What In The World Is Going On? | Joel C. Rosenberg | The Joshua Fund
Catastrophic and historic hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, terrorism, and nuclear threats. Is God trying to tell us something?
This teaching is from the 2017 Epicenter Conference. Joel's talk is titled: What In The World Is Going On?
Location: Santa Ana, California
- So apparently, September 23rd was not, the end of the world. Who knew? These guys who, they'll tell you... The Fox News actually ran with that. I mean that is the classic fake news that they're always decrying but whatever. The Christian numerologist said that it was going to be September 23rd. I was joking with one of the pastors this week that if God really had set the date September 23rd, just pretend, don't you think in his sovereignty he would have moved it just because of that guy? So... nobody knows the day or hour, but apparently these people they think they've got some secret knowledge now. What a joy and honor to be here with you all who take the Bible so seriously. Look, so much is happening in our world we're going to talk about tonight that is evidence that we are getting closer to the return of Christ. You do not need to embellish. You do not need to sensationalize and extrapolate and I'm very grateful that you're a congregation that takes the word of God so seriously, not just a congregation, but a movement. And it's an honor to be back here with you tonight. And I want to thank you for inviting me. Thank you for hosting the 2017 Epicenter Conference. And I want to thank you so much for your faithful support for The Joshua Fund. Now, this is a ministry that my wife Lynn and I founded in the summer of 2006 with a very specific mission, to mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus according to Genesis 12:1-3, the Abrahamic covenant. And under the leadership of Pastor Chuck, you were one of the first congregations in the world to come alongside us and want to get involved. I think you were the third, literally. I mean, it began with Pastor Chuck, it's continued under Brian's leadership and I am just incredibly grateful on behalf of the entire Joshua Fund board and staff. Thank you for being one of these partners right from 2006. It was actually the fall of 2006, September, 11 years ago last month that I released on this stage my first non-fiction book, "Epicenter" which led to a documentary, which led to the first ever conference that we did. It was interesting because after doing the event here and releasing the book and talking with Pastor Chuck and then spending some time in Albuquerque with Kip Heights, suddenly these guys are saying, "Let's do a conference in Jerusalem. "You know, you're talking about epicenter. "Don't you think that Jerusalem is the epicenter? "Let's see if we can go and study the word "and worship and praise and connect with local believers." And this began to be exactly what happened by this, by April of 2008, we were hosting together in Jerusalem, the first Epicenter Conference and this one will be the ninth. And, so I was backstage with Pastor Chuck as that first one was going to start. And I said, "You've obviously been doing this awhile "but I'm the new kid on the block. "When was the first time you had a conference in Israel?" He goes, "Well." I won't do that. I won't do the impression. I know you all do it better than me but he said, well, his first was, "Oh, I think it was 1983. "And I did that with Menachem Begin, "the Prime Minister of Israel." I said, "Okay, well that counts." Indeed. So when I think of the Calvary movement I really think of the words of the Apostle Paul to the believers in Philippi. He said, "Grace and peace to you from God our father "and the Lord, Jesus Christ. "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you "always offering prayer with joy "in my every prayer for all of you "in view of your participation in the gospel "from the first day until now." Now I'm not the Apostle Paul and you're not the church of Philippi. I get that part. But that sentiment really expresses my gratitude for you. And when I think of Calvary Costa Mesa, when I think of the Calvary movement globally is with great gratitude. Because as the Lord began to put this on, lens in my heart, you guys came alongside so quickly and got right involved. I mean, it's interesting, there was no earthly reason... Pastor Chuck had precious little evidence, let's put it that way, to think that we could carry out this heart's desire to come alongside and encourage the local church among Israelis, among Palestinians and then even more broadly in five other countries in the Middle East. We had no staff, we had no money, we had few contacts and almost no experience. And Pastor Chuck, I mean, you know him as a man of faith, I was just getting to know him but that really impressed me, that he said, "How can we get involved?" And he really got involved. So when I talk about the mission of the Joshua Fund and I want to just establish this as we talk about the conference, when we talk about what's really, what's going on in the world right now that I think the timing of this conference is from the Lord. It's the first conference we've had like this in four years. So I think the timing that you all, your leadership wanted to do it. You want to do it now. And I think the timing is really quite amazing. But I want to be clear upfront. What do I mean when we say that our mission is to mobilize Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors, okay? I would just want to get that out up front because that's going to be a big theme of what's going on this weekend. And you see Palestinian pastors, Israeli pastors with us. Simply put, Jesus came into the world as a Jew born in Bethlehem, in Roman occupied Palestine. He came to call the lost sheep of the house of, the lost sheep of the house of Israel, right? That's what he said to begin with. And he called them to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand. Amen. But Jesus did not only come for the Jews, right? We know that of course from John 1, because he came to his own, but his own received him not but as many as did receive him, to them he gave the right to become children of God even to those who believe in his name. So we know that from the first chapter of John but if you dial back into the Old Testament prophecies you will find the mission statement for Jesus right from