(Jerusalem, Israel) — Amidst the terrible geopolitical crises in Syria and Egypt — and the nuclear threat growing from Iran — the Middle East faces a far greater crisis: the absolute disconnect between the people and the Word of God. Israel and the Middle East is the land where the Bible was written. Yet most of the people in the epicenter have never read the Word.
Only 16% of Israeli Jews say they ever read the Hebrew Bible known as the Tanakh (the five books of Moses, the prophets and the writings), according to a sweeping survey of Israeli attitudes towards faith conducted by the Guttmann Institute and the Israel Democracy Institute in 2009.
The vast majority of Arab Muslims have never even seen a Bible, much less read one.
Is there really any wonder then that if the half billion people in this region don’t know God’s Word, that they are not experiencing His peace, much less peace between nations and ethnic groups?
Other Israelis are becoming interested in the Bible, too. In the introduction to his book, My Heroes: Four Biblical Journeys (2008), Yair Lapid — an Israeli TV journalist who is now the nation’s Finance Minister — describes his rediscovery of the Bible: “In the last ten years I’ve dedicated a great deal of my free time to the Bible. . . . I plunged into the text with great enthusiasm and passion, tinged with a sense of a loss. I wish I could get back all those years I ignored it.” (cited by Yael Zerubavel, “A Secular Return to the Bible?”, AJS Perspectives, the magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies, Spring 2011 issue.)
This is good. But much more is needed. The Bible is clear that when people read and listen to and obey the Word of God, they will be blessed. But disasters befall individuals and nations that ignore the Word.
That’s we the theme of our conference this year was, “The Power of the Word.” You and I don’t have much influence to make geopolitical peace. But we can rediscover the power of the Word in our own lives, and help the people of the Middle East rediscover it, too. I’m pleased, therefore, to announce that you can now watch online the videos of the messages from the 2013 Epicenter Conference at www.epicenterconference.com. You can also find and watch them on our mobile app.
“The Power of the Word To Change The Arab World” — interview with Dr. Hanna Shahin, a Palestinian Arab from Jerusalem who used to run Trans World Radio’s Arab language division and now runs Endure International
Panel discussion — featuring Pastor Joe Focht, Dr. Erez Soref, Dr. Hanna Shahin, and Pastor Shmuel Aweida, an Israeli pastor from Haifa (moderated by Joel C. Rosenberg)
Please watch them, share them, and give us your feedback on the “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook. And let’s be praying that everyone will begin reading and listening to the Bible once again.
We have considered the power of the Word to change a leader. We have considered the power of the Word to change a nation. Let us now consider the power of the Word to change the world – because “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” so to preach the Word is to preach Jesus.
Please open your Bibles to the Gospel of John. We’ll read verses one through fourteen.
John 1:1-3 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
What’s striking about John’s Gospel account is how different it begins from the others.
Matthew begins with “the record of a genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.”(1:1) He begins with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and traces the royal lineage from through King David, and right on to Jesus. Why? Because Matthew’s mission is to portray Jesus to the Jews as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies, and thus the true Anointed One — the Messiah, the King.
Mark doesn’t use a genealogy at all. Why not? Because he is portraying Jesus to mankind as the Suffering Servant, and servants don’t need genealogies.
“For…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (10:45)
“And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” (8:31)
Luke provides a genealogy, but he doesn’t merely trace Jesus’ lineage back to Abraham. Rather, he goes all the way back to “Adam, the son of God.” (3:38) Why? Because Luke is portraying Jesus to the Greco-Roman world as the ultimate, perfect, sinless man.
John, however, is writing the last of the four Gospels. He is writing somewhere between 85 and 95 A.D. It is a time of danger and tumult, a time of great attack on the believers. It is a time not just of physical persecution, but one in which the very authority and reliability of the Bible and the Gospel message was under great attack. Satan had unleashed false teachers and they were everywhere, trying to undermine both the divinity of Jesus, and His humanity.
So, under the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle John begins his Gospel account by tracing Jesus’ lineage further back than any of the others — “In the beginning….” John makes is crystal clear that “in the beginning”:
Jesus was with God.
Jesus was God.
Jesus is God.
Jesus created all things.
Nothing that was made was made without Him.
He was not made.
He was eternally pre-existent as the second Member of the Trinity.
John leaves no room to say that:
Jesus was “just a good man” but not the Messiah;
or Jesus was “just the Messiah,” but not the Son of God;
or Jesus was just the “Son of God,” but not fully God Himself, God the Eternal One, God the Creator.
