“The flurry of arrests — at least 25 people have been detained since January — is a sign that complicated, manpower-intensive investigations begun when ISIS started seizing swaths of territory a year ago are finally being completed,” notes reporter Evan Perez. “But they also highlight the unique challenges that ISIS poses in comparison with al Qaeda, which has attracted fewer U.S.-based recruits.”
Excerpts from the article:
Like a new rock band storming the music charts, ISIS has benefited from a media environment that amplifies its propaganda, law enforcement officials said. The group quickly reached early recruits through videos that showcased the fear its adherents instilled in nonbelievers.
At first, most of the recruits were self-starters — people radicalized on their own from consuming ISIS propaganda from YouTube videos and other social media. Much of the propaganda comes in the form of slick movie trailer-style videos, some glorifying brutal practices such as the beheading of anyone who ISIS leaders decide doesn’t comport with their medieval brand of Islam.
But once those initial Western recruits arrived, living in the self-declared ISIS caliphate spanning parts of Syria and Iraq, they started to directly entice friends and other contacts back home to join them.
“Each one of those folks who makes it over there has the capability to reach out back to their contacts back here,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said.
It’s a phenomenon observed in Norway and other European nations, where clusters of young people have been lured to ISIS. And the ISIS recruiters have an easier path to drawing supporters than al Qaeda has had. A decade ago, that group’s recruits faced formidable obstacles trying to get to training camps deep in hard-to-reach areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal region. Few Westerners went through the trouble.
Today, ISIS occupies much more accessible territory, mostly reachable through Turkey. Istanbul’s airport has easy connections to Western Europe and much of the rest of the world. From there, Turkey’s modern infrastructure offers quick access to the border regions where smugglers can help jihadis get across to Syria.
The informal recruitment networks and ease of travel have presented a difficult puzzle to intelligence and counterterrorism officials, who are used to tracking networks of facilitators and fundraisers that funnel recruits eastward.
“It’s harder for us to pick up on,” the U.S. counterterrorism official said of the peer-to-peer recruitment, which is well below the radar.
Before ISIS, investigators could often focus on radicalizing mosques and clerics to figure out those networks.
Al Qaeda recruitment focused on attracting radicals who were motivated to join the fight to protect Islamic holy lands. Much of the recruitment occurred in countries with strong conservative Islamic histories, including Saudi Arabia and Yemen, U.S. officials said.
In contrast, ISIS takes a somewhat secular approach, portraying how much better life purportedly is in the caliphate as compared to the corrupt West. And people attracted to ISIS’ marketing run the gamut from rich to poor, educated to dropout, male to female, teenaged to middle-aged.
There are signs Western recruits have risen to high levels in the ISIS organization, with their influence reflected in the latest propaganda, counterterrorism and intelligence officials said. The English is proper, with fewer grammatical and spelling mistakes.
And while the large number of arrests show that law enforcement officials are succeeding in their disruption efforts, it also means that U.S. authorities don’t see the lure of ISIS receding any time soon.
“We are opening cases quicker than we are closing them,” the U.S. counterterrorism official said….
(Central Israel) — Today, Israelis are celebrating our Independence Day. On the Western calendar, we remember May 14th, 1948. But on the Jewish calendar, today marks 67 years since the dramatic, prophetic rebirth of the Jewish State.
A few thoughts to mark the occasion:
It’s a very special time for our family as it’s our first time celebrating as new Israeli citizens (“Olim Chadashim”) and actually living here full-time in the epicenter. Today, Lynn showed me this video about some of the things new Israelis love about this country. Take a look — I hope you’re as moved as we were.
Like many of you, we know Israel is a work in progress. This modern country isn’t one that openly and passionately embraces the God of Israel and His Messiah….yet. This isn’t a country where everyone loves God’s Word and reads it, studies it, and seeks to obey it….yet. This isn’t a country where everyone loves each other, and loves our neighbors, and loves our enemies the way the Lord taught us and modeled for us….yet.
