first trip back to Iran was in 2009 to visit his family, when government authorities detained him.  Abedini was threatened with death during his interrogation over his conversion to Christianity. In July 2012, Abedini made his ninth trip to Iran since 2009 to continue his work and to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht. While in Iran, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard confiscated his passports which led to his incarceration.

On January 27, 2013, Judge Pir-Abassi sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison. According to Fox News, Abedini was sentenced for having “undermined the Iranian government by creating a network of Christian house churches and … attempting to sway Iranian youth away from Islam.”  In early November 2013, Abedini was transferred from Tehran to one of the deadliest prisons in the world, Rajai Shahr, in the town of Karaj.

Pray for his wife, Naghmeh, who, accompanied by Jordan Sekulow, told lawmakers in a joint subcommittee hearing for the House Foreign Affairs Committee on December 12, 2013, that Saeed had been subjected to torture and told that if he converts back to Islam, he would be set free.  Pray also for their two children, 7 and 5 years of age.  Naghmeh stated, “The Iranian regime sends prisoners to Rajaï Shahr to disappear.  It sends prisoners to Rajaï Shahr to deny them their human rights. It sends prisoners to Rajaï Shahr to die.”  The next time you feel like complaining about life’s aches and pains – think of Pastor Saeed.  Earnestly pray for the Abedini family

In addition to being my attorney and advisor, Jay is a great friend to my family and me.  He has keen insight and intellect and is equally blessed with such a wonderful family with two very talented, knowledgable sons.  I always appreciate our times together — and he is a great drummer!

 

Christmas 2013 w/ my 86-year-old Dad, John Wesley Johnston

I called my Dad and told him I was coming to see him for Christmas.  We had just a few hours alone together before I had to leave.   And, we had the best time together.  I asked for his advice on a number of issues.  As he spoke, it occurred to me that I have been doing this for 40 years — seeking advice from my father.  Dad gave me wise counsel.  I saw how much I need him and wondered how much longer the Lord will steward him to me and others.  Below is a picture of us together when I was 4-years-old on  a family vacation to Galveston, TX, and today.  God knew what he was doing when he put a “Dad” in our life. We have always been close.  We shake hands often when we greet and occasionally hug when we depart.  Through my entire ministry he has always been supportive, prayerful, contemplative, and available.  He has given me confidence that anything I attempt in the name of the Lord, I can fulfill.

Dad reads his Bible from Genesis to Revelation every 10 1/2 weeks. He prays fervently, every day, on his knees with an extensive list written in his mind.  Only in heaven will I will learn how his prayers carried me, shielded me, and protected me.  My father has high moral standards.  There is no foolishness in his life.  He has set an example for me.  He reminds me of an Old Testament “Levite,” always preoccupied with the things of God.  “JW,” as he is called unconditionally loved my Mom, Joyce, for nearly 60 years.  Mom died one year ago and we think about her all the time.  When she was struggling with alcholism Dad would often write on notes and cards and give to her:   John 3:17, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” His patience, and God’s power, delivered her from that bondage and she jerrry2enjoyed 23 years of sobriety.

Dad teaches three Bible studies a week.  He loves to the Word, and he is gifted at teaching its truths and challenging those who listen.  For 40 years it has been my privilege to teach and preach.  He has always critiqued my sermons, and I always listen to his input.  How I will miss him when he is gone.  So, I wanted to savor the moments alone with him.  It was hard to leave and he told me loved me.  “I love you, too, Dad,” was my reply as it came time to go.  My Dad teaches me character, honesty, a strong work ethic, loyalty to Christ and the Bible, and wisdom and insight in working with others.  Merry Christmas Dad!

Dad & me

My four girls …

One of the greatest joys of our family getting together for Christmas was watching the four adult girls who I admire and love so much.  On the left is Cristie, the love of my life who I have been soooo blessed to spend in 35 awesome years of marriage.  Next to her is Jenilee Nicole, my youngest daughter, who has such a strong heart for the Lord – she is amazing and thinks I am a computer nerd (whatever).  Then there is Danielle Marie, my oldest, a tremendous leader and worship leader who invites the presence of God as she focuses men and women on Jesus so consistently.  And, on the right is Audrey Lynn, who is just like our own daughter (Jeremy’s wife).  Audrey has such a selfless precious spirit and is loving and gracious to all.  Where would I be without these spectacular ladies!

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The Daniel Plan … getting ready to drop 30 lbs.

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I caught up with Pastor Rick Warren in New York City and we filmed for over an hour about the dynamic message of taking care of our bodies in his new upcoming book, “The Daniel Plan.”  Two doctors participated in the conversation and Rick shared sincerely and intimately about endeavoring to maintain focus with the loss of his precious son, Matthew.  That day his wife, Kay, was in Newtown ministering to families that lost children when shooter, Adam Lanza, lost control.

Rick reminded me of the sermon topic I preached for him over 30 years ago at Saddleback when it was just a young church meeting at Costa Mesa High School.  I remember that day vividly … he wasn’t wearing socks and had such a zeal for the lost.  He reminded me of a man who came to Christ that day who died shortly later from cancer.  We had great fellowship.  He is a dear brother … so get the book and after you finish Christmas, look in the mirror, and let’s get “off our blessed assurance” and get the that exact weight that matches our height, and honors God.  I am going for 30 lbs.!  May the Lord help me!