Rescue Mission for Pastor Saeed!

On September 26, 2012 , Pastor Saeed Abedini was given an 8 year jail sentence in Evin prison in Iran.  His crime?  Pastor Saeed was given this harsh sentence because of his Christian faith!  He was in Iran trying to establish orphanages for needy children in that country.  We need to be reminded, he had permission from Iran to do this.

Pastor Saeed is an Iranian born American citizen who is married and has two small children.  A boy and a girl.

For the past year, we have worked tirelessly to secure his release.  We have led numerous demonstrations and prayer vigils in Washington, D.C. and have spoken in the press and at events across the country sharing his story.   On September 26, 2013 we joined with Saeed’s wife, Naghmeh, who organized 100 prayer vigils around the world in support of religious freedom and calling for his release.

Our prayer vigil was in front of the White House, and we were delighted to have members of Congress join us and also the Deputy Secretary of State for the Obama Administration.  It was an incredible time and it ended with us kneeling and being led in prayer by members of the clergy and Senator Ted Cruz.  To show the amazing power of prayer, the next day President Obama Obama, for the first time in over a year, personally called for the release of Pastor Saeed and for the first time in 34 years an American President talked with the leader of Iran. 

The very next day I flew to Turkey to meet Iranian officials in hopes of getting into Iran to secure the release of Pastor Saeed.  Many don’t release that Iran does not have an Embassy here in the United States since the hostage crisis of 1978.  So the only way for me to share our message, was to fly to Ankara, Turkey and met with Iranian officials there.

I was personally carrying a letter to President Rouhani of Iran who was just elected in June.  He has publicly expressed a desire to be more open to religious freedom and establishing a dialogue with the United States.  My goal was to see President Rouhani get this letter and begin working on the process to get into Iran and meet with him face to face.  Many stood with us through their financial and prayer support to make this mission possible and below I have listed the amazing things God accomplished through the trip:

1.  We met with the Senior Political Counselor for the Embassy of Iran and shared our heart with him.  It was a very open and positive discussion.

2.  He promised that my letter would be delivered to President Rouhani.  This was a huge victory!

3.  We begin the process of securing a Visa to travel into Iran with a senior Iranian official acting as our “sponsor.”

4.  We held several prayer meeting at the Iranian Embassy for Pastor Saeed and the final day I was there, hundreds from around the world joined in a “Simultaneous Global Prayer Event,” as Christians from all across the globe we prayed for the persecuted church and the release of Pastor Saeed.  Remember, when you are in an Embassy, you are literally on their “soil.” 

 I want to once again thank everyone who prayed and financially supported our efforts.  We would continue to ask that you be in prayer daily as our Visa process moves along and that shortly we will be able to travel directly into Iran!  Of course, the greatest answer to pray would be that Saeed is released and untied with family shortly.

We will keep you updated and Christ is King!

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“How” is more important than the “what!” What?

I have always taught and shared that “how” we do something is far more important that “what” we do.  In America especially, we always seemed focused on results.  The bottom line is what matters to most.

However, God is  primarily interested in “process” and “how” we do things.  The bottom line isn’t quite as important to him.

Why is that?

Because God understands,  if we get the “how” part right the bottom line will follow along naturally.  Simply said, doing things the right way will always produce the right results.

God also knows that in our quest to achieve our goals and the kind of results we want, we can travel some pretty unsavory roads to get there.  Even if the results appear to be positive and good.

Here is an example.  As a parent, I want the best for my children.  I want them to excel in life, be responsible and avoid many of the struggles that confront our kids in a modern world.  I think most would agree these are some pretty good results.

However, as a parent, I can resort to manipulation, control and guilt to help my children achieve those results.  So “on paper” and to all outward appearances, I have wonderful healthy children.  By the reality is, they are struggling with all kinds of negative emotions because I neglected the process and only focused on the results.

What is true with raising our children is also true with our marriages, careers, friendships and personal lives.  So you can see how important it is to concentrate on  “how” we do things more than “what we do.”

Another way to look at it is, the “how” part highlights our interior spiritual life.  Our attitudes, motivation and thoughts.  While the “what” part centers on the physical and visible part of our lives.  Again, if our internal spiritual life is in order everything else will fall into place.