But like many of you, we are so grateful that the God of Israel is a God who keeps His promises and is bringing the ancient prophecies to pass. He’s bringing the Jewish people back to this ancient Biblical homeland. He’s rebuilding the ancient ruins. He’s making the deserts bloom. And best of all He is breathing life — spiritual, eternal life — into people throughout this land and region. The Lord has an overwhelming love and amazing grace for all who live here, Jews and Arabs and others alike. And there is a growing remnant of Jewish and Arab followers of Yeshua (Jesus) who love Him are truly seeking to be a blessing to all the people in the epicenter.
Would you pray for us — that this tribe would increase, that our love for one another would grow, that we would follow and proclaim His Word together, and that we would not let our differences divide us but rather we would seek and serve Yeshua together in the power of the Holy Spirit? Thank you so much!
Now, for those of you who are interested, some interesting history from 67 years ago this week…..
Today, many take the existence of the modern nation of Israel for granted. But it is actually a stunning miracle and the fulfillment of ancient Bible prophecies. Indeed, few Americans know how close the U.S. government came to refusing to support the establishment of the State of Israel in May of 1948. Few realize that most of President Truman’s advisors were dead set against the Jewish state, despite the horrors of the Holocaust, and that even many American Jews didn’t support the re-creation of Israel. But God had His purposes. He had His plan. And He made sure His plan came to pass, and remarkably, the U.S. played an interesting role in those prophetic developments. It is a fascinating story, and one I shared in some detail in my non-fiction book in 2012, Implosion. Here are some excerpts you might find interesting on this Israeli Independence Day:
“The Significance of the Rebirth of Israel”
Over the past six decades, the United States has been Israel’s best friend and chief ally. That warm and strategic relationship began with President Harry Truman’s official and highly public decision to be the first world leader to recognize and support the newly declared State of Israel on May 14, 1948. Yet few Americans realize the tectonic struggle that took place at the highest levels of the U.S. government and almost prevented Truman from making or implementing that decision.
Until recently, despite decades of studying Jewish history, traveling to Israel, and working with various Israeli leaders, I had no idea just how close the Jewish state came to being denied early and critical recognition by the American government. Not long ago, however, an Israeli friend recommended that I read Counsel to the President, a book that takes readers inside the Oval Office and describes the political infighting against Israel in vivid detail. What I found absolutely fascinated me.
The book is the memoir of Clark Clifford, a highly respected Democrat who served as senior advisor for and special counsel to President Truman. Later, Clifford served as chairman of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board for President John F. Kennedy, as secretary of defense under President Lyndon Johnson, and as an informal but highly trusted advisor to President Jimmy Carter before retiring from government and later passing away in 1998 at the age of 91. Clifford’s memoir explains his up-close-and-personal role in some of the most dramatic moments of American history in the post–World War II years, from advising Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, to helping Johnson seek an exit strategy from the Vietnam War, to counseling Carter during the darkest days of his presidency, to playing poker with Winston Churchill on a train bound for Fulton, Missouri, where Churchill was set to deliver his “Iron Curtain” speech.
Yet Clifford didn’t begin his 709-page tome with a description of any of these events. His first chapter, titled “Showdown in the Oval Office,” begins like this:
May 12, 1948—Of all the meetings I ever had with presidents, this one remains the most vivid. Not only did it pit me against a legendary war hero whom President Truman revered, but it did so over an issue of fundamental and enduring national security importance—Israel and the Mideast.
Clifford noted that Truman regarded then–secretary of state (and decorated Army general) George C. Marshall as “the greatest living American,” yet Truman and Marshall were on “a collision course” over Israel that “threatened to split and wreck the administration.” Simply put, “Marshall firmly opposed American recognition of the new Jewish state,” opposition that was “shared by almost every member of the brilliant and now-legendary group of men, later referred to as ‘the Wise Men,’ who were then in the process of creating a postwar foreign policy that would endure for more than forty years.” President Truman, in contrast, was a strong supporter of Israel, in large part because of his belief in the Bible….
