This summer, The Joshua Fund celebrates 10 years of blessing Israel & her neighbors in the name of Jesus. Here are some reflections on how the ministry began.


The following article was one Lynn & I wrote earlier this year for The Joshua Fund’s quarterly newsletter.

On June 14, 2006, a small group of us gathered in our home in Virginia to sign the paperwork and officially begin The Joshua Fund, to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. We gathered there with a few trusted friends who had already been praying and serving together in the Epicenter for several years. As our first board was founded that night, we expectantly asked the Lord to use us in a new way to be a part of what He was doing.

It is amazing to look back and see God’s faithfulness since then. Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.”

And in Jeremiah 33:3 we read, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

God has graciously answered our prayers “more than we could ask for or imagine” over the years (Ephesians 3:20). And we can ask and imagine a lot! He has opened incredible doors of relationships and opportunities and He has provided the people and resources to walk through those doors together.

Joel had been writing books since 2001 and the novels were generating an ever-growing interest from American and Canadian Christians who wanted to invest their resources to bless Israel and her neighbors. Joel would speak at a church or conference and people would persistently ask him how they could get involved in what God was doing in the Middle East. We began with two specific financial gifts given to us unexpectedly for the purpose of translating and freely distributing Joel’s book, The Ezekiel Option, which has a strong gospel message, into Hebrew and Russian.

As this fledgling organization began to plan its first projects, a war in southern Lebanon erupted. While Hezbollah and Israel fought in July and August of 2006, millions of civilians on both sides endured displacement and danger.

As we gathered several times at our home in that summer, it was clear that we should plan for a budget that would enable us to provide humanitarian relief, through believers, to those suffering in the region due to war, terror and economic hardships. It was first proposed that $25,000 would be a good start. But one of the women spoke up and said, “I think we need to trust the Lord for a million dollars!” We all looked at one another, realizing none of us had a plan to raise money like that. But we sensed that she was right, that we needed to rely on God for things only He could do. And He was faithful.

We sought the Lord to see how we might help bring the hope of Christ to people in distress. In what became the hallmark of our approach, we found trusted and experienced believers in the region whom we could invest in, pray for and encourage. The Lord has a remnant of His church even in the most difficult places and we need to be a part of strengthening what remains (Revelation 3:2). He is building His church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

By God’s grace we were able to supply followers of Christ caught in the conflict with practical resources which they could use to serve their neighbors. We also sought to educate and mobilize the church in North America towards prayer for the region. We wanted people to know that there is actually so much good news in the Middle East. There are unknown heroes who every day endure the challenges and yet stand strong in the Lord as His light in the darkness. Despite the sorrows and fears in this complicated and unstable part of the world, “we who have taken refuge…have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:18-19).

In just those first 3 months of The Joshua Fund’s existence, God taught us and shaped us in ways that we have clung to for 10 years.

  • First, begin every endeavor prayerfully.
  • Second, ask the Lord to build a team. In studying the gospels, the book of Acts and the epistles of the New Testament, it is unmistakably clear that Jesus modeled teamwork in His calling and leading the disciples in the Holy Land. We see that Paul and Barnabus worked with a very close team of believers as they travelled around the Mediterranean nations together.
  • Third, humbly and quietly strengthen the Church as they serve their neighbors and love their enemies. This is not the ministry of any person or group of people, it belongs to the Lord. We should never, ever try to “make a name for ourselves” but only lift up His name.
  • Fourth, rely on the Lord to provide for your every need. In faith, we have seen the Lord flood The Joshua Fund with partners in this effort without our even seeking them out! He has not only provided financially, but with His abundant grace in navigating the many “landmines” of ministry in a complex environment. He has sent gifted and servant-minded staff to join us as He has expanded this ministry. From our humble beginnings, The Joshua Fund now has a staff team that spans ten time zones!
  • Fifth, expect the Lord to surprise you. How humbling and thrilling to realize day by day that God’s plans are higher and greater than our plans. We don’t know when a war will break out, but He does. We don’t know when a door of opportunity to serve will swing open, but He does. Sometimes, the smallest and most humble of endeavors on our part as His children are the most valued by Him.

