UPDATED: Israel and Gaza moving towards full-blown war. Hamas breaks cease-fire. 200+ rockets and mortars fired at Israel since Wednesday night. 11 Israeli civilians injured. IDF retaliating. Palestinians in Gaza suffering under Hamas tyranny. Here’s the latest. #PleasePray

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Pray it doesn’t happen. Pray that civilians on both sides of the border are spared the horror. But all signs suggest a major new war is about to erupt between Israel and Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza.

It has been exactly four years since the last full-scale war between Israel and the terrorists of the Gaza Strip. In August of 2014 (the month my family and I moved to Israel), some 4,594 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at civilians in the Jewish State by Hamas and its allies. The Israeli military retaliated fiercely, bombarding the Strip with hundreds of strikes on terrorist facilities. IDF ground forces made numerous incursions into the Strip. In the end, Israeli chose not to launch a complete invasion and occupation of the Strip, but many on both sides of the border suffered and great damage was caused during the conflict.

Since then, a shaky truce has persisted. The Egyptian government of President el-Sisi deserves credit for actively working behind the scenes to persuade Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other terror groups to stand down. 

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Yet in 2018, there has been a dramatic escalation:

So far, Israeli officials have chosen not to mobilize reservists and launch a full-scale ground and air operation against Gaza. But Hamas and their terror allies are clearly trying to provoke such a war. 

Why? That’s anyone’s guess. These evil leaders are determined to rob, kill and destroy. They have trapped — enslaved, really — the people of Gaza in a brutish environment. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Palestinians people of Gaza have priceless beachfront property along the Mediterranean. They have smart, industrious people. They have natural gas reserves right off the coast that foreign petroleum companies are willing to help them develop if there only was peace. Israel, it should be noted, has not occupied the Strip since August 2005. Thus, for the last thirteen years the people of Gaza could have been building a free and thriving and prosperous society. Instead, they find themselves suffering under a wicked tyranny that is engaging in hundreds of war crimes (i.e., shooting at innocent civilians in Israel from schools, hospitals, playgrounds and other civilian centers in Gaza.) Hamas can’t provide enough food or cooking fuel. They only provide a few hours of electricity every day. That means even people with air conditioners suffer in blazing desert heat most days without being use them. 

Israel has a right to defend her people. But these terror attacks and this humanitarian disaster cannot go on.

The world needs to focus like a laser on pressuring Hamas to stop attacking Israel, surrender their weapons, and let the Palestinian Authority reassert control and begin to rebuild with Egypt’s help, and the help of wealthy Gulf countries.

The people of Gaza need help. They are people created in the image of God — a God who loves them. They deserve so much better. Let us pray for quiet and calm on the border, to be sure. Let us pray war that war will be averted. But let’s not stop there. Let’s pray for more — for the complete political, economic and spiritual liberation of the Palestinians of Gaza. It cannot come too soon.

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In region divided by terror & politics, Evangelical leaders call for global prayer for peace and “supernatural unity” between Israeli and Palestinian Christians. (Here’s the Christian Post’s coverage of the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit.)

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>> To listen to or watch any of the messages from the Summit, please click here.

(Jerusalem, Israel) — The Christian Post just published an excellent story on the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit, and I commend it to your attention.

Here is the article in full

Influential Christian leaders Ronnie Floyd and Anne Graham Lotz were among some 800 believers who attended a conference in Jerusalem and offered prayers for “supernatural unity.”

“We prayed boldly that peace may reign in Jerusalem and in the most volatile region in the world. And we prayed for supernatural unity that overcomes the most entrenched barriers and divisions,” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, told The Christian Post on Thursday.

The Epicenter Prayer Summit in Jerusalem was led by The Joshua Fund on July 11 and 12. Joshua Fund founder Joel C. Rosenberg revealed on his blog that participants included those from the U.S., Israel, the Palestinian Authority and other nations. The event came in the midst of high tension in the region, with hundreds of rockets being fired at Israel from Gaza.

Floyd, who is also the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Lotz, author and daughter of the late evangelist Billy Graham, both spoke at the event, as did pastors and leaders of local Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian Arab ministries.

“The heartbeat of the conference was to come together in unity, seeing walls coming down between all true believers in Jesus through the power of prayer. All of this is so we can be used in a powerful way to communicate the Gospel to all peoples,” Floyd explained.

The pastor reflected that everywhere around the world, people “allow language, race, culture, ancestry, nationality and anything that might make us different from someone else to divide us.”

“Sadly, this is painfully visible in the region of the world where Jesus was born. Yet that’s exactly why Jesus came, to bring down the barriers between people and between us and God. Bringing people together around the Word of God and the person of Jesus Christ is the key to overcoming divisions between people from diverse backgrounds,” he stated.

