Abraham was promised to become a great nation which would bless all the nations. Nations continue up until the end times prophecies. God deals with cities and nations as people. To define a nation is complex, but God has chosen to work with cities and nations since the garden. And the flow of scripture takes us from a garden to a spiritual city of God. So we cannot just throw out cities and nations in our spiritual understanding. But we need a fuller understanding of them.
Nationalism is dangerous when it replaces God; for it is basically worshiping the gifts not the Giver. It is like worshiping the echo not the voice, or as Paul put it becoming the resonator of the sound, rather than the amplifier of His Voice. God wants to reflect certain aspects of who He is through who you are. He also wants to do this collectively through your city and nation. If we can see our nation as having certain gifts which reflect, and lead us back to love and know who The Giver is-the one who has given our nation specific aspects of Himself to reflect and inspire others through, then we can have a very loving and healthy enjoyment of our nations, as part of our love and mediation on who God is! What happens on the dark side of nationalism is that we take the things God has given us and hold them up as idols. It is a sin of idolatry really. But there is a way to have a spiritually healthy relationship with the unique identity of your nation; and to see how it connects with your personal identity. It’s not random that you were born where you were! God told Jeremiah, I knit you in the womb, therefore I called you to your specific way or path. Identity is connected to place.
Nationalism is not the same as a healthy respect for the parts of God that shine through in your nation.
Our security or our ground of identity is not ultimately in our nation, but in the God who reflects Himself through them. Still, part of who we are comes from our nation.Or perhaps even the mantel over our nation! Being proud of how your nation has carried parts of God’s character, and desiring and helping it to do so better is a key to healthy pride of place. It is not wrong to see the sins of your nations, and is absolutely necessary if you want to confess them and help heal them. But it is also not wrong to celebrate the attributes of God that do indeed shine from your nation, and to help them, through confession and repentance, reconciliation (i.e.,as priest for our cities and nations), to shine more brilliantly, as a reflection of who God is! For instance, Germany’s strength–in prayer, i saw once God’s laid-bare arm outstretched over that nation; her strength and steadfastness are clearly characteristics of God He intended to reflect through the German people. That longevity and loyal might is a righteous reflection. Now it has been used by the enemy and is corrupted, but she is redeemable, and has a mighty destiny. Always ask, what was God’s intention to say about Himself through this nation; how did they corrupt it; and how is He redeeming that corrupt state. That will lead you into His ways of praying for the nations.
The nations are really, like the earth itself, a medium through which we can come to know and love, and consider, more of who God is. There is no place on earth which is not meant to reflect back on who God is. Nations, just as people, also have choices and some have rejected God and block His healing and fuller expression of what they were intended to be.
Each nation reflects certain aspects of who God is-nuances of His Character. If we can see them through God’s eyes, we are not being naive or moving in idealism . We will see their brokenness and corruption of identity; but we will also see them as they were meant to be, and one day in Him could become! It is the same with individual people, and this is where prayer authority rest. If we do not see them as He does, we cannot love them into wholeness and destiny.
If we do not love our own and other’s nations, we will never be able to help anyone, or pray in His Power, much less disciple or guide them in Him. For God is One and He IS Love, and what He is praying is always connected to His True Vision and His Heart of Love. We cannot wait until a country is beautiful to pray for her, anymore than we can wait for the perfection of the church before we love her as He does into her bridal radiance! It is more courageous to pray when she is most broken i think. Many people do not really have His Love for their native nation. Maybe it is like superman–and we can more easily find the kryptonite of our own nation than others. But to overcome this is to claim part of your own identity and spiritual heritage. If you can love your parents, you have come far in Him.
One practice is to thank God for our own nation, and its gifts, and praise Him for personally how it has blessed you. That puts you closer into how He beholds a nation. Thankfulness can also lead to praise and starting to see that place through The Father’s Eyes. If you don’t yet love your own nation, ask God for His Heart and Vision for it. If another nation bothers you, ask God why, or join Him in prayer for that particular nation until you feel His Love for her. We are in the end one human family, and to hate another nation is actually a sin. But to love another requires us to overcome wounds and to love what He loves in HIM. That really is the only way to love another. It is not always about likability. But I guarantee you if you enter His Heart for them, you will eventually like them. Racism is fear and pride in appearance. It is the opposite to God’s Nature, and is very violent. It is better to learn and practice loving others than to stay in your personal prejudices and in the poisoning force of hatred.