Some of our favorite parts of the New Testament are the list of names at the end of Paul’s epistles. These people who are basically unknown were so dear to Paul. They had supported his ministry in prayer and in finances and in rooting him on in the faith. In the letter to the Romans alone, in chapter 16, they are called: fellow workers, beloved, hard workers, approved in Christ, kinsman, brothers, sisters, chosen in the Lord, helpers, saints and servants. This is how we see the whole Joshua Fund team that God has raised up, from donors to staff to members of our board to the partners in the field.

As we move forward into the myriad of unknowns in the next ten years, let’s keep clinging to what we know: God is faithful and He deeply loves Israel and her neighbors more than we ever could.

May He alone be glorified!


Would you like to make an investment in The Joshua Fund (, this non-profit organization created to help Christians care for Syrian refugees, educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, care for the poor and needy in Israel (both Jews and Arabs) with food and other humanitarian relief, care for Holocaust survivors, and strengthen the Church in the epicenter. Read our latest Donor Report, and prayerfully consider making a tax deductible, secure, on-line contribution. Thanks so much!

Is Turkey’s Fethullah Gulen a moderate or an “archconservative” Muslim cleric who has said & written terrible things about Christians, Jews & America? (A column worth reading.)

FethullahGulen2Yesterday, I posted what will be the first of several articles about a Turkish man named Fethullah Gulen, the 75 year old Islamic cleric who Recep Erdogan says is the “mastermind” of the coup attempt.

In that article, I noted that some — like the editors of Time magazine — say Gulen is a powerful voice of moderate Islam. Others say he is the leader of a cult.

Today, I’m posting a column by Claire Berlinksi, a journalist who lived in Turkey for ten years. She reports that “many Turks…view [Gulen] as an archconservative imam with retrograde views about women, atheists, and apostates.”

She notes that Gulen has written horrible things about Christians, Jews and America, yet “has neither repudiated nor apologized for his former views.”

She doesn’t conclude Gulen is definitively the mastermind behind the coup attempt Erdogan, but the fact that Erdogan is so determined to put Gulen and his followers and supporters in prison tells us something important about the power struggle going on inside Turkey.

As I continue to study the dynamics inside Turkey, and try to get a clearer picture of both Erdogan and Gulen, and try to understand how to pray for the Turkish people — and the church in Turkey — I found this column helpful. I hope you do, as well.

Who is Fethullah Gülen?

By Claire Berlinski, July 20, 2016

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claims that a Muslim cleric living in rural Pennsylvania was the mastermind of a bloody, failed coup attempt in Turkey last Friday. The attempt saw the unprecedented horror of the Turkish military turning its arms against their own people and mowing them down in the street. It almost succeeded in killing Erdoğan and decapitating the Turkish government.

So who is Fethullah Gülen, why is he in the United States, and how credible is this charge?

Born in 1941, Gülen hails from a village near Erzurum, the eastern frontier of what is now the Turkish Republic. The contemporary Gülen presents a tolerant image, but his early career was notable for markedly intolerant statements, sermons, and publications.

  • In one sermon, allegedly dating from 1979, Gülen chastises his flock for failing to prevent infidels from controlling of all of the holy places of Islam: “Muslims should become bombs and explode, tear to pieces the heads of the infidels! Even if it’s America opposing them.”
  • In another, he says: “Until this day missionaries and the Vatican have been behind all atrocities. The Vatican is the hole of the snake, the hole of the cobra. The Vatican is behind the bloodshed in Bosnia. The Vatican is behind the bloodshed in Kashmir. They have lobby groups in America and Germany.”
  • In unrevised editions of books from his early career, such as Fasildan Fasila and Asrin Getirdigi Tereddutler, Gülen calls the Western world the “continuous enemy of Islam.”
  • Of Christians, he writes: “After a while they perverted and obscured their own future.”
  • Jews have a “genetic animosity towards any religion” and have used “their guile and skills to breed bad blood” to threaten Islam from the beginning of time, “uniting themselves with Sassanids, Romans and crusaders.”
  • He avers that “the Church, the Synagogue and Paganism form the troika that has attacked Islam persistently.”
  • “In any case,” he writes, “the Prophet considers Islam as one nation and the Kuffar as the other nation.”