“The testimonies from Jewish and Palestinian believers in Jesus Christ were particularly powerful and encouraging to each of us. The Gospel is more powerful than any barrier we can build.”

Tensions on the Gaza border with Israel flared up in May, when dozens of Palestinians were killed during violent protests over the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a decision that has divided many in the region.

Floyd revealed that the differences on the issue “were certainly understood,” but explained that the conference “was not meant to address political issues.”

“It was meant to remind ourselves that the Gospel transcends these issues and brings us together as one. The vision was to stay focused on the Gospel and its advancement across the Middle East and beyond, knowing prayer and awakening are the key,” he added.

Rosenberg, who is a best-selling author, said in opening remarks at the prayer summit that believers need to examine just what it means to pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

“How do make sure not to simply pray for one group who live here to the exclusion of the others? How can we encourage one another to pray for Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, and for all who live in the Epicenter?” he posed.

“This is exactly what this Summit is for — learning to pray for all the souls of this extraordinary city and region, from Scripture, with real faces before us, and with purpose and great power.”

Lotz, who leads Angel Ministries, spoke from Daniel 9, calling on people to pray in a way that moves Heaven and changes nations, families and individuals.

“If prayer is hard for you, it’s because prayer is hard, OK? One of the things that helps me is if I can find a model prayer in Scripture after which I can pattern my prayers….Daniel was a man who prayed so powerfully and so effectively that God answered his prayer and a nation was changed,” she said.

Lotz also spoke of the importance of trusting in the faithfulness of God.

“God is faithful. What testimony can you give of the faithfulness of God in your life? I can tell you, just as God has been faithful to Joel Rosenberg, and just as God has been faithful to Ronnie Floyd, and just as God has been faithful to Billy Graham, and me; just as God has been faithful to your grandmother or your pastor, God will be faithful to you,” she continued.

“You know how I know that? Because God is faithful. He can’t be less than Himself, can He?”

Floyd told CP that he believes that progress was made on important topics.

“For those of us visiting from America, it moved us to see and hear firsthand about the challenges our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters face. This was personally challenging and an important reminder of the cost of following Jesus. We have to stand in unity and solidarity with believers around the world, especially in places where they face persecution for their faith,” the pastor said.

“I believe for those located in the Middle East it was also refreshing and encouraging to know Christians in the West are praying with and for them. Time will bear the testimony of this fruit.”

As for the prospects of peace in Israel, given the continued turmoil in the region, Floyd noted that peace begins with prayer.

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” he said, citing Psalm 122 in the Bible.

“This is what we did throughout the conference. While we always support efforts to establish peace in Israel and Palestine, our confidence is not in any man-brokered deal. We place our confidence in the Prince of Peace and His soon return, who will establish unending peace not only in Jerusalem but in the whole earth.” 

U.S. absolutely right to impose sanctions on Turkey for refusing to release Evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson. Please pray for a breakthrough. Here’s the latest on case that highlights a NATO member’s turn to the dark side.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Readers of this column know I have been warning for years that Turkey’s Islamist President Recep Erdogan is taking his country steadily, even aggressively, away from its long-time alliance with the West and into the arms of Russia and Iran. (for examples, see here, here, here, here, and here.)

After years of denial by the Obama administration that there was any serious problem, Washington is finally beginning to pay attention to Erdogan’s march to the dark side. 

  • On July 26, President Trump warned Erdogan (pronounced, “Air-do-wahn”) to immediately release American Evangelical Christian Pastor Andrew Brunson from a Turkish prison or face “large sanctions.” 
  • The United States will impose large sanctions on Turkey for their long time detainment of Pastor Andrew Brunson, a great Christian, family man and wonderful human being. He is suffering greatly. This innocent man of faith should be released immediately!” wrote the President in a Tweet.
  • At a conference on international religious freedom held in Washington, Vice President Mike Pence also spoke out publicly against Turkey.
  • On July 29, Erdogan angrily rejected the White House warnings. “We will not step back when faced with sanctions,” Erdogan said. “They [the U.S.] should not forget that they will lose a sincere partner.” While the pastor has been released from prison, Brunson is still under house arrest and Turkey refuses to drop the charges against him. 
  • On August 2, President Trump kept his word and imposed sanctions on Turkey, targeting Turkey’s Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu because they “serve as leaders of Turkish government organizations responsible for implementing Turkey’s serious human rights abuses.”
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is actively engaged in trying to release the pastor, stating: “It’s pretty straightforward. Pastor Brunson is an innocent pastor and they need to let him a return to the United States.”

Please pray for Mr. Brunson, who:

  • Is pastor of a legally-recognized church in the city of Izmir.
  • Has served the Lord in Turkey since 1993.
  • Has already been in prison for nearly two years (since October 2016).
  • Faces a sentence of up to 35 years if convicted in Turkish courts.