John begins his Gospel with bold, direct clarity that Jesus is absolutely Divine. John declares that Jesus is the very God of very God.
What’s more, John ends his Gospel the exact same way. “[T]hese things have been written,” he concludes in John 20:31, “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
This is John’s goal – to be clear about who Jesus is.
he tells you what he’s going to say
then he says it
then he tells you what he just said
because he does not want you to miss the point
But John doesn’t simply want us to understand that Jesus is God. John also wants us to know that Jesus is the “Logos” — The Word.
Why didn’t John start with, “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God”? Wouldn’t that be true? Absolutely. Then why not just write it that way?
Because John is an evangelist – he is building a case – and he is appealing to the Jew first, and then the Greek.
By opening his account with a focus on “The Word,” he is certainly appealing to the minds and hearts of the Greek-speaking Gentile world.
“Logos” — The Word — was a powerful and enduring concept in Greek philosophy.
In 500 B.C., the father of Greek philosophy – Heraclitus –first used the term “Logos” to describe the divine thought, or the divine plan, that governs a changing universe.
Heraclitus taught that before the world came into being was the “Logos” – the thought, the idea, the plan.
He didn’t think of it as person, and certainly not as a singular God. The Greeks were polytheists. But he did believe the world began and was guided by a central cosmic thought, “the Word.”
And he deeply influenced the writings of the leading philosophers to come, including Plato and Aristotle.
So the Holy Spirit directed John to explain what the “Logos” really is:
not just a thought, but The Thinker
not just a plan, but The Planner
not just a philosophy, but a Person – the One True God
So this preamble to John’s Gospel would have really caught the ear and the imagination of the Greek-speaking Gentile world of the Roman Empire.
But John wasn’t simply appealing to the Greeks. He was also most definitely appealing to the Jews.
The concept of “the word” is central to the Tanakh (Old Testament).
244 times the phrase “the word of the Lord” or “the word of God” is used in the Tanakh.
What’s fascinating to me – and what many people don’t realize – is that the specific expression “The Word” as a descriptor of the Lord God Himself was a term very familiar to Jews in the first century.
Why? Because when the Hebrew Scriptures were ready every Sabbath in the synagogues, what was also read – verse by verse – was the Aramaic translation of the Hebrew Bible known as the “Targum.” But a Targum was not simply a direct translation of the Scriptures but rather an “amplified version” – not a commentary, per se, but a version designed to help the average Jewish person understand what the text was really saying.
And what’s remarkable is that beginning a few centuries before Jesus – and occurring for centuries after Jesus — the Targum often replaced the term “Jehovah” or “the Lord” with the term, “The Word.”
Example from Genesis 17:7
NASB — “I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you, throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.”
Targum Neofiti — “And I will establish my covenant between my Word and you, and your descendants after you, throughout their generations, for an eternal covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you.”
Example from Deuteronomy 32:43
NASB — “Rejoice, O nations, with His people; for He will avenge the blood of His servants, and He will render vengeance on His adversaries, and will atone for His land and His people.”
Targum Pseudo-Jonathan — “….by His Word He willmake atonement for His land and His people.”
Example from Isaiah 55:3
NASB — “Incline your ear and come to Me. Listen, that you may live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you according to the faithful mercies shown to David.”
Targum Neofiti — “Incline your ear and receive My Word…..”
So this preamble to John’s Gospel would also have really caught the ear and the imagination of the Aramaic-speaking Jewish world of ancient Palestine.
The Life and The Light
John 1:4-9 – “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.”
The Apostle John is steadily building his case, brick by brick, verse by verse.
That Jesus is “The Word.”
That The Word is God.
That The Word is the Divine Creator.
Thus, Jesus is God and He is the Divine Creator.
But then the Apostle goes further. He makes the case that Jesus is not a God that simply set the universe into motion and then sits back and takes no interest in the affairs of men. On the contrary, the Apostle makes the case that:
Jesus is actively involved in the affairs of men.
Jesus is not only the Creator of physical life, but in Him is spiritual life – He can give true and eternal life to those who are perishing in their sins.
What’s more, Jesus is the Light of the world – He can give true Light to people lost in the darkness.
Here’s one way Jesus did that – He chose and sent a man named John ahead of Him
to be His witness
to testify to the truth
to point people to the Way, the Truth, and the Life
to point people to the Light
John wasn’t the Life – he pointed to Life.