In the late 1990s, Gülen changed his mind — or his tactics — forging warm ties with the Vatican and other tablemates of the Interfaith Dialogue platform.

Charged with attempting to infiltrate the Turkish state, he fled to the United States, ensconcing himself at the heart of what he once considered the Devil’s headquarters. Since then, he has presented himself as the great cultural reconciler. Many Turks, however, still view him as an archconservative imam with retrograde views about women, atheists, and apostates. He has neither repudiated nor apologized for his former views. The earlier books have been wordlessly revised.

Gülen has somewhere between three and six million Gülen followers. The value of the institutions inspired by Gülen — which exist on every populated continent — has been estimated, variously, as ranging from $20 to $50 billion. His movement is, at least on the surface, warm toward America. This is unsurprising, given that he’s in exile in the U.S. and has considerable business interests there. Among other ventures, he is a big player in the American charter school movement.

Initially, the AKP and the Gülen movement formed an alliance of convenience aimed at dislodging the old, Kemalist establishment in Turkey. But like any alliance of convenience, it reached its natural conclusion. Once the old guard was safely in prison or silenced for fear of arrest, Erdoğan and Gülen began to fight for ultimate control.

What we’ve witnessed in the past few years has been a fight among the new, ostensibly pious ruling elites about how to divide the spoils of power. In recent years, the key power struggle in Turkey has not been between the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and the country’s secularists, but between Erdoğan and Gülen. The struggle hasn’t been about elections or democracy.

Rather, it is a struggle for control of the Turkish state itself.

For years, this split was denied and papered over, but it broke into the open when Gülenist prosecutors attempted to arrest Erdogan’s intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan. It exploded during the Gezi protests in 2013, when the movement issued an 11-article communiqué to dispute “accusations and charges” that it claimed came from AKP quarters.

Another recent flashpoint was Erdogan’s decision to abolish the dershanes — something like private university grammer schools, and a major source for Gülen’s recruits. The movement correctly perceived this as an attempt to eradicate their influence. In 2013, Erdoğan, his associates, and his family were implicated in a massive corruption scandal. Erdoğan denied all charges, blamed them on a Gülenist conspiracy, and vowed revenge. Government officials accused Gülen and his followers of treason and began referring to them as “terrorists.”

What of the movement’s role in America?

In 2007, Gülen sued the U.S. government in District Court, challenging the denial of his petition for classification as an alien of extraordinary ability that would allow him to stay in the United States. District Judge Stewart Dalzell noted that Gülen’s work was “prominent on the syllabi of graduate and undergraduate courses at major American colleges and universities.” Based on Gulen’s “unchallenged statement that the visa he seeks ‘will allow [him] to continue to advocate and promote interfaith dialogue and harmony between members of different faiths and religions’” the court found “no basis for denying his application…” The application was approved.

Since then, Gülen has been able to amass sufficient manpower and influence to beguile several Commanders-in-Chief, woo countless members of Congress, and become the largest operator of charter schools in America, funded with millions of taxpayer dollars, many of these issued in the form of public bonds. These schools have come under scrutiny by the FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education, which have been investigating their hiring practices, particularly the replacement of certified American teachers with uncertified Turkish ones who are paid higher salaries than the Americans, using visas that are supposed to be reserved for highly-skilled workers who fill needs unmet by the U.S. workforce.

The schools have been credibly and frequently charged with channeling school funds to other Gülen-inspired organizations, bribery, using the schools to generate political connections, unfair hiring and termination practices, and academic cheating.

There is no evidence, however, that Islamic proselytizing takes place at them.

Nor is there hard evidence, so far, that Gülen was the mastermind of the coup. It is, however, entirely plausible, and even probable, that he or his supporters played some role in it — although it may never be clear what this role was, precisely, or what they aimed to achieve.

Claire Berlinski is a Paris-based journalist who spent ten years in Turkey. She is now writing a crowd-funded book about the transformations overtaking Europe.



Who is Fethullah Gulen, and was he the mastermind behind the failed Turkish coup? (Erdogan wants to put Gulen in prison & has arrested, fired or suspended 60,000 Turks believed to be Gulen’s supporters. Here’s the latest.)