“It is really hard to stay in jail and be separated from my wife and children,” Brunson said at a recent court hearing. “The disciples of Jesus suffered in his name. Now it is my turn. I am an innocent man on all these charges. I reject them. I know why I am here. I am here to suffer in Jesus’ name.”

Please pray for U.S. officials, as well, to have the wisdom to know how best to handle Erdogan, ostensibly a NATO ally but increasingly an opponent and steadily emerging as an enemy of the West.

To that end, it is worth reading a recent Wall Street Journal editorial — “Sanctions For The Sultan” — that captures the geopolitical challenge quite well:

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become increasingly unreliable as an ally over the last decade, yet he has suffered few consequences from his NATO partners. That changed Wednesday when the Trump Administration followed through on its threat to impose sanctions on Turkey for taking an American hostage.

The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions against Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu for the “unfair and unjust detention” of American pastor Andrew Brunson. The action was taken under the Global Magnitsky Act, so Messrs. Gul and Soylu are now in a class with the likes of Chechnya’s Ramzan Kadyrov and former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh in being subjected to potential asset freezes and travel restrictions.

Pastor Brunson led a Presbyterian congregation in Izmir for more than two decades. He was jailed on trumped-up terrorism charges after a failed 2016 military coup. Turkey’s modern sultan may see Mr. Brunson as leverage to get the U.S. to extradite a Pennsylvania-based imam who Mr. Erdogan believes masterminded the coup. The Turks also hold NASA scientist and Turkish-American citizen Serkan Golge, who was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison in February for alleged terrorist ties.

Mr. Trump has tried private diplomacy with Mr. Erdogan, and last month he threatened sanctions if Mr. Brunson wasn’t released. A Turkish court released him to house arrest, but he continues to face charges. Mr. Trump had no choice but to impose the sanctions once he had threatened them.

All of this marks a new low in U.S.-Turkey relations, and the potential for additional U.S. sanctions if there’s no solution won’t help Mr. Erdogan as he tries to stabilize a falling currency and stop capital flight. The lira has lost almost 25% of its value this year and hit another low Wednesday.

If Mr. Erdogan thought the U.S. President didn’t mean what he tweeted, he now knows better. A more serious breach would damage U.S. interests in the region, but failing to respond to hostage-taking would damage them too.

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Exclusive: “The Persian Gamble” is the name of Joel C. Rosenberg’s next political thriller, scheduled for a March 2019 release. (“The Real Book Spy” website reveals title, cover and early details of my next novel.)

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Ryan Steck, editor of The Real Book Spy website — which provides the publishing industry’s best coverage and reviews of political thrillers and spy novels — has a new article out today revealing the title, cover art and some early details of my next novel.

Here are some excerpts:

Buckle up, because former U.S. Secret Service agent Marcus Ryker is set to return next March in The Persian Gamble, the all-new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg. 

Known throughout his career for penning headline-beating novels, Rosenberg (who was called a “modern Nostradamus” by U.S. News & World Report) was once again right on the money in predicting the amped-up tension between the United States and Russia, the main theme of his last book, The Kremlin Conspiracy (2017), the first title in a new series starring Marcus Ryker.

Last year, ahead of the release of The Kremlin Conspiracy, Rosenberg told me that one of the reasons he was drawn to Russia is because he has Russian roots. “My grandparents on my father’s side were Orthodox Jews who escaped out of Czarist, anti-Semitic Russia in the early years of the 20th century,” he explained. “In 2004, my father and I traveled to Moscow to do research for Epicenter and The Ezekiel Option. I guess I find myself fascinated with — and somewhat haunted by — both the history and the future of Russia.” …..

“I needed a new challenge and wanted to focus on a different part of the world, different enemies. In this case, I kept finding myself drawn to Russia. Moscow was once known as the seat of the ‘Evil Empire’ and I believe it is once again emerging as the center of the most dangerous government on the planet. Remember, Iran, al Qaeda, and ISIS just dream of having nuclear weapons. Moscow not only has them but also has the long-range ballistic missiles to hit every city in NATO and the United States. If they reemerge not simply as a geopolitical challenge but an aggressive enemy, the world will be headed down a very dark road.”

This time around, I reached out to Joel Rosenberg again and asked him what readers should expect from his highly-anticipated new thriller. 

“I think The Persian Gamble may be the fastest-paced thriller I’ve ever written,” said Rosenberg. “My editor actually insisted that in certain places I slow things down so readers can breathe. I’m working on the edits now.”

To follow up, I asked the author if he still felt as though Russia was rising up as the center of the most dangerous government on the planet, to which he answered, “Absolutely,” before adding….