Interestingly, Clifford noted that Ben-Gurion and his advisors had not yet decided on a name for the Jewish state. “The name ‘Israel’ was as yet unknown,” Clifford wrote, “and most of us assumed the new nation would be called ‘Judaea.’”…..
Also interesting is the fact that Truman’s support of the creation of the Jewish state was opposed by many American Jews, a fact unknown or forgotten by many friends of Israel.
“A significant number of Jewish Americans opposed Zionism,” Clifford wrote in his memoir. “Some feared that the effort to create a Jewish state was so controversial that the plan would fail. In 1942 a number of prominent Reform rabbis had founded the American Council for Judaism to oppose the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. It grew into an organization of over fourteen thousand members, which collaborated closely with State Department officials.” Clifford also noted that Arthur H. Sulzberger, the Jewish publisher of the New York Times, and Eugene Meyer, the Jewish publisher of the Washington Post, “opposed Zionism” as well.
Nevertheless, Truman had spoken favorably of the creation of a Jewish national homeland since not. long after taking office. In 1947, for example, Truman had publicly made it the policy of the United States government to back passage of the United Nations Partition Plan, creating the legal framework for the rebirth of the State of Israel as well as an adjoining state for the Palestinian Arabs. To succeed, the Partition Plan needed a two-thirds majority vote of the U.N. General Assembly. With just days to go before that historic vote on November 29, 1947, however, supporters of the plan were still three votes short. Some have suggested that President Truman personally called leaders of other nations to encourage them to support the American position. Others say he didn’t but that staff in his administration did; the record is not clear. Either way, most historians—including David McCullough, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his extraordinary biography Truman—acknowledge that Truman wanted the plan to pass and played a role behind the scenes.
In the end, Truman got his way. The Partition Plan dramatically passed at the last moment, thirty-three to thirteen, with ten abstentions….
Given Truman’s backing of the Partition Plan, it would seem in retrospect that his decision to formally support the new state of Israel was a fait accompli. But the political crisis inside the White House and State Department was real and festering for the next two days. Tensions mounted, and time was running out. Reporters were asking what the president would do on the issue, and the advisors closest to the president had no clue. President Truman kept his cards close to his vest. Clifford later wrote that he thought “the chances for salvaging the situation were very small—but not quite zero.”
By May 14, neither the secretary of state nor the secretary of defense nor any of the Cabinet or senior advisors knew which side the president would come down on. Then, a few hours before Ben-Gurion’s scheduled announcement, an aide to Secretary of State George Marshall called Clifford at the White House to say that Marshall still did not support the creation of Israel but would not oppose the president publicly if he declared in favor. This was a significant breakthrough. With less than an hour to go, the State Department aide called back to suggest again that Secretary Marshall hoped the president would delay making any decision for more internal discussions, presumably over the next few days.
“Only thirty minutes . . . before the announcement would be made in Tel Aviv,” Clifford recalled, “the American segment of the drama was now coming to a climax.” Clifford told the aide he would check with President Truman and get back to the secretary. He waited three minutes, then called the aide back, saying delay was out of the question. Finally, at six o’clock, the president formally announced his final decision to Clifford. The United States would recognize and support the State of Israel. Truman handed his statement to Clifford, who immediately took it to the president’s press secretary, Charlie Ross. At 6:11 p.m., Ross read the statement to the press, and thus to the world:
Statement by the president. This government has been informed that a Jewish state has been proclaimed in Palestine. . . . The United States recognizes the provisional government as the de facto authority of the new State of Israel.
History had been made. Bible prophecy had just been fulfilled. After a long and painful labor, the State of Israel had miraculously been born in a day. “Who has heard such a thing?” the prophet Isaiah wrote more than seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. “Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children” (Isaiah 66:8, NIV).
