A must-read.

Looking for some good summer reads? Here are my top five recommendations:

1. Far and away the best book I’ve read this year was A Time To Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside The Revolutionary Guards of Iran by Reza Kahlili. A reporter friend of mine at CBN first told me about Reza and the book and I bought it on Kindle in April. Wow! Loved it, loved it, loved it. I started reading it and literally couldn’t put it down. It’s a spy story so riveting and a love story so moving that at times I found myself having a hard time breathing, and other times was wiping away tears. I’ve never read a book that took me inside life in revolutionary Iran in 1979, or inside life in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in the 1980s, so compellingly as this one does. It’s a must read.

At first, Reza gives us his back story and shares that he was so excited about the rise of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution. But then he begins to witness the horrific acts of evil done by the “Supreme Leader” and his followers. He witnesses arrests and tortures and rapes and hangings — even of friends…by friends. And then Reza makes the decision that will change the course of his life forever. On a trip to California to care for his dying aunt — but without telling his wife — he contacts the FBI and offers information about the objectives, methods and leaders of the IRGC in exchange for political asylum for himself and his wife. His hope is that the U.S. will use the information to bring down the tyrannical Khomeini regime and in the process save many lives. The FBI immediately puts him in contact with the CIA, and a CIA official says they would be happy to give the Kahlilis asylum in the U.S. However, the CIA contact explains that what he really wants Reza to do is to go back to Tehran and become a double agent for the Agency inside the IRGC. How Reza makes his decision, how the Agency trains him, how he penetrates Iran’s secrets and communicates them back to his handlers, and the anxiety and tension he faces every step of the way makes for a stunning read. Heart-breaking is Reza’s inability to tell his wife, or her family, or his family, or any of his friends what he is doing, much less why. They are all increasingly disgusted with Khomeini and the revolution and are, therefore, increasingly angry and distraught when Reza starts growing a beard, appearing more devoutly Muslim, and appears to throw himself so passionately into the dirty work of the revolution, getting promoted and more responsibility along the way. The tension becomes unbearable, and threatens Reza’s marriage. 

Also heart-breaking coming to the realization that for all the risks that Reza took for the U.S. government, how little Washington has actually ever done to bring down the murderous and apocalyptic regime in Tehran. Reza’s exasperation with American officials who keep trying to negotiate with or kowtow to the mullahs and ayatollahs is palpable in the book. For so long he felt like he was betraying his native country of Iran and his family on behalf of the CIA. Yet in the end one wonders if he was betrayed by that very Agency and the political leaders who oversee it in Washington. In recent months I have had the opportunity to get to know Reza over the phone, and in person, and have been deeply impressed by his courage and resolve. It was an honor to be able to interview him and show that interview at the 2011 Epicenter Conference. Though he no longer works directly for the CIA (though he does teach at the Pentagon’s Joint Counterintelligence Training Center), Reza is clearly still a man on a mission: to liberate the people of Iran from one of the most evil monstrosities of our time, especially before Iran gets nuclear warheads. I applaud him for what he’s doing, and I encourage people to support his efforts. But I’ll tell you what I’ve told him: Iran is going to be liberated, but not by the President of the United States or by Congress or by the CIA, but by the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39 and Jeremiah 49 reveal that the God of the Bible is going to harshly judge the leaders of Iran in the “last days” and pour out His Holy Spirit and His blessings on that beautiful country and it’s people. He will do so because Iran’s leaders have cursed Christ, the Church, and Israel. The Bible shows us the road to Iran’s liberation will be a very tough one, and the Lord commands us to pray for the people of Iran and to reach every Iranian with the gospel. Reza’s book shows us why the Iranian people are so desperate for the kind of hope and change only Christ can provide.

2. Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream by David Platt — Friends recommended I read this at a discipleship retreat we were on in the Outer Banks in May and they were right. It was powerful and deeply challenging. Platt’s point is simple but profound: what if actually studied the Bible and just did what Jesus said rather than explain it away? What if we actually sold our possessions and gave far more to the poor and needy? What if we stepped down from our wordly jobs and served the Lord full-time? What if we stopped running entertainment programs to build mega-churches and actually started making disciples and focused on helping a few believers go deep in their faith rather than babysit thousands of people who aren’t really serious about obeying Jesus? The American church is so shallow. We desperately need the Lord to shake us up and wake us up. Radical is a great place to start.

3. Moses: A Man of Selfless Dedication by Pastor Chuck Swindoll — I’ve been reading the life of Moses from the Bible to my youngest son, Noah, in recent months, and became captivated with this amazingly godly and humble leader all over again. As I became eager to know Moses better — and especially how he dealt with enormous adversity, criticism, betrayal and loneliness — I looked for a theologically sound book that was also very practical. Chuck’s book hit the spot.

4. Paul: A Man of Grit and Grace by Chuck SwindollHaving loved Chuck’s take on Moses, I’ve started reading and loving this one on the Apostle Paul right now. The extraordinary vision of Jesus the Messiah on the road to Damascus. Paul’s wilderness years. His relationship with Barnabus. His passion for making disciples and planting churches. His willingness to suffer for the sake of his Lord and Savior. His eagerness for the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. What’s not to love? And Chuck’s wisdom and experience is priceless.

5. Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan by a Washington Post reporter named Del Quentin Wilber. Unbelievable! Read it on Kindle on a single overnight flight from D.C. to Paris this spring. Was supposed to be sleeping, but got so engrossed that I suddenly heard the captain say, “Please put your seatbelts on. We’ll be landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport in a few moments.” Yikes! A minute by minute account of one of the most horrifying days in recent American history. Interviews with dozens of people who were intimately involved. Incredibly well researched and documented. But reads like a first-rate political thriller. Couldn’t recommend it more!