I asked Rosenberg if current headlines played any role at all while he was coming up with the plot for The Persian Gamble. Though he didn’t want to give away too much about the story just yet, he did explain his goals in writing each book, while also teasing a few more tidbits about his next novel. 

“My novels are about worst-case scenarios, terrible events that could happen in the near future though we pray they do not. My goal isn’t to write what’s in the headlines today but what could be coming, God forbid, in a few years. What I loved about writing The Persian Gamble was tying the fate of three enemy powers — Russia, Iran, and North Korea — into one chilling scenario and putting my hero, Marcus Ryker, in the vortex of the danger. Most people see these three countries as threats. But they don’t necessarily see them as allies, actively working together and plotting catastrophic attacks against the West. But that’s what I fear is happening and that’s where I take Ryker and his team. I can’t say more at the moment. I will, but….”

[To read the full article, please click here.]

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Evangelicals need to love and pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, the founder of The Joshua Fund tells CBN News at 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit.

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(Joel Rosenberg speaks with CBN News Chris Mitchell on the sidelines of the prayer summit.)

EPICENTER PRAYER SUMMIT CALLS JEWISH, ARAB AND AMERICAN BELIEVERS TO UNITE IN JERUSALEM

By Chris Mitchell, CBN Middle East Bureau Chief — July 20, 2018

[Note: to watch the video of the story that ran on CBN News, please click here]

[Note: to watch videos from the Epicenter Prayer Summit, please click here]

Author and Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg had a major theme in mind for a prayer conference he recently organized in Jerusalem.

“We’re trying to focus on prayer and unity for Israeli Jewish and Arab believers, between the Messianic body of Israel and the Palestinian believers,” he told CBN News.

The Epicenter Prayer Summit was organized and hosted by The Joshua Fund, a non-profit ministry founded by Joel and Lynn Rosenberg to mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors.

Rosenberg wants to connect believers in the West to the Holy Land by bringing middle America to the Middle East.

“What we could do uniquely was focus people on what does it mean to pray for the peace of Jerusalem?” he said. “We say that, but what does that mean? How can we pray Scripture? And how can we pray with the faces of Jewish and Arab Israeli and Palestinian believers right in front of us, stories we never knew before. That gave a chance to say, now I can go back to Wichita or San Diego or wherever; now I have a sense of who(m) I’m praying for.”  

Two U.S. evangelical leaders saw those faces and experienced that unity.
 
“That’s the Body of Christ, you know. We’re not divided, so there’s neither Jew nor Greek, there’s neither slave nor free, there’s neither male nor female, so we’re one in Christ,” said Anne Graham Lotz with Angel Ministries. “And so to come together, which they’re doing here at this Summit, is just, it’s a revelation of what the Body of Christ is and as it was pointed out this morning that’s a testimony to who Jesus is. It’s a testimony to the world that we can be one.”

Ronnie Floyd, director of the National Day of Prayer, said, “It’s really enlightening to see the two brought together as one through Jesus Christ. And I think that’s the real testimony of being here this week.”

Floyd spoke to participants about the power of prayer.

“I talked about the undeniable reality and connectivity between prayer and the Holy Spirit and boldness.  And the same thing that is needed here in courage in the Middle East for believers is the very same thing that is needed in America,” he said.

Rosenberg hopes the Summit can shine a wider light on the Body of Christ in the Holy Land.

“We forget to ever think about the fact that there are Palestinians who do know the Lord and there are Palestinians who need to know the Lord,” Rosenberg said. “And so when we get excited about one side to the exclusion of the other, this is not really God’s heart.  

“He [the Lord] does love Israel. He does love the Jewish people and He’s got a plan for them, but He also loves the Arabs. In Christ and Christ alone God is bringing the very peace that all the rest of the world wants for this region… the people of the region want. It’s tough to find outside of Christ,” he said.

Amidst hot, tense summer in the Mideast, Epicenter Prayer Summit brings together 800-plus Christians from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, North America & other nations to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the region. (Excerpts from local Israeli media coverage.)

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(Pictured left to right: Joshua Fund founder Joel C. Rosenberg; Bible teacher Anne Graham Lotz; Pastor Ronnie Floyd, President of the National Day of Prayer and former President of the Southern Baptist Convention; Rev. Munir Kakish, pastor of a Palestinian congregation in Ramallah and Chairman of the Palestinian Evangelical Council; his wife, Sharon Kakish; Israeli believer Shirya Yahav; and her husband, Daniel Yahav, pastor of an Israeli congregation in Tiberius.)