John wasn’t the Light – he pointed to the Light.
John wasn’t the Prophet – he pointed to the Prophet.
John wasn’t the Messiah – he pointed to the Messiah.
We should note here that the Apostle John is not referring to himself here. Rather, he is referring to John the Baptist. Indeed, whenever the Apostle, mentions the word “John” in his Gospel account, he is referring to John the Baptist. He never refers to himself by name. He doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. As a disciple of John the Baptist, who then became a disciple of Jesus, and then one of our Lord’s most trusted Apostles, John only wants to point to Jesus, never himself.
What I love is that as the Apostle builds his case verse by verse, chapter by chapter, he uses statements from Jesus and actions by Jesus to prove his initial point that Jesus is God, and Jesus is Life, and Jesus is Light.
In John 3, Jesus explains to a Jewish leader how to find eternal life by becoming born again. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (3:16)
In John 5, Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and [yet] you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” (5:39-40)
In John 8, Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (8:12)
In John 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, and said, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” (11:25-26)
In John 14, Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (14:6)
I could go on, but I think the point has been made – the Apostle states the intention of his Gospel account in the very first chapter, and then he carefully, methodically builds his case.
he describes seven miracles performed by Jesus.
he relates seven times that Jesus says, “I am….”
he quotes the testimony of seven eyewitnesses who said Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (beginning with John the Baptist)
But the Apostle is also honest that not everyone will receive the truth about Jesus.
John 1:10-13 – “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of God.”
Are there any verses in all of the New Testament sadder than these?
Jesus physically created the world by the power of the Word (He spoke, and the world came into being) – yet the world rejected Him.
Jesus physically created the nations of the world – yet the people of the nations (that is, the Greek-speaking Roman world) did not know who He was or receive Him as Messiah, Savior, Lord and King.
Jesus physically created “His own” – the Jewish people, the “chosen people” – yet by and large the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, did not receive Him either. They didn’t understand He had fulfilled their own prophecies. They didn’t understand He had come to bring them abundant life and eternal life. They were walking in darkness. They were not reading the Word. Or understanding the Word. They weren’t connecting the dots. And they missed Him.
And yet….not everyone missed Him. In His grace, God opened the eyes of a handful of people – men and women – so they could suddenly see the Light. They could suddenly see the Truth. They suddenly experienced the Life.
And to as many as received him, only handful of people at first, to them Jesus gave the right (power, authority, ability) to be born again, to be born from above into the very family of God. Not by their own will, or brilliance, or insight, or intuition – but by the will of God, by the power of God. And this is the good news — this is the great hope – this is the power of the Word to change the world
John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This is the Gospel, the good news:
that Jesus is the “Logos”
Jesus is The Word
Jesus is God
Jesus is the Creator
Jesus is Life
Jesus is Light
Jesus is God who became flesh and dwelt among us
He “tabernacled” or “tented” or “camped” among us.
He was fully God.
He was fully man.
Not everyone will understand this.
Not everyone will receive this.
But if you do – Jew or Gentile – and if you repent and receive Him, Jesus will save you.
If you repent of your sins and receive Him for who He really is, Jesus will adopt you into His family, and you will become a child of the Living God.
You will experience His grace.
You will experience His truth.
You will see His glory.
You will live with Him forever.
Are there any verses in all the Bible more wonderful then these?
This good news is for Jews. But it is not for Jews alone. “But as many as received Him….” This good news is for Arabs, Bedouins, Druze, and Persians. This is good news for all peoples, tribes and tongues. Anyone who hears the Word, and believes, and repents of their sins, and receives Jesus as Messiah, Lord and Master can and will be saved.
This is very good news. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We are not living in darkness. We are not alone without God and His wisdom. God came in person to tell us how to have life and peace. He came in personal to show us to live and how to love. And then He gave us the Word of God in the form of a book. It is called the Bible. It is the only book inspired by God Himself. It is the only book that is a “lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path.” (Psalm 119:105) It is the only book that is full of the “word of life.” (I John 1:1)
I believe this is the great challenge of our time: to help the Church rediscover the power of the Word, and to recommit ourselves to proclaim the Word – all of it, from Genesis to Revelation – without fear, without apology, but with authority and great urgency.
The Lord said through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
The Lord said through the writer of Hebrews, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
The Lord said through the Apostle Paul, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
We need more people in the Church today who truly believe in the power of the Word to save souls and transform lives.
