Full Episode 030: Enemies & Allies - Pt 4: Peace & Persecution in the Mideast | Inside The Epicenter
Dr. Carl Moeller and Joel C. Rosenberg discuss the future of the Middle East in relation to the historic Abraham Accords.
In recent episodes, Dr. Carl Moeller and Joel C. Rosenberg have discussed different topics from Joel’s new book Enemies & Allies. In this episode, they cover a unique section of the book that addresses the future of the Middle East in relation to the historic Abraham Accords. Joel explains what these accords are and what they represent for millions of Christians.
The Middle East has experienced good changes as a result of these accords, but what should Christians think about these changes, and how do these accords fit into the Biblical prophecies about end times?
Joel talks about the significance of the name of the accords as well as the importance of prayer related to Christians' needs in the Middle East. He also provides details on how The Joshua Fund acts to strengthen the Church and make a difference in the lives of Christians in the Epicenter. Lastly, Joel shares which countries have the potential to join the Abraham Accords in the near future.
- [Narrator] Coming up on this episode of Inside The Epicenter.
- [Joel] There's so much change going on in the Middle East today. Usually, certainly over the last 20 years let's say since the 9/11 attacks, most of the changes in the Middle East have been horrible. Wars, insurrections, revolutions, genocide, so it's been bad.
- [Carl] The Abraham Accords, what exactly are they? And which Middle Eastern country might be next in joining the Abraham Accords?
- [Carl] Hi, and welcome to Inside The Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg. A podcast of The Joshua Fund. A ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and Her Neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Moeller, Executive Director of The Joshua Fund. And I'm joined today from Jerusalem, by Joel Rosenberg, our Founder. Joel, welcome. Glad to have you on this podcast.
- [Joel] Great to be with you, Carl. I love doing this podcast, I know we're coming up almost on a year, and I've been encouraged not only to do these conversations with you, but the fact that anybody's listening, so that's encouraging.
- [Carl] Oh, people are listening and people are commenting, it's been so rewarding. Over the last several podcasts we've been talking about your book, "Enemies and Allies" the best-selling book that was released earlier this fall. And we've covered some of-
- [Joel] Forget my cat in the background.
- [Carl] And we've talked about your cat in the background, yes, exactly. But we've encountered some amazing stories of your delegations and your personal relationships with some of the key leaders in the Middle East and behind the scenes of these things, the Abraham Accords. But Joel, I'm really amazed that one of the key features of this book is that you included a section called the future. Now, I know that you're not the prophet or a son of a prophet, but I love the idea that you actually created entire section of this book called the Future of the Abraham Accords. Why did you create that section and what's behind it?
- [Joel] Well, I think that there's so much change going on in the Middle East today. Usually certainly over the last 20 years, let's say since the 9/11 attacks, most of the changes in the Middle East have been horrible. Wars, insurrections, revolutions, genocide. So it's been bad, but we are in a season of where change is good, where we're seeing peace breaking out, not just in one country, between one Arab country and Israel, but in four Arab countries and Israel and another Muslim majority of though not an Arab country. So that's huge, it's exciting. So that's important, and we're all talking about, what's next, where's this thing going? But at the same time, part of the premise of "Enemies and Allies" is not just what Joel thinks about the region, let's go sit with the decision makers. Let's go sit with the kings and the crown princes, the presidents and the prime ministers of the Arab world and of Israel and let's ask them, what do they think? What's happening now? Why are things changing so dramatically? And what do they think the future holds? But as you write a book about, kind of where we've come from, where we're going and you get it from the mouths of Jewish leaders and Arab Muslim leaders, then the question is also, well, what do evangelical Christians think? And we have a lot of different thoughts, we're an eclectic group, 600 million evangelicals worldwide, but what does the Bible tell us about the future? The Bible is unique in the fact that it bases its own credibility on prophecy, on God, describing himself as the beginning and the end, as the seer and the knower of all things, even before they happen. And that he's gonna tell us certain things that are gonna happen ahead of time, sometimes briefly ahead of time, sometimes centuries ahead of time, so that when it happens, we know he's real and we can trust him for everything he says. And so that I think was an important element in this book. If I was a New York Times columnist, or I was a CIA analyst or a former diplomat then I probably wouldn't put in a section about what does the Bible say about the future of the Middle East. Even if I was a Christian, 'cause I would think, well, maybe that's not appropriate to this type of book, but I'm none of those things. I am an evangelical, I got invited to meet with all these people because I'm an evangelical. With a number of them we discuss these things, with the President of Egypt for example, we had a conversation with him about how Isaiah 19 describes the future of Egypt. Imagine sitting with the leader of the world's largest Arab-Muslim country and having a conversation, "What does the Bible say about the future of your country?" It was fascinating and people will read that conversation in the book 'cause it was on the record. So I just thought it would be good to give a thumbnail sketch of some of the key prophecies. Again, it's not a book entirely about prophecy, but I think it's important, both for Christians, many Christians haven't studied prophecy at all. So that's something to be aware of, but all the Jewish, Muslim people, Atheists, Agnostics that are gonna read the book also, they're usually unaware of what the Bible says about the future, so I thought it was important to include.