(Jerusalem, Israel) — We’re in the midst of a long, hot summer in the Epicenter. Tensions are running high between Israelis and Palestinians this summer from a range of reasons. Among them:

  • Bitter disagreements over whether Israel’s 70th anniversary is a good thing or bad
  • Two entirely different views of President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem
  • Widely divergent views of whether the U.S.-designed peace plan — still released — will be fair and which side it will benefit
  • Growing despair in Gaza
  • Utter chaos in Syria
  • Iranian efforts to spark one regional conflict after another , from Gaza to Yemen. 

In recent weeks, hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza. Israeli forces have retaliated. Now there is talk that a major ground war in Gaza may not be far off. Let’s hope not — but those are the rumors swirling here.

In that context, it seemed to my Joshua Fund colleagues and me more important than ever to bring Israeli and Palestinian followers of Jesus together with Christians from all over the world to pray together for the peace of Jerusalem and the peace of all the people in the region, as well as to pray for the advancement of the Gospel. That’s why we organized the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit. We were so encouraged that over 800 Christians — including people from nearly every continent — attended.

Here are excerpts from local Israeli media coverage of the event.

Epicenter Prayer Summit encourages Christians to bless Israel, neighbors

By Cliff Kelly, Kehila News Israel

The 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit, held by The Joshua Fund, included one evening and full day of “teaching, prayer, praise and worship” at the Jerusalem Theater on July 11 and 12.

Speakers included Bible teacher and evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, pastor Ronnie Floyd and pastors and leaders of local believing Jewish, Israeli Arab and Palestinian Arab ministries, all of whom shared personal insights, prayer requests and calls for unity among the brethren in the land. 

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Local worship leader Sheli Myers led a group of singers and musicians in praise and worship.

THE POWER OF UNITY

The Joshua Fund founder and best selling author, Joel C. Rosenberg, opened the 2018 Epicenter Prayer Summit by welcoming attendees from Israel, Palestine and around the world.

“We are famously commanded to ‘pray for the peace of Jerusalem,’ and so we shall,” Rosenberg told the Summit attendees in his opening remarks. “But what exactly does this mean? …How do make sure not to simply pray for one group who live here to the exclusion of the others? How can we encourage one another to pray for Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians, and for all who live in the Epicenter?

“This is exactly what this Summit is for — learning to pray for all the souls of this extraordinary city and region, from Scripture, with real faces before us, and with purpose and great power.”

Rosenberg amplified the Summit theme the next morning, presenting a teaching entitled, The Power of Unity: What the Church in the Epicenter Must Learn from Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, based on Jesus’ prayer recounted in John 17….

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PRAYER IS HARD

Each of the Summit’s keynote messages focused on a prayer in scripture which helped demonstrate, in Rosenberg’s words, “how you and I can be praying for the church and the people in the epicenter with clarity and specificity.” On Wednesday evening, Lotz began with a teaching on the prophet, Daniel’s prayer of Daniel 9:3-19.

“As God looks at the world today and His eye goes to and fro,” Lotz said. “And He sees His people who are called by His name, does He wonder that there are not more of us praying on behalf of His people in this city and this land?

“Prayer is hard work,” she told her audience. “If prayer is hard for you, it’s because prayer is hard, okay? One of the things that helps me is if I can find a model prayer in scripture after which I can pattern my prayers… Daniel was a man who prayed so powerfully and so effectively that God answered his prayer and a nation was changed.”

CONVICTION, BOLDNESS AND ASSURANCE

Floyd began the Summit on Thursday morning by asking, “How and what shall the church pray?” then answered by saying that our prayers must be rendered with conviction, boldness and the assurance that God will answer.

“Stop being content in living life and doing ministries without the power of God,” Floyd implored pastors in the audience. “Pray!”

Local Jewish and Arab believers offered teachings, testimony and contributions to several panel discussions. Video and audio playback and downloads of many sessions are available online at epicenterconference.com.


“Author Joel Rosenberg Warns Trump Against Upcoming Meeting with Putin.” (My interview with CBN News.)

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AUTHOR JOEL ROSENBERG WARNS TRUMP AGAINST UPCOMING MEETING WITH PUTIN By Chris Mitchell, CBN News, July 13, 2018

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet face-to-face Monday at the presidential palace in Helsinki – a move author Joel Rosenberg believes is a bad idea.

“Personally, I don’t really want President Trump in the room with Putin. I don’t think we have a lot to say to President Putin,” Rosenberg told CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell. “I don’t believe in walking into the room with a world leader who’s an enemy, who’s a strategic threat, unless you have a specific game plan.”

On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department announced charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking offenses during the 2016 presidential election. In response, congressional leaders urged Trump to call off the meeting.

Rosenberg warns of potentially bigger threat – Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East.

“The challenge with Vladimir Putin is that he wants to expand the influence of the Russian empire…The only place he really has to maneuver is the Middle East. He’s got Iran in his pocket, he’s pulling Turkey into his orbit,” he explained, adding that Syria has also grown closer to Russia in recent months.
 