We need to freshly commit ourselves – as those who teach the Word and who train others to teach the Word — to follow the Great Commission and teach people to obey all that Christ commanded us.(Matthew 28:19)
Let us be able to say what the Apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27)
In our closing panel, we will discuss with these dear pastors how they approach teaching the Word, and what kind of fruit they have seen from teaching the “whole counsel of God” with thoroughness and vigor.But as I close this message, let me share with you a personal testimony of how I came to really discover power of the Word in my own life. [brief testimony]
(Jerusalem, Israel) — The Joshua Fund’s 2013 Epicenter Conference has concluded, and it has been a fascinating day. The messages will soon be posted online at www.epicenterconference.com. They will also be posted on our mobile app.
We were deeply blessed to have some remarkable speakers, both Jews and Arabs, as well as the pastor who hosted the third Epicenter Conference a few years ago (in Philadelphia). I delivered the opening and closing message of the day. Below is the text of the first message, introducing the subject and explaining its purpose, as I prepared it for delivery. I hope you find it helpful.
2013 Epicenter Conference — Jerusalem, Israel — Friday, July 5, 2013
We are gathered here in Jerusalem at a time of war and rumors of war, uprisings and revolution.
Another revolution is underway in Egypt – the second in two years. The Egyptian army has removed President Morsi from power, but there is still the danger of a civil war erupting.
A tragic revolution is underway in Syria – more than 93,000 are dead, and chemical weapons have been used in recent months.
Lebanon is systematically being taken over by Hezbollah, an Iranian terror organization.
Jordan is under constant threat of an Islamist coup.
Iran is rapidly approaching the “red line” – and Israel is considering a massive preemptive strike.
Millions of men, women and children do not know what tomorrow will bring.
So why isn’t the 2013 Epicenter Conference focused on analyzing such issues? In the past, Epicenter Conferences have largely focused on the geopolitical threats facing Israel and her neighbors. We have examined those threats in light of Scripture — including Bible prophecy. And we have discussed how Christians can pray for, visit, support and in all ways bless the people of the Middle East.
This year, our theme is, “The Power of the Word.”
The reason is simple: Because as serious as these crises are, there is actually a far more serious crisis facing the people of the epicenter – and all people on the Earth – than the mere absence of geopolitical peace. That is, the absence of spiritual peace – the absence of peace with God.
Christians have very little opportunity to bring about geopolitical peace in this region, as much as we would like to help in this way. We must pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But we can’t bring about peace treaties. That’s the work of Presidents and Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers and Secretaries of State. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” so we pray for those engaged in trying to achieve geopolitical peace.
But you and I in the Church have a different role — a unique and vital role — a role the governments cannot play. You and I know the secret of that true and lasting peace that is found in the Word of God. And we need to help people find that peace.
The Bible says Jesus is the Prince of Peace. The Bible says He is coming back one day to reign over the whole earth from this city, from Jerusalem, and He will bring peace on the earth.
But geopolitical peace is not Christ’s first priority. In fact, the Bible tells us that in the last days God is going shake all the nations of the earth. He will allow wars and revolutions and other disasters to occur to get people’s attention and draw them to their desperate need for Him. Thus, Christ’s first mission is to call people to repentance and peace with God, and to give those who have peace with God a “peace which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
“These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace,” Jesus said in John 17:33. “In the world you will have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
This is good news. Christ offers true peace. Yet, tragically, most people in this world – and especially in this region — do not even know such peace is possible.
Why? Because so many do not know the Lord God Almighty. They do not know His promises.
Why? Because they have not read His Word. They have not heard His Word. And thus they do not understand the power of the Word to change them, save them, heal them, comfort them, protect them, encourage them, and welcome them into the very presence of the God who loves them and gave Himself for them.
This, my friends, is the greatest crisis of our time – the absolute disconnect between people and the Word of God.
This is especially tragic among Jews and Arabs, who live in the lands where the Scriptures given. Consider a few data points:
Nearly half of Israeli Jews describe themselves as “secular.”
Most Israelis have utterly rejected almost any form of religious instruction, worship or practice.
Remarkably, 65% of Israeli Jews say they believe the Torah is God-given.
Yet, only 16% of Israeli Jews say they ever actually read the Bible.
Likewise, only 14% of American Jews say they ever read the Bible on their own.
They are not alone, of course.
The vast majority of Arab Muslims have never seen a Bible, much less read one.
The same is true of Persians in Iran.
Think about that. Of the half billion people that live in the very region where the Bible was written, only a relative handful have the Word of God, much less read or believe it.
