** NOTE: This was written last week, but this was the first chance I had to post it. **
(Kerala, India) -- Greetings from India, where I have had the privilege of preaching and teaching for the past two weeks about "God's eternal love, plan and purpose for Israel and the people of the epicenter." During the trip, the Lord gave me the opportunity to lead several five-hour "Epicenter" seminars for pastors, ministry leaders and lay people in Delhi (the political capital of the country) and Mumbai or Bombay (the commercial center of the India). I was very moved and encouraged by the believers' depth of interest in Israel and the seriousness and sincerity of their questions about prophecy and what is happening in the Middle East. There was lots of interest in the work of The Joshua Fund as well. Many told me they have never really had any in-depth teaching on prophecy or Israel. Lots of questions. We really could have gone for several more hours. It was very sweet and moving to me to see those so rich in faith but without lots of financial resources be so eager to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. Plus, many want to come to Israel and asked if we could design a low cost prayer and vision trip in the future. In Chennai (Madras), I had the honor of speaking on prophecy and Israel for two hours to about 100 students, professors and staff at the Hindustan Bible Institute (HBI). Then we had a two hour working lunch with the president and senior faculty of the college. This is a school with a real passion for training pastors and future ministry leaders for service throughout India. Since it was founded in 1952, they've trained some 9,000 graduates, most of whom are now in full time Christian service. The vision of the church leaders we have met here is very bold and specific: * to reach all 1.13 billion Indians with the hope of the Cross * to plant a New Testament-model congregation in each and every one of the country's 600,000 villages In 1987, according to the president of HBI, there were 114,000 congregations in the country and about 25,000 Indians doing ministry. By 2007, there were an estimated 400,000+ congregations (many, to be sure. are small house churches) and over 300,000 Indians engaged in ministry. What's more, the HBI team believes there are today upwards of 100 million Indians who claim to be Christians How many are true, born again, sincere believers? That's hard to say. Some estimate the number is closer to 15 to 20 million, but at least this is up dramatically from the time of St. Thomas in the first century, up dramatically from the time of William Carey in the 19th century, and up dramatically from the years of Brother Bahkt Singh's years of ministry (1940 or so to 2000). Brother Bahkt Singh was widely known as "the Billy Graham of India" in the 20th century. The far and away best day so far was this last Sunday when I had the unique privilege of preaching twice at "Jehovah Shammah, the first of 6,000 congregations Brother Bahkt Singh and those he was discipling planted. We expected about 1,500 to 2,000 people but nearly 4,000 showed up. Several local congregations or "assemblies" canceled their services and bused their people to come hear Dr. T.E. Koshy and me. Dr. Koshy was discipled by Brother Bahkt Singh and is one of the senior elders overseeing all 6,000 congregations. It was not just standing room only -- people spilled out into the courtyards and they had to set up a huge tent to keep people from sizzling in the sun. These people are serious about the Lord. Honestly, they put many Western believers to shame. Consider: * they arrived for singing and praise music at 9:30 in the morning and the service ended at 6:30 that night! * except for some elderly and disabled people, there were no chairs in the main hall or in the couryards and under the tent -- 4,000 people were all kneeling for worship and sitting for the sermons * there was no air conditioning, just old electric fans -- and it was at least 95 degrees and steamy, I mean steamy * they heard four full sermons that day, plus several testimonies * an Indian elder taught from the Word for about 45 minutes, followed by lots of joyful singing, while Dr. Koshy, his pastor son Jay, and I had a private time of prayer; * then there was about 90 minutes of true Biblical worship, with everyone on their knees and faces, praising and thanking God for His supreme love and mercy, one person at a time, a man followed by a woman, and back and forth, all very orderly, all very sweet and sincere, all without feeling rushed, all just given the opportunity to truly commune with Christ and lift up His Name without prayer requests, without petitions of any kind, just deep, personal praise and worship * then Dr. Koshy preached for about 45 minutes on the importance of the Lord's table and the power of Christ's blood and the joy of truly walking with him, and then we all took the bread and cup * then there was the offering as a further act of worship, with everyone singing and clapping as they brought their tithes and offering to wooden boxes at the front of the sanctuary * then, after all that, it was my turn to bring the main message and the elders insisted that I go long and deep and not hold back.....so I preached from Ezekiel 37, verse by verse, on "God's eternal love, plan and purpose for the peopke of Israel" and how Bible prophecy regarding the restoration of the Jewish state and nation is powerfully underway.....I called on these dear saints to "learn, pray, give and go".....I especially asked them to be part of a great, global movement of prayer for Israel's protection and blessing.....after every sentence I spoke, my words were translated by one pastor into the "Tamil" language, and then by another pastor into the "Telegu" language.....that's how a 45 minute message goes for 90 minutes.....but to my shock, people were not drifting off or leaving or glazing over.....the spiritual energy in that hall and on that campus was intensifying throughout the message!.....it was honestly one of the most inspiring environments I have ever had the honor to speak in, because these dear saints are so much more dedicated to Jesus Christ than any group I've ever addressed. * an elder closed in prayer and thanked me for being the first Jewish background believer to ever preach in their assembly. * then everyone was served a lunch of rice and "sambar" (a delicious south Indian gravy of lentils and other cooked vegetables) * this alone would have been wonderful, but then everyone gathered again for more singing.... soon, it was time for me to deliver a second sermon (this I was not expecting!).... this was not a second service, mind you, this was just "part two" of the day....so I preached verse by verse through Revelation 18 on the coming rise of Babylon and how powerfully God is moving in Iraq today....and then I taught a somewhat condensed version of Ezekiel 38-39 on the prophecies regarding the coming "War of Gog and Magog".....this, of course, was all by translation, too. * then Jay Koshy spoke for about 20 minutes on what the Lord is doing among international students generally and Indian scholars in particular at Syracuse University where he serves. * finally, Dr. Koshy -- who is actually like the Archbishop of this denomination, though they don't have such a formal position -- closed with some final words of encouragement and specifically urged them to begin prayer meetings for Israel * after all that, to my shock hundreds and hundreds of people, including scores of teenage boys and girls, stayed around and lined up to shake my hand, ask for my autograph and get their picture taken with me.....this went on for hours.....at one point I asked, "Jay, is this normal?".....he said he'd never seen anything like it. This is just a snapshot, of course, of the last few weeks. But it has been a great honor to be able to teach about God's love for the Jewish people and the Biblical mandate for us to love the Jewish people -- and their neighbors and enemies -- with unconditional love. Please continue to pray with us that the Lord would give Indian Christians are real desire to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and would become interested in blessing Israel and her neighbors in every way they can.