This e-newsletter is longer than usual because I go into detail about Syria, Russia, and what is happening prophetically. It is worth reading. So my apologies for the extra length this month, but I can’ see any way to shorten it and still provide the balanced information needed.
First we’d like to say thank you for your prayers and giving in this busy travel season. I leave on Wednesday the 19th (arriving Thursday 1pm) to Finland for house church meeting Friday, then a 1 day conference in Lahti on Saturday, then back to Helsinki for a Sunday the 23rd 1 day conference. A little rest and time with leaders on Monday, then Tuesday the 25th an all day/evening (literally 9am to 10pm) taping at TV7 on the 25th, then to Norway the 26th-30th – I’m SO looking forward to seeing old friends again and making new ones. Pray for my sleep, strength, energy, and for Barb and Chris while I’m gone. Thank you.
Update on Lithuania trip
I recently got back from a wonderful trip to Lithuania with good friend Steve from Oklahoma City, which was a huge blessing. I asked him to write about the trip:
“I had the opportunity to go to Lithuania with John this spring That week was full of new places, new food, new sights and new people. All of those things are enjoyable to me as someone who likes to travel and learn. But, the purpose of the trip was to join with other believers to experience the life of God as the Holy Spirit flowed among us. The meetings varied in content as some groups were very interested in practical questions about house church, while others were very interested in angels, heaven and prophecy. In settings as varied as a Soviet-era prison and a traditional church auditorium the reality of Christ and his kingdom were shared. I was struck by how the same challenges and longings are found in people all over the world. As we seek to simply follow Jesus in this way we call “house church”, I hope we all will see our hearts the way God sees them, that we will bring what He has given us when we meet together and that we will dance with the Lord when he stirs us that way. I hope to make many more trips like this in future, not just to give, but to receive – as the Lord intended us to function.”
We visited house churches from one end of the country to the other, and had a 1 day conference in Kaunus that Saturday as well, which confirmed once again the truths and simplicity of just doing what the Bible says – rotate who leads, rotate homes when possible, and walk through life together. As Acts 2:42 & 46 say, they continued steadfastly in teaching, fellowship, food, and prayer…from house to house.
Steve’s experience is a good example why we follow the pattern in scripture of visiting each other across nations and cultures – as seen in Acts and the beginnings and endings of Paul’s letters describing people traveling all over the Roman Empire to visit one another. We do the same thing, just updated to our time of car, bus, train, and jet travel. It is healthy, this spiritual and cultural cross-pollination, for it also confirms scripture and flows with those in the first century and how they did ‘church’.
Nations scheduled to be represented at the Dutch conference
To that end here is a partial list of people from the various nations who have so far indicated they are going to attend the Dutch conference: US, Netherlands, Scotland, England, Germany, Lithuania, Kenya, Republic of South Africa, Nepal, Finland, and more. We keep the conferences small, around 50-75 usually to allow open worship and the Lord to move as He wants, allowing genuine fellowship and friendships to develop, along with good teaching and Q&A times – so rich! Attending is not an expense, it is an investment and reaps amazing rewards in the spirit and soul. There is still room for a few more, but time is running out – contact Wil and Ank at firstname.lastname@example.org if outside the USA, and me at email@example.com if in the US or Canada and interested in attending.
Here are a couple updates on house churches in Texas and Oklahoma: I’d love to hear more from all over – don’t be bashful, share something!
Houston, Texas area: We are still plugging along with the fellowship here. Running around a dozen here most of the time and great fellowship. We are building a house about an hour north of Katy in Brenham, TX. It’s a small town a little over 17,000. (They don’t even have a fabric shop!) The house is suppose to be completed by Sep or Oct the latest. We are putting this house on the market the end of May so we may be living in extended stay for a few months. Rick and Carla will over see the group when we move. When we move and get unpacked, we will let you know so you can update the website for people in the area to contact us. Rick wants to have both groups meet once a month, so we will see how that works out. Have to get there first.
Duncan, Oklahoma - Angela and I are meeting regularly with 4 other families. Tony and Dana, Rony and Maira, Amber and Raymond, and Heath and Lee who Skype in about half the time. We meet regularly on Thursday nights. 5:30PM for a meal. Meeting at 6:30 pm. Angela and I still try to make it regularly to the OKC group home on Sunday’s. The other families have expressed an interest in coming with us and we expect for them to start coming along every now and then.
Syria, Isaiah 17, what is really happening prophetically
The Internet is awash with Christians expressing every fear and speculation under the sun about what is going on in Syria, so it seemed good to set the record straight both historically and scripturally.
Much of the speculation is centered around the prophecy of Isaiah 17:1-3: “A prophecy against Damascus: See, Damascus will no longer be a city but will become a heap of ruins. The cities of Aroer (modern Jordan) will be deserted and left to flocks, which will lie down with no one to make them afraid. The fortified city will disappear from Ephraim (synonym for Israel, i.e. Israel will no longer have to guard its norther border once Damascus is destroyed) and royal power from Damascus…”
The speculation is that a US/Russian war will take place in the coming days which will cause these verses to be fulfilled. But that is not what is happening. First a little history that will give context, then I’ll share what is going on by chapter and verse.
Under the Persian Gulf lies the worlds largest natural gas deposit, which is owned 80% by the tiny nation of Qatar, which is friendly to the US and west. Most of the remaining 20% reserve is owned by the nation on the other side of the Persian Gulf – Iran. Qatar wants to build a gas pipeline that would run from Qatar up through Syria roughly through the cities aligned south to north, Damascus, Homs, Aleppo, and from there into Turkey, then making a left turn and going into Europe.
