[NOTE: This was written on August 11, 2008]
Is anyone out there still hesitant to describe Vladmir Putin as a dangerous, destablizing Czar who is an enemy, not a friend, of the West? When Epicenter was first published in September 2006, some thought I was overstating Putin’s threat to the free world. If anything, I was understating it. The last week has made that quite clear, has it not?
Russian forces have been bombing the daylights out of the citizens of Georgia. They are still trying to overthrow Georgia’s democratically-elected leaders. They are still trying to eliminate Georgia as a pipeline route for Caspian Sea oil flowing to the West. But controlling this former Soviet republic is not Moscow’s highest objective. Putin and his Kremlin cronies want to control (if not own outright) Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey, as well. They are Hell-bent on dominating all of the peoples of the Caucuses as part of a revived Russian imperialism that sees the future of the country inextricably tied to pushing southward and linking up with Islamic allies throughout the Middle East.
And as I noted in last Friday’s Flash Traffic, Putin is unmistakably the man in charge, not President Dmitry Medvedev. Who else but Putin would have had the gall to sit there on Friday night at the (visually stunning) opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Beijing — a time to celebrate international unity and cooperation — smiling and glad-handing when he had just launched a war that has already killed more than 2,000 people?
That said, I also want to alert you to a new book entitled, TWO NATIONS UNDER GOD, written by my friend, Tom Doyle, who served as a pastor for many years in New Mexico and Colorado and now serves as the Middle East Director for a wonderful ministry called E3 Partners.
Here’s what I wrote in my endorsement: “Chaos. Carnage. Confusion. For many, that’s the modern Middle East. But Tom Doyle gets it. Better yet, he can really explain it. With a pastor’s heart, he clearly and concisely describes why God loves the Jews of Israel and her Muslim neighbors, and why we should, too. What’s more, Tom reveals how powerfully God is moving in the modern Middle East, and how we can join Him. TWO NATIONS UNDER GOD is a must read – fascinating, insightful and deeply thought-provoking. Get one for yourself, and another for your pastor.”
Here’s a brief interview I did with Tom last week:
ROSENBERG: Tom, do you see a war between Iran and Israel coming? How soon? What are you seeing and hearing?
TOM DOYLE: I think it is unavoidable at this point. Israel cannot not afford to sit back and do nothing as Iran’s nuclear program continues to move forward rapidly and as President Ahmadinejad boasts that Iran will “wipe Israel off the map.” My guess is that Israel will take out some of the nuclear sites before the next American President is sworn into office. An Israeli advisor to the Prime Minister told me that Israel does not have to hit all 39 nuclear sites but rather just 6 of the 39 to stop the program from being a threat to Israel and the rest of the world for about 6 years.
ROSENBERG: When was the last time you were in Iran? What’s your take on President Ahmadinejad?
DOYLE: I was in Iran last fall and the mood among the Iranians is gloomy to say the least. The people are fully aware that the Ayatollah and his spokesman President Ahmadinejad have isolated Iran from the West and a conflict with Israel is certain. Joel, I talked to Muslims and born again believers in Iran and they have one thing in common — they both despise President Ahmadinejad. One Muslim man that I met who had served in the military with him said that “everyone in Iran knows that Ahmadinejad is crazy.” His reasoning was that since he spent so many years up on the frontlines in the Iraq-Iran war from 1980-1988 that he merely went insane. This moderate Muslim man was himself repulsed by the tactics used by the Iranians on the frontlines…he saw beheadings and mass electrocution. It seems the Iranian soldiers would lay electric cables in the river that the Iraqi soldiers were approaching and then wait until the majority of the troops were wading in it and then electrocute them. This man that I met in Tehran said “Ahmadinejad enjoyed this kind of brutality. He saw so much of it on a daily basis that I think he cracked up.”
ROSENBERG: Are the Iranian people supporting Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei?
DOYLE: Not at all. The people believe that the Islamic Revolution has destroyed their country. The people live in constant fear daily because of the government’s fanatical obsession with upholding Sharia Law that was imposed on them in 1979. Iranians also believe that the government cannot be trusted and that corruption is rampant. In the last “election” in Iran I am told by insiders that only about 10% of the entire country voted. Another tell-tale sign is that an estimated 70% of Iranians claim to be atheists now. The majority of the people want nothing to do with Islam and their leaders.
ROSENBERG: What’s happening spiritually in Iran — and why?
DOYLE: In 1979 when the Islamic Revolution began there were probably about 500 believers in Iran. The country was going to become “an Islamic model” for other Muslim nations to follow. But those plans failed miserably. Because today we know that there are 1-2 million believers [in Jesus Christ] in Iran. The Church in Iran took off once the Islamic Revolution took place. Joel, the people of Iran are so open to Jesus. We had many people walk up and ask us to tell them about Jesus. The believers meet in secrecy, they share Bibles written in Farsi, and they worship passionately. In Iran if you are a believer your life is obviously at risk. Some key leaders have been martyred for their faith.
ROSENBERG: How many house churches are you hearing will be planted in Iran in the next 12 to 18 months or so?
DOYLE: The estimate is about 10,000.
ROSENBERG: That’s amazing, and exciting, and something very few people around the world know. I had dinner last month with one of the Republicans who ran for President of the United States during the primaries. He has a great interest in the Mideast and has traveled there extensively. But he told me he had no idea Christianity was growing so rapidly in Iran. I need to send him a copy of your new book, Two Nations Under God. It’s really powerful and provocative, in part because you talk about Israel, but you also write about God’s love for all the people of the Middlee East. How would you summarize the central point you’re making?
