(Photo: Chosen People Ministries)
NEW YORK – The Middle East crisis is gripping the world's attention now more than ever with the growing Iranian nuclear threat and possibility of attacks on Israel. One upcoming conference will seek to address not only how believers should prepare for prophetic events associated with the crisis, but also how to reach the lost and lead them to Christ.
Israel, The Church and the Middle East Crisis conference takes place March 23-24, 2012, at Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., and it is being organized by a Messianic Jewish organization called Chosen People Ministries.
The organization, founded in 1894, exists to pray for, evangelize, disciple, and serve Jewish people everywhere and to help fellow believers do the same. Chosen People Ministries serves in 13 countries across the globe and is involved in cooperative efforts between Jews and Christians to glorify Christ's message of peace.
The conference next month is being hosted by Dr. Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen Ministries, who has served in that role since 1997. Glaser has been extensively involved in Jewish evangelism in several countries, and was instrumental in helping to establish a congregation among Russian Jewish immigrants in New York, where the organization is based.
Among the conference's top guest speakers are Dr. Walter Kaiser, president emeritus and Colman M. Mockler and distinguished professor of Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as Joel C. Rosenberg, an evangelical Christian and New York Times best-selling author who recently warned at a conference that war with Iran is "imminent."
Besides discussion on biblical prophecy and the Middle East crisis, the conference will also feature music by Steve Wiggins, a five-time Grammy award nominee and one of the leading voices in Christian music, as well as Marty Goetz, a worship leader, singer, songwriter and Messianic Jewish artist.
The Christian Post sat down for an interview with Dr. Glaser on Wednesday, Feb. 22, and the Chosen People Ministries president elaborated on the conference topics and the purpose behind the seminar.
CP: What would you point out as the main reasons to have such a conference now?
Glaser: The Middle East crisis has been going on for thousands of years, and intensifying since 1948 when modern Israel came into existence. It has intensified even more so now with the Iranian threat, with Israel trying to make decisions about whether to take first strike or not. If you look at things biblically, it is microwaving events of the last days. Based upon the Old Testament and the teaching of the New Testament, Israel will become the focus of the world as we start approaching the second coming of Jesus. We think that that is happening right now – with the nuclear threat, the level of hostility and the level of war [it] takes on a whole new dimension.
We should be praying for Israel, and particularly as believers in Jesus, we should take stock of our own life and our own hopes and dreams because if the end is near and prophetic events seem to be happening before our very eyes, then we need to think soberly about our priorities and about our future.
CP: With constant threats from Iran and even some Obama officials admitting that diplomatic resolutions with Iran might not succeed, leaving war to be the only option, do you think that war truly is "imminent" now?
Glaser: Nobody really knows for certain, but I do know that many of the soldiers in Israel are on high alert. They do not do that unless something is really concerning them. Our goal is as we see the events of the last days unfolding, to see both Jews and Muslims hear about Jesus. We have always been told by the Lord that the time is short; it's just that we don't really believe it until events like this happen. Now we start taking it seriously. If Jesus is coming soon, if all the prophecies about Israel being attacked by her neighbors might just happen, we need to preach the Gospel to both Jews and Muslims.
What is so important about our conference right now is that we need to preach the Gospel. The nature of the conference is to inform Christians biblically about where things are going. That will be done by myself, Joel Rosenberg, and Dr. Kaiser, who is one of the finest Old Testament theologians in the United States.
We know that some Christians differ but we unashamedly believe God promised the land of Israel to the Jewish people. But we also love the Palestinians. We even love the Iranians. We will be having seminars at this conference not just on prophecy, not just on Israel, but on sharing the Gospel with the Jewish people. We will also have experts coming in to teach us how to share the Gospel with the Muslims.
CP: In your experience, is talk about the Rapture and the current developments in the Middle East moving more Orthodox Jews and Muslims toward Christ?
Glaser: We are focusing on the entire Jewish population – religious, irreligious, liberal, less liberal, and also the Orthodox. As a Chosen People, we are not directly focusing on Muslims but we do want our conferences to serve as a platform for those who are reaching Muslims and are trying to expand their ministry.
If Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Iranians – if we become believers in Jesus, then there will be more peace. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. We know that things will blow up in the last days but we believe that every single day without war is a good day for a Jewish mother and an Arab mother.
CP: Obviously, people at large do not want to see war happen, but at the same time, such events in the Middle East are linked to the Rapture and the second coming of Christ, which for believers is a joyous event. So how should believers in Christ direct their prayers? How should they prepare?
Glaser: That is a great question. The Bible has always told us, in Psalm 122 verse six, to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Then there is a promise – "They will prosper those who love thee." That word of God through the Psalms stands the test of time. You can never go wrong praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
The Hebrew word for "peace" is "shalom' – it means hello, it means goodbye, it means peace. But what it really means at its core, it envisions that there are various pieces that are not in harmony. "Shalom" presumes that the world, even relationships are fractured. "Shalom" really means wholeness or completeness; it is more than peace. When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we pray that what was fractured and divided will come together – not just that there will be one capital in Jerusalem, but that relationships with God will be whole and complete – as Paul promises in Romans chapter five.
My encouragement to Christians is to always to pray for peace in Jerusalem, as you will also be praying for the second coming of Christ, and you will be focusing on the goodness of God and His plan. We are agreeing with God that things aren't what they should be but one day they will be whole and complete when Jesus reigns on His throne.
Another important question is how should we view the enemies of Israel? Should we be praying for God to destroy Iraq or Iran? I would say no. Jesus said "Love your enemies." We should pray for peace. We should pray for our enemies. And most of all we should pray that individuals in that area come to know Jesus as the Prince of Peace.
CP: Any additional or closing comments about the conference?
Glaser: We want to especially encourage Christian young people to attend the conference. I realize most of these young people will be in California. There are a lot of Christian schools; there are a lot of wonderful, on fire, dynamic Christian young people in the Southern California demographic area. I hope that they will come, because we are at a turning point in the life of the church now, and I believe that young people need to be introduced to biblical prophecy which hasn't been as popular over the last few years. They need to learn to love Israel in a way that doesn't keep them from loving Israel's neighbors.