“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek….for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ How will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent?….So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:12-15, 17)
(Jerusalem, Israel) — The only way to make lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and Arabs is for Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace — to change men’s hearts and reign in our hearts. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” so I’m all for diplomatic efforts that don’t defy the Scriptures. But what I really love is to meet Arabs and Jews who once hated or despised each other but have come to faith in Jesus and have developed a deep and sincere love for their neighbors and their enemies. Only the Holy Spirit of God can do that.
Unfortunately, Arab believers in Jesus are far too often ignored, overlooked, or even rejected by Western Christians who love Israel. But I strongly believe we are supposed to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. We need to encourage and pray for Arab believers, as well as Jewish believers. I haven’t always done a good job of this, but I’m personally working on building more and better relationships with my Arab Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus loves them dearly; so should I.
- BETHLEHEM – Yesterday, a colleague with The Joshua Fund and I visited the Bethlehem Bible College, the primary Bible training center for Palestinian Arabs. We toured their impressive facilities, met with their incoming president and dean of students, and heard their vision for training Arab believers to preach the gospel, teach the Word of God, make disciples and plant churches to reach all Arabs in this land with Christ’s love. We had honest, candid, and Christ-centered conversations about our some of our theological and geopolitical differences. We didn’t try to paper over those differences, or pretend they don’t exist. But we found we were very much united around the cross and the urgency of advancing the Kingdom of Christ among the Arab people in this critical hour. We spent some good time in prayer at the end of our meeting and then had a meal together. It was a real blessing.
- RAMALLLAH – On Thursday, we were invited by an evangelical Christian Arab pastor — the Rev. Munir Kahkish – to visit Ramallah, the West Bank capital of the Palestinian Authority. We’d never been to Ramallah before but felt the Spirit telling us to go, so we went and it was exciting. We got to see an amazing Christian orphanage where Palestinian children are coming to Christ, being discipled and growing up to serve the Lord Jesus. We toured Ramallah with the pastor and his wife, and we attended their Thursday night praise & worship service. Pastor Munir asked me to teach and, with him translating into Arabic, I spoke for 40 minutes on the Book of Joel, chapters 1 and 2. As I did at the recent Epicenter Conference, I spoke on the urgent need for prayer, fasting and repentance as we see the Day of the Lord rapidly approaching. I never imagined teaching the Book of Joel in Ramallah, but the message was very well received, we had great conversations afterwards, and didn’t get back to Jerusalem until nearly midnight!
- “BACK TO JERUSALEM” – On Monday through Wednesday of last week, we attended the “Back To Jerusalem Conference” here in the epicenter of the epicenter with several hundred Israeli Arab pastors, elders, ministry leaders, and lay people, along with nearly 60 American, Canadian and South African believers. In a wonderful show of unity, 27 of the 30 evangelical Arab churches in Israel participated. The main teachers were a wonderful Lebanese Arab evangelical Christian ministry leader ; a dear evangelical Arab pastor from Jordan; and me, the only Jewish believer. The purpose of the conference is bring together Israeli Arab believers for prayer, Bible study, praise & worship, and to encourage Arab believers to become more faithful in evangelism, particularly among Muslims. This is a huge challenge as very few Arab churches have a vision for personal evangelism and fewer still have a compassion for reaching Muslims.
- This is the fourth annual BTJ conference and The Joshua Fund has invested in it each year. That said, it was my first year being able to attend and I was encouraged by what I saw — it’s quite something to hear Arab pastors teaching the Word of God in Arabic (thank the Lord for the English translators and the headsets!), and praising the Lord in Arabic and praying fervently in Arabic for the Lord to give them the courage to reach their neighbors and their enemies.
- This year’s theme was the importance of prayer, fasting and personal repentance prior to evangelism. The messages were biblically solid and very encouraging to me personally. In my two messages, I taught from the Book of Joel, chapters 1 and 2, on the Lord’s message to “all the inhabitants of the land” that we need to “wake up” and focus on prayer and fasting because “the Day of the Lord is coming; surely it is near.” When I got to the passages in Joel 2 describing how the Holy Spirit will be poured out on “all mankind” in the last days, I shared numerous testimonies of Muslims seeing visions and dreams of Jesus and becoming followers of Christ. But I also noted that we can’t wait around for the Lord to appear to Muslims. We still need to do evangelism and spread the Word of God. After all, the Apostle Paul quotes the prophet Joel in Romans 10:13 in describing how “whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But then Paul makes clear that we have orders from the Lord to preach the word of Christ and we must be faithful to that calling. The Lord will do His work, but we must also do ours.
- After the three days of teaching ended, the conference participants spread out to Arab communities to practice sharing the gospel and distributing copies of the New Testament and the Jesus film in Arabic. Please pray that many Arabs would come to faith in Jesus Christ as a result of this outreach, and that the churches would catch on on-going vision for evangelism and discipleship.
- ENCOURAGEMENT FROM THE EPICENTER CONFERENCE — One more thing for now: Anne Graham Lotz forwarded me this email she received of someone from France who was encouraged by watching the conference online….thought you might like to see it…“I just converted from Islam to Christianity and I was asking God to help me to get to know Him better, and I went through the internet, I just saw Epi-Center Conference in Jerusalem with Joel introducing Anne, to speak on Joel 1 & 2 and with reference to Ezekiel 38-39. I just said Lord thank you for guiding me to Anne’s conference. From there I just became a regular member of Anne and Joel in the internet, because here in France there are no real Christians, they always say we are Chatholic but not practicants, so I don’t bother to go to the Church, but this is quite sufficient for me to listen to Anne and Joel. That’s all I got to know this website, and I am really getting better and better in His knowledge. Many thanks to this ministry. It has lead me to the way of the Lord so much, but I’ve finally left Islam with full confidence, although Christianity in France is nothing to write-home about. Christianity in France is just for those who are above 80-90 years here not for the young people. The Lord give you more of His word to bless me as I am enjoying your messages daily, many thanks.”
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