You know I have taken a lot of words to say this but Jesus put it very directly and  simply this way.  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”   Matthew 6:33.  

I couldn’t have said it better myself.






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“…what I want to know, where does the time go?”–Uncle John’s Band.

Tomorrow is August 4.  Not particularly a memorable day for most Americans.  It’s not July 4.  December 25.  Or, January 1.  All of these are pretty significant dates across the country.

However, August 4…particularly August 4, 1973…is a VERY significant date for me.  For it was on that date 40 years, that I began this amazing journey of being married to Kathleen Joy Hennessey.  In a small church on the Jersey Shore, on a sweltering August day, the arc and narrative of my life was forever changed.

As I am writing this blog on the eve of my anniversary, one thought keeps going through my mind.  It is a line from my favorite Grateful Dead song, “Uncle John’s Band.”  It goes, “… what I want to know, where does the time go?”

Where does the time go?  It really is a great question.

I mean, when I was a kid growing up, 40 years old was ancient. Old.  Over the hill.  Out of touch.  40 was for parents who worked in New York City, smoked unfiltered cigarettes and drank Whiskey Sours.

But now, 40 years old seems like a “spring chicken” to me.  40 years is youthful.  Fresh and alive.  This seems unimaginable to me as I read about it on the computer screen, but not only am I well past 40, I have actually been married for 40 years!

It can’t be!  Wasn’t I just playing baseball in Morford’s field with my friends from Lone Oak Drive?  Riding my bike to Sea Bright to hang out at the beach?  Going to CYO dances?  Doing the lights for Bruce Springsteen?

When I got married, there was a Soviet Union and no internet.  Now, there is no Soviet Union and well…I am writing this blog, aren’t I?  President Nixon resigned.  Eight Presidents.  Disco.  Platform shoes.  Big 80′s hair.  Elvis was dead.  Then alive.  Then dead again.  9/11.  On and on it goes.

These events, just like my wedding 40 years ago, seem like they just happened yesterday.  Like the brilliance of lightning momentarily lighting up and flashing across the dark evening sky, events in my life have flashed across my memory and then they are gone.

So getting back to question asked by the Grateful Dead, “…what I want to know, where does the time go?”

I am not sure I can fully answer that question but I do know this.  You can NEVER get that time back.  I can never get the time back playing baseball with my 12 year old friends and roaming around our neighborhood to all hours of the night.  I can never get back the time when Katie and I were in college together and working in our first church in New York City.

I can never get back the time when my three beautiful daughters were born,  when they were learning how to walk, starting school, playing soccer, graduating high school and college, getting married, having children of their own, and becoming amazing and accomplished women.

Since we can’t answer the question, “where does the time go?” and we can never get it back, we must ask ourselves this question…”How do we deal with the fleeting sands of time?”

That question I think I can answer.  I will borrow from what has become know as Jack London’s “Credo.”  Although scholars of the author cannot fully agree if he actually said these exact words, they still capture the spirit of how I feel we are to address time.

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out
    in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom
    of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.

That’s it!  As time is rushing past me, “I want to be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.”

I don’t want to merely exist.  I want to live! I don’t want to waste my days living in pictures, videos and scrapbooks.  I want to embrace the purposes and destiny God has for my life and  and savor every ounce of them.  Now!

So, “…where does the time go?”

Who cares?

I am too busy celebrating what is right before me to worry about time.  That is in God’s hands.

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“Sleepless in Fredericksburg.”

Normally I am a very sound sleeper.  In fact, my kids always mock me that whenever they bring the grandchildren to come over to see me, I am always taking a nap.  However, it is now 3:05 A.M. and I have been up for a while.

Now, 3:07 A.M.

I thought what is the best way to fall back asleep?  Of course, the answer to that question is easy.  Write a blog!  I mean what could more boring than me trying to write something at 3:09 in the morning.

Wait…it’s starting to work…my eyelids are already getting heavier.  At this early hour of the morning I am finding that I am having to read every word about 20 times.  If reading this boring nonsense  wouldn’t put me to sleep, than nothing will!

3:20 A.M.

Yay!  My own words are starting to put me to sleep!  Of course, that is nothing new. Being a preacher for over 36 years, my words have been putting people to sleep for nearly four decades.  Botta boom!

3:30 A.M.