What’s more, the first world leader officially to recognize Israel’s legitimacy was a Christian who had been raised reading the Bible and believed it was true. Most of his senior advisors had vehemently opposed the creation of Israel. Much of the American Jewish community opposed it too. The Arab world would soon turn against the United States and move increasingly into the orbit of the Soviet Union. Yet Truman backed Israel anyway because he believed it was the right thing to do, the biblical thing to do.
“The fundamental basis of this nation’s ideals was given to Moses on Mount Sinai,” Truman once told an audience. “The fundamental basis of the Bill of Rights of our Constitution comes from the teachings which we get from Exodus, St. Matthew, Isaiah, and St. Paul. The Sermon on the Mount gives us a way of life, and maybe someday men will understand it as the real way of life. The basis of all great moral codes is ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
That is not to say that Truman made all his decisions based on Scripture. Truman was an intensely private man when it came to spiritual and religious matters, and he did not often discuss what he believed about the Bible and how he connected those beliefs to public policy. The 1940s were a different age. Presidents rarely discussed such matters with the public. Truman even felt reticent about discussing his beliefs with Billy Graham, as Graham described in his autobiography. However, it is not conjecture to say that Bible prophecy was a critical element in Truman’s decision-making process.
Clifford confirmed it in his memoir. “[Truman] was a student and believer in the Bible since his youth. From his reading of the Old Testament he felt the Jews derived a legitimate historical right to Palestine, and he sometimes cited such biblical lines as Deuteronomy 1:8, ‘Behold, I have given up the land before you; go in and take possession of the land which the Lord hath sworn unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.’”
During the event — which I taped at a wonderful church in Texas during the book tour for my latest novel, The Third Target — I explained why I wrote the book, the research I did for the book, the jihadist rampage that is sweeping across the Middle East, how such trends may fit into Bible prophecy, and how Christians can and should stand with our brothers and sisters who are being so terribly persecuted amidst this unfolding crisis.
Among the questions we addressed during the event:
Who is ISIS?
What do they believe?
What do they want?
How serious is the threat to us?
Is it true that genocidal conditions are emerging for Christians in the Middle East?
Is there any good news?
How can the Church advance the Gospel amongst Muslims?
For anyone who missed this event, you, your small group, and/or your church — small, medium, or large — can register now to view the simulcast on-demand. Once you register, a representative will contact you and help you with all the logistics.
I hope you find the webcast helpful. Please post your comments on our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook, or send me a comment on Twitter. And please be praying for all the people of the Middle East — Jews, Muslims and Christians — during this very difficult and challenging time, especially in Iraq and Syria. Thanks so much.
Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, said Santayana. Let us never forget.
Yom HaShoah — Holocaust Remembrance Day — begins tonight.
How will you remember the Holocaust and teach your children?
This year, let us all make time to remember the six million Jews that were murdered by the Nazis, including 1.5 million children. Let us honor their memories, and pledge ourselves never to forget them. Let us devote ourselves to making sure such evil is never allowed to happen again.
This is not just a time for Jews to remember. This is a day for the whole world to remember and commit themselves to standing against evil and against genocide in our time, especially in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat, Russia’s decision to sell advanced missiles to Iran (announced on the eve of Yom HaShoah), and the murderous rampage upon which ISIS is engaged.
This evening, Lynn and I have been invited to attend the Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony at Yad Vashem, Israel’s renowned Holocaust memorial and research center. I attended last year for the first time, and I am deeply honored to be able to return and bring my wife. I hope to Tweet updates, and post more on this blog so you can track what is happening and consider its significance. We will also attend additional events and ceremonies with Holocaust survivors, Israeli leaders, and various Jewish and Christian leaders. As with last year, I am very much looking forward to this, especially because several of the scholars here were enormously helpful as I was researching The Auschwitz Escape.