the earliest of the prophets. So you take Isaiah, for example. Isaiah chapter 49, the father speaks prophetically to the son through Isaiah and he explains his mission. He says, I quote, "It is too small a thing "that you do you should be my servant "to raise up the tribes of Jacob "and to restore the preserved ones of Israel." Okay, just the construction of that sentence tells you that is his mission, to save Israel, to save the Jewish people. However, it's too small a thing just to do that says the father to the son hundreds and hundreds of years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. And so he goes on to say, "I will also make you a light to the nations "so that my salvation may reach "to the ends of the earth." The scripture teach us that Jesus took the gospel not simply to the lost sheep of Israel. He did say that was his name when he got started but he took the gospel to the people of Samaria. What we now would call the West Bank. He took the gospel into Lebanon. He crossed the river, and he took the gospel into the land that we now call the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Matthew 24 tells us something very interesting, verses 24 through 25, sorry, Matthew 4 not Matthew 24, Matthew 4:24-25. Actually, I'm gonna back it up to 23. Jesus was going throughout all Galilee teaching in their synagogues. Okay. So that's clearly Jewish. And proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, right? He's the King. He's bringing the kingdom. He's telling them that they can have, they can be adopted into the Royal family of the King and he's healing every kind of disease, every kind of sickness among the people. The news about him spread. Where? Throughout all of Syria. Okay? And they brought to him people who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, people possessed by demons, epileptics, paralytics and he healed them. Right? The news is spreading to Syria. Yes, Jews are coming for healing, but also people from Syria, people from Lebanon. It goes on to say, verse 25, large crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis. What's the Decapolis? Those were the 10 Roman cities, nine of which were on the other side of the Jordan river. So on the East side, the, what we call the country of Jordan side. And Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan. This was not a gospel just for one people though it started with one. But even then, even at the beginning, Jesus was modeling his love not just for Israel, but for the nations around them. And of course all the way around the world, right? We know that passage is the one we learned in Sunday school first. For God so loved the world. Jesus, as a Jew in Israel, as the Jewish Messiah says, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Well, a lot of people say, "Well, you know those Arabs, "they're not my neighbor, they're my enemy." Okay. So Jesus says, "Love your enemy." Oh, come on, Lord. That pretty much covers everybody then. Exactly. Exactly. And we know, we know how hard it is to love a neighbor. And we know that it takes the Holy Spirit to help us love an enemy, right? Only followers of Jesus are the only ones who are going to do this. I guarantee you, nobody else in the Middle East is trying to love their neighbor and love their enemy. It's not done. And we would only do it if Jesus told us to do it, which he did. And that he gave us the Holy spirit to give us the capacity to do it, which he does. The third element of that is, will we actually do it? And that well, if somebody who's realizing, yeah, maybe not, we don't always do it, but that's what he's calling us to. And these were not bumper stickers sayings for Jesus. These weren't tweets on an early Saturday morning for him. These were commands from the father and he obeyed them. And in so doing, he gave us a pretty amazing model to follow. And from its very inception, the Joshua Fund, and every Epicenter Conference that we've had has been about loving Israel and her neighbors, blessing Israelis and Palestinians, reaching Jews and Arabs and Kurds and Druze and every other ethnic group in that region with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Both and, not either or. And too much of the church sadly, as I travel and I speak, and I see what's going on around the world too often, a lot, Christians seem to tend to divide into a camp. I'm either pro-Israel or I'm pro-Palestinian or pro-Arab. And as though the other side doesn't matter and they may not believe it really in their heart, but sometimes in the language and the actions, it can suggest either an ignorance of, a callousness toward, or an outright distaste and hostility toward the other. That's not the gospel. It's not how Jesus modeled it. And once the Holy spirit began to reveal to Peter and the disciples, oh, he really did mean the Gentiles. Yes, you're really supposed to do that, then they began to get it and they really embraced it. So that is a central part of who we are. And it's going to be a big part, probably the central part of what we talk about this weekend as we take you in and you're going to get to meet these men and hear their stories and see what God is doing in a place where every president, prime minister, foreign minister, secretary of state, ambassador is banging their heads against the wall for a hundred years. They can't make peace. And yet that little section over there is living proof that people who ought to be at war with each other in Christ, are armed and in fact love each other, even in the midst of differences. Amen. So it's going to be an exciting conference, an eye opening conference, perhaps even a life-changing conference. And if you're not already registered, I really hope that you'll do that tonight and join us. Now that said, I'd like to take a few minutes tonight and answer a question that may very well be on your heart. And that's this. With such painful events happening in our own country, why should I care what God is doing in the Middle East? Like, why am I going to give time to that? There's just so much happening here. And it's a very fair question. You know that my talk tonight that as I talked to Brian and Lance about doing this message, I gave them the title, "What In The World Is Going On?" That's the header. And then the subhead was catastrophic hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, terrorism, nuclear threats is God trying to