Who is Fethullah Gulen, and why is the leader of Turkey on a rampage to arrest him and tens of thousands of his followers?

Gulen, now 75, is a Turkish citizen, an Islamic cleric, and a long-time rival of Turkish President Recip Erdogan. He is currently living in exile in Pennsylvania.

In 2013, Time magazine named him one of “The World’s 100 Most Influential People.” Describing him “the most potent advocate of moderation in the Muslim world,” Time said Gulen “preaches a message of tolerance that has won him admirers around the world.”

Others describe Gulen as a “cult leader.”

Erdogan says Gulen is the “mastermind” behind last Friday’s coup attempt. He is demanding the U.S. government extradite Gulen back to Turkey immediately.

Gulen strongly opposes Erdogan, but denies any involvement in last week’s violence and political intrigue.

Gulen “went into self-imposed exile when he moved from Turkey to the United States in 1999 and settled in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania,” reports CNN.

Gulen leads a movement called “Hizmet,” described by the New York Times as “a moderate, pro-Western brand of Sunni Islam that appeals to many well-educated and professional Turks.”

Followers of the movement — which number in the millions — are called “Gulenists.” Some reports suggest that upwards of 10% of the Turkish population of 80 million support Gulen and Hizmet, reports the UK Guardian newspaper.

Was Gulen truly the man behind the plot to bring Erdogan down? That remains to be seen. But it is an interesting question.

Unable — so far — to persuade the Obama administration to arrest and deport Gulen, Erdogan and his regime are conducting a massive purge of Turkish society.

In less than a week, they have has arrested, fired or suspended nearly 60,000 citizens this week for being part of what Erdogan calls a “cancer virus” of opposition to his rule that he says must be eradicated, reports Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Many are believed by the government of being Gulenists in highly influential positions, though Erdogan appears to be purging almost anyone who has expressed dissent against him, even if they are not part of the Hizmet movement.

Erdogan has also just “announced a three-month state of emergency starting July 21 to augment the government’s power to avenge last week’s bloody coup attempt,” noted RFE/RL. This gives him even more draconian power to crackdown on political, religious, military, academic and media opponents.

Among those arrested, fired or suspended (according to RFE/RL):

  • 21,000 teachers
  • 15,200 Education Ministry officials
  • 8,000 police officers
  • 7,500 soldiers
  • 3,000 members of the judiciary
  • 1,577 university deans
  • 492 Muslim preachers and scholars
  • 1/3 of the 360 active generals serving in the Turkish military

Please keep praying for the people of Turkey as they undergo this authoritarian nightmare. Please pray for the Christians in Turkey to be lights in the darkness, and that they would have the courage to boldly proclaim the Gospel and make disciples despite the sweeping crackdown by an Islamist dictator.




FAILED COUP: Turkey’s increasingly dangerous Islamist President Erdogan returns to power. UPDATE: 6,000 arrested, 265 dead, 1,400 wounded.


UPDATE (Sunday):

  • 6,000 arrested in Turkey
  • “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army,” says Erdogan
  • “Among those arrested was the commander of a Turkish airbase used by U.S. forces to launch raids on jihadists in Iraq and Syria, a senior Turkish official said. Gen. Bekir Ercan Van, 10th Base Commander at Incirlik Air Base, was detained along with 10 other soldiers on Sunday. The facility in southern Turkey is a major NATO military installation hosting U.S. forces that control one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in Europe,” reports the Washington Post

UPDATE (as of 2:30pm local time in Ankara on Saturday):

  • Five Turkish generals and 29 colonels have been removed from their positions.
  • More than 2,800 members of the Turkish military have been arrested.
  • More than 100 coup plotters are dead.
  • A total of more than 265 people have been killed in the military-led coup and the response to the coup.
  • Some 1,440 people have been wounded.
  • See reports from the Washington Post, the New York Times, Bloomberg, and BBC.


In a stunning night of violence, conspiracy and dramatic reversals, an attempted coup by a faction of Turkish military officers and soldiers determined to bring down the increasingly authoritarian and dangerous Islamist regime of President Recep Erdogan has failed.

