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We are a Christian Fellowship meeting in North London with a strong interest in teaching the Bible and understanding our time in

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Christians and the Middle East

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Messianic Revival in Israel?

 

In Israel, a resurgence in the number of Jews who believe in Jesus is getting a lot of attention. Many leaders say it’s the strongest growth since the time of Jesus. ‘This is the first time where we’ve seen Israeli society in general being so open to consider who Yeshua is,’ said Messianic leader Asher Intrater. ‘This is a real miracle, and there’s beginning to be grace and favour with us in the land.’ Although Jesus and the early disciples were Jewish, for nearly 2,000 the gospel has been viewed as a religion mainly for Gentiles. Even the name Jesus or Yeshua has been a forbidden word among many Jews. But in the last few years, Messianic leaders in Israel say something important is happening. ‘I believe with all my heart, after we have come back to the land, we are seeing the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is removing the veil from the eyes of the Jews and more and more Jews are realizing,’ Tel Aviv pastor Avi Mizrachi said. Although nobody knows for sure how many Messianic Jews live in Israel, it’s believed there are about 120 congregations now and 10,000-15,000 Jewish believers in Jesus. That may not sound like many, given Israel’s nearly six million Jews, but it’s a far cry from 10 years ago, when there were only about 3,500 Jewish believers and 80 congregations.

 

A resurrected Messiah?

 

The Israeli archeological community is currently abuzz over the discovery of an ancient stone tablet dated not long before the birth of Jesus that strongly suggests that religious Jews of the day were expecting the coming of a Messiah who would suffer, die and be resurrected three days later. Most Rabbis and other Jewish scholars have long argued that the death and resurrection of the Jewish Messiah was a Christian invention, not part of long established Jewish thought or Biblical teaching. But a front page story in Haaretz, a leading Israeli newspaper, has a lot of people asking, ‘Are Jews really supposed to believe their Messiah will actually die and rise again, and was this really Orthodox religious thinking before the time of Jesus?’

 

Hamas leader’s son becomes Christian

 

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz featured an interview with Masab, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheikh Hassan Yousef, who has become a Christian. Masab who now calls himself Joseph says, ‘I know that I’m endangering my life and am even liable to lose my father, but I hope that he’ll understand this and that God will give him and my family the patience and willingness to open their eyes to Jesus and to Christianity. Maybe one day I’ll be able to return to Palestine and to Ramallah together with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God.’

 

He describes how he grew up in a religious family and was arrested by the Israelis for radical activities, but became disillusioned with Hamas as he saw corruption within the organisation. When he was in Jerusalem he received an invitation to come and hear about Christianity. ‘Out of curiosity I went. I was very enthusiastic about what I heard. I began to read the Bible every day and I continued with religion lessons. I did it in secret, of course. I used to travel to the Ramallah hills and to sit there quietly with the amazing landscape and read the Bible. A verse like ‘Love thine enemy’ had a great influence on me. At this stage I was still a Muslim and I thought that I would remain one. But every day I saw the terrible things done in the name of religion by those who considered themselves ‘great believers.’ I studied Islam more thoroughly and found no answers there. I re-examined the Koran and the principals of the faith and found how it is mistaken and misleading. I now see God through Jesus and can tell about him for days on end, whereas the Muslims won’t be able to say anything about God. I consider Islam a big lie. The people who supposedly represent the religion admired Mohammed more than God, killed innocent people in the name of Islam, beat their wives and don’t have any idea what God is. I have no doubt that they’ll go to Hell. I have a message for them: There is only one way to Paradise - the way of Jesus who sacrificed himself on the cross for all of us.’

 

‘I respect Israel and admire it as a country. I’m opposed to a policy of killing civilians, or using them as a means to an end, and I understand that Israel has a right to defend itself. The Palestinians, if they don’t have an enemy to fight, will fight each other. You Jews should be aware: You will never, but never have peace with Hamas. Islam, as the ideology that guides them, will not allow them to achieve a peace agreement with the Jews. They believe that tradition says that the Prophet Mohammed fought against the Jews and that therefore they must continue to fight them to the death. They have to take revenge against anyone who did not agree to accept the Prophet Mohammed, like the Jews who are seen in the Koran as monkeys and the sons of pigs. They speak in terms of historical rights that were taken from them. In the view of Hamas, peace with Israel contradicts Sharia and the Koran, and the Jews have no right to remain in Palestine.’

 

‘Many people will hate me for this interview, but I’m telling them that I love all of them, even those who hate me. I invite all the people, including the terrorists among them, to open their hearts and believe. Now I’m trying to establish an international organization for young people that will teach about Christianity, love and peace in the territories, too. I would like to teach the young people how to love and forgive, because that’s the only way the two nations can overcome the mistakes of the past and live in peace.’