Iran however won a (US) $10 billion dollar contract with Syria to put their own pipeline through Syria and from there under the Mediterranean and into Greece, which would allow continued Russian involvement. Russia owns a gas company, Gazprom, which derives 80% of its gas sales from Europe, supplying 25% of all Europe’s natural gas. Russia also has its own Navy base in Tartus, Syria, directly on the Mediterranean. (This is also why Russia invaded Crimea, Ukraine, for control of the gas port there).
In the past Russia has manipulated (eastern) European nations with the flow of and price of natural gas, and they want to maintain that leverage. They also want to keep their naval base. However, if Qatar’s pipeline were to be built Europe could get it’s gas from them rather than having to buy gas from Russia. So the west wants Qatar’s pipeline which could lead to Europe not being dependent on Russia for natural gas, while Russia and Iran want a Russian friendly ruler in Syria (and Turkey) for the pipeline which keeps Russian interests intact and their gas flowing through the region.
When Assad of Syria fired on demonstrators during Arab Spring they armed themselves rather than just dispersing, and it opened the door for other ‘rebels’ including ISIS, the Kurds who want to carve our their own nation, and a couple of others. They all started fighting him and each other all over Syria. Soon Iran sent troops to help Assad. With Assad fighting various entities all over the nation, at that point Russia was drawn in to protect their interests and prop up Assad. That’s the context.
Scripture and what IS happening
Ezekiel 38:1-7 says in part: “…This is what the Sovereign Lord says, I am against you Gog, chief prince of Meshek and Tubal. I will turn you around, put hooks in your jaws, and bring you out with your whole army…Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with you…Togarmah, Gomer…be a shield and guard for them…”
This outlines a now forming in our day alliance between the land of Magog and other nations who will band together and one day attack Israel, which will defend itself and will have allies who will help. They will be successful destroying Magog and the aligned nations, with Ezekiel 39 telling us it will take 7 months to bury the dead and Israel will have 7 years of supplies and armament collected as the spoils of the short war. Ezekiel even prophesies Israel will hire people to walk around the battle field to put flags at body parts, in a vision of modern forensic practice of doing exactly that.
While some people debate the identities of these nations the classic understanding is what is actually happening before our eyes. The land of Magog is Russia, Togarmah and Gomer is the modern nation of Turkey and area around it, Persia is Iran, Ethiopia in Ezekiel’s time was northern Sudan, Libya is the same as in our day. These are the nations that God says will form an alliance to invade Israel. Interestingly enough, in the last month Russia signed a huge oil deal with Libya that included investing in a lot of infrastructure in Libya. The alliance is getting stronger.
What is happening now
Notice what God says of Russia: “I will turn you around and put hooks in your jaws and bring you with your whole army…” He is saying Russia is being drawn into the Middle East by Him, and in later verses Ezekiel says basically that while there, they will say let us look to Israel to take a spoil and invade them. What we are seeing now is the hooks in the jaws turning Russia around that they may enter militarily into the Middle East. Syria is on the northern border of Israel, but while the world is watching Syria, Israel has had a time (when for once) the world isn’t focused on them.
Don’t look for the US to become more involved as if in an all out war, but rather look for cooperation between the US and Russia, with Russia eventually being instrumental in bringing the conflict to a close. Guessing here, just guessing, but I am looking for Assad to be removed, Russia to step in to put down and/or make peace with the various warring factions, and as a result become the major player in the Middle East. THEN we need to be concerned about the war of Ezekiel 38 taking place, for then we will be on the door step. The best way to get people who fight each other to line up, is to redirect their attention to a mutual enemy. In this case, Israel. Watch for that turn once Russia more fully steps in to Syria economically and militarily.
What to watch for
President Trump’s major gift is that of negotiator. He is pragmatic. He has demonstrated he doesn’t back down from a fight. So look for deals between the US and Russia over a plan for Syria. Both nations will have events to save face, even as Russia is highly embarrassed by Syria’s chemical attacks after Russia told the world they had cleared the nation of chemical weapons – they need a face saving deal. God told Russia ‘to be a guard over them’, so look for alliances, economic and military deals all aimed at bringing various nations and interests on board with the eventual removal of Assad and the lining up of a future Syrian government that will be pro-Russia.
But when will Isaiah 17: 1-4 be fulfilled? Coming full circle
I believe it will be during the Ezekiel 38 attack on Israel, which comes in from the north Ezekiel tells us out of Syria and into northern Israel, that in the defense of Israel then will Damascus become a ruinous heap and some of the cities of Jordan be destroyed. THAT is when it will happen. Not now, not yet.
Happy note – SO much is happening around the world in relationship based faith it is amazing! People’s lives are being changed as we walk through life together. It isn’t flashy, in fact it is hard work and rather mundane, this process of becoming Christ-like day by day, week by week. Remember our Lord values among the highest ideals giving water, food, clothing to those in need, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. Don’t get caught up in what the (Christian) culture of Hollywood Jesus values most highly – Jesus is humble, meek, lowly, so stick with Him – He has the last word on our lives and what He values is what will stand. He sees what man doesn’t, so just walk with Him, and be content in that for He knows your labor, loneliness, hard work, and struggles…and He will acknowledge and reward you for it in a day to come.
Thank you again for your giving, your prayers, your concern for us…those who join us in ministering to the saints by their giving and prayers are so very precious to us, words just cannot express it all…blessings,
John & Barb Fenn