“He’s trying to flip all of them [Middle East countries] away from the United States, away from the West and into the Russian orbit,” he continued.

So how does Rosenberg advise President Trump to approach his upcoming meeting with Putin?

“Start treating Putin like you do with the Democrats – tough, strong, ‘we’re not going to take your nonsense,” he said. “Stop looking like you’re cozying up to him.”

Rosenberg does not want Trump to pick a fight with Putin, but to remember that he is talking to someone opposed to U.S. interests.

“For some reason President Trump thinks that if he gets in the room with him, maybe he can warm Putin up and Putin will turn out to be a good guy – he’s not. Putin is not a good guy, he’s evil, and so we’ve got to make sure we get out of this meeting that should have never happened in the first place without doing something that’s not helpful,” he said.

Despite his harsh criticism of President Trump’s meeting with Putin, Rosenberg is happy with how he has handled NATO.

“We need to stay on the course that President Trump’s policies are — rebuild American military strength, strengthen NATO, get NATO to spend [more] money on their own defense and stop having Europe make these multi-billion dollar oil and gas deals with Russia.”

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BREAKING: Ceasefire announced after Gaza terrorists launch 200+ rocket & mortar attacks against Israel. Here’s the latest. Please keep praying.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Yesterday was not an easy one in the Epicenter. Here’s the latest as of 7:30am, Israel time:

  • More than 200 rockets and mortar rounds were fired at Israel by terrorists in Gaza on Saturday, July 14 — the biggest salvo of attacks since August 2014.
  • Tens of thousands of Israeli civilians in the southern tier near Gaza spent most or all of the day in bomb shelters. Many of those are not air-conditioned, and the temperatures were hovering between 90 and 100 degrees yesterday.
  • After hours of back channel diplomacy led by Egypt — and relentless pounding by IDF forces — Hamas and Islamic Jihad announced a ceasefire in the early hours of Sunday morning.
  • The terror groups briefing broke the ceasefire shortly thereafter, firing more rockets and mortars at Israel.
  • The IDF retaliated against these attacks, after the most intensive airstrikes against Hamas and Islamic Jihad targets in Gaza since the August 2014 war known as “Operation Protective Shield.” The IDF blew up two terror tunnels, an urban terror training center, weapons depots and other terror facilities throughout the Gaza Strip.
  • Meanwhile, over the past three months, terrorists in Gaza have sent incendiary devices over the border and have set more than 1,000 fires in Israel.
  • “The fires have laid waste to over 8,200 acres of forest and agricultural land, with damage totaling tens of millions of dollars,” reports Israel Hayom. “Experts say it will take at least 15 years to rehabilitate the vegetation and wildlife in the scorched areas. When the remote arson attacks began a few months ago, some politicians and military officials dismissed them as a passing nuisance. But the protesters added explosives-laden balloons that ignite upon landing on the Israeli side of the fence to their arsenal, and now Israeli children who come across a stray kite or balloon have to back away and tell their parents to call in sappers.”
  • What’s more, for the past three months, Palestinian terrorists have repeatedly tried to blow up and surge through the security fence that separates Gaza from Israel. Thus far, they have all been stopped by IDF forces. But Hamas leaders are openly calling for their forces to penetrate the fence and murder Israeli civilians living in nearby communities.
  • Since roughly 2:00am local time, the ceasefire has held and the Gaza/Israel border is quiet again. That is, we haven’t had any more rockets or mortars fired. It remains to be seen whether the “kite bombs” and attacks on the security fence will stop.
  • Neither President Trump nor any senior U.S. officials have condemned or even commented the 200+ attacks on Israel. Not sure how to explain that. 
  • Almost no media outlets outside of Israel have covered any of this. That, sadly, is par for the course.
  • Please continue to pray for calm and restored security on the border.
  • Please pray for the Lord to comfort those wounded and those emotionally and spiritually traumatized by all these events.

Again, please follow me on Twitter for updates throughout the day. Thanks.

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UPDATED: 174 rockets & mortar rounds were fired at Israel by Gaza terrorists on Saturday. Here’s the latest, including a list of things for which to pray.

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UPDATED: (Jerusalem, Israel) — Since the early hours of Saturday morning until this very moment as I write this column at 9:00pm (update: 10pm) Saturday night, terrorists in Gaza have unleashed the most intense barrage of attacks on Jewish civilians in southern Israel since the August 2014 rocket war.

So far, more than 174 rockets and mortar shells have hit Israel, reports The Jerusalem Post. The Iron Dome has shot down some 30 of them. But there has been property damage and at least three Israeli civilians have been injured.