My hope and prayer this year is that in addition to remembering those who died in the “Shoah” — the Holocaust — we will also remember the four extraordinary heroes who escaped from Auschwitz 71 years ago this spring to tell the world the truth about what the Nazis were doing, the very men whose remarkable courage and selflessness inspired The Auschwitz Escape. They are:
It is the story of these four men that inspired me to write The Auschwitz Escape. Last year, FoxNews.com published a column I wrote sketching out their dramatic saga. I hope you’ll take a moment to read the whole column, and then share it with others. Thanks so much. May more such heroes rise up in our generation.
This raises the disturbing question of whether the near-term deployment of an advanced Russian air defense system around Iran’s most sensitive nuclear sites — combined with growing concerns by numerous experts that the nuclear deal set on the table by President Obama and the P5+1 will put Iran on the legal path to building nuclear weapons in the not-too-distant-future — could actually make war in the near term more likely, rather than less.
Is this the case? Let’s hope not.
None of us wants to see a war between Iran and Israel (or the U.S. and Iran) unless absolutely necessary and only as a last possible resort. I certainly don’t. Indeed, I wrote a trilogy of novels about an American President pressuring an Israeli Prime Minister not to launch a preemptive strike on Iran, only to have Israel do it any way, with grave and unexpected consequences (see The Twelfth Imam, The Tehran Initiative and Damascus Countdown).
Still, a number of experts in the region are suggesting war in the epicenter is suddenly becoming more likely. Consider the following articles:
That said, I’m not worried. There’s reason for concern, but not fear. The negotiating process is still underway. Nothing final has been decided. And the God of the Bible remains sovereign and in control.
Still, we are commanded to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and now is a very good time to be faithful to that command. We are also commanded to love Israel as well as her neighbors and her enemies. We are commanded to strengthen our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters in the region, and strengthen and encourage the Church, and work together in love and unity to communicate the Good News of God’s love and mercy to all the people of the region. What’s more, we are to obey these commands with the hope we have in the Lord Jesus Christ who died, rose again and is coming back to reign from Jerusalem. Now is a very good time to be faithful to all these commands and the whole counsel of God in the Bible, as well.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday cleared the way for delivery of sophisticated air defense systems to Iran with a decree that U.S. officials warned could disrupt the emerging deal to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.
Kremlin officials cited the April 2 framework agreement between Iran and six world powers that is expected to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons as grounds for proceeding with delivery of the S-300 missile systems, which could give Russia a jump on others in resuming trade with the long-isolated Islamic Republic….
It was unclear whether Moscow was prepared to ship the missile systems any time soon, or what specific antiaircraft batteries might be involved. The S-300 has been out of production for five years, and the Russian output until 2010 involved an array of ranges and capabilities, analysts said, leaving it unclear whether Tehran could deter the kind of airstrikes that Israel has threatened if the nuclear deal falters and weapons production is suspected.
Still, a senior Israeli official condemned the Russian announcement.
This is a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is obtaining from the deal being woven with it, and it is proof that the economic momentum in Iran that will come after the lifting of the sanctions will be exploited for arming and not for the welfare of the Iranian people,” Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a statement.
Tehran’s order for the S-300s was held up by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, in line with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1929, which banned supply to Iran of conventional weapons including missiles, tanks, attack helicopters, warplanes and ships.
Putin’s decree, which took immediate effect with his signature, ended Moscow’s self-imposed restrictions on transport of the S-300 systems worth a total of $800 million, the Kremlin website said.
By offering to resume arms sales to Iran, Putin has potentially positioned Russia for a head start over other nations in restoring trade links with Tehran. A deputy foreign minister recently told Russian lawmakers that an oil-for-goods barter deal with Iran also was in the works as a result of the perceived easing of the nuclear standoff between Tehran and the West.
We are living in a time of unprecedented persecution of Christians in the Middle East and around the world. The Lord Jesus warned His disciples that they would be persecuted, and that persecution would intensify as the time of His return drew near. Today, we are seeing His prophecies come to pass as never before.