- [Carl] Yeah, for sure. And I think a question a lot of our listeners will have is, where do you see the Abraham Accords fitting into those prophecies? And maybe do they? Is this something to note as far as the progress of fulfilled Bible prophecy?
- [Joel] Sure. Let me just take one step back because as you opened, it was like, what are the Abraham Accords?
- [Carl] Right, right. We're gonna get there.
- [Joel] People are like, "What are you, saving that for the end?"
- [Carl] I was.
- [Joel] Yeah. Well, okay. But I think it's important to just set the table that the Abraham Accords are a series of Arab Israeli agreements, diplomatic agreements, economic agreements. We are describing generally as peace treaties and they are, but these particular four Arab countries have not been engaged in direct combat and military operations against Israel over the last seven decades. They have been engaged in economic boycotts of Israel in political warfare against Israel at the United Nations and so forth. And they've been in solidarity with countries that have been at war with Israel. But for most of these countries, the United Arab Emirates was the first, the Kingdom of Bahrain was second. The Kingdom of Morocco was third. And the Government of Sudan, the Republic of Sudan was fourth. All of these countries have had slightly different agreements, but they're being generally described as the Abraham Accords. That's certainly the name that the UAE and the Bahrainis and the Israelis gave to the Accord because they're saying, "Listen, Abraham is important. He's the patriarch of three monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam." Okay, now we all have different views of Abraham's role, but it was interesting that the leaders first created these peace agreements wanted to call them after this beloved patriarch of these three religions, as a way of saying, "We can work together because we have common roots. Yes, we have differences of course, but we have common roots." Now, I will just add that for most people who are studying the issues closely, they're not really technically peace treaties. I mean, they do say we're not gonna go to war with each other. But most people are using the term normalization agreements. Meaning these countries didn't have embassies in Israel. Israel didn't have embassies in those countries. They didn't do trade. You couldn't travel as Israelis to go visit their countries on an Israeli passport. So we need to normalize. We need to have a normal relationship. Yes, these countries disagree on various issues like the Palestinian question and so forth, but let's have a normal relationships. And then a senior Bahraini official when I was traveling to the capital of Bahrain, Manama, and then also meeting with other Bahraini officials in Washington, they liked to use the term, not normalization, but formalization. Why? Because they say, "For the last number of years, we sort of have had this kind of normalization not embassies and trade agreements, but we've been friendly with Israel. We haven't had a problem. We've had sort of the quiet below the radar things, but now we can finally formalize it and say, yes, we're friends." So, that's the Abraham Accords in a nutshell.
- [Carl] Got it. And one other thing that we started the podcast with was, and what we ended with last time, are there countries that are still considering joining such accords? These Accords, they're really shaping the way the Middle East is looking these days. So, any other thought?
- [Joel] Let's definitely save that for the end. And so bring me back around. Don't let me lose track of that 'cause I think there are some very exciting developments happening. So specifically then to your question of does any of this fit into Bible prophecy? And I think the answer is yes, as long as we're careful about what we mean. I don't wanna be crazy. And I don't like to shoehorn in every newspaper event or TV event, "Oh, that's prophecy, that's prophecy." But look, first of all, the main thing about the Abraham Accords is that they represent dramatic answers to the prayers of millions and millions and millions of Christians who've been faithfully praying for the peace of Jerusalem as we were commanded by King David in Psalm 122:6. So the most important thing to think about this is we serve a prayer hearing and a prayer answering God, a God who works wonders. He loves to answer our prayers. We read in the Book of James, "You have not because you ask not, or because you ask with impure motives." So let me say that, I believe that the Bible is clear that God will always answer prayer, but the answer isn't always yes. And sometimes the answer is no, but sometimes the answer is wait. And I think in the case of 25 years of praying for some more Arab countries to make peace with Israel and Israel to make peace with them, the answer was wait, but we didn't give up. And Christians all over the world were faith and not just America, but all over the world, I've traveled all over the world, met with Christians who've asked me, "How can we pray?" Well, let's start with what the Bible says to pray for, pray for peace. Yes, we certainly want to pray for spiritual peace between men and women and their relationship with God. So that's the most important element of peace. Christ came to be our peace. He is our prince of peace. He came to make peace between us and God by forgiving us and adopting us into God's family. But God also means to pray for geopolitical peace. Why? Because it's horrible to live in a country that's constantly being attacked, constantly facing missiles, constantly facing invasion, constantly facing terrorism. It's very painful to live that way and God is merciful. So that's the most important thing is to see the Abraham Accord as huge, huge, I mean like major answers to prayer because usually we get one Arab Israeli peace agreement at a time, and now we got four, plus another Muslim country, Kosovo. Now in terms of prophecy, I would just say this. We'll do a program on the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 and 39 because it's an important thing to unpack. And we probably need multiple programs on that. But that prophesy is known as the war of Gog and Magog. Now, maybe people were unfamiliar like, well, I thought you said this was peace, why would it be the fulfillment of a prophecy about war? Because there are several prerequisites to this massive apocalyptic end times war that's coming. The Bible makes it clear in Ezekiel 36, 37 and then the beginning of 38, several things have to happen before this big end times war. Number one, Israel has to be reborn as an actual sovereign geopolitical nation state. Check. Jews have to be coming back to resettle the land from all over the world