Year after year, I have noticed that my thoughts seem turn to Russia during this season. Back in the 1980s, at a time when the Cold War was raging and we were praying for Russian Christians to know freedom to worship in their land, the thought that we would be able one day to feast on Russian worship at the click of a button, was beyond anything we could have imagined. Continue reading
Russia is continuing to ratchet up the tension –
Why we are being called to resume our posts on our prayer the watchtowers concerning russian intentions
At a time when the attention of the West is inevitably being distracted by the sight of political heavyweights slugging it out for the prize of the White House, the major push to retake Mosul, and the unspeakable horrors inflicted on Aleppo, it is no surprise to find Russia asserting itself in ways not seen since the fall of the Iron Curtain. The question is to what lengths newly revived Russia is prepared to go – and to encourage us to play our part in prayer. Continue reading
Overview: A Revived Imperialism is on the rise in Russia
It is such a joy to know that the Lord listens and responds to the smallest moves we make toward Him in prayer, whether for purely personal matters or international ones. This far ranging article is definitely the latter! In it, we consider Russia’s resurgence and some of the fast developing trends, threats and implications this poses on both a geo-political and a spiritual level. If some of the material here is new to you, we hope it will prove eye-opening and lead us all into prayer. Continue reading
We have set this prayer for Russia firstly to Rachmaninov’s Great Ektenia – a word which means supplication or fervent prayer of the heart – and then moving on to his ‘Bogoroditse devo’ that we have released before. We are calling upon the Lord to release His mercy on those who live in Russia and the surrounding nations, and for all that is going on in those lands.
In this article I am going further than I have done before in drawing back the veil, and will be focusing on two main aspects: the character of the man who is President, and the history of how he came to occupy this prominent position.
How Vladimir Putin came to power
Many have wondered how Vladimir Putin ‘came from nowhere’ to reach the heights of the Russian system. This fascinating award-winning 45 minute documentary explores how he came to exercise the unparalleled influence he now exercises in Russia.
Vladimir Putin’s religion
Unlike former Soviet leaders, Vladimir Putin makes no secret of his (relatively new found) faith. I watched an Easter service a few years go in which he specially apologised to the Orthodox Church for the years of state persecution. Purely a ploy and a ‘nationalist convenience’ or something much more deeply held? This link to a 14 minute video provides an interesting account of Vladimir Putin discussing his Christian Faith in his own words. As such it is obviously important in contributing to our overall understanding of the man and his outlook.
A Strong Reaction to the Doping Scandal
The scale of the corruption in Russia is widely recognised as being huge. It is interesting that it was over a matter of sport (athletics) that the issue has recently returned to the fore (with similar concerns over Sepp Blatter’s remark that the decision that the World Cup was to be hosted in Russia in 2018 had already been decided before any votes were cast.)
In the light of recent trends, the Russian response to the doping scandal was predictable; initial denials, followed by the promise (threat) that those guilty of such practices would be held to account.
That, however, was followed by something infinitely more disturbing on Thursday 12th November, the day before the decision was taken to suspend it. Apparently “accidentally,” details were released on television of of a new nuclear torpedo that Russia is now developing which could apparently contaminate the entire American coast. It is impossible to believe that such material could possibly be broadcast by mistake on state Russian television news.
On the other side of Vladmir Putin’s chess table: Gary Kasparov
This former chess grand master is one of Vladimir Putin’s most vociferous critics. He no longer regards it as safe to live in Russia, and has written extensively on why he believes Vladimir Putin is threat to world peace. As a sample of the warnings that he has sounded, see this article in der Spiegel, and this one in The Atlantic.
You can read more about Russia on our button on the Malvern Mashal, Russia
There are many other themes I would like to have referred to in this brief overview, but I hope that each one may make its mark in our lives, and help us to pray for the people as well as the issues concerned.
Keep Vladimir Putin and indeed all ministry to the Russian people in prayer. Anti-western attitudes are increasingly being fed to them through the state media causing a general hardening of heart. From what we can gather, the nations feels a long way from the longed for revival. May there be no corresponding hardness against the gospel, but rather the reverse, and for the day to come when many Russian believers pour out of the country, taking the gospel with them, as has indeed long been prophesied.
Although Boko Haram is actually responsible for more deaths each year even than Islamic State, this article is my best attempt so far to understand the whole phenomenon of what motivates and undergirds ISIS. These basic facts do not make for pretty reading, but there are key pointers here that appear to have eluded not only most politicians and planners but also many believers.