Recently, my friend, Tom Doyle, published an important book titled, Killing Christians: Living The Faith Where It’s Not Safe ToBelieve. Tom not only describes the general wave of brutality against Christ-followers worldwide; he also tells specific, personal stories of believers boldly standing for their Savior — and courageously proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness and eternal life — amidst such persecution.
This is one of the most intriguing conundrums of our time: the Church is actually growing amidst martyrdom. More and more people around the world are being drawn into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus the Messiah not despite of such persecution but because of it. It’s happening in Communist-controlled China where the Church has grown from maybe 250,000 in the 1970s to upwards of 100 million believers today. It’s happening in the Middle East, where millions of Muslims have turned to Christ amidst brutal persecution in Iran and Saudi Arabia and ISIS controlled territories.
I would encourage you to read Tom’s book, and to share it and discuss it with family and friends. As you do, please pray for persecuted Christians here in the epicenter and around the world, that the Lord would continue to bless and strengthen and embolden men and women and boys and girls who are facing grave danger for preaching and teaching and living the Word of God and serving as lights in the spreading darkness.
For now, here is an article Tom wrote specifically for my blog, drawing on material he wrote for the book. I hope you find it helpful. I certainly have.
House church leaders sentenced to Iran’s infamous Evin prison
Eighty Christians murdered in North Korea for merely owning a Bible
Believers nailed to crosses in Syria
And that’s the news from just one month in 2014.
After that, it got really bad. In summer 2014, a shocked world witnessed the phenomenal rise of ISIS, now known as the Islamic State. Within weeks, a path of destruction swept through Syria and Iraq, leaving unimaginable carnage in its wake. The brutality of ISIS and its global jihadist agenda is reminiscent of the Assyrian Empire in the Old Testament. The Assyrians leveled villages and cities with such ferocity that, in the eighth century BC, the mere mention that Assyrians were on their way prompted some villages to commit mass suicide rather than be skinned alive, impaled, taken as slaves, or allow women to be abused and kidnapped. In a fascinating twist of history, ISIS was birthed in the same region as the Assyrians, and one of the organization’s major objectives is now clear: to eradicate any presence of Christianity.
But ISIS is not alone in its quest against biblical faith. Christianity is under fire across the globe. Jesus lovers are hated in dozens of countries and often pay a gruesome price for following Him. Killing fields have become common, but Killing Christians isn’t written to sound the alarm for the persecuted church. Others have already sent out the alert, and thankfully, many are listening. What the alarms can’t tell you, though, is the inside human cost of following Jesus in the twenty-first century.
That’s why these stories were written. It would be easy to conclude from the acceleration of Christian persecution that followers of Christ are on the run and are systematically being crushed by the forces of Islamic terrorism, fanatical dictators, and hostile nations. Yet the opposite is actually true.
Jesus said His followers would experience persecution for merely being associated with Him. He also predicted an escalation of intensity over time. On the night before He went to the cross, Jesus spelled out the details: “They will put you out of the synagogue: in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God” (John 16:2).
From Chapter 1 — The Pirates of Somalia:
Two men strolled arrogantly down the center of the village road. Preoccupied over boasting about exploits with their latest girlfriends, they didn’t notice a third man step silently from between two houses and into the road a dozen yards ahead of them. Their banter stopped abruptly as Mahdi and Yasin recognized the form in their path. They were not at all happy to see Azzam Mubarak again.
“I know what you did to my mother.”
“Azzam, we had to. We didn’t want to do it, but your father ordered us and threatened to . . .” As he spoke, Mahdi’s right hand moved slowly around his back.
“I know all about my father.” Azzam stared at the two murderers. “I haven’t come to harm you.” He paused for effect. “I’ve come to forgive you.”
Mahdi and Yasin glanced sideways at each other and then back at the man facing them, wondering whether or not to believe the words they had just heard.
Azzam continued, “You need to know that I love you and have prayed for both of you ever since I saw your picture with my mother. Jesus filled my heart with compassion for you. You need Him—just like I did. He can forgive murderers. His love is greater than anything you’ve done.”