after centuries and centuries of exile. And that is happening. It's not over, but it's happening and it's wonderful. Israel needs to be rebuilding the ancient ruins. Israel needs to be making the deserts bloom. Hebrew needs to be flourishing as a language again, after nearly dying. All that's happening, but what's more Israel has to become prosperous. We see in Ezekiel 38, there's a whole discussion, several discussions, are you the leader of this whole evil coalition that's coming? We won't get into the details right now, but are you coming to plunder the people of this reborn state Israel? Israel is very financially prosperous and they're living securely in the land, securely in the land meaning the word Shalom Jesus never used in the text, but Israelis are prosperous and they're feeling secure. So what's interesting about the Abraham Accords is we've gone from two Arab Israeli peace treaties to six, right? And Israelis are feeling more secure in this region than ever before. And as I describe in the book, it's like a Middle East gold rush is opening up. Israeli business people are building deals with Emiratis and Bahrainis and Moroccans and vice versa and it's really an exciting period. And I think as COVID begins to lift, if it continues to lift Lord willing, you're gonna see a massive surge of investment and tourism and trade. So in fact, the top finance minister for the United Arab Emirates is predicting a trillion dollars in trade over the next 20 or 30 years. A trillion dollars for a little country like ours, that's a big, big deal. That's the Middle East gold rush starting into motion. So, yes, I think that we are seeing elements of the prerequisites of something terrible that's coming later but right now it's like the chess pieces are being rearranged on the board. And these include a series of positive things that God describes will happen before really major terrible event comes at some point down the line.
- [Carl] Wow, wow.
- [Joel] That's a short version.
- [Carl] Yeah, that is a short version. And we will do more podcasts on that because it has such implications for the entire discussion of where the Middle East is today and the work that that's being done there on those things. Joel, we're gonna take a quick break, but when I come back something we touched on earlier was the future and the future of Christianity in the Middle East. And there's so many implications coming out of these Abraham Accords. And we wanna touch on those after we get back in just a moment. Hi, this is Carl Moeller, Executive Director of The Joshua Fund. I don't know about you, but I love to have someone to talk to after I've learned something new. If you're the same, share this podcast with a friend or family member and discuss together the many ways God is moving in the epicenter. From all of us at Inside The Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg, thank you. Hey, Joel. Hey, everyone. We're back. We'd love to talk, Joel, coming out of the Abraham Accords about Christianity in the Middle East. And I think many of our listeners won't really understand what the nature of Christianity is in the middle East. I think you've often said that if it was easy to evangelize in Israel, it would have been done 2000 years ago. That was the first place that Christianity was born. And throughout the Middle East Christianity flourished for centuries until the rise of Islam. And then Christianity took a very different role there. But coming out of these Abraham Accords and coming out of the current context, what do you think the future of Christianity is in the Middle East? And maybe the future of faith in general in the region?
- [Joel] Well, it's a great question. And it has multiple elements. First, I would say that the future of Christianity is very bright in the Middle East, even though it's been the least fruitful area on the entire planet for the last 2000 years. I mean, at the beginning, yes as you say, this is where Jesus preached and where he died and where he rose again. And this is where the apostles initially began preaching and teaching and making disciples. And we saw tens and tens of thousands of Jewish people come to faith in the Book of acts. And then of course, the gospel began to spread globally and churches, wonderful churches were established in Egypt and in Iraq. And ultimately Thomas took the gospel to India and we really saw the gospel spreading super dramatically and fruitfully. But after those first few centuries, first century maybe into the second, certainly by the time you get to the 14th century and then the rise of Islam. But even before that, I think Christian communities grew, but mostly we saw much more fruits in Europe and elsewhere, but in many ways, the gospels coming back to Jerusalem, coming back to the Middle East, meaning Christians all over the world from certainly the United States and the Americas, but also South Korea and Singapore and Hong Kong and Taiwan and throughout Asia are excited to make sure that every Muslim and every Jewish person has at least heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. How could they believe unless they've heard and how can they hear unless somebody tells them, and how can somebody tell them unless they're sent, which means encouraging them to go and training them and funding them and praying for them. And so there's a real wonderful movement worldwide, both from east and west of Christians saying, "We need to make sure that the least evangelized region of the world, the least fruitful area of the world in the modern era, that everyone has at least had a chance to hear." Especially because there's war and revolution and terror and genocide, right? So more and more of that is happening. And I think that's a good thing. Now, I think that the question of Christianity recently look just a few years ago, we had the rise of the Islamic state, ISIS, which built a caliphate about the size of Massachusetts, I believe. And that caliphate, that ISIS country was engaged in actual outright genocide. This was declared by Congress effort, careful investigation. This was declared by the Obama administration, Secretary John Kerry, declared what ISIS was doing against Christians in particular, but also against other religious minorities like Aziz, this was outright genocide. Now what does genocide mean? It means when like a state or a group is trying to liquidate, annihilate, eliminate an entire religion in an area either by killing everybody or by driving them out of the region or by forcing them to convert to something else. And this is what ISIS was doing and it was accurately described as genocide. So this was in Syria, this was in Iraq. This was just a few years ago. So it seemed if you'd ask me this question a few