Is it really so surprising there is no peace in the Middle East?
Unfortunately, it gets worse.
Throughout much of the Church in the world today, there is an outright rejection of the Bible as the divinely inspired Word of God. In congregations all over the world, many are being taught the Bible is a nice story, especially for children, but not really the divinely inspired Word of the living God.
Such theological liberalism— such rejection of the supremacy and sufficiency and power of the Word – is a pandemic cancer sweeping through most denominations, subverting the faith of millions right at the moment when the world most needs a strong and healthy Church to point them to the living God and His holy Word.
Yet even among those churches that say they follow Christ, and who say they hold the Bible to be the very Word of God, we are seeing signs of equivocation. We are seeing evidence of doubt creeping into the minds and hearts of pastors and priests and lay people.
Doubt that the Word is sufficient to answer every question.
Doubt that the Word is powerful to change every heart.
Doubt that Jesus really meant it when He gave us the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded…”
Sadly, Bible prophecy tells us that there will be apostasy in the last days, that there will be false teachers who pervert the truth, that there will be bad teachers who water down or mishandle the truth. What’s more, there will be many who won’t want to hear the Bible taught well, or at all.
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
What then shall we do? Get discouraged? Give up? Lose confidence in the efficacy of God’s Word?
By no means. The Apostle Paul commanded us to “preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
Because the “sacred writings…are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15)
Because “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Because “‘as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Because “the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
Yes, it is a sad and painful truth that the world at large – and the people of the epicenter in particular – do not know and believe and embrace the power of the Word.
And yes, it is a sad and painful truth that so many pastors, priests and lay people in the Church — by no means all, but far too many — do not truly know and believe and embrace the power of the Word, either.
But here is a great and glorious truth: Two thousand years ago, a mere twelve uneducated men turned the world upside down because they had been with Jesus, because they knew the Word, they knew His power, and – filled with power of the Holy Spirit – they were not afraid to proclaim the Word to change men’s lives, because they had seen their own lives changed so radically.
Today, more and more people in the epicenter realize how desperate they are for the Word of God. And more and more believers are determined to give them God’s Word.
This is why we are focused in this year’s conference on the “Power of the World.” To remind ourselves of the power of the Word, and to recommit ourselves to being faithful members of the remnant the Lord wants to use to preach the Word, in season and out.
Those of us gathered here in Jerusalem today – and those watching in more than 100 countries around the globe – we do not have the power of the world. We do not have the power to make geopolitical peace, even if we tried. But you and I do have the power of the Word. We do have the power to help men make peace with God, and discover the “peace that passeth all understanding.”
My friend, there is tremendous, life-changing, leader-changing, nation-changing, world-changing power in the Word of God.
Today, I hope you and I will discover it anew.
And beginning tomorrow, I pray you and I will preach it afresh — with great passion, and great conviction, and a great sense of urgency.
(Jerusalem, Israel) — As if there is not enough drama in the epicenter already, a military coup d’état occurred overnight in Egypt. Mohamed Morsi is no longer the president after 22 million Egyptians signed a petition to remove him. Morsi and other top Muslim Brotherhood leaders have been arrested. The Brotherhood’s TV station was seized by the army. Other Brotherhood leaders have been put on watch lists and told they may not leave the country. The country’s new Sharia law-focused constitution has also been suspended.
Now all eyes are on Adly Mansour, the 67 year old judge, the interim president,appointed by the Egyptian army. Mansour is expected to oversee the drafting of a new electoral law, and oversee new elections, though it is not yet clear when those elections will be. A new constitution will also be drafted. More on Mansour in a moment.
First, let me say that I am grateful Morsi has been removed and the Brotherhood has been neutralized, at least for the moment. Generally, I don’t support military coups. But in this case I believe Morsi posed a grave threat to the people of Egypt, and to Israel, and the U.S. and the West generally. He needed to be removed and I have been praying for this ever since he rose to power. According to Bible prophecy — notably Isaiah 19 — the Egyptians have very dark days ahead of them. But as long as possible, I so want them to experience spiritual and personal freedom and for the Church to be free to preach the Gospel and demonstrate the love of Christ and the power of the Word to a nation in so much pain.