So happy right now, I am very tired and headed for bed.

Moral of the story.  Does every story have to have a moral?  I don’t think so.  As Edward R. Murrow used to say, “Good night and good luck.”

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Planned Parenthood Arrest (the facts ma’am just the facts.)

     On Tuesday, June 8, I was arrested on a public sidewalk leading up to Planned Parenthood in Washington, D.C.  This marked the first time that First Amendment activities, which include prayer, had been banned and prohibited on the public sidewalk in the nation’s capitol.

     I have read with great interest much of the conversations and discussions about my arrest on blogs, Facebook and social network sites.  Vigorous and passionate debate is always a good and positive thing.  Of course, they must be tempered with civility and respect.

     Another key ingredient is the facts.  No discussion can move forward in a positive direction without a strong understanding of the facts.  In this blog, I will try to “set the record” straight concerning my arrest at Planned Parenthood and attempt to clear up some of the misinformation and inaccuracies about the events on June 8.

     I have been involved in prayerful and prophetic witness at the Planned Parenthood clinic on 16th Street in Washington, D.C. since the 80′s.  Big hair, big shoulder pads and Culture Club were in style.  Can anyone say Boy George?

     At the time, Planned Parenthood told everyone that the land surrounding their building was “private property.”  That property included a concrete sidewalk about 50 ft. long and two grassy areas on either side of the walkway.  We had no reason to doubt that Planned Parenthood was not telling the truth.

     Big mistake.

     Fast forward to the late 90′s.  During that time, myself and several other pro-life leaders were charged with a federal law called “The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act”  under President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno.

     That law is commonly called FACE.

      During the course of our federal trial, our legal team discovered something amazing.  The property surrounding Planned parenthood was not “private” as they asserted but it was “public.”

     I know that sounds hard to believe but Planned Parenthood was not telling the truth about the nature of the property surrounding their building.  Hmmm.  Sounds familiar but I am not quite there yet.

      So, after I won a federal injunction case against the Department of Justice that land around Planned Parenthood was opened up for people to exercise their First Amendment rights.  They could sidewalk counsel.  Pray.  Hold peaceful pro-life witnesses. 

     Over the past years, thousands in the pro-life community exercised their constitutional rights to free speech, worship and prayer.

      All of that changed, however, several weeks ago.

     Planned Parenthood applied for a public permit to put up a metal fence along the property on 16th Street.  It is important to notice they had to get the permit because it was “public property.”  Many commercial and residential owners put up “decorative” things around their building all the time.

     Washington, D.C. has a unique zoning system.  Even though the City owns the property around your home or business (public property) you still have to maintain it.  Such a deal for the City, huh.

      This is the exact situation concerning the land around Planned Parenthood.  The City owns it but Planned Parenthood has to maintain it.  And, very important.  The land behind the fence at Planned Parenthood still remained public!

     It is critical to understand this.  Putting up the fence did not change the nature of the land.  Only a change of zoning could do that and that would require months and perhaps years of public hearings, City Council meetings, etc.

      None of that every happened.  But, we had to be sure.  So our legal team, the American Center for Law and Justice, did extensive and diligent research on the nature of that property.  After many conversations, discussions and meetings the city told us the land was still public.

      In fact, there is not one piece of documentation, paper or record  from the City of Washington , D.C. showing that property has changed from public to private.

     By the way, after winning a dozen Supreme Court cases I think the American Center for Law and Justice know their stuff.  Don’t you?

    Many of you have commented about the signs of the fence saying “Private Property”  and “No Trespassing.”  Those signs were put up by Planned Parenthood.  Not the City of Washington, D.C.

      That sign is just as offensive as the signs that were displayed all across the south in the 50′s and 60′s which said, “Whites Only.”

      And if just putting up a sign makes something “legal,” I am going to put a sign in front of my house saying, “Everyone who passes by must contribute $100 to the Mahoney’s.”

     Remember, this is the same Planned Parenthood that said years earlier the land was private property even though it wasn’t.

      Oh, one other thing about those “Private Property” signs.  Planned Parenthood has put them up without legal permission and we are now working to have them removed.

      Now here is where the troubling and disturbing part really kicks in.  For some unknown reason, Washington, D.C. police officers began threatening to arrest sidewalk counselors and persons praying on the public sidewalk leading up to Planned Parenthood.  The land behind the fence.