years ago, we would say the future of Christianity seems pretty grim, right? But now the caliphate has been destroyed by American and Kurdish and Arab allied military action. Quite a bit of which I describe in "Enemies and Allies" 'cause it was a big deal and very encouraging the liberation of more than five million people. And the end of genocide against Christians. We also see as I described in the book and you and I have talked a little bit on previous podcasts, we've seen churches in Egypt being rebuilt, all of the ones that were damaged, destroyed or burned down by the Muslim brotherhood and by other radical terrorist forces during the Arab spring, the Egyptian uprisings, all those churches have been rebuilt at government expense to honor the Christians and President el-Sisi, asked me to come and bring a Christian delegation, Evangelical delegation to be part of the unveiling of the largest Christian Church ever built in the history of the Middle East, which he was going to give to the Christians of Egypt on Christmas Eve. That's quite a gift and I was there and it was pretty amazing. And I described that in the book. So there were some encouraging things going on after a season of very terrible things. But to summarize then, Jesus talks in Matthew 24 about birth pangs. Jesus says there's gonna be a whole series of bad things that are gonna happen as we get closer to the return of Christ. And the analogy Christ uses is the analogy of a woman in labor. And the closer you get to the moment that you want the arrival of the person that you want to embrace and rejoice and celebrate his or her entry into the world, as we get closer to that moment, the mom is going through tremendous pain, a contraction that's painful and serious, and then a release, a contraction and a release. And this keeps happening and the contractions get longer and more painful as you get closer to delivery to the moment you want and the release moments get shorter. And this is Jesus's way of describing what's gonna happen. And he gives us this list right in Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13, what type of contractions are coming. And one of those of course is the persecution of the church. And you used to head up the organization, Open Doors with brother Andrew in North America, right? And Open Doors is super clear in their annual report, there is more persecution of followers of Jesus Christ today than at any other time in human history. So those birth pangs are happening. The ISIS experience was part of that, but by no means the only part of that. And yet there's one other part I'll mention which Matthew 24:14, a positive moment that Jesus says is going to happen where this gospel of the kingdom, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end shall come. So in addition to all the horrible things that are gonna happen in the middle of that followers of Jesus Christ are going to be found faithful in making sure that everyone in the world, including the Middle East, including the epicenter will at least heard that there is good news and in doing so, then they can make their own decision. Do they wanna receive Jesus as Messiah, King Lord or reject him. But how could they even make that decision unless they did at least heard the case. So both things are gonna be happening simultaneously. And that's the short version of the future of Christianity in this region.
- [Carl] Yeah, it is a paradox in the scripture is unapologetic about the paradox of all of this pressure, all of this pain and all of this, as you said contraction happening around the church and around the region, but at the same time, the very pressure and the very persecution that comes upon believers causes an explosion of gospel sharing. We've seen that through history, haven't we? I mean, when you mentioned the diaspora of the early church Rome and the Jewish authorities at the time decided to persecute the church intensely. So there were scattered throughout the region Bible says. And we've seen it in history to, wherever the church is persecuted it can be extinguished. We've seen that in places like Asia Minor, the church didn't have the strength under persecution to survive in many of those cities of Revelation and everything are no longer the churches in those area or were not for many, many centuries. But where the church has a grounding and a strength and a rootedness and the gospel is a source of that strength, the church can flourish under persecution. And I think that's a message that many of us sometimes miss that the church... In fact, we will talk in future episodes about some of the other countries where the church is flourishing under persecution in the neighbors of Israel.
- [Joel] One quick example. There's a lot in the Middle East. I think one of the reasons there hasn't been as much fruit in this region. In part, yes is because radical Islamism has dominated in many, many countries in the region and has tried to stamp out Christianity. However, in the country where radical Islamism is practiced most fiercely, we're seeing a great awakening. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, you have a tyrannical hyper anti-Christian regime under the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and yet under this last 40 or so years, 50 years of tyranny, anti-Christian tyranny, the church has grown dramatically from only about 500 Muslim converts to Christianity in Iran, in all of Iran in 1979 before the Islamic revolution, before the arrival of Ayatollah Khamenei. But today there are well over one million Muslims, who've left Islam and come to faith in Jesus Christ and our friend, the Billy Graham of Iran, Dr. Hormoz Shariat has described in a book that I encouraged him for many years to write and he finally did, and I wrote the forward to it. There's a great awakening going on in Iran. And so that tells us a regime that wants to stamp out Christianity is having the exact opposite effect. And that is just one example in the region of the principle that you just described.
- [Carl] And it happened in Rome, you know what I mean? It happened in places around the world where we thought that Christianity would never take root. It happened in China, under communism the church flourished. So I pray and I know many of our listeners will pray for the church to flourish in the Middle East. Maybe as we pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the protection of our brothers and sisters, we also need to pray simply that God would do his work to flourish the church, because we see this paradox that there is gonna be increasing persecution. But at the same time, we also see many, many millions potentially coming to faith in that region. What a blessing that would be to see that, wouldn't it?
