God’s Purposes For The Nations
We recently talked about fervent prayer that gets results. I mentioned that it’s been on my heart to encourage a fresh wave of believing prayer for the nations. Yet I’ve realized that a few beliefs are hindering Christians from agreeing with God’s purposes for the nations.
A Passion To See Nations Come And Worship Jesus
I read the Bible through the first time when I was seven years old. I’ll admit I just scanned parts of Leviticus and Chronicles to get past the genealogies and see if there were any stories. There are parts of the Law that are really repetitive like “The head of such and such a clan contributed so many gold bowls, so many silver bows, so many silver plates….blah, blah, blah…” and then goes on to say the same thing with the same amounts for every head of clan. So who could blame me for zipping through those parts?
I first said I wanted to be a missionary when I was 10, but that resolve didn’t really become firmly cemented in place until just after I turned fourteen, when I went with the church youth group on a trip to Mexico. By the time I got back, I wanted to learn Spanish and I started reading about 21 chapters of the Bible a day.
The plan I tried to follow most days was 5 Psalms, 4 chapters of the books before Psalms, 4 chapters of other Old Testament books after Psalms, 4 chapters of the gospels, and 4 chapters of the rest of the New Testament.
Of course, sometimes I read more, especially when I got into Psalms or Isaiah. I sometimes read large portions of these out loud, in one sitting. Psalms and Isaiah are both prophetic books, and they both talk a lot about God’s purposes for the nations. I wrote many of these verses on my arm with colored markers, and later on my wall and ceiling.
Isaiah 2:2-4 (NRSV) In days to come the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 11:9 (NRSV) They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Psalms 86:9 (NRSV) All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
Psalms 22:27 (NRSV) All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him.
Psalms 46:8-10 (RSV) Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has wrought desolations in the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, he burns the chariots with fire! “Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth!”
Isaiah 60:1-3 (NRSV) Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you. Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Can The Darkness Get Darker And The Light Get Lighter At The Same Time?
Since I was a kid, Matthew chapter 24 and the book of Revelation confused me. In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus said all that stuff would surely happen in that generation. But then it sounded like he was talking about the end of the world! And I never really thought I could ever hope to understand the book of Revelation.
I’d found and heard teaching on Revelation, the antichrist, the great tribulation, and the rapture. I knew different people disagreed on when the rapture was to happen. I neither accepted nor rejected much of the teaching on how it would happen. The logic was way too convoluted for me to follow and I notice gaping holes in the logic, but I didn’t have a better explanation. Even so, I did accept that it sounded like things were going to get really terrible.
Since the only explanations I knew pointed to the world getting worse and worse, I was confused by the contrast between these dire predictions and the glorious passages of victory I had memorized and recited so many times. I never doubted that the way the nations were going to come and worship Jesus was through the church going, preaching the gospel, praying, and believing. I saw it constantly in scripture.
I heard somebody say “The darkness will get darker, and the light will get lighter.” This really didn’t make sense, but I accepted it as the only explanation I knew. I didn’t understand, but trusted God. I couldn’t help but think of the absurdity of the statement. “Darkness is the absence of light, so how can light and the absence of light increase at the same time in the same place?” After all, if you turn on the light switch, the darkness is gone!
So I continued to believe for great revival and for nations to come to Jesus, all the while expecting the world to get really bad and possibly for Jesus to return in the next few years.
“Oh, Russia Is Gog.”
I went to Russia for the first time in 2007, soon after turning 22. I didn’t expect to return. I thought I would go to South America again after Russia.
But the Holy Spirit moved wonderfully there. I hadn’t studied Russian and didn’t plan to. I did know some Polish, but Russian was a totally different alphabet. We went to a museum on the second day in Russia, and I noticed the names of the artists in Russian and English together. For example I saw “Pablo Picasso” in our English alphabet, and then his name “Пабло Пикассо” in Russian. It’s pretty easy to see, for example, that “П” is pronounced like a “P.” By the end of the day I had picked up most of the Russian alphabet. By the end of 10 days, I could read the book of First John in Russian, with terrible pronunciation, but understanding everything.