tell us something? And I'll just front load it to say yes. So let's pray. Oh wait. No, we'll unpack that a little bit. So that's what I was going to talk about tonight, but so here's here's USA Today. This is this morning's edition. Okay? Now on the front page of the USA Today is this headline, "Disasters, Nuclear Threats, Shootings: How Much More Horror Can We Handle?" Here's the first few sentences. Okay. Front page USA Today, today. When the month began, a confluence of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires and brewing international nuclear confrontation had some Americans thinking about the end times. Front page, mainstream media. I was, I mean, I know this is what I'm hearing, this is what people are tweeting me. This is, what is going on? And believers are asking from a, trying to understand this biblically, but everybody is asking this question, what is going on? And it's a fair question. On Sunday night, we witnessed sheer evil. A madman in Las Vegas opened fire from the 32nd floor of a casino and when it's all over, at least 59 people lay dead, more than 500 people wounded. Authorities say it's the worst mass shooting event in the history of our country. Now that alone would be bad enough, right? But it, and as shaken as we are because of this, what makes it, what leads it to be things like this on the front page of the newspaper? Not just as an individual event, but as a theme is because it feels like almost every major event that's happening in our country right now is considered the worst in history. It's not just, something is interesting and that's terrible and that sad and we sort of processes it and it's, and we move on, it's every few days, it's something else. And not just something bad but something like worse than we've ever had it before. Hurricane Harvey. Hurricane Harvey dropped 33 trillion, that's trillion with a T, 33 trillion gallons of rainfall on the United States, mostly in Texas. Experts say that these floods were a once in a thousand years event. The Dallas morning news has a headline. This is the costliest and worst natural disaster in American history. This was a few weeks ago now. And so they were expecting at that point, that the recovery cost would be $190 billion. The worst, the worst disaster and most costly disaster in American history. And that was just a couple of weeks ago. And unless you're living in Texas, you almost barely remember it because there's so much that has happened since. Three more massive hurricanes came along after Harvey, Irma, Jose, Maria. Puerto Rico is, setting the politics aside, but the mayor of Puerto Rico, of San Juan says don't, if you're coming back someday, you're not gonna see the Puerto Rico that you knew. You're not going to see the San Juan that you knew. They've been absolutely devastated. Most of the power grid went down. Thousands and thousands and thousands of homes were destroyed by winds and massive flooding. Food shortages, fresh water shortages. 95% of the cell phone towers went down. CNN called it apocalyptic. Now this is not people that are going, "All right. Now, how does that fit With Bible prophecy?" Yeah. We'll call it apocalyptic. No, they're like, you just, you can, even a secular reporter, bless their hearts, can see this is such devastation it reminds you of end times thinking. Then there were the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest that had been going on for two months, almost three now. As of last week, there were 66 wildfires still raging across the Pacific Northwest. More than a million and a half acres have already been destroyed. And here's the Washington Post, again, not a bastion of biblical hermeneutics, okay? The Washington Post said, "The fires have created an apocalypse like condition "in numerous Western States blotting out the noonday sun, "behind thick blankets of smoke "and depositing ash "like freshly fallen snow." Apocalypse like conditions, that's the Washington Post. And the U.S. Forest Service estimates that this has caused at least 2 billion, oh no, it's cost 2 billion dollars just to battle it. They, and they're calling it one of the worst fire seasons in history. Now America is not the only country being shaken. I mean, shaken in big ways. Mexico has just experienced two of the worst earthquakes in a century. Record breaking floods have devastated parts of Asia. Half of Bangladesh is underwater. 40 million people there face severe and potentially life threat food and water shortages. In Venezuela, the economy and their currency are collapsing. Collapsing. People are literally starving. Consider recent news reports. This is one article says, nearly three quarters, nearly three in four Venezuelans have lost at least 20 pounds this year because there's not enough food. Nine out of 10 homes can't cover the cost of what they should eat. At least 10 million people are skipping at least one meal a day, often so that they can at least feed their children. Here's a headline. Head headline. Starving thieves steal animals from Venezuelan zoo to eat as the country struggles with chronic food shortages. Now that could be a sitcom or a Steve Carell movie if it wasn't so serious. I mean, people are eating the zoo animals. That's, and are we even paying attention to the Venezuela? 'Cause we've got so much else on our plate. Another headline. This from a British paper, a respectable paper. "We are living in the end of times." Starving Venezuelans giving away their children to survive. Meanwhile, North Korea just conducted it's sixth nuclear weapons test and it's 14th ballistic missile test just this year. Six nuclear tests over the last decade or so, 14 ballistic missile tests this year. Even as the leaders in Pyongyang, the capital North Korea, "Threatened to launch preemptive nuclear strikes "at the United States and her allies." That's what the North Korean leaders are saying. We are going to launch preemptive nuclear strikes at the United States and your allies. Now consider the Middle East. Terror attacks, suicide bombings continue to devastate families and communities throughout the region. Catastrophic civil Wars are raging in Syria, Yemen and Libya. The Islamic State is losing ground in Iraq, but continuing its genocidal slaughter in Syria. The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, aided by Russia and Iran continue to rob, kill and destroy. An estimated 500,000 Syrians have been killed in this war. And there is no end in sight. My friends, we are witnessing the implosion of a modern Arab state. It is imploding. I hold out little hope that that country can be put back together again. Could it be quieted? It could. But will it be the Syria that we knew? It will not. 4.8 million refugees have fled. 4.8 million Syrians have left the country running for their lives. Almost 5 million people and six and a half million Syrians are displaced inside Syria. Meaning they fled from their homes but they haven't quite crossed the borders. This is half the population of the country. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the other day, "Syria is the biggest humanitarian "and refugee crisis of our time." Meanwhile, Iran continues to threaten to annihilate the state of Israel. Tensions over the Temple Mount in Jerusalem spike, then settle, then spike again, and efforts to create a just and comprehensive peace treaty between Israelis and Palestinians continue to seemingly go nowhere. What in the world is going on? People have all kinds of theories as they do in the paper today. But I believe the answer is actually quite simple. God is trying to get our attention. These events are not random. The God of the Bible is allowing these events to shake us, hopefully to wake us, to get our attention that we might ask him to have mercy on us and help us as we turn to him, that he would turn to us and help us. Consider what the Lord said through the ancient Hebrew prophet Haggai. It's possible that you did not have your devotions this morning in Haggai. And if that's the case, I want to bring in a verse to your attention because actually it's quite interesting. Several verses. In Haggai 2, we read this. For thus says the Lord of hosts. Right? The Lord of armies, of angel armies. Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations. I'm going to shake the heavens and the earth, he continues. I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations. This is God speaking. And he's talking about what's going to be happening in the end times. And he says, "I will shake the nations." Consider what the Lord said through the Hebrew prophet Amos. Okay. Amos 9:9. The Lord says, "For behold, "I will shake the house of Israel "among the nations." Okay, God says very explicitly, I'm going to shake all the nations. And then he specifically says, "I'm going to shake Israel." Consider what the Lord Jesus Christ himself told us in Luke chapter 21, he says, "In the last days, nation will rise against nation "and kingdom against kingdom. "And there will be great earthquakes. "And in various places, plagues and famines "and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven. "There will be signs in sun and moon and stars "and on the earth dismay among nations "in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves. "Men fainting from fear and the expectations "of the things that are coming upon the world "for the powers of the heavens will be shaken." The prophecies are clear. In the last days, the Lord will sovereignly allow evil to advance and disasters to strike, to shake individuals and nations. This is what is happening. God is letting this happen, but the question then becomes again, why? I mean that's what's happening, but why? The reason he's letting us be shaken is so that we may let go of all of the flawed political, philosophical, religious, intellectual notions that we cling to that won't give us true and lasting peace, that don't give us true and eternal hope, that can't bring us any enduring security, that can't provide real forgiveness and atonement from our sins much less life eternal for our soul. He is trying to shake us so that we will let go of what we're holding on so tightly. And that's true for unbelievers, that they may wake up and think, whatever God they're serving or not serving is not sufficient. They need Jesus. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. And the only one who can bring peace. But even among Christians too often, and I would say, especially in the United States, but not not only, but especially, we can, yeah, we love Jesus. We're born again, we have the spirit, but we are focused on other things. We are holding on to other things to bring us excitement, whatever, to fulfillment in our day-to-day and Jesus is saying, "No, I'm going to let you be shaken. "I'm gonna shake you "so that you will let go of anything or anyone "other than Jesus for true hope and fulfillment." Again, why? Because he's coming for us. And he is trying to purify his bride. And he's trying to bring a larger harvest into the family before he comes, right? The Lord isn't letting America and these nations be shaken because he hates us. This is not judgment. Not yet. You'll know it when it's judgment. Actually, I don't believe, based on my belief in the rapture, I don't believe we'll be here for judgment but I do believe we'll be here for a whole lot more shaking unless, he comes immediately to rescue us and take us out. But don't do not plan that you will escape as American believers, that the, whatever almost every other country on the planet has gone through. Like, if you're in Syria right now are you saying, "Well, yeah "I guess someday the tribulation might come." I'm not saying that, the tribulation will come and it will be worse than what's happening in Syria. But if you're in Syria right now you're like, "I'm in a tribulation." I'm not thinking about end times and thinking, "Oh, I guess, I hope the rapture escapes me, takes me out. "So I don't have to go through the civil war." It's already come. There were countries already ruined. So the rapture is not an escape clause to let us think that we, particularly as American believers, won't face what China has faced, what Sudan has faced, what Iran has faced, what Egypt has faced, what all these countries are facing, with revolution and disaster. God is shaking us, maybe especially us because we so easily are drifting. This is not judgment. Not yet. This is a 2nd Chronicles 7:14 moment. Now, so we know that verse, right? If my people who are called by my name humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins and I will heal their land. Now let's keep in mind. 2nd Chronicles 7:14 is not a promise made to the United States, right? It's made very specifically to King Solomon at the dedication of the first temple. It is a promise made specifically to the nation of Israel. However, it is a principle that we see in scripture that if other nations cry out to God and beg him to forgive them and heal their land, to heal their nation, if they're sincere about it, he will do it, right? So we've got a 2nd Chronicles 7:14 principle. Yes. A specific promise for Israel. And by the way, as you will hear from our Israeli pastors, our team is not, I mean, our team broadly speaking, the Jewish people so far are not availing themselves of that promise. Don't glory... We love Israel, but don't glorify Israel. Israel is a lost people. The Jewish people, we are a lost tribe. We need our savior. We are not availing ourselves. If we did, 2nd Chronicles 7:14 is for us. It was given to us first. And it's for us specifically, but the principle of who God is and how he responds to repentance is universal. When Jonah finally went to Nineveh, okay, he didn't even preach repentance. 