- [Joel] Amen. And a verse that I forgot to share when we were describing what's the future of Christianity. Well, let's look at Romans 11:26, God says specifically, all Israel will be saved.
- [Carl] Amen.
- [Joel] That's a separate show to unpack the nuances of that verse. But imagine the Bible does not say all of America will get saved or all of Germany will get saved or all of Brazil will get saved, though Brazilians are coming to faith in Jesus Christ and millions and millions and millions, a huge number. I have a Brazilian sister-in-law and boy, I just learning through her eyes and her husband's eyes, wow what God's doing in Brazil. But my point is Israel is the only country where God says, "All Israel will be saved." And part of that, why did God say that? Well, 'cause it's true, but also to encourage us not to forget that even though my team, the Jewish team have been very resistant to the claims of Jesus as Messiah over the centuries, that will not always be the case. And as we've discussed in other podcasts, more Jewish people have come to faith in Jesus Christ over the last 60, 55, 60 years than at any other time in human history. We're now worldwide at about one million followers of Jesus Christ as Messiah who are Jewish, like Jewish followers of Jesus, a million. That's really quite extraordinary when you think of the history of the Jewish people. And I will add in a world of only 16 or 17 million Jewish people to have a million Jewish people who believe that Jesus is Messiah is pretty dramatic in terms of just of a pure percentage. Now there will be listeners to this, viewers of this, people who track me, who get enraged, Jewish people will get enraged by what I'm saying, but I'm speaking the truth. These are the numbers. And we have data, that backs that up. And then we might wanna do a program in the future where we bring in some of the people that did the research so we can discuss, why do we say that there's a million Jewish people who believe in Jesus now, let's have that conversation. But I wanna say this too, historically yes there are Jewish people who don't wanna hear about Jesus and they don't want to hear that Jewish people are saying yes to Jesus. I get that. I understand that. I have members of my own family, extended family that don't wanna hear about Jesus and aren't happy to have the conversation. I get that. But let me just put it this way for now. If you believed the Jewish Messiah had come and had changed your life, would you tell somebody else about it so that he could change their life too or would you keep your mouth shut? And love directs us to at least tell people we're not the inquisitors, we're not the crusaders. Let's not try to force people, Jews, or Muslims or anybody to believe, but how can they believe unless they at least heard the case. And that's, I think important. And it's important to me personally, because Jesus has changed my life and my father's life and my son's lives and all of our lives. And somebody needed to tell us about that so we could process it for ourselves. And I get it that some people get super angry about this. I totally get it. But in fact, the apostle Paul who wrote nearly half the New Testament was one of those religious Jewish leaders who said, "No, Jesus is not the Messiah and I'm gonna persecute any Jewish person who believes in Jesus." Until he himself had an encounter with the risen savior, Jesus. And that made all the difference in his life.
- [Carl] Boy, I'll tell you, Joel, you and I have seen and talked with some of those modern day Pauls, Sauls to Pauls who have had the experience of conversion from such a different viewpoint. And it is so humbling and so powerful to realize that God is still doing that work today among Jewish people and among Arabs and all of that. And I guess I would ask you, what do you think some of the top needs of our Christian brothers and sisters, whether they're from the Messianic community in Israel or the Palestinian communities and the neighboring countries, where do you see the needs falling right now?
- [Joel] Well, there's a number of needs, Carl, as I've crisscrossed, obviously throughout Israel, but also from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east and hit most of the Arab countries in the region, the combination of Jewish believers and Arab believers is they certainly need prayer because the spiritual warfare against them is pretty intense. Now, the more mature we become in our faith in Christ and the deeper we get into the scriptures, the more we realize that what we see is the physical realm, but what we don't see as a spiritual realm, and there are powers and principalities demonic forces trying to mess with us every moment of every day, especially if we're a Jewish follower of Jesus or a follower of Jesus from a Muslim background, or that we live in a country in this region where most people are against, or even hostile to what we believe. Persecution on the outside is bad but the intensity of spiritual warfare is even worse and it's exhausting and it can be frightening because you're dealing with an enemy you can't see, but you can feel. So, one of the things I found, especially let's say with I mean, certainly lay people, but pastors and ministry leaders, both on the Jewish side and in the Arab world, dealing with intense exhaustion, nightmares, financial pressures, people inside their congregations or ministries attacking them and relentlessly trying to rip them to shreds. I had somebody who claimed be a Christian who in the early days of The Joshua Fund slapped a $120 million lawsuit on us. You're a new ministry, you're just getting started, it wasn't a Muslim organization that did this. It wasn't a radical, Orthodox Jewish organization. This was a guy who claimed to be a follower of Jesus Christ. He was going after us. He was gunning for us. And throughout my life and certainly throughout The Joshua Fund ministry, I've had people threaten me and attack me. Yeah, sometimes it's been from unbelievers, but sometimes you're like, "You gotta be kidding me." They're people who are even prominent. So like it happens. And I think that we need to be praying and not in some sort of gauzy, "Oh Lord, I just pray you bless my..." Yeah, no, that's fine but again, the more you learn about the life of followers of Jesus in this region, the more you begin to understand, they need our active prayers. They need prayer for the ability to sleep. I cannot even tell you how many people I know, myself and my wife included, who are not getting good sleep because of the spiritual warfare, the attacks from the enemy. Again, if somebody doesn't understand what we're talking about, it's gonna be hard for me to describe to them, but attacks, and again, attacks against your children, attacks against your finances, again. All kinds of problems. So that's the main thing is prayer. But then of course, many believers in this part of the world, especially in leaders, they feel like nobody outside the region has any idea who they are or what their challenges are, just encourage them, stand with them, come visit them. I mean, it's amazing the Apostle Paul, right. When you think of the first missionary journey, all right, let's preach the gospel and just sort of establish churches, but in the second and third journeys, yes, he's still preaching the gospel but a big part of what he's doing is saying, "I wanna go back in and see my brothers and sisters. I wanna encourage them. I wanna answer questions they have. I wanna teach. I wanna train. I wanna just be with them because it's hard." It's hard to do this in cultures that are resistant and hostile. And just that sense of visiting and encouragement and of course, because of COVID, that's been harder for our colleagues to do. It's been hard. You haven't even been in the region yet and you've been the Executive Director for The Joshua Fund as we record this for coming up on, I don't know, 18 months or so.