It was the first meeting between the three men. They met again—at night—several more times. Impelled by Azzam’s testimony, Mahdi and Yasin offered their lives of piracy to a forgiving Savior. For the moment, the two new believers and Azzam told no one else what had happened…
Whether it’s in Somalia, Syria, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, a new Jesus movement is erupting around the world, and persecuted believers are leading the way. They have been given a gift from God that most of us would not want: the ability to endure enormous suffering and emerge even stronger. Church leaders in obscure places—outposts for the faith—are fully aware that passionately following Jesus has them on a collision course with hardship. They will be beaten, imprisoned, tortured, and maimed. Some will be killed. But unfazed, they move forward, in love with Jesus Christ.
Malik, a Christ follower from the Middle East, once told me: “Every Christian should go to jail at least once in life because of their faith in Christ. It’s good for you!”
Can you relate to that? This former Muslim adds: “You’ll never be the same after experiencing the loneliness of a jail cell. But then there is great elation that comes when you realize Jesus is capable of filling 100 percent of that loneliness—and more. My deepest spiritual lessons were learned on the cold floor with no one there… but Jesus and me.”
Will persecution come to America? Maybe. If it does, remembering stories of those who have already endured and emerged faithful just may be a lifeline for you. And if persecution does not come upon the church in America, you may need these stories even more. They will inspire you to live with renewed passion for Jesus. For sure, you won’t be able to read them and remain unmoved by these incredible true accounts.
So, is Christianity winning or losing? Killing Christians is written to tell stories of victory from the front lines of a war raging around Jesus’ church. The battle is fierce and not letting up.
(Central Israel) — Good morning and shalom from Israel. I hope you had a very special Passover and Easter season with family and friends. We certainly did here. It was our first time celebrating these two wonderful and important Jewish holidays as immigrants here in the Land and it was a great blessing.
Now I’m back hard at work again on my next novel. For the moment, it’s simply, “The Sequel.” We’ll announce the real title later this year. It’s the follow-up novel to The Third Target and should release in January 2016.
I’m working on the book every day in my home office here in Israel, which is also our family bomb shelter. Seems appropriate to write a terrorism thriller set in the Middle East in a bomb shelter in the Middle East, doesn’t it?
My deadline to turn the manuscript into my publisher is the beginning of May. So I’m hidden away, crashing to get it done on time. It’s going well. I’m really excited about the plot, which picks up after the cliff-hanger ending in the first book. As we get closer to the release, I’ll share more details about the storyline. For now, I’d just ask for your prayers that I hit my deadline!
Meanwhile, just a quick reminder that THE THIRD TARGET SIMULCAST is coming up on Sunday evening, April 19th. During the event, which was recorded before a live audience at a wonderful church in Tyler, Texas, in January, I discuss why I wrote the novel, the research I did for the book, the real-life threat posed by ISIS to the U.S., Israel, our Arab allies, and to the Church. I was asked a number of questions about the role The Joshua Fund is playing in helping people fleeing from ISIS, and coming along side the persecuted Christians in Iraq and Syria, as well as the powerful move of the Holy Spirit in drawing many Muslims in the region out of Islam and into a personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ.
Yet in the days that followed, the President admitted that Iran’s leaders could race to The Bomb with essentially no “break out” time and with very little way the world could stop them once the deal concluded in 13 to 15 years.
Specifically, the President noted that the deal would be “purchasing” a one year “break out” period during the life of the deal, meaning it would take at least a year for Iran to enrich enough uranium to military grade and build an operational nuclear weapon from the time it made the decision to do so, if it wasn’t already cheating. The President says this would be an increase from the current two to three month “break out” time that U.S. intelligence officials says Iran currently has.
This is no small matter.