     Many of those people have been praying and sharing Christ on that sidewalk for years.

      When we found out about this, we knew something had to be done.  We could not allow free speech and prayer to be banned on the public sidewalk in our nation’s capital.

       We have been working diligently for weeks.  Praying.  Seeking God.  Developing a legal strategy.  We felt the best way was to challenge it in court if I was arrested.  In this way, we could subpoena Planned Parenthood and District City officials to get the truth of what is really happening.

       Just a few points about my arrest.  When I first got there, the Police Commander had no idea if the sidewalk leading to Planned Parenthood was public or private.  In fact, he asked me to wait several minutes to check in with DC officials.

       The Commander also asked Planned Parenthood “not” to arrest me because they were not sure of the exact nature of the land.  Now don’t you think after weeks of discussion and negotiations, the City of Washington, D.C. would have known  the nature of that property on the day I was coming.

       Sadly after much discussion, City attorneys decided that I should be arrested.  It has to be stressed again, neither Planned Parenthood, the Washington, D.C. Police Department or City officials could produce one piece of evidence or documentation that the land has indeed now become private property.

        Before I was arrested, I told the Commander that if he could show any official information that the land was private I would stay outside of the fence. 

        He could not.

       Ok, I see I am already over 1,ooo words so I have to stop soon.  But many were concerned when the Police Commander told me to leave that I should have obeyed.  It is important to remember that as citizens and Christians were are only obligated to obey “lawful orders.”

       For example, you would not stop reading your Bible if a police officer told you to.  Or, if a law enforcement official told you to sell drugs you would not obey.  The same principle applies with my arrest.

         I have not yet addressed the “spiritual reasons” for the arrest but I will get to that in my next blog.  If you have any questions, please ask me and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

         Blessings and Jesus Christ is King! 












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President Lincoln’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are bless whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His diving law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be put a punishment, inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People?  We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven.  We have been preserved, these many year, in peace and prosperity.  We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as not other nation has ever grown,  But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace , and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have come too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer,  And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, and their several place of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of  our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

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The President’s first pitch. Anger or admiration?

     If you spend any time with me, you know I am a huge sports fan.  Just ask my wife.  There are many memorable moments in my life which are forever etched in my mind.

     Entering a relationship with Christ.  My marriage.  The birth of my daughters.  The marriage of my daughters.   Being arrested and dragged out of Tiananmen Square speaking up for human rights and social justice.

      And of course, the birth of ESPN.  It was hard for me to believe that an entire network could be devoted to sports but there it was in all its glory.  In the early days of the network, it was wild seeing the bizzare and obscure sporting events they aired to fill the time.

     Crazy.  I loved it and still do.

      Sorry, I am veering off course.   That brings me to President Obama throwing out the first pitch and the Washington Nationals game yesterday.  I still don’t know what to make of it.  It was one of the worst “first pitches” I have ever seen from a President.

       His form started off pretty good.  Almost Randy Johnson like.  Then as the President released the pitch it just sailed…floated…out of his hand.  It was terrible and quite frankly embarrassing for the leader of the Free World not to be able to deliver the goods to home plate.

     As I watched it, I felt a host of emotions.  At first, I was like Mr. T and “I pitied the fool.”   It was like watching a train wreck.   I mean how could you not feel badly for someone making a throw like that.  Especially the President.   On opening day no less.

     Next it was a kind of anger.  Mr. President will you please “man up” and learn how to throw a freakin baseball.  There was a sense on my part that he was almost “disrespecting” the game by giving such a poor performance.  Didn’t you practice for crying out loud?

      Then fear.  I just keep thinking, wow if this guy does such a bad job on throwing out the first pitch how in the world can he run the country?

      Finally, there was something that bordered on admiration.  It went something like this.  If someone is willing to go on national television, with obviously no baseball ability and give it a try, shouldn’t we give him an A for effort?  In other words, “throw the President a bone.”

       Who thought I would have so many feelings about President Obama’s pitching abilities?  In an odd way, it pretty much reflects on how I feel about Mr. Obama’s performance as President of the United States so far.

        It seems like he is giving it his best shot but doesn’t quite have the skills or ability to make it work. 



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