'Cause he didn't want them to repent. He finally was forced to go there to obey God but he just went and preached judgment, 40 days more and it's over for you. I mean, that's, I mean... Okay, that's not in the Hebrew but I mean, I'll check with my scholars. I feel like that is the heart of it. 'Cause he's so, he's suicidal when they repent. It's almost like he wants to go back in the city of Nineveh and say, "I didn't tell you to repent." They heard the words of judgment. And it so affected them from the poorest of the poor to the King of the country, that they put on sackcloth and ashes and they repented and they fasted and they begged God. They even made the animals fast. God, we are serious please. And when they repented, God relented. And that is the principal. And that's a great example that any country can sort of avail themselves of the heart of God, the character of God through 2nd Chronicles 7:14. It's not a promise for other countries but it is the principle and God responds. Now, how should we respond to the times in which we live? Well, first of all, clearly based on that passage we need to humble ourselves and seek the Lord and repent from our sins while he still may be found, even as believers. The Lord's trying wake up the church. Revival is for the church, right? You can't be revived unless you've been vived. Right? Right, you can't have a revival unless somebody has had life in them already. Right? We talk about this among Israelis and Palestinians. I mean, it's not really revival that we're looking for. Its great awakening. That we need people to awaken from the slumber of death, of spiritual death, and realize suddenly, "Oh my gosh! God is alive. "And he is the lion and he is the lamb. "And I need him." We need a great awakening but revival come from people who have already been vived. And so the church needs to be revived. And a great British evangelist, that my friend Anne Graham Lotz likes to quote. He says, "If you want revival in your own personal life," and that's where it should start, right? Don't pray for revival for somebody else at first, pray for you to be revived. And this evangelist says, "Take a piece of chalk, "go into your room, close the door "and then draw a circle around yourself "and say, oh Lord revive everybody in this circle." That's where we begin. If we are revived, if we begin to repent and really say, "Lord, okay, I love you "but I am not living for you. "Or I'm drifting or I'm crashing, help me." That he responds to those types of prayers. And this type of shaking ought to remind us. You're going out to a concert one night, somebody opens fire from 32 floors up and you're gone. You don't have the next moment in your life to say, "All right, I better get right with God." It better be tonight. It better me now. 'Cause you don't know what tomorrow holds. Now you say, "Now, Joel, okay, "you're getting a little close to the line here. "A little hellfire and brimstone. "You're trying to scare us to get back to Jesus?" Yes. Myself included, right? Yes, we don't know if we get the privilege of our next breath. So we had better get it right. Especially with all the signs that are going on that are consistent with the things that God said that Jesus himself said, that the Hebrew prophets, that the apostle said, "Hey, when you see all these things "happening," Jesus specifically said, "Know that I'm near. "That my hand was right on the door." Now he may decide to wait to open that door and enter, reenter human history for another few days or weeks or years or decades, we don't know, so that more people can come into the kingdom. But we don't know when that moment is, when that's, and we don't know when something horrible is going to happen or we just breathe our last breath. We need to consider our heart condition. This is what the shaking is about first and foremost. Then we need to ask, "All right Lord, as you draw me back "as I say, Lord, I want you, I want all of you. "I want my life to be a hundred percent about you "and nothing about me, then Lord, how can I serve you? "How can I serve you faithfully with my time, with my talent "with my treasure in the time that I have left? "Either naturally or because the rapture's coming "or because whatever is coming." Remember the words of the Lord Jesus again in Luke 21 is picking up from the passage I cited earlier, Luke 21:12-13. They will lay their hands on you and they will persecute you, okay? What's coming as part of the last days is not just earthquakes and famines and wars and rumors of wars, it's the persecution of the followers of Jesus Christ. It happened in the first century. It's happening now in many parts of the world, particularly in the epicenter, in the Middle East people are dying for their faith. Not everybody, obviously not every single country are you dying for your faith, but genocide against Christians is a specific war crime that's going on in Syria and Iraq right now. They will lay their hands on you and they will persecute you. Now in the first century, Jesus refers to, they will be delivering you to synagogues and prisons. That was the main threat when he was speaking about it. Today, he would maybe expand the group of religious buildings. But they will be bringing you before Kings and governors for my name's sake. And Jesus doesn't say, "So, sorry. "That's sort of what comes with being on my team. "I'm sorry. I wish it could be different." No, he doesn't say that. He says, "It will lead to an opportunity