Second, this coup represents another dramatic chapter in the battle between the Radicals and the Reformers in the Muslim world. The Egyptian people launched a revolution against Hosni Mubarak in 2011 because they wanted real reform and he was resisting true democracy and personal freedom. But Morsi and the Radicals of the Muslim Brotherhood hijacked that revolution and turned into an opportunity for them to dominate and oppress Egypt. Now the Reformers are pushing back. It’s been stunning to see 22 million people — 1 in 4 Egyptians — sign a petition to get rid of the Radicals. The Egyptian army’s leadership are not Jeffersonian democratic reformers, to be sure. But they have long opposed the Radicals and they could see the popular handwriting on the wall. The army signaled last December it would not allow Egypt to enter a “dark tunnel” of Radical Islamic extremism and economic collapse. Yet that is precisely where Morsi and the Brotherhood were heading.
“Who is the new President of Egypt?” I wrote just one year ago on June 25, 2012. “He’s an absolute disaster — an Islamic Radical who poses a grave threat to Israel, the U.S. and to the people of Egypt, especially the Christians of which there are millions in Egypt. Here’s what Mohamed Morsi (sometimes spelled Morsy or Mursi) said at a speech at Cairo University in May: ‘The Koran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our path and death in the name of Allah is our goal.’ According to a Russian news service, Morsi also said, ‘Today we can establish Sharia law because our nation will acquire well-being only with Islam and Sharia. The Muslim Brothers and the Freedom and Justice Party will be the conductors of these goals.’ Those quotes ought to provide insight into just how dangerous Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood really are.”
Recent polls show the vast majority of Egyptians were coming to the same conclusion just a year after electing Morsi. A stunning 73% of Egyptians say Morsi didn’t make a single good decision in his first year in office.
All this is further evidence of the central dynamic in the Muslim world that I described in my non-fiction book in 2009, Inside The Revolution: How The Followers of Jihad, Jefferson and Jesus Are Battling To Dominate The Middle East and Transform The World. The Islamic world is going through historic convulsions. The Radicals (like Morsi and the Brotherhood) are trying to overthrow the Resisters and return the region to a “pure” version of fundamentalist Islam based on Sharia law. They believe “Islam is the answer and jihad is the way.” Ultimately, they want to create a global Caliphate where all people in every country are living under Islamic rule. The Reformers, on the other hand, believe “Islam is the answer, but jihad is not they way.” They are pushing back at the Radicals. They are Muslims, but they don’t want Sharia law. They don’t believe in waging jihad. To the contrary, they want more freedom, more openness, and even democracy. Then there are the Revivalists. They believe “Islam is not the answer, jihad is not the way; Jesus is the way.” What’s more, they believe that “the only way for our part of the world to move forward is to skip back in our history before Islam and revive what we once had — first century, New Testament, Biblical Christianity.” They are Muslims who are renouncing Islam and becoming true and fully devoted disciples of Jesus Christ. We need to be praying for these Revivalists to be strong and bold in their testimony for Jesus and their proclamation of the Word of God.
Third, there is still a very real possibility that a civil war will erupt in Egypt. The Radicals might counterstrike. The Muslim Brotherhood — a Radical Islamic jihadist organization — is furious about what has happened. It has been trying to seize power in Egypt since the 1920s. It may not take the coup lying down and it could unleash waves of brazen violence. Isaiah 19 indicates a tragic civil war is in Egypt’s future in the last days. Let us pray that we have not yet arrived to that point. Let us pray for peace and stability and calm in this important country of more than 80 million people.
Now, let’s look more closely at Egypt’s interim president. “It’s been a momentous week for Judge Adly Mansour,” reported CNN. “On Monday, he became the head of Egypt’s Supreme Constitutional Court. Just two days later, the 67-year-old was installed as the country’s president after a military coup ousted Mohammed Morsy from power.”
“New parliamentary elections will be held, and Mansour will have the power to issue constitutional declarations in the meantime,” CNN noted. “[Mansour] as appointed vice president of the court in 1992. In that role, Mansour served during former President Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule and also helped draft the elections laws that set the time frame for campaigning in the 2012 vote that brought deposed President Mohammed Morsy to power, the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported.…Mansour was born in Cairo, according to a biography on the court’s website. He received law and management science degrees from Cairo University, and also studied in Paris. He is married and has a son and two daughters.”
Foreign Policy magazine reports: “The shakeup thrusts a little-known judge into the spotlight, and entrusts him with the unenviable task of shepherding Egypt to its next presidential and legislative elections, which could take place in as little as three to six months. But Mansour, a veteran of the Supreme Constitutional Court who only just became its chairman on July 1, will not hold ultimate authority. ‘He is not the president of Egypt in the same way that Morsy or Mubarak were presidents of Egypt,’ Tarek Masoud, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, tells Foreign Policy. The best analogy, according to Masoud, is probably Sufi Abu Taleb, who served as acting head of state for eight days following the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981. ‘The administration of the country is going to be in the hands of the military, but they had to put a constitutional face on it. [Mansour] is under no illusions about the extent of his power,’ says Masoud.”