Now what? What does the future hold for the nearly 80 million Muslims of Turkey?

Erdogan (pronounced “Air-do-wan”) was out of the country when the coup began late Friday night. But he was in contact with top generals who were loyal to him. By the wee hours of the morning, his plane landed in Istanbul and he announced that he was firmly back in control.

Calling the coup plotters “terrorists” engaged in “treason,” he ordered the arrest of more than 700 military officers and soldiers so far, saying “the army must be cleansed” of anyone disloyal to him.

Here’s the latest on the coup from the BBC:

  • Sixty people died during overnight clashes, many of them civilians
  • 754 soldiers were arrested, officials said.
  • Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the situation was largely under control. He has ordered the military to shoot down aircraft being used by coup plotters.
  • Earlier, one of the helicopters being flown by forces involved in the coup attempt was shot down over the capital Ankara.

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said the coup attempt “was foiled by the Turkish people in unity and solidarity. Our president and government are in charge,” reported the BBC. “Turkish Armed Forces was not involved in the coup attempt in its entirety. It was conducted by a clique within the armed forces and received a well-deserved response from our nation.”

Few Westerners have paid much attention to Erdogan’s rise in recent years, but as I’ve noted on this blog, he is an increasingly dangerous figure who is going to pose a serious challenge for NATO leaders and particularly for the next President of the United States.

Consider just a few quick facts for now:

Dangerous and dictatorial before the coup, Erdogan will now likely become far more so. I would expect a deep and extensive purge of the military, with far more arrests. I would also expect an even tougher crackdown on free speech, freedom to associate, and freedom of religion.

As darkness falls on this Biblical nation — where the Apostle Paul and his team repeatedly risked their lives to preach the Gospel, make disciples, and plant churches — please be praying for the people of Turkey, for her leaders, and her future.




BREAKING NEWS: Military coup underway in Turkey. Apparently seeking to bring down Islamist government led by Erdogan. Here’s what we know at this hour.



UPDATED at 12:30pm Israel time — “Keep your eyes on Turkey — it’s rapidly emerging as anti-American, anti-Western, anti-Israel Islamist dictatorship.”

Readers of this blog may recall that line from a May 12, 2016 column.

Tonight, all eyes are in fact on this Middle Eastern country as dramatic developments unfold. Reports are coming in fast and furious in the last hour that a military coup is underway, apparently to bring down the increasingly dangerous Islamist government.

  • Troops and tanks are moving to seize control of the capital city of Ankara, as well as the commercial and tourism capital of Istanbul.
  • Fighter jets are reportedly in the air. Military officials say they are moving quickly to wrest control the entire country.
  • All flights in and out of the country have been cancelled.
  • The military has seized control of the TV and radio stations.

Many questions are being raised.

  • Where exactly is Turkish President Recip Erdogan at this hour? (UPDATE: He just gave a brief speech using FaceTime. NBC News reporting that Erdogan is not currently in Turkey — was trying to fly to Germany but was denied permission; may be heading to a Gulf country. )
  • Has Erdogan — who had been emerging as a power-hungry Sultan apparently trying to rebuild the glory of the once-mighty Ottoman Empire — truly been removed from power?
  • If so, by whom?
  • Who exactly is behind the coup?
  • What precisely do they want?
  • What are the national security and foreign implications for the United States, for Europe, for Israel, and the rest of the Middle East?
  • How will the White House handle this crisis?
  • How will the American presidential candidates and their top advisors handle it?

It’s a fast-moving story. These are just a few of the many unanswered questions at the moment. Please pray for the people and leaders of Turkey. Pray for the Christians in that country to be light in the darkness.


Here’s what we know as of midnight local time here in the region:

“Turkey’s army says it seized power in the country as warplanes flew over the capital and tanks blocked roads in Istanbul,” reports Bloomberg News. “Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his government is still in control and will resist. The army said in an e-mailed statement that it took power to restore freedom and democracy. It said all international agreements will be honored.”

“The coup effort won’t be permitted to succeed, Yildirim told NTV television,” according to Bloomberg. “He said army units have besieged ‘some institutions,’ and he said police — traditionally closer to his government than the army — have been ordered to use arms if necessary. He said the elected government remains in power. It wasn’t immediately clear how much of the country is now under military control.”