for testimony." I don't know how many of you have had the chance to meet a president or meet a King. Paul got to meet them. He wasn't in a receiving line. He hadn't given $250,000 to a major political committee. He, he got arrested for preaching the gospel, but among the people he got to talk to was, by the way like often two or four Roman guards tied to him and he didn't think of himself as being locked up. He thought of them being locked up. You're saying every few hours, I've got at least two and maybe four people chained to me who don't know Jesus, great. Let me share the gospel with them. And then every few hours they change these guards and they lock other two or four other guys, I mean fabulous. Another few hours to talk about Jesus with men who do not know. This is how the story of the gospel spreads all throughout the Caesar's palace is 'cause all the guards hear about Jesus and many of them start coming to faith or at least some of them. So, if you want to meet a president or a King make sure you're preaching the gospel and you might get arrested and you might have the opportunity to talk about the Lord in countries where God sends you or perhaps even this country. We've got leaders who need to know about Jesus. Do we not? And so we need to be praying for these leaders and praying for an opportunity to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with them. "This is an opportunity," Jesus says. He's not saying it's a, it's a disappointment or it's one of the bad things that come to the result of following him. No, it's an opportunity. And we should see it as such. It's an opportunity for your testimony. Jesus continues in Luke 21 and says this. When these things begin to take place, straighten up, lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near. When you're seeing all of these catastrophic things, when God is shaking the heavens and the earth, don't slump down and hide in the corner. No, Jesus says, "Straighten up, lift up your heads." Why? Because your redemption is drawing near. You're getting closer to the return of Christ. And therefore he says, "Truly, I say to you "this generation that sees these things "will not pass away until all these things take place. "So be on your guard "so that your heart will not be weighed down "with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life. "And that day, the day of Christ coming "will not come upon you suddenly like a trap, right?" Keep focused. Don't get depressed and wallow in drinking or other ways to self-medicate. Stay sober, stay focused, stay in the game because your redemption is drawing near. Don't cower, don't hide away because you're going to, because then that day will come upon you like a trap. You don't want to be trapped by the return of Jesus. You want to be liberated by the return of Jesus. You want, you don't want what the apostle John writes in one of his epistles, to shrink back in shame at his coming. No, no, no. We want to be able to say, "Maranatha, come Lord Jesus," and be happy. Joyful when we see him. He continues. Jesus continues to say, this will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the earth. There are going to be terrible traumas and judgements eventually, but keep alert at all times praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place and to stand before the son of man. See, this is ultimately the key, of all those things, of praying, of staying focused, of staying sober, of not cowering in fear, of seeing persecution as an opportunity is because we're going to stand before the son of man. That's what, we're going to see him face to face. Now, those of us who've been atoned for, who the blood of Christ has covered our sins, past, present, and future, we don't have to fear possibly going to hell, that's been covered. But we will give an account for our lives. How did we invest our time? How did we invest our talent? How did we invest our treasure for the kingdom's sake? For the gospel of the kingdom? The good news that the King is coming, and he will set up a kingdom, not a califate but a kingdom based in Jerusalem, all over the planet. And we will worship him forever and ever. Now Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, one of the, in the whole list of all the bad things that will happen as signs that he's getting closer, he does give us a very positive one, right? He says, "This gospel of the kingdom "shall be preached in the whole world, okay? "As a testimony to all the nations "and then the end shall come." Why should I care what's happening in the Middle East when America is being shaken to her core? Because God has given us a great responsibility and a great opportunity in the last days to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to every person in every nation before he comes. And in fact, amen. Surely, if every nation will be reached, if the gospel would be preached in every nation that surely includes Israel. It surely includes being preached among the Palestinians, among the Lebanese, among the Syrians, among the Jordanians and the Iraqis and the Egyptians and everybody else in that region. I believe that the epicenter, the Middle East is the last frontier of the gospel. When I was younger, I would have thought that reaching Muslims was the last frontier of the gospel but it turns out reaching Muslims is the penultimate frontier. Meaning the next to last, because how do I know that? Well, it's hard. I mean, sharing the gospel with anyone, it takes supernatural power of God to quicken people and bring them into the kingdom, whether they're from Huntington Beach or whether they're from, from Saudi, but Muslims are a particularly challenging team to reach, but we need to do it, right? How shall they hear? Or how should they believe if they haven't heard? How shall they hear unless somebody tells them? How shall someone tell them unless they're sent? Or if they're local, to be equipped, right? Well, but the thing that as you begin to look and we'll see some of that this weekend and talk about it the Holy spirit is moving much more powerfully among Muslims than among Jews. I find myself insanely jealous by how many Muslims are coming to Christ? They're seeing dreams and visions. They're looking at at what's happening with radical and apocalyptic Islam and they're thinking, "Well, if that's Islam, "I'm not sure I want to be part of that." And there are now they're studying