“Despite his subordinate position, however, Mansour will likely exercise considerable control over the drafting of a new election law, experts say,” FP notes. “‘His main job will be to get an electoral law done,’ Michael Wahid Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation, tells FP. Over the past year, the Supreme Constitutional Court has twice invalidated electoral laws drafted by the Shura Council, Egypt’s upper house of parliament. The result, according to Hanna, has been a delay in holding parliamentary elections and a deepening of the political crisis in Egypt.”
Egyptian military ousts Morsi, suspends constitution (Washington Post) — “Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood supporters were irate, and Morsi himself was adamant that he remained the nation’s president. Aides said early Thursday that he was under house arrest as security forces rounded up at least a dozen top Muslim Brotherhood leaders, shuttered three television stations and surrounded Islamist demonstrators. Troops and tanks fanned out across Cairo, as clashes erupted in several cities.”
Putin meets Ahmadinejad on July 2, 2013. (photo: Kremlin)
With a military coup underway in Egypt and a horrific civil war underway in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to meet with out-going Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to strengthen the emerging Russian-Iranian alliance.
Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad discussed current bilateral cooperation issues.
At the meeting, the two presidents discussed, in particular, the prospects for increasing trade between the two countries and cooperation in the energy sector. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad informed Mr. Putin that the construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr has been completed and the plant was put into operation.
The previous day, Iran’s president took part in the Second Summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum
[The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) unites nations controlling 73 percent of the world’s natural gas reserves and producing 42 percent of the global output. The GECF’s member states are Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Islamic Republic of Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela. Kazakhstan and Norway have observer status. The GECF is headquartered in Doha, Qatar.]
In an image taken from state TV, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi said the military acted in “public service.” (AFP/Getty Images; Washington Post)
(Jerusalem, Israel) — In two days, we will host the 2013 Epicenter Conference here in Jerusalem amidst a horrific civil war in Syria and the very present possibility of a civil war in Egypt. As I write this at 9pm local time, here are the latest developments:
Millions of Egyptians have been demanding that President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government step down from power because of their many failures and dictatorial approach to governing.
The Egyptian issued an ultimatum earlier this week for Morsi to come to a peaceful resolution with the protestors or the army would step in with unspecified action.
Among the main questions now is whether the Muslim Brotherhood — the region’s original Radical Jihadist organization — will fight back, plunging Egypt into a civil war. Here’s the latest coverage and analysis.
(Jerusalem, Israel) — It’s been an extraordinary week here in the epicenter. As the bloody civil war intensifies in Syria, Egypt is now on the verge of civil war. Let’s pray that doesn’t happen. But two fascinating new polls reveal shed light on why the Egyptian people are turning on President Mohammad Morsi and calling for Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood regime to be removed from power.
“An opinion poll has revealed that 73% of Egyptians believe President Morsi did not make a single good decision during his first year in office, while 63% believe their standard of living has worsened,” reports Al Ahram, the Egyptian news agency. “The telephone poll, conducted by Baseera for Al-Hayat TV network, asked 2069 Egyptians aged between 20 and 23 for their views on the president.”
“Seventeen percent believe his worst decision was over the Nile dam crisis, while 8% believe it was the November 2012 constitutional declaration,” reports Al Ahram. “Cutting relations with Syria and the recent appointment of new governors were Morsi’s worst decisions according to 5% of respondents.”
In a separate poll, “The Arab American institute last week published the results of an opinion poll titled ‘After Tahrir: Egyptians assess their government, their institutions and their future.’ More than 70% believe the economic and security situations have worsened, according to the poll. ‘Among those who support the Muslim Brotherhood, 98% say their lives have improved. Among the rest of the population over 80% say their lives have worsened, that’s a deep division,’ the pollster said. ‘Ninety-two percent of Muslim Brotherhood supporters reject the contention that the Brotherhood intends to control the state and Islamize it. On the other hand, 93% of the rest of the country said that is precisely what the Brotherhood is doing,’ it added. The Arab-American Institute surveyed 5,029 Egyptian adults from across the country.”