“Since 1960, the NATO member has experienced at least three takeovers by the secular-minded army,” Bloomberg noted. “But since the Islamist-rooted Ak Party government came to power in 2002, the political influence of the military has been trimmed.”

“The prime minister of Turkey said on Friday night that factions of the military had attempted a coup,” reports the New York Times.

“Some people illegally undertook an illegal action outside of the chain of command,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said in comments broadcast on NTV, a private television channel. “The government elected by the people remains in charge. This government will only go when the people say so.”

The Times cited Reuters which reported in a short series of bulletins that the military had issued a statement saying it had “taken over” for “democratic order” and that “all existing foreign relations will continue.”

“The whereabouts of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dominated politics in Turkey for many years and has sought to establish a firm control over the military, was not immediately clear,” the Times added. “Military forces shut two bridges over the Bosporus in Istanbul, and fighter jets were seen flying over Istanbul and Ankara, the capital. The main airport in Istanbul was reported to have halted flights.”



What do we know about the terrorist who killed 84 in Nice, France? Here’s the latest — including an ISIS call for Muslims to plow over people in cars. UPDATE: ISIS claims credit, says its “soldier” responsible for attack in Nice.

Nice-attack2016UPDATE: “An Islamic State-run media outlet says the man who barreled his truck into a crowd in the French coastal city of Nice is a ‘soldier’ of the group,” reports the Associated Press. “The Aamaq news agency on Saturday cited a ‘security source’ as saying the attacker ‘carried out the operation in response to calls to target the citizens of coalition countries fighting the Islamic State.'”

ORIGINAL POST: The man who killed 84 people — including at least two Americans — in Nice, France, last night was a 31-year old French resident of North African origin named Lahouaiej Bouhlel.

Born in Tunisia, Bouhel used a large commercial truck to drive over crowds of pedestrians and tourists, often accelerating along his two kilometers killing spree, before being stopped, shot and killed by French police. Inside the truck, authorities found “a pistol, a larger gun, and a number of fake weapons and grenades.”

French President Francois Hollande called the event a “terrorist” attack even thought no terror organization has yet claimed responsibility. Still, the Islamic State has called for Muslims to killed Americans and Frenchmen in any way possible, including plowing into them with cars.

“If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies,” said ISIS spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani in one of his first speeches, according to a translation from the SITE Intelligence Group. “Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car.”

A French newspaper reports: “We can confirm the identity of the driver of the truck that drove into the crowds Tuesday night, according to our information.  It is the owner of the identity card that was found in the truck by police. He is from Nice and is of Tunisian origin, aged 31, called Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. Police raided his apartment in the Nice Nord district this morning. He works as a delivery driver and is known for criminal acts, including violence, but any radicalisation has gone unnoticed. His act seems yet to have been premeditated. He may have hired the truck on Wednesday in a neighboring town of Nice. The investigators are still is looking for possible accomplices.”

Please be praying for the wounded, and for the family and friends of all those who were killed. At the same time, please be praying for French authorities as they deal with yet another terrorist attack. Indeed, we need to be praying for leaders in the U.S., throughout Europe and around the world to be far more serious and decisive in combatting the threat of Radical Islam.

“A Bastille Day fireworks celebration was shattered by death and mayhem on Thursday night in the southern French city of Nice when a large truck barreled for more than a mile through an enormous crowd of spectators, crushing and maiming dozens in what France’s president called a terrorist assault,” reported the New York Times. “It came eight months after the Paris attacks that traumatized the nation and all of Europe.”

“Officials and witnesses in Nice said at least 84 people, including children, were killed by the driver of the rampaging truck, who mowed them down on the sidewalk,” the Times added. “He was shot to death by the police as officers scrambled to respond on what is France’s most important annual holiday. Graphic television and video images showed the truck accelerating and tearing through the crowd, dozens of victims sprawled in its path, and the bullet-riddled windshield of the vehicle. Municipal officials and police officers described the truck as full of weapons and grenades.”