the Quran, they're studying the New Testament, they're comparing and they're coming to Christ. They're watching satellite television of there's 14 different Christian gospel preaching satellite television networks in the Middle East now, 14. And then, so you're in some closed country or in some radical or Islamic country, and you're clicking through, it's state run television, state run television, state run television, soccer, state run television, state run television, state run news, soccer, state run television, porn, and then people are like... And then you hit 14 different channels that are preaching the gospel in your local language. And people are starting to watch that in the privacy of their own home. And they're thinking, "Hmm, this is interesting." They're listening to gospel radio. There's defining Christ on the internet. God is moving in so many different ways and we'll be talking about those things. What I call the air war. But we'll also be talking about the ground war. You can't only broadcast the gospel by satellite, by radio, through the internet. You need boots on the ground. You need local believers who will answer questions, who will welcome people in, who will begin to explain how to make this real and how to weigh the costs that will come when you follow Jesus. Now, Muslims are coming to Christ in large numbers. Now, in a world of 16 or 1.6 billion people, the many, many tens of thousands that are coming to Christ, that's not enough, okay? But, actually millions, several millions we think it's about 10 million right now, but okay. We don't know exactly. But, so we see God's power moving among Muslims much more has to be done. But honestly, honestly, it's the Jewish team that is the last frontier of the gospel. And it's because of the partial hardening on us, that we got the gospel first and we didn't get it and we rejected it. And it's been a tough slog ever since. We'll talk about that. Yes, Jewish people are coming to faith. Israeli Jewish people are coming to faith. You will meet some of them and you will hear how God is using them to reach our people with the good news. But if it was easy to reach Jewish people with the gospel of Jesus Christ, it would be done by now, right? We're the first team that got it. We're not that many people. Why is that so hard? Come this weekend and find out what God is doing. That there is encouragement amidst the challenge but also find out why we need a global movement of prayer. Why we need Calvary, not just to pray like you have been which is wonderful, but to step it up, it is the nations of the Middle East, both Jews and Muslims and nominal Christians that are in churches but don't realize that you need to be born again. The spiritual warfare to keep these people away from heaven, from the kingdom is off the charts crazy intense. And so we need to understand the dynamic and know how to operate in it. I want to leave you with four critical tasks that I believe are sort of the so what of this. I'm not going to unpack them in detail, as we finish this service, but I'm going to sort of set the stage, because I think if you listen to these four, you will hear themes that begin to be unpacked over the course of the next few days as we have the 2017 Epicenter Conference. So these are the, I think the ways that we are supposed to respond to this moment. The moment being, that God is shaking the world like he said he would, the signs are leading to one fulfillment of prophecy after another, or at least consistent with the prophecies of what Jesus will do, what the father will do as we get closer to the return of Christ. And the focus is to walk with God in humble, in humility, and in holiness, and then with purpose, to go reach every nation and ask God, what nation or nations am I supposed to be focused upon? Because that's what we want to see. We want to see every person in the entire world at least hear the gospel and have an opportunity to make a decision for or against. That's what I want. I want to see every Jew and Gentile in the land of Israel and the surrounding neighbors hear the gospel of Jesus Christ in their heart language, and be able to wrestle it through and process it and make a decision for, I hope or against. But I don't want them to go into a crisis attorney without having a chance to hear. This is what motivates me. This is my passion, because somebody had the love and the compassion to share the gospel with my father and my mother and my family. And that's how we came to know. My father was raised Orthodox Jewish. And when he came to faith in Jesus in 1973, he thought he was the first Jew since the apostle Paul who believed this, okay? He'd never heard of a Jewish person that believes in Jesus. He'd never met a Jewish person who believed in Jesus. And in 1973, there weren't that many Jewish people that believed in Jesus, but our tribe is increasing by the grace of God. And I happen to be one of them. And we've got a few others here. So this is personal for me. And we're going to talk about what God is doing. I want you to hear it but four things I want you to watch for as you come to the Epicenter Conference. These are four things that I think are critical tasks that the church needs to respond to in light of all the things we've talked about. Okay. Very briefly. First, we must understand our times in the light of the ancient prophecies. Okay. That's what we've been working on tonight, right? This is not an option. This is a commandment from our savior. He even criticized his own disciples when he said, "You understand the sky "and the earth, and you understand the weather patterns. "You do not understand the times? You don't discern that?" You know, you're watching the weather channel all day. Okay. And there's been a lot of reasons to watch the weather channel of late, but are we really going to focus so much on the signs of the weather and not focus on the signs of the time and how they correlate to the scriptures? And yet, so many believers have abandoned prophecy. 