Lynn and I are currently hosting a “Prayer & Vision Tour” of Israel with some 210 Evangelical Christians from the U.S., Canada and six other nations. By God’s grace, we have not been in the line of fire but we are all praying for the Lord to show mercy and restore calm to people on both sides of the border. Please join us. 

It grieves us that tens of thousands of Israelis along the southern tier have spent all or much of the day in bomb shelters — many of them not air-conditioned — amidst temperatures hovering between 90 and 100 degrees. It likewise grieves us that Palestinians in Gaza that are not involved in such terrorism at all but live under the slavery of jihadist groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, ISIS and others are suffering through no fault of their own. Many of them don’t have bomb shelters, and don’t even have electricity for more than a few hours a day, much less air conditioning.

The Israeli military has retaliated with at least 40 air strikes so far. Yet the terrorists in Gaza continue to fire at Israeli civilians in rapid and intense bursts. What’s more, as they have for nearly two months, Palestinian terrorists continue to try to blow up and penetrate the security fence that separates Gaza from southern Israeli, drawing fire from IDF forces positioned along the border.

The risk of a major escalation — possibly even a ground war involving Israeli combat forces entering Gaza to suppress the attacks — is rising. No reasonable person on either side of the border wants that. Only the forces of evil do. That said, Israelis cannot live with 90+ rocket and mortar attacks a day and men, and women and children running for bomb shelters over and over again with only 15 seconds before the explosions begin. We need God to intervene before this thing spins out of control.

Please pray, therefore:

  • For the peace of Jerusalem and the entire country.
  • For calm and security to be restored on the Gaza/Israel border and the prevention of another war.
  • For the Lord to show mercy and supernatural physical and emotional healing for those on both sides of the border who are being traumatized by this fresh wave of terror.
  • For Israeli and Palestinian believers to have wisdom to know how best to be a blessing to our nations and to be bold in proclaiming the Good News of God’s love and His offer of forgiveness and eternal life through Yeshua HaMashiach, Jesus the Messiah.
  • For all of those on The Joshua Fund tour to maintain their courage and boldness and to remain faithful in prayer for Israelis and Palestinians as they’ve been doing all week. (I love these folks — they have been such a joy to teach, baptize, pray with, worship, encourage and learn from!)

(Please follow me on Twitter for updates and breaking news.)

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Amidst tensions in Jordan, King Abdullah wins Templeton Prize for advancing moderate Islam and protecting Christians. Here’s the latest, including an excellent story in Christianity Today.

Jordan-King-sideshot

Life is not easy in Jordan these days.

  • The economy is struggling to grow and create enough jobs under the weight of 1.3 million Syrian refugees, in addition to masses of Iraqi refugees who flooded into Jordan during two wars and an insurgency.
  • The government is trying to house, clothe, feed, educate and provide jobs and health care for millions of people who are not actually citizens of Jordan amidst far too little international aid (aside from the U.S. which has been both generous and consistent).
  • Widespread and angry demonstrations recently brought tens of thousands of Jordanians onto the streets to protest large proposed tax increases the government felt it needed to cover the refugee costs and adhere to IMF-mandated reforms.
  • The Jordanian military and security services have been aggressively fighting ISIS and other radical Islamist groups for years and working overtime (quite successfully, thank God) to keep terrorism from erupting across the country.
  • Jordanians are an incredibly hospitable people, but they feel increasingly frustrated by the economic and social burdens of all the refugees.
  • That said, Jordanians don’t want to become a chaotic mess like Syria or Iraq or Yemen and thus find themselves in a terrible bind on how to move forward.

As I’ve written before, King Abdullah II has not only proven himself to be a wise and resilient captain navigating his country through stormy waters. He has done so in part by making Jordan a model of moderation in the Middle East, a close ally of the U.S. and the West, and a safe harbor for Christians and other minorities where they can feel respected and free to practice their faith without fear of Islamist attacks.

That’s why I was encouraged to see His Majesty awarded with the Templeton Prize for his efforts to advance moderation and a respectful interfaith community. This article in Christianity Today does an excellent job telling the story. 

I love this country dearly and I’d be grateful if you would keep the King and the people of Jordan in your prayers, including the Christian community there. I count a number of Jordanian Evangelical leaders as friends and truly faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. Please also pray for the newly-appointed Prime Minister and government as they try to implement reforms that can grow the economy and improve the lives of every Jordanian. Thanks so much.

By Jayson Casper, Christianity Today, July 1, 2018

For his lifelong commitment to religious peace, King Abdullah II of Jordan recently became the second Muslim ever to win the prestigious, $1.4 million Templeton Prize. And Jordan’s Christian minority is celebrating with him.

“I believe in our king,” said Imad Shehadeh, president of the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, following Wednesday’s announcement. “He is a kind, wise, loving, humble, and effective leader.”