- [Carl] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
- [Joel] You just happened to come in during the COVID plague. The one other area I would say of course, is financially, most pastors here in Israel, for example, and throughout the Arab world, honestly, most are shepherding 20, 30, 50, a 100 people. The mega church in Israel, maybe the largest congregation I can think of is maybe 500 people, 600 people. We go to a congregation of maybe 300 people. These are the mega churches, right? Now, most churches in the United States and Canada, for example, there are about a 100 people, but a lot of people go to churches of 10,000, 30,000, right? Some of our dear friends who are pastors, they pastor congregations that have more followers of Jesus than the entire nation of Israel has in the whole country. So, one of the challenges of that is most pastors here don't take a full salary or a salary at all. They have to work full time and they're pastoring. They don't have a secretary. They don't have someone to help them with logistics and administrative things, bookkeeping. They don't have the finances to hire a youth pastor, this is just hard. And they think, "Whoa, where am I gonna go do this? Am I gonna spend all my time outside the land of Israel or outside the Arab Muslim world trying to build relationships with pastors and Christians and foundations? If I spend all my time trying to raise money outside, how am I shepherding the flock and trust it to my care where I'm supposed to be?" That's a tension.
- [Carl] Yeah.
- [Joel] So yeah, there's a number of these things. And that's just a few off the top of my head.
- [Carl] Well, that's why I love the fact that God allowed you and Lynn to found The Joshua Fund because in a sense, everything you described there is really the focus of our ministry, prayer, uniting the body in the Middle East, Jewish believers, Arab believers in prayer and praying for and mobilizing prayer here in the United States and other countries around the world for the believers in the Middle East providing that personal touch, that encouragement, that uplifting. I love to envision that we uphold the arms of those that are in the place of of battle and that are standing in that gap for us. And you said it right, it's a spiritual battle. It's something that requires the encouragement of brothers and sisters around the world. And The Joshua Fund does that. It does that through our Preach The Word Conferences and our retreats and various other things where we take pastors and their wives away to refresh them, to renew them, to teach the word and to encourage them to uplift and embolden them. But at the same time to really seed and water into their lives love and care and concern. And financially stand alongside churches that like you said, small congregations, sometimes just struggling home fellowships that need the resources to reach out and through many of our programs and things that we come alongside these congregations and do that. So I'm really grateful-
- [Joel] If you think about it over the last 15 years, since the Lord founded this ministry, the Lord has enabled us as a team to invest more than $80 million in strengthening the church in Israel and the Arab world. And that's amazing. When I was writing the book "Enemies and Allies" I describe The Joshua Fund because I wanted to describe, okay, all this stuff is happening, how does this affect Lynn and me? Like, what's our so what? And so what normally isn't meeting with kings and crown prince is it's being engaged in The Joshua Fund and making a specific practical difference in the lives of believers here and helping them. But in the book I use a number of $50 million.
- [Carl] We corrected you.