 

This story along with other articles containing positive material about Christianity has been published in the main Israeli newspaper Haaretz. This is a remarkable development and something to praise the Lord for.

 

Ahmedinejad addresses UN

 

The Iranian President Ahmedinejad addressed the UN on 23rd September. He began his talk ‘In the name of Allah, the Lord of the Universe’ and then prayed ‘O Allah, hasten the arrival of the Imam Mahdi and grant him good health and victory and make us his followers and those who attest to his righteousness.’ The Mahdi is the Islamic Messiah figure who, according to Shiite Islam, has been in hiding since the 9th century and will reappear at a time of great crisis at the end of days. He will bring in the Islamic world rule with the help of Jesus who will also return at the end of days according to Islam.

 

Ahmedinejad gave a long speech about justice and peace. In the course of this he blamed ‘some criminal and occupying Zionists’ for ‘carnage and invasion’ and killing the true owners of that land (i.e. Israel – of course he never mentioned that word!). He accused the ‘underhand actions of Zionists’ for the conflict in Georgia. He then said, ‘The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists. Although they are a minuscule minority, they have been dominating an important portion of the financial and monetary centres as well as the political decision making centres of some European countries and the US in a deceitful, complex and furtive manner. This means that the great people of America and various nations of Europe need to obey the demands and wishes of a small number of acquisitive and invasive people. These nations are spending their dignity and resources on the crimes and occupations and the threats of the Zionist network against their will.’

 

This is a classic piece of anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic propaganda giving the lie that a handful of Zionists control the world, as is found in the forged document ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ which inspired fascism and anti-Semitism in Europe - Nazi Germany and Russia in particular - during the 20th century.

 

While he accuses ‘Zionism’ of being the root of all evil, his own country Iran is groaning under the chronic misrule of the mullahs and their government led by Ahmedinejad. The worst drought on record is ravaging the Fars district where average rainfall is down 68% this year. The situation is so bad that Ayatollah Mohiedin Haeri Shirzai, Friday prayers leader in Shiraz the provincial capital, urged everyone to pray for rain. The people of Eghlid have good reason to urge divine intervention - up to 85 per cent of the towns 100,000 population relies on farming and livestock to survive. According to the local state agriculture organisation, the drought had inflicted losses of more than $2 billion by July. The problem is that in autumn there will be no water for next year, said Mansour Rashidi, a provincial ministry of agriculture expert. The underground water table will not be replenished. We will be hit with the lowest amount of water ever because we have used up all the reserves. We are dying of hunger.’

 

The increase in food prices accelerated in Iran in September, when the cost of a basket of 45 staple food items showed a mighty leap of nearly 50 percent from the same month a year earlier, the Kargozaran newspaper reported Sunday, citing central bank figures. In August, Iran’s inflation rate reached 27.6 percent, as citizens were again battered by rising prices of foodstuffs and other goods. The falling price of oil is bad news for Iran which needs the price to stay above $ 90 a barrel. If it goes below this price (and it already has) the government will need to tighten their public expenditure policy, and probably cut subsidies. This would lead to rising popular discontent.

 

It could also affect Iran’s nuclear programme and cause them to default on payments to the Russians. It is possible that Saudi Arabia, which fears the nuclearisation of Iran as Israel does, is deliberately causing the price of oil to go down by keeping production levels high. The aim is to bankrupt Iran and cause the end of the Ahmedinejad government and its nuclear programme.

 

Worth praying for, particularly in the light of the fact that ‘in the name of Allah the compassionate’ the Islamic regime is seeking to bring in the death penalty for ‘apostasy’ – those who convert from Islam to another religion, in particular Christianity. Currently under arrest are Christian converts, Mahmoud Mohammad Matin-Azad, 53, and Arash Ahmad-Ali Basirat, 40, who have been detained since May 15. Both were charged with apostasy just days before the first stage approval of the bill. If the apostasy bill does pass, both the converts’ lives would be in serious danger.

 

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has welcomed the recent declaration by the EU calling for Iran to drop the Apostasy Bill. “The international community must continue to urge the Iranian Government to release all those detained on the basis of their religious affiliation and respect their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” CSW’s Lambert declared. “CSW joins the EU in requesting the Iranian parliament to drop this bill without delay.” The bill is to be sent back to the Legislative Commission for amendment proposals before it is returned to Parliament for another vote. Iran is ranked third in Open Doors’ World Watch List for countries with the worst persecution of Christians.

 

‘I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you.’ Genesis 12.3.

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