27% of the Bible is prophecy. And yet, so few pastors teach it. So few believers study it. In part, because they don't want to be lumped with the prophecy nuts. The September 23 lunatics. Well, neither do I, but that doesn't mean we should abandon 27% of what God wants us to know. So first we must understand our times in the light of the ancient prophecies. That's number one. Second, we must be a faithful prophetic witness to the church. Okay? That is, we must call the whole body of Christ to study and teach the whole counsel of God. Not cherry pick our way through the scriptures. It's not healthy, especially as you're going deeper into the last day and the people are being shaken, right? A. W. Tozer, the wonderful God blessed theologian, A. W. Tozer, he said, "A scared world "needs a courageous church." If there's one thing you walk away from this night, I hope it's that quote. A scared world needs a courageous church. That's true in America. That's true here in Southern California where who knows when the next earthquake is going to happen? I hope it's not now. I have a son that lives here now, so, okay. But when you think of the people in the Middle East, war, genocide, terrorism, a scared world needs a courageous church. And they need a church preaching the whole counsel of God, because this is the food. We can't give people cotton candy, a few verses here and there to make them feel better. They need meat and potatoes to be healthy, okay? So we need to help equip the church and encourage the church to be faithful. This is the only way for the body to be healthy, fruitful, faithful in the last days. And so we must help the church here and around the world to understand God's heart for the people of the epicenter and why they should care about it even as they care for people in their own communities. That's second. Third, the third of four. Third, we must be a faithful, prophetic witness to Israel and the Jewish people. Jesus, as I said, Jesus came to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And the scriptures promise that one day all of Israel will be saved. We don't have time to unpack what that means tonight but at least it's encouraging to a Jewish person thinking, "All right, something good is going to happen." But again, how can they believe if they haven't heard most Israelis. And you'll hear this from these men, they'll share. Most really don't know even the name of Yeshuah. That's the Hebrew name. They call him Yeshu. Which means may his name be cursed and forgotten. That most people don't know the story of the gospel even though it happened in their own country, they need to be able to hear. And we need to equip and encourage and just come alongside in love the people that are doing it. And doing it in the local languages. We need to strengthen them, financially support them obviously pray for them. So that's third, we need to be a faithful and prophetic witness to Israel and the Jewish people. Fourth. And just as important. We must be a faithful prophetic witness to the Arab nations, to every person in all the countries surrounding Israel. Yes. I love that you're a congregation that loves Israel. I'm super grateful for that, but I'm also grateful that many of you, maybe all of you, I don't know you. I know your leadership and I know they love both. They get it. That is both and not either or. And let me just say it from your stage. Yes, God loves Israel, but he also loves Palestinians, he also loves Lebanese and Syrians and Iraqis and Jordanians and Egyptians. I say that as an Israeli, I want to love my neighbor. And now that we've moved there and now that we are citizens there, it makes it even more important. I feel even more of a burden, not to just keep the gospel to our team, but to do anything I can to help every team, certainly the church to reach their people. And there's nothing about the gospel that is either or it is both and. And this is the heart of God. I didn't make this up. Okay, I'm a fiction writer, admittedly. So I do make things up, right? People all, the president and everybody's always crying about, bemoaning, say fake news and we see it all over the place, but there is a job for people want to make things up, become a novelist. There's a job for that. It's okay. You just own it. Don't call yourself a journalist, say, "I'm a novelist, I make things up," okay? But I, but I did not make up God's heart for Israel and her neighbors. I didn't make up the line, love your neighbor as yourself. I didn't make up the line, love your enemies. That's Jesus. That's pure Jesus. That's the father's heart coming through his son and we need to embrace it and live it. In conclusion, yes, yes, darkness is falling on our world and yes, God is shaking America and the nations. He told us through the ancient prophets that he would do it. And he's keeping his word. Why? To get our attention. To wake us up, to remind us that these are the last days and the clock is ticking. And to encourage us to be engaged in the work of the gospel to reach every person in every country including the epicenter countries. This is God's heart. This is the heart of the Joshua Fund team. And for me and our team, nothing could be a higher calling. Nothing could be more challenging but nor could anything be more fulfilling. We cannot do it alone. The task is too great. The spiritual warfare is too intense. We need you. We need you to learn and pray and give and go. Which is why I hope you'll join us this weekend at the 2017 Epicenter Conference. Friday, Saturday. Come and learn what the future holds for Israel and her neighbors. Come and meet Israeli and Palestinian pastors who live and serve on the front lines of the most intense and consequential spiritual battle of our age. Come asking what the Holy spirit specifically wants you to do. I look forward to seeing you there. Let's pray. Father, thank you for this congregation. Thank you for how much they've gotten behind this vision long before I was around, long before the Joshua Fund. You gave a heart to Pastor Chuck and his team early and I'm just grateful that they came alongside us as we began to say, "All right, how can we take it further? "How can we do more to encourage the church "in the epicenter fulfill the great commission?" We love you. We can't wait for you to come back. If it's tonight, that'd be awesome. If it's tomorrow, that'd be great. But if you delay, Lord help us be found faithful so that when we see you, we will hear from your lips, "Well done my good and faithful servant. "You've done, you've been faithful in a few things. "I will put you in charge of many things. "Enter into the joy of your master." We look forward to that. We long for that. And we pray in the great name of our King who is coming soon, the name of Jesus Christ. Amen. God bless you.