- [Joel] And I used that number for a number of years, and I didn't even think, with all the research I did I never thought to come to you and the team and say, "Could you just update where are we today." And so that's a correction I hope I can make in the paperback edition, but it's actually $80 million, which is a total testimony to the grace of God. And yet it's just a drop in the bucket of what's needed. And as a ministry like ours gets to know more people, then you start to see more needs and you think, "Wow, all right, Lord, they're your children." We can't take this burden on and it's like our fault that we can't fund, but we say, "Would you allow us to do more? And how would we do that father?" Now, he doesn't need our money. He can use loaves and fishes. But sometimes as Paul did on his third missionary journey was travel and say, "I'm gonna preach. I'm gonna encourage. I'm gonna teach, but I'm also gonna raise funds to bring back to Jerusalem to care for the believers who it's just not possible for them to provide in a way that God can provide." And the joy of Gentile believers assisting their Jewish brothers and sisters in the land, knowing this is important, how can I make a difference. Even poor churches these weren't rich people in Europe or in Asia Minor. These weren't people that were like, "Oh, I used to be the head of a multinational corporation. And now I follow Jesus. Here's my money, take me." I mean, most people were like, either they're giving out of their poverty, 'cause they say I wanna be helpful. And that's what I love. The widow's mite, that was more to Jesus. It meant more to him than somebody giving out their wealth. She was giving out of her poverty. And while we don't believe in using sensationalist tactics or coercion or anything else, we just wanna give people an opportunity. Listen, if you wanna be involved in helping strengthen the local church, the challenge that we all face is not whether we necessarily want to be but how would we do that? How would we know how to help a church of 50 people? How would we know they exist? How would we give that money? How would we know that that pastor is sort of healthy spiritual? That's The Joshua Fund, a mutual fund of sorts saying, "Listen, we'll be your trusted resource and make sure these funds make a difference for the kingdom." And I don't make apologies for it. I know there are Muslims and Jews who hate me for what I do. And I know I run into some Christians that are aren't big fans either and I don't know why, but it's just a weird world, but I love doing this. And I love that you're doing this.
- [Carl] And there's nothing more uniting except for prayer in the body of Christ than giving to support the work around the world. I mean, I think you see that happen in the New Testament with Paul in the Corinthians, just as you mentioned, but it's also happening today. We have people who write us, who email us, who say, "Thank you for standing with the pastors of Israel. Thank you for standing with our brothers and sisters in the Arab countries and for being in a place that I can't be, but I can give and I'm grateful." What a blessing, what a huge blessing to the body of Christ.
- [Joel] I would write these epistles, he's like, "I don't want your money, I want you. I wanna give you an opportunity to invest in the kingdom." And if you don't wanna do it fine, but I'm giving you an opportunity and it's exciting. And if the Lord is in it, great. Of course you remember it, I'm just reminding our audience, when the word was building the tabernacle even in the Old Testament it was very clear. The word made it clear to Moses. Look, people give voluntarily, if they don't wanna give, they don't have to give that's between them and the Lord. People were so excited because they thought, this is important. I wanna be a part of it. Finally, God had to say, "Okay, okay, enough." Like it's too much. We actually have more resources than we need. Unfortunately, I can't say that's where we are in The Joshua Fund because the needs in the region are enormous. But it's just a reminder, the Lord gives the Lord takes away. It's his game. He's leading this thing. We're just trying to be faithful stewards. And I'm grateful for everybody who is a prayer warrior with us and maybe has gotten to know even what The Joshua Fund is because of these podcasts and those who give financially, awesome. We just appreciate it so, so much.
- [Carl] So, so much. And Joel, before we leave, made a promise, the Abraham Accords has been such a crucial component of this conversation. What do you see for the future of the them? Are there other countries that are thinking about joining?
- [Joel] I think there are. And I think one of the things that's interesting about this is suddenly there are Arab Muslim leaders and governments who are like, "We want to be on friendly terms with the Jews. And we wanna be on friendly terms with the Christians." That has not been the case historically, primarily in the Muslim world over the last 14 centuries. There certainly have been seasons where that was true, but there've been seasons that were quite dark, but that's changing. That's a big deal. The Arab leaders were saying, "You know what? I think Israel actually has the legitimate right to exist." And as a Jewish state, yeah, they're friendly to Arabs and yes, they need to improve on various areas and they need to make peace with the Palestinians, but they have the right to exist. And we're not gonna war against that anymore, either militarily or politically, that's a big deal. And one of those countries is Oman, and the Sultanate of Oman. We talked about the Emirates before and Emir is a leader, but Sultan is another Arab word for a leader. And there's a little tiny country called Oman. They've already welcomed the Israeli Prime Minister on a visit several years ago, Benjamin Netanyahu, when he was our Prime Minister, he visited there and they still haven't made peace with Israel, but they were ahead of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Sudan and Morocco in welcoming the Israeli Prime Minister. So when they make that decision, there were 300 Iraquis prominent leaders who called for peace. They said, "We wanna join the Abraham Accords, Iraq to join." Now, they immediately got in trouble for saying that. The Iraq current government doesn't seem ready for that, but that took them out of bravery for 300 prominent government and journalists and academics and faith leaders to say, "No it's time for us to make peace with Israel." We're seeing Lebanese Muslim say, "We should be making peace with Israel." I think the main country though to keep an eye on and there are others, there are others, but the main country I would say is Saudi Arabia. And again, I describe in the book, the steps that they have taken, there are things that I can't say, my conversations with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman MBS, when it came to Israel and peace, those were off the record. He didn't want to speak on the record, but he did have an interesting conversation with us, not just on the first delegation, but also on the second. But I go into what we said to him on both of those trips. And I think our viewers and listeners will find that interesting, but I will say just take three things that he has done they're are all very public invisible. Number one, he said on the record to an American journalist in the magazine, the Atlantic that MBS believes that Israel has a right to exist as a Jewish state. That's a big, big deal for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Number two, the Saudis have allowed Israeli, Emiratis, Bahrainis airliners, civilian airliners, and private jet to fly over Saudi territory as part of the Abraham Accords. The Saudis are not yet part of the Abraham Accords, but they have not stood against it. They have not denounced it. They have not pushed back against it. They're opening their own skies in ways that they've never done in human history, right? So that's a big deal. The third thing is, and I report this in "Enemies and Allies", the Crown Prince MBS invited, then Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Israel then Mossad Chief, Spy Chief, Yossi Cohen, to meet with him on Saudi territory, along with then Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. I point this thing out in the book. It's still an off the record discussion, but it's no longer secret the fact that it even happened. New sources, all Israel news and all Arab news actually was the new sites that confirmed the rumors at the time in December of 2020, that this was happening at all. And I backed that up in the book. But my point is, keep your eye on radar, why are they saying such positive things? Why were they having Israelis like me, much less my wife come and visit? What's happening? I'm not saying that these things couldn't get derailed or sidetracked. And of course the enemies, Iran, the Muslim brotherhood, others, they don't want these peace trees to hold. They don't want new countries to come into the Abraham Accords so we need to keep praying. This is not a time to say, "Whoa, God has answered our prayers. Good, we're done. Let's move on to other things." No, no, no.