“The horror, the horror has, once again, hit France,” President François Hollande said in a nationally televised address early Friday. He said the “terrorist character” of the assault was undeniable, and he described the use of a large truck to deliberately kill people as “a monstrosity.”



Putin crosses a line — bans Russians from preaching the Gospel outside churches. Here’s the latest.


Russian President Vladimir Putin has just crossed a very dangerous line. He has just signed a law making it illegal for Russian followers of Jesus Christ to share or preach the Gospel anywhere outside the walls of their church, or even email their family and friends to invite them to church. What’s more, he has done so under the guise of preventing “terrorism.”

As I have been warning for a decade (see here, here, here and in my 2006 book, Epicenter), Putin — who is fashioning himself as a rising Czar — is an increasingly dangerous despot. He continues to centralize government power and control to himself. He is trampling over human rights, the media, and NGOs. He is rebuilding the Russian military. He has invaded neighboring Georgia and Ukraine. He is arming and building alliances with Radical Islamic countries, particularly Iran.

Now, Putin is positioning himself as an enemy of Christ and His Church. If he doesn’t not reverse course, he risks bringing disaster upon himself and the people of Russia.

As Christianity Today reports, last week “Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a package of anti-terrorism laws that usher in tighter restrictions on missionary activity and evangelism. Despite prayers and protests from religious leaders and human rights advocates, the Kremlin announced Putin’s approval yesterday. The amendments, including laws against sharing faith in homes, online, or anywhere but recognized church buildings, go into effect July 20.”

Please read and share this important article from Christianity Today with others. Please be praying for God to change Putin’s heart. Please be praying for the pastors and Christian leaders and lay people in Russia. And please pray for the Russian people. This is a very dangerous road they are now heading down.


……Though opponents to the new measures hope to eventually appeal in court or elect legislators to amend them, they have begun to prepare their communities for life under the new rules, reported Forum 18 News Service, a Christian outlet reporting on the region.

Protestants and religious minorities small enough to gather in homes fear they will be most affected. Last month, “the local police officer came to a home where a group of Pentecostals meet each Sunday,” Konstantin Bendas, deputy bishop of the Pentecostal Union, told Forum 18. “With a contented expression he told them: ‘Now they’re adopting the law I’ll drive you all out of here.’ I reckon we should now fear such zealous enforcement.”

“There are potentially very wide-sweeping ramifications to this law,” Joel Griffith of the Slavic Gospel Association said in a Mission Network News report. “It just depends on, again, how it is going to be enforced, and that is a very huge question mark.”


Earlier CT reporting (June 29): Christians in Russia won’t be allowed to email their friends an invitation to church or to evangelize in their own homes if Russia’s newest set of surveillance and anti-terrorism laws are enacted.

The proposed laws, considered the country’s most restrictive measures in post-Soviet history, place broad limitations on missionary work, including preaching, teaching, and engaging in any activity designed to recruit people into a religious group.

To share their faith, citizens must secure a government permit through a registered religious organization, and they cannot evangelize anywhere besides churches and other religious sites. The restrictions even apply to activity in private residences and online.

This week, Russia’s Protestant minority—estimated around 1 percent of the population—prayed, fasted, and sent petitions to President Vladimir Putin, who will have to approve the measures before they become official.

“Most evangelicals—leaders from all seven denominations—have expressed concerns,” Sergey Rakhuba, president of Mission Eurasia and a former Moscow church-planter, told CT. “They’re calling on the global Christian community to pray that Putin can intervene and God can miraculously work in this process.”

Following a wave of Russian nationalist propaganda, the laws passed almost unanimously in the Duma, the upper house, on Friday and in the Federation Council, the lower house, today.

“If this legislation is approved, the religious situation in the country will grow considerably more complicated and many believers will find themselves in exile and subjected to reprisals because of our faith,” wrote Oleg Goncharov, spokesman for the Seventh-day Adventists’ Euro-Asia division, in an open letter.

Proposed by United Russia party lawmaker Irina Yarovaya, the law appears to target religious groups outside the Russian Orthodox church. Because it defines missionary activities as religious practices to spread a faith beyond its members, “if that is interpreted as the Moscow Patriarchate is likely to, it will mean the Orthodox Church can go after ethnic Russians but that no other church will be allowed to,” according to Frank Goble, an expert on religious and ethnic issues in the region.