At the crossroads: TJF tour was just 30 miles from Damascus, and we could hear the booms of mortars being fired during Syrian civil war.
(Jerusalem, Israel ) — Good morning from Jerusalem. Today begins Day #7 of The Joshua Fund’s “Prayer & Vision Trip” to the Holy Land. We have the honor of hosting 244 Christians from all over the world (including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Nigeria, Germany, Taiwan, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand), most of whom have never been to Israel before. It’s been an absolutely fascinating time, especially as events heat up and move rapidly here in the epicenter.
A few observations on the Mideast crisis developing around us — especially in Egypt and Syria — as well as updates from our tour:
Let’s start with Egypt — Today is Decision Day. A dramatic showdown is underway in the world’s largest Arab country. Millions of Egyptians have turned out on the streets of Cairo in recent days to protest the despotic regime of President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. The offices of the Brotherhood have been sacked and looted. Remarkably the protestors are demanding the resignation of Morsi and the end of his regime.
The Egyptian Army on Sunday issued an ultimatum: Morsi has 48 hours to accede to many of the demands of the protestors and find a peaceful resolution to the conflict, or the army will step in. Morsi has vowed not to step down. The army insists it is not waging a coup. But no one knows quite what will happen next, and the deadline for action is 5pm local time today (Tuesday).
Please pray that God would have mercy on the people of Egypt. Pray the Lord will bring down this evil Radical Muslim regime and replace it with a moderate, peaceful government that will restore peace and order, expand freedom, protect women and children, and protect Christians. Please also pray for the Church in Egypt to be bold and courageous and to fearlessly proclaim that the only true peace for Egyptians will come when they received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and commit themselves to reading and obeying the Word of God.
Now, Syria — The bloodbath continues. The civil war there has left more than 93,000 Syrians dead.
Now comes horrific news that a Catholic priest has been beheaded by the rebels. “A Catholic priest has been publicly beheaded by Syrian terrorists after accusations of collaborating with President Bashar Assad’s regime,” reports the New York Daily News. “Franciscan Father Francois Murad was executed among two others in the countryside of Edlib in northern Syria Sunday before its filming was uploaded online. The Vatican confirmed Murad’s death Monday, declaring his martyrdom by the hands of Syrian jihadists after he was pulled from the convent for the Custody of the Holy Land where he had taken refuge….Several are seen shamelessly holding up cameras to record the horrific killings, stepping as close as they can to the aftermath of bloody bodies.”
On Friday, we took The Joshua Fund tour up to northern Israel, to two different spots the Golan Heights, giving them the opportunity to see Damascus just 30 miles away. We could hear the boom of artillery fire and see smoke rising from various points as the civil war continued. It was an eerie experience to be so close to a city and country gripped by such evil.
At one location, I taught the Biblical prophecies of Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 that indicate that the Lord God is going judge the wickedness of Damascus and bring utter destruction to that city in the End Times. As we studied these prophecies, we prayed for the people of Syria and Damascus, and for the Church to be boldly sharing the Gospel and for many to receive Christ there before it is too late. I also shared a bit of how The Joshua Fund is helping to strengthen the believers in Syria to share the Gospel (including through the evangelistic Damascus film, which premiered in the capital city with the permission of Bashar al-Assad in March 2009).
Please pray for the people of Syria — and especially for those in Damascus — that God would have mercy on them. Pray that the Lord would bring down the Assad regime in His timing, but please also pray that the Radical jihadist rebels would not seize power. Pray that the Lord would also a moderate, peaceful government, just as we are praying for in Egypt.
Please also pray for the Church in Syria to be bold and courageous and to fearlessly proclaim that the only true peace for Syrians will come when they received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and commit themselves to reading and obeying the Word of God.
Today, I will ask our tour group to be in special prayer for Egypt and Syria, as well as for all the people of Israel, both Jews and Arabs.
I will share more on our tour soon, Lord willing, but I can say that it has been so special. We have taken them from Tel Aviv/Jaffa to Caesarea, to Mount Carmel, to Armageddon, to the Sea of Galilee, to Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes, to the Golan Heights, to Beit Shean, and now here in Jerusalem. We’ve been introducing them to Israelis and Palestinians, explaining the history of the region, explaining the threats facing Israel and her neighbors, teaching the Word of God, praying and worshipping the Lord, and even doing baptisms.
On Friday, we will host the 2013 Epicenter Conference here in Jerusalem, the City of the Great King. Tickets are sold out. But all the messages will be posted online at http://www.epicenterconference.com.