We had a wonderful time with the old Russian ladies, seeing Jesus heal several of them. More than the healing, the room was electric with God’s love and it felt like it was full of angels. There was such a strong sense of God’s love on that trip, and we also experienced some touching reconciliation between Americans and Russians.
At the end of the trip, going to the airport at three in the morning, I was singing quietly in the van. I started to feel God’s love, and the love I felt for Russia and Russians, flowing as a physically tangible current out of my mouth, and my hands also started vibrating as I thanked God for the trip, for the people, and for this place. I looked at the city as we passed and felt the awareness that it was all full of God’s glory.
Back in the United States I started studying Russian, following what was happening in St. Petersburg, and praying more and more over situations in Russia. I still didn’t think I was going to go back to Russia. I wanted to follow God’s call, and I had thought my next trip would be to South America again. Yet the love was so strong I felt compelled to study Russian.
I had heard from many places that Russia was Gog and was going to invade Israel, probably very soon, and there would be a great slaughter. I had never heard anybody say otherwise, and I had listened to them because I didn’t think I could understand it any better. I hadn’t had great expectations for Russia. Why was my experience so different? Why were so many tears coming as I prayed for this nation? Was I supposed to go back?
I remember one day driving my truck near Baltimore. I had just stopped at a Russian grocery store and bought some chocolates, and I was praying for Russia as I drove. Suddenly the air was electric in my truck, something like a force field I could physically feel. I was screaming and declaring those scriptures I had written on my wall over Russia, declaring heaven’s reality, tears streaming down my face. “All of Russia will be filled with the knowledge of God’s glory, as the waters cover the seas.”
What Happened Instead…
In retrospect, I realize that people through all of church history have made many false predictions when they tried to apply the current news headlines to Bible prophecy instead of going to scripture itself to interpret scripture. And the people who said Russia is Gog had already missed it before.
In the 1980’s, many Christians thought that the USSR was going to invade Isreal very soon, the world would end, and Jesus would return, probably in 1988. They were wrong.
What happened instead? A few different people, independently of each other, heard the Holy Spirit tell them to fly to Germany, lay their hands on the wall, and declare that it come down.
Soon after, a great move of the Holy Spirit and a wonderful, bloodless revolution as the Iron Curtain fell.
Many Christians were doing nothing but agreeing with Satan’s schemes for destruction. Bad theology blinded them to what God wanted to do in Russia and the other Soviet countries. But God found a few people to agree with his good purposes for the nations, and history changed.
I have never felt the love of God in the church in any nation as strongly as I did in Russia.
Right now there is a great need for people to catch a vision of God’s purposes for the nations. Daniel understood prophesy, so he prayed accordingly.
Psalm 33:10-11 (NRSV) The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.
Our worldview often determines if we will agree with God’s purposes or not. If we have a negative expectation, we will hear about the councel and plans of wicked rulers and agree with them. If we see God’s purposes, we will declare that they are established and the wicked plans of wicked men will come to nothing.
A few months ago, I was praying quite a bit for Brazil. Then I went to church. An elder was all excited about the latest bad news, talking quickly, telling everybody that surely everything is going to get worse because “the Bible says so,” and that the antichrist was just around the corner and North Korea was about to launch a nuclear missile. Ironically, it was just when good news about President Trump’s Peace talks with North Korea were coming out and North and South Korea had just taken historic steps towards peace.
Certain theologies have a long history of their teachers making false predictions. In fact, Satan would love to get Christians agreeing with him by prophesying into his evil purposes. According to some big prophetic words that came out in mainstream Charismatic media when I was a teen, the world should have ended by now!
In order to encourage renewed, believing prayer for the nations, I felt inspired to share a few posts about how my worldview has changed. Maybe some of my readers have also said “The light is getting brighter and the darkness is getting darker,” all the while wondering how that could possibly work.
More to come…