Which nations are hard for you to pray for? Ask God why? Pray for them!
In your particular city–where are her receptive and reflective seams and streams? Where are their openings in Him where He can converse–cultural, business, etc. Which conversations is He allowed to enter? Enter there, and overhear and join His dialoguing! Here in Austin, for instance, the innovative aspects–culturally-where business and art conjoin and confluence one another into birthing new models. The incubating, fresh templates, and entrepreneurial ways of His are reflected here. Each city has soft places where God is able to have a conversation with it; enlarge these and you make the conversation have a larger radius. Not just where things are sick, but where they allow Him in–look at these areas and expand them; spotlight and cultivate them there. That’s good soil, and readied. Some are called to move stone and ready hard spaces in a city or person; others to plant when the soil is ready! We are to be wise farmers of spiritual life in our cities!
Each city is readied somewhere..in certain places, it is already dialoguing with God, in His tones and cadences! Can we join Him in them? Is it cultural conversation God is having; is it with government; is it with artists; is it with business men, athletes etc? Where is the Kingdom conversation already taking place–join in there! God is always already talking into some area of each city! That’s the conversation to enter in. Globally, i would say–economics (what’s fair exchange etc) environmentalism, the nature and function of authority, religious versus civil authority, hierarchy of information and who determines the standards or makes the filters for knowledge (is it academic, google, government, religion; or does everyone have access to everything; this is the big internet conversation going on) and foundations in terms of what ideas a nation or culture should rest on, especially if it is reforming its foundation as many nations are (look at the EU struggles to write a constitution)? These areas will always be active spiritually in talk with people globally now. What is your city talking about?
The prophetic way is to move in more of His Whole orientation towards all of His Creation.
The prophetic way is to become God’s exact orientation with head, heart, and imagination towards others–to represent Him as fully as possible to the people. And to see people, cities, nations, the planet itself, more from His Perception, from His Eyes-the Eyes of His Heart! To be a whole ambassador or representation and conduit for the Life of Jesus on the earth in your time! That requires an intense level of surrender of all areas of your personal life. And a cultural and geographical spiritual sensitivity that can only be imparted by The Holy Spirit!
For, the earth itself also reflects the particular glories of God. The trees of Lebanon were cut down to make the temples. They were sacred trees to God, meant for and set aside for holy purposes. Consider the earth too as having specific purposes. Each aspect has a unique calling in God, for His Purposes. That is one reason we protect and cultivate the earth. It is His and is an expression of His Identity–each part is like a city a unique reflection of some single aspect of who God is.
Daniel’s nation he served had places where God could break in and talk–commune. Also that part of the earth did and does. Look at the earth itself outside of human culture also as a player in the cosmic conversation. God was having a relationship with that land before there were cities! He relates uniquely to each part of His earth. This is another reason men are without excuse, because His Invisible Qualities are there in the land. And the land is in communion with Him. Brokenly yes, bec of humans, but still in direct relationship!
In prayer, you can see these lands blessings and curses, and where the earth there, is still open to conversation and communion with God! Note them when you see them–blessed or sacred places. Scotland has many! Other places also have that porous sense, or are soft to God’s Presence. Near Ur had this; as do parts of Africa, Tibet and other lands. Notice them on the earth–these portal spaces. Don’t allow the pagans to steal them–they found them and worship them; that is a sin, but they do make a point that there are sacred spaces on the earth where God can be met more directly.
Ask God–what part of You is communing with this area of land? People are drawn to these parts of Him–whether it be frontier aspects, havening aspects, healing aspects, knowledge and vision parts, arm or might parts-places of His Power manifestations; Austin for instance has His Healing, and Inventive aspects. It also havens things as they move in creative freedom. These would also be the areas of a city’s life which would most likely be under attack by the enemy. So allergies block people from healing etc. Also, as I mentioned above, looking at what part of God is reflected and present in a place, will tell you why this particular person is drawn to it in this season of their spiritual journey.To know a city is part of discipling its people! If we are to be wise builders into others, as Paul teaches, and if we are to know where God is forming Himself within ourselves, we need to consider the soil of our city; it’s narrative and how it relates to our own. And what chapters both novels are in!
Cities are not just economic magnets, they are spiritual magnets as well. People are drawn to collective aspects of who God is. If His Purity and righteousness for instance is highlighted in a city, people who need this aspect, will gather there.
