How do we know when there has been a breakthrough in “the heavenlies”?
We know various scriptures refer to fighting “principalities and powers” and that Old Testament stories sometimes refer to, or illustrate, that idea. But for most of us, the spiritual realm, or the heavenlies, is hard to understand.
In spite of my limited understanding of this dimension, I can say with some confidence that there was a spiritual breakthrough in Japan during the first week of May, 2015. Though the population of Christians in Japan has been stuck for many decades at less than one percent, that is about to change. Watch this nation because many more people are going to become followers of Jesus.
Just a few decades ago the Church in China was also stuck at less than one percent with persecution and martyrdom eroding the numbers fast. In spite of those very hard times, the Chinese church has grown more than 100-fold. So it will be in Japan.
My confidence is based upon what we experienced in Kobe, Japan over a period of four days. The four thousand people who gathered spent the great majority of the time in worship, and the Chinese setting the tone with their love for Jesus. They were there in good numbers and for the first time so were the Koreans. (These nations have invaded, dominated and plundered one another for centuries with Japan usually being the most powerful.) The worship flowed into times of repentance, forgiveness and commitments to love one another.
Their mutual commitments were formalized in a statement in all three languages by which they covenanted to love on another no matter what politics, media or any other influence might do. There were hundreds of pastors from all three nations and also from Taiwan and other East Asian nations all hugging one another in heart-felt commitment.
There were other breakthroughs too. These cultures have not had loving family models. Most men are aloof, harsh husbands and fathers. People in leadership positions are expected to be even more stoic and inscrutable. So when a senior Japanese pastor talked humbly and transparently about his failings as a father, it softened everyone. When his two sons joined him on stage to express their forgiveness and their admiration, we could sense how their humility was changing a culture for the better.
This year marks the 70th year since WWII and 400 years since thousands of Japanese Christians were martyred. Israel was exiled in Babylon for 70 years, and then restoration began. So it will be with Japan. With leading believers from China, Japan and Korea joining together in unity, we can expect extraordinary growth in the Kingdom of God in all of the Far East.
On a more personal note, I was surprised and deeply moved by a conversation with a leading Chinese “father”. He is the senior leader of the largest network of churches in China and he greeted me with a big hug and tears. Through an interpreter, he explained that our presence at the Hong Kong Gathering in August of 2013 had imparted a new level of missionary vision for the Body of Christ in China. We had already been told that the government had given him a passport for the first time in his life, so the trip to Japan was his first time to be allowed out of the country. (He has been in prison for much of his adult life.) He went on to say that the government in Beijing has had a change of mind about the role of the Church and about foreign missionaries— at least partly based upon viewing the video of our act of repentance for the Opium Wars at that same event in 2013. I was amazed!!
This entire journey with the Church in East Asia has been another illustration of a powerful truth: God often presents us with a task that seems sacrificial, but when we say yes, He makes it a joy and also makes it more fruitful than we could ever imagine. God is good—all the time!