DOYLE: Thank you, Joel. I believe that America has been blessed for supporting and loving Israel now for over the last 60 years. America has been Israel’s best friend and has stood with Israel as they have defended their tiny nation during 6 major wars. We have blessed them and in turn God has blessed us. The promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 to “bless those who bless you” has been realized in the United States of America. Also while ministering in Israel we have found that the Palestinians are very open to the Gospel and as believers we are called to love them too. God’s love is for all people and unfortunately most people in America when they hear the word “Palestinian” think of terrorism. While terrorism is most certainly destroying the Palestinian culture, on the other hand there is a vibrant Palestinian Church in Israel and in other countries where Palestinians live like in Jordan and in Lebanon. The Palestinians are some of the warmest and most loving believers we have ever worked with. We love them! They are amazing in how they follow Christ in the midst of such danger. We know that Jesus is the only answer to the Israel Palestinian conflict. Peace treaties will come and go and so will the leaders who write them. But those peace treaties will never be able to deal with the hatred that the two groups have for each other. Only Jesus can give you a new heart. And he is doing that as Jews and Palestinians are coming to Christ and finding true reconciliation. Joel, seeing Jewish believers and Palestinian believers worship together is one of the most exciting experiences I have ever been a part of. It makes your hair stand up!
ROSENBERG: You’re not Jewish, right? How did you develop such a love of the Jewish people?
DOYLE: No, I’m not Jewish. Actually I’m Irish — Thomas James Patrick Doyle. But I love the Jewish people and that love for them began when I went to Israel for the first time in 1995. My life was changed dramatically touring Israel. I realized that the Bible was so clear about God’s love for the Jewish people and that we were called to have the same heart and love for them too. I never stopped going to Israel. I eventually became a licensed Tour Guide for Israel. God is moving in Israel today and Jews are coming to faith in Christ.
ROSENBERG: How do you explain the deep and widespread love evangelical Christians have for the Jewish people and the nation of Israel?
DOYLE: I think that because about 80% of our Bible is about Israel that it comes natural for us to love them. And it should. Our faith has its roots dug deeply into Israel’s soil. Our Lord walked there. The prophets preached there. Jesus started His Church there. The Apostles took the Great Commission to the world from there. And of course the Scriptures were given by God to His choice leaders there. The Jewish people today, of course, are diverse in beliefs but their persistence and resiliency amazes me. My wife and I have a deep love for the Jewish people. It seems to me Joel that more believers are discovering Israel today and a love for Jewish people is growing in the church. I believe God is pleased. The nation itself is a miracle too. A miracle that it even survives in the midst of the Islamic Middle East. But the Jews of Israel not only survive…they thrive and in Two Nations Under God, I list just a few of Israel’s accomplishments. Here is just a partial list:
* The cell phone was developed in Israel by Israelis working for Motorola.
* Voice mail technology was developed in Israel by Israelis working for Microsoft and Cisco.
* Instant Messenger for America Online was developed in 1996 by four young Israelis.
* Israel has the largest number of NASDAQ listed companies outside the United States and Canada.
* Israel has the highest number of scientists and technicians per capita in the workforce. One hundred forty five out of every ten thousand Israelis are employed in these technical professions.
* Israel is the only country to enter the twenty-first century with a net gain of trees.
* Israel ranks number 2 in the world with the second highest per capita [publishing] of new books.
* Israel has the world’s best airline flight security.
* Israel also has the largest number of biotech startups per capita.
* And this one is just flat-out mind blowing – between 1901 and 2006 there have been 750 Nobel Peace Prize winners. Of the 750 winners, Jews have accounted for 158! Twelve million Jews account for twenty-two percent of all Nobel Peace Prizes.
ROSENBERG: What’s happening spiritually in Israel right now — and why?
DOYLE: Jews and Palestinians are desperate as the conflict shows no signs of letting up. But God is breaking through the strife. Muslims are having dreams and visions about Jesus and coming to faith in Christ. The Church is strong and healthy in the Palestinian areas. They are so passionate for Jesus. Jews also are opening up to Jesus as their Messiah. When I first began going to Israel it was rare to hear about a Jew becoming a follower of Yeshua. Joel, now we hear that routinely. The Messianic movement is growing in Israel. The worship is awesome to be a part of as Jewish believers recognize the Biblical feasts and festivals. Holocaust survivors, Israel soldiers, Orthodox Jews and secular Israelis are just a few of the people that I know of that have received Jesus as their Savior just in the last few months. Israel is ripe. The spiritual harvest has begun.
ROSENBERG: What is E3 Partners, and how can people be praying for the ministry you’re engaged in?
DOYLE: I am privileged to serve with e3 Partners and it is a strategic church planting ministry. We pray that God will plant a church in every village worldwide. E3 stands for “We Equip believers to Evangelize their nation and Establish new churches.” That’s our heart and that’s our passion. Our ministry President, Curtis Hail, [noted] recently that about 3,500 churches were planted last year alone by e3 leaders around the world. God is so powerful and so loving and He does not want anyone to perish. The best way to be a part of that is to disciple believers and help them start new churches where they live. We saw 127 new churches launch last year in the Middle East alone. My wife JoAnn started a women’s ministry with e3 Partners in the Middle East called Selah. It just started a year ago but they have been invited to 15 countries already. Women in the Middle East need to know that the God of the Bible values them and loves them. Please pray for the Gospel to advance even more this year and for God to raise up more national leaders to disciple the massive number of new believers worldwide. Once new believers are discipled they will be the leaders that plant new churches around the world.