What originally drew you to the city you live in? What part of God do you think your city reflects. Why do you personally relate to these aspects of God? What is trying to block these parts of God from shining forth? How could you partner with Him in removing the blocks–through prayer, confession spiritual planting etc. What new aspects of God would you like to get to know? Which cities reflect these aspects? If you live in a leadership city, what type of leader? Is it a tender poetic leader, or more of a military one? Is it a business leader or more of a priestly one? We all carry God’s leadership in unique manners or styles! How does your city carry it?
SF, for instance, likes to model or symbolize–that’s how it leads. Less about force, more about symbolizing new things which then can go out to the whole nation, as a model; I think Austin is similar in this way. Austin models things that others can then emulate in their own way. Portland would be another modeling city in terms of styles of leadership. Other cities like Atlanta, have another style of carrying leadership very influenced by the African American style i think.
What are the characteristics of God that your city reflects? List them–expound. How do these characteristics relate to your life and journey? Are they the same or different? How so?
In closing, I want to briefly touch on the idea of “culturally relevant teaching” and its implications for those called to be God’s ambassadors or representatives to others.
Culturally relevant teaching is a name given to an orientation to teaching which considers the particular culture the student is from. Prophetic teaching should always be culturally relevant in this sense, or oriented towards the particulars of a person’s culture. This is because God is oriented in a specific way to each person, and people group. You see this repeatedly in scriptures and in the way Jesus taught–always shifting depending on the culture of his audience, and His intended communication. Think of the Samaritan woman for one example, but this way is ubiquitous in all his teachings. Jesus Himself was Jewish of course, but was able to teach God’s Thoughts to whomever He chose in a way that was aware of their particular history and cultural background. That God want to communicate, is a basic premise to all of life. He is not silent, but is a God who desires to reveal Himself. And He has a thousand thoughts to each of us daily, and He desires these thoughts to be understandable!
Although culture itself can become an idol, for our ultimate identity is, in some sense trans-cultural; God clearly speaks in different cultural dialects! Look at the book of Daniel written in two language systems; or the way Paul would couch his teachings depending on his audiences. God is not just relevant to culture, He is a culturally relevant Teacher of Himself!
The Church, obviously, has not always understood culturally relevant teaching in its methods of evangelism, though some believers did throughout history. The church has not always represented God well in this area. This again is not to say, you water down The Cross to make it sound interesting to another culture (Jesus sometimes by Nature of who He is needs to cause men to stumble on Him!); it says instead that we need to hear HOW God is talking not just what He is saying. Just as in our personal relationship with God, we need to hear His unique tones towards us to understand the heart of His communications with us; so with others, in ministering His words to them, we need to hear and then present God’s tone orientation to the other’s cultural backdrop. This is in order to represent His word or heart more truly or more wholly.
God is one, and His style of expression is specific for each people group. You can see this on a micro level in Jesus’ relationship to each disciple. He called them and discipled each uniquely. Nathanael, the seer, was told Jesus saw Him mystically before he arrived etc. Each disciple was called according to their specific identity! Translating the gospel even must include an understanding of the culture you are speaking into. Otherwise it will not be understood at all. For instance if you do not know the basic language itself which contains cultural understandings, then how can you be understood–unless of course, God by passes language all together, which I have experienced Him doing several times, where i spoke in tongues to keep one man from committing suicide. But this is the exception to the rule. And would be to argue from anomaly. God usually speaks in the ways and language of those He is attracting to Himself. And prophetically, we are meant to be able or enabled to join His Style of delivery as well as His Message which He is delivering. This I call holistic prophetic orientation. So we are representing The Identity of The Word as we minister the particular words He is speaking to a person or place or thing.
This is another reason why true discipleship must bring sanctification to the head, the heart and the imagination; for to represent God to others we need to know Him in all three of these core areas of our life. Holistic and ongoing depth sanctification–what I call living constantly near The Cross, is basic Christian spirituality. In our times, it is also absolutely necessary to be getting the whole house of ourselves lit up in Christ ongoingly! You could call this the necessity of integration in Christ in our times! He is desiring to incarnate in the whole house of ourselves, and is eclipsing the entire planet with who He is! Jesus is the indwelling Lord over the whole person, and this must become truer and truer experientially in our times. I meet lots of people who may know God in their head, but not their heart. And many more who do not commune with His Imagination. We need all three to represent Christ to our world, into the fields we were given to cultivate with His Life among our friends, our cities, our nations, and the earth itself!