Established in 1973, the Templeton Prize is awarded for exceptional contribution to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” First given to Mother Teresa, previous winners range from Billy Graham to the Dalai Lama. More recently, Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga and Jean Vanier of L’Arche have won the prize.

But this year, Abdullah was honored as a ruler who has done more promote inter-Islamic and interfaith harmony than any other living political leader, Templeton said.

Islam is the official religion of Jordan, and the constitution guarantees freedom of religion for minorities such as the roughly 2 percent of the population that’s Christian (mostly Greek Orthodox). The Protestant community has commended their king’s efforts for religious unity, though some wish his commitment went even further.

Since assuming the throne in 1999, the 56-year-old son of the beloved King Hussein has rallied scholars against declaring apostasy against fellow Muslims. In 2006, he sponsored the Common Word initiative, inviting Christians worldwide to join Muslims in their joint commandments to love God and love their neighbor. Abdullah is responsible for launching World Interfaith Harmony Week in 2010, generally acknowledged as the first and only UN declaration to cite belief in God.

“Our world needs to confront challenges to our shared humanity and values,” said Abdullah, in videotaped remarks accepting the prize. “They are the very ground of the coexistence and harmony our future depends on.”

For Christians, Abdullah has been a key partner in the Middle East. His Hashemite family has been custodian of Muslim and Christian religious sites in the Holy Land since 1924.

Abdullah provided personal funds to restore the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 2016 and donated land to build churches at the traditional east bank site of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River. The Muslim king has also supported efforts to safeguard Christians and their historic churches against the threat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The Templeton Award recognized also Jordan’s history of welcoming refugees. Whether early waves of Palestinians or more recently Iraqis and Syrians, tens of thousands of Christians have found asylum in the country.

“Jordan is very tolerant society and is protective of all its citizens,” said Daoud Kuttab, an award-winning Christian Palestinian journalist who has lived in Jordan for 20 years. “It provides a comfortable and secure haven for Christians and others, despite their small percentage.”

Despite their small presence in Jordan’s population overall, Kuttab said Christians are well-represented in political and economic circles. Nine of 130 parliament seats are reserved for Christians, though according to the US International Freedom Report, they may not run for the remaining 121. Four Christians served in last year’s 29-member cabinet.

Other Christians are more cautious in their praise, shifting focus from religious rights to the political. An evangelical researcher and political consultant, Philip Madanat notes the king has diminished the role of Islamists. Yet if Christians are tempted to gloat, Madanat warns that a lack of political opposition will strengthen the security hand of the state.

The regime—though less so the king—is also irked by secular political development, he said. Madanat cited the difficulties faced by the Civil Alliance, a nascent party seeking registration, which includes the former deputy prime minister Marwan Muasher, a Christian. “Christians are good,” Madanat said, “as long as they stay within their accustomed alliances.”

Christians believe too readily that the Hashemites, Jordan’s ruling family since the British Mandate of 1921, are the only refuge from radical Islam, he also said.

As king, Abdullah is the 41st direct descendent of the prophet Muhammad. Promoting religious harmony is part of the king’s legacy, Madanat believes, but also his international legitimacy.

“The king’s objective is to portray himself as an advocate of tolerant Islam,” Madanat said. “But he is reforming without upsetting society.”

Still, the top-down initiatives do not sufficiently influence the street, he said, though seminars do try to reach the youth. Abdullah has also paved the way for a contested curriculum reform in Jordanian schools, removing verses that speak ill of non-Muslims and adding references to Christian contributions in the Islamic era.

Heather Dill, granddaughter to John Templeton and president of the foundation, positively celebrated these reforms. “King Abdullah offers the world the true definition of a spiritual entrepreneur,” she said, “who holds both the belief and free expression of religion as among humankind’s most important callings.”

Madanat has reservations about tolerance, lest a Western-style multiculturalism creep into Jordan, contradicting his biblical worldview. But he agreed with Dill in regard to freedom of belief, as persecution of converts to Christianity tends to be social rather than official. Jordan also tests a Christian before allowing conversion to Islam, to make sure he is sincere.

Jordan ranks number 21 on Open Door’s World Watch List of Christian persecution. The country assigns personal status to religious courts, which do not recognize conversion from Islam, and may revoke the family rights of apostates.

Even so, Shehadeh advises Christians to be thankful for the privileges Jordan affords their community, and to be patient in seeking rights they find lacking. Under Abdullah, the religion field was removed from official IDs in 2016, though it remains in government records.

King Abdullah II will be formally awarded the Templeton Prize in a public ceremony in Washington, D.C. on November 13.

“Our king has been the first to protect Christians, and deserves this prize,” Shehadeh said. “Congratulations to his majesty.”

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