Mr. Obama will be out of office in 20 months. Preventing a nuclear weapon on his “watch” is not enough. Future American presidents, Members of Congress, the American people, the Jewish and Arab people of Israel, the Palestinians, and everyone else in the Middle East and the world will have to live with the consequences of this deal. What if Iran cheats and builds nuclear weapons in secret during the period of the deal? Or, what if they wait and build nuclear weapons openly in 13 to 15 years when they are free to do so? That’s not so far away.
What’s more, how can we prevent Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other countries in the region from pursuing their own arsenal of nuclear weapons? The Saudis have already signaled they are talking to the Pakistanis about buying nukes already built. A nuclear arms race is about to begin.
Meanwhile, Iran’s leaders immediately began accusing the White House of “lying” about the agreement. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told reporters that the U.S. assertion that sanctions would be phased out over time was a lie and that the U.S. had proposed immediate termination of all economic sanctions. Zarif also bragged that “none of those measures” that Iran had tentatively agreed to “include closing any of our facilities,” and added, “We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development.”
What’s more, Iran immediately began announcing a series of steps that would prevent the world from really knowing for certain whether they were complying with the deal.
Former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz expressed grave concerns about the deal in an op-edin the Wall Street Journal this week.
“For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests – and that they were prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very capability. The threat of war now constrains the West more than Iran….”
“Having both served in government during a period of American-Iranian strategic alignment, we would greatly welcome such an outcome. But there exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such an understanding. Iran’s representatives (including its Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear negotiations as a form of jihad by other means….”
“The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield, Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts….”
The deadline for the final details of the Iran deal to be wrapped up is June 30th. An extension is permitted until September 30th. Let’s pray a much better, tougher deal can be concluded by then. I shudder to think what the world will look like if the current deal is ratified and set into motion.
The Israel portion of the tour will be October 14-25, 2015.
And for the first time ever, we will lead an optional additional tour to the Biblical sites of the Kingdom of Jordan for those who want to extend their time and learn more. This will be from October 25-29, 2015.
If you have never been to the Holy Land, it is hard to describe what a profound spiritual effect such a journey can have on you and your family. You may have heard others say God’s Word seemed to “come alive” in a new way when they walked where Jesus walked, from the shores of Galilee to the Mount of Olives and into the streets of Jerusalem. Well, it’s true, and I believe our 2015 Israel trip will allow you to experience this for yourself and intensify your desire to walk more closely with Jesus Christ.
If you have been to Israel before, this trip will be a great opportunity to deepen your understanding of how powerfully the Lord is moving there. And this tour is like no other!
You will visit The Joshua Fund’s warehouse and participate in a practical ministry project to bless the poor and needy.
You will have the opportunity to meet with and pray for local pastors and ministry leaders on the frontlines of the faith.
You will have the opportunity to hear solid Bible teaching, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for all the people of the epicenter, and have the joy of worshipping the Lord in the land of Jesus, the prophets and the apostles.
I will also teach at key locations and answer your questions about the future of the Epicenter.
And, as I mentioned, for those who want to learn more, we are offering our first-ever extension to visit Biblical and historic sites in Jordan such as Mount Nebo, Petra and the capital of Amman.
Now more than ever, it is vitally important for Christians to “learn, pray, give and go” — to really learn how much God loves the people of Israel, Jordan and the region; to pray with and for Jews and Arabs; to give to ministries that are truly blessing people on both sides in the name of Jesus; and actually go to the Holy Land to stand with these dear people in these challenging times.
Today, I wanted to share with you some personal thoughts on these important and historic events and holidays, and how they intersect in my life. In this hour-long audio message (divided up in six 10-minute segments on YouTube), I explain the spiritual journey my parents and I were on to come to faith in Jesus Christ, as well as I how I experienced a powerful revival in my junior year of high school that completely transformed my life.
All over the world, people ask me, “Joel, how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?” It’s a good question. In this audio recording, I share my answer.
My hope and prayer is that as you listen to the story, it will encourage you in your own faith, and that it will be something you can share with family and friends to help and encourage them, as well. Thanks and may the Lord deeply bless you as you read His Word and seek a personal relationship with Him.
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