- [Carl] There's more.
- [Joel] Iran is more dangerous than ever before. And it's forming an Alliance with Russia and Turkey and North Korea and China. Iran is incredibly dangerous. And so are the radical Islamic terror forces, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Hutis, all the other terrorist organizations whose names start with an H. I mean, it's not good. So there are two trend lines going on. There's the good, and then there's the evil. And it's both happening in real time and we need to pray.
- [Carl] And that's why we call it the epicenter because it is where all of these influences come together. Joel, this is fascinating stuff. And I know our listeners are gonna wanna run out, go to Amazon. I used to say, run to your local bookstore, but no, you don't run to a bookstore anymore. Go anywhere and get "Enemies and Allies". It's an incredible journey through today's turbulent Middle East, but also with that underpinning, that underlying hope that God is at work. Joel, it's been a pleasure talking to you about this incredible book and it's so much fun to be on these podcasts with you.
- [Joel] Appreciate it. And can I just add one last note I didn't think about it before. But, on the book tour, I had the great joy of meeting with the Jordanian ambassador to the United States, who's a friend and giving her a copy of a book for her and to send one back in a diplomatic pouch for his Majesty King Abdullah. I was able to sit down with the UAE Ambassador, my friend, Yousef Al Otaiba in Washington and give copies of the book to him and some to send back to his Crown Prince. To sit with the Bahraini Ambassador, my friend, Shaikh Abdullah in Washington, again, books for him and for the King, King Hamad, a real hero. And we should talk about the Bahrainis more in the future. Sitting with the Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Reema bint Bandar and giving copies to her and her Crown Prince and senior leadership and others, including having lunch with a group of the leaders that helped craft and broker the Abraham Accords, Jared Kushner, and have a chance to give him a book and chat with him and his inside team. So it's just been fascinating to see how they are gonna then all react to the story because this is not gonna be the only book that's ever written on this topic. I know that there are others who are in motion, but this is the first. And right now it's the only book that takes you inside all these big changes, including the inside story of how the Abraham Accords came to pass and why from a Christian perspective, they're so important.
- [Carl] Yeah. Well, you're right. And I am extremely grateful that we at The Joshua Fund have had the opportunity to kind of stand alongside your work in these diplomatic ways. And I also wanna commend you on great pronunciation of all of those very difficult names. That's tough brother and I like the initials better than-
- [Carl] There you go.
- Joel, in all candor, it's also been an amazing privilege to help lead The Joshua Fund and doing the work that you so beautifully highlighted, standing alongside the believing communities of Israel and the Middle East. It's a privilege and a pleasure to walk this journey with you brother and to see that-
- [Joel] Well likewise Carl, you're a great hire and with so much experience that you brought in, and I'm just so grateful that you're leading that team day to day, and it's great to partner with you on all these projects.
- [Carl] Well, amen. And to our listeners, if you'd like to learn more about The Joshua Fund, stand with us as we stand with those that are in the middle of that spiritual battle, you can visit our website at joshuafund.com. And right there, you can learn about everything that we're doing in the Middle East in the Epicenter to bless Israel and Her Neighbors in the name of Jesus and how you can participate in the healing work we're doing in this critical region. If you've found this podcast valuable, we want you to get in touch with us, let us know who you are. What do you want us to talk about on this show? Do you have a question you want Joel to answer? Again, go to the Joshuafund.com website and click on Contact Us. Feedback from you is incredibly valuable as we continue to deliver and develop this podcast. And as always, you can check out our show notes for anything you heard on the podcast that you'd like more information on. For Joel Rosenberg, I'm Carl Moeller. Thanks for listening to this episode of Inside the Epicenter.