Russian nationalist identity remains tied up with the Russian Orthodox church.

“The Russian Orthodox church is part of a bulwark of Russian nationalism stirred up by Vladimir Putin,” David Aikman, history professor and foreign affairs expert, told CT. “Everything that undermines that action is a real threat, whether that’s evangelical Protestant missionaries or anything else.”

Sergei Ryakhovsky, head of the Protestant Churches of Russia, and several other evangelical leaders called the law a violation of religious freedom and personal conscience in a letter to Putin posted on the Russian site Portal-Credo. The letter reads, in part:

The obligation on every believer to have a special permit to spread his or her beliefs, as well as hand out religious literature and material outside of places of worship and used structures is not only absurd and offensive, but also creates the basis for mass persecution of believers for violating these provisions.

Soviet history shows us how many people of different faiths have been persecuted for spreading the Word of God. This law brings us back to a shameful past.”

Stalin-era religious restrictions—including outlawing religious activity outside of Sunday services in registered churches and banning parents from teaching faith to their kids—remained on the books until the collapse of the Soviet Union, though the government enforced them only selectively.

Some have questioned whether the government could or would monitor religious activity in private Christian homes.

“I don’t think you can overestimate the Russian government’s willingess to exert control,” Aikman told CT. If history is any indication, the proposed regulations reveal a pattern of “creeping totalitarianism” in the country, he said….

If passed, the anti-evangelism law carries fines up to US $780 for an individual and $15,500 for an organization. Foreign visitors who violate the law face deportation.

Russia has already moved to contain foreign missionaries. The “foreign agent” law, adopted in 2012, requires groups from abroad to file detailed paperwork and be subject to government audits and raids. Since then, the NGO sector has shrunk by a third, according to government statistics….

[To read the full article, please click here]



Elie Wiesel understood the terrible power of silence, the danger of not speaking out against evil, notes Natan Sharansky.

former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, current chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and friend of Wiesel.

Elie Wiesel’s great mission on behalf of Soviet Jews

By Natan Sharansky, op-ed in the Washington Post on July 4

Perhaps better than anyone else of our age, Elie Wiesel grasped the terrible power of silence. He understood that the failure to speak out, about both the horrors of the past and the evils of the present, is one of the most effective ways there is to perpetuate suffering and empower those who inflict it.

Wiesel therefore made it his life’s mission to ensure that silence would not prevail. First, he took the courageous and painful step of recounting the Holocaust, bringing it to public attention in a way that no one else before him had done. His harrowing chronicle “Night,” originally titled “And the World Remained Silent,” forced readers to confront that most awful of human events — to remember it, to talk about it, to make it part of their daily lives. Then, as if that weren’t enough, he turned his attention to the present, giving voice to the millions of Jews living behind the Iron Curtain. Although he is rightly hailed for the first of these two achievements, it was the second, he told me on several occasions, for which he most hoped to be remembered.

Wiesel first traveled to the Soviet Union in 1965 as a journalist from Haaretz, on a mission to meet with Jews there, and was shocked by what he saw. Those with whom he spoke were too afraid to recount Soviet persecution, terrified of reprisals from the regime, but their eyes implored him to tell the world about their plight. The book that resulted, “The Jews of Silence,” was an impassioned plea to Jews around the world to shed their indifference and speak out for those who could not. “For the second time in a single generation, we are committing the error of silence,” Wiesel warned — a phenomenon even more troubling to him than the voiceless suffering of Soviet Jews themselves.

This was a watershed moment in Soviet Jewry’s struggle. While the major American Jewish organizations felt a responsibility to stick to quiet diplomacy, wary of ruffling Soviet feathers and alienating non-Jews in the United States, Wiesel’s book became the banner of activists, students and others who would not stay quiet. He had realized that the Soviet regime wanted above all for its subjects to feel cut off from one another and abandoned by the world. Indeed, I can attest that even 15 years later, Soviet authorities were still doing their utmost to convince us — both those of us in prison and those outside — that we were alone, that no one would save us and that the only way to survive was to accept their dictates….

[To read the rest of this column, please click here]