It is not enough to blame American foreign policy and the botched outcome in Iraq solely for the creation of ISIS, although articles such as this do show how often western interventions have made existing tensions worse.
We are drawing deeply, though by no means not exclusively, here on an article in The Atlantic by Graeme Wood. Because the original article is too lengthy for most people to have time to read, I have summarised the salient points here in highlighting this cult, which wields absolute power over its adherents and is determined to revert to a fundamentally mediaeval view of the world.
- Daesh, or ISIS, controls a region of some eight million people, greater than the size of Britain. It considers itself to have already moved onto an “offensive jihad.”
- Islamic State firmly believes that they are re-establishing true Islam. Conquering territory and gaining allegiance is central to their philosophy and strategy.
- It does not recognise national boundaries but sets out rather to establish an Islamic caliphate. It refuses to recognise the UN, because for it to recognise any other authority would be apostasy.
- It considers that the state has an obligation to terrorise its opponents, using all the means discussed above of crucifixion and enslavement, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict. You have only to search the word crucifixion and Isis on-line.
- Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. Social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks, with Muslim “apostates” being the most common victims.
- Christians who do not resist their new government are usually exempted from automatic execution. Their leader, Baghdadi, permits them to live, as long as they acknowledge their subjugation, and pay a special tax, known as the jizya. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.
- IS regard Shia Muslims as apostates, as well as those who sell alcohol or drugs in the same light. (Interesting in the light of the fact that the people who blew up in the house in Brussels recently took both; and were involved in a notorious pub in Molenbeek. “Many Islamist terrorists in Europe have been radicalized from the ranks of petty criminals and drug users.” (Source: Wall Street Journal)
End time Expectations
I must preface this section by saying that this can only be as best as I understand these matters – I am most emphatically not claiming anything even remotely approaching infallibility here, but am simply opening up a topic about which most Christians know next to nothing.
- If few in western society have any serious grasp of what the Bible has to say about the last times, even fewer have any clear insight into what fundamentalist Islam teaches about the last days, and how important this is in the thinking of the Islamic State. There is a huge ambition in ISIS to conquer Rome and even to behead the Pope along with thousands of others in St Peter’s Square.
- The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) have released a powerful five-minute video (words transcribed) on the subject of this ambitious and seemingly outlandish plan which can only be understood in the context of Islamic eschatology expectation that the prophet Jesus will return to Earth, and, together with the Islamic Messiah, the Mahdi, will overthrow the antiMessiah (the Christian equivalent of the Antichrist) who is known as the Dajjal, (whose name means Lie or Deception) who will kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters until only a relative handful remain, cornered in Jerusalem.
- It is just as Dajjal (the Anti Messiah) prepares to finish them off that Isa (Jesus), the second most revered prophet in Islam, will return to Earth in Damascus, spear Dajjal, lead the Muslims to victory, initiate an age of peace and islamise the world. This Isa, however, in keeping with Islamic teaching, will declare very firmly that he is not God!!
Even in this briefest of overviews we can see that there are many seeming “parallels” to the Bible’s teaching here parallels which on closer inspection turn out to be a complete antithesis of the Bible’s of teaching on the end times.
Many in ISIS are very excited about the thought of major battles and defeat of the “Roman” armies (whatever precisely they consist of) that will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. They feel that they are participating in something exciting and dramatic.
Even the prospect of losing most of their fighting men in battle does not deter them because it is prophesied. This active desire for martyrdom poses immense tactical problems, just as the kamikaze pilots caused the American Navy so much grief during the Second World War.
Amongst ISIL’s principal objectives and expectations are . . .
- The abolishment of the state of Israel
- The expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula
- The end of support the dictatorships in Muslim lands
- At this stage, ISIS is more concerned with applying sharia law in the Caliphate and expanding to the regions around Syria than with directly taking on America. No one has tried harder to implement strict sharia law by violence than ISIS. May the sight of what that entails serve to put some off!
For many reasons most of the numerous nations in the coalition against ISIS prefer not to confront it directly on the ground, preferring to seek proxies to do the fighting for them – mainly the Kurds, who have achieved a measure of success, and the predominantly Shiite Iraqi army who have been rather less successful.
The more IS fails to gain territory the less convincing Islamic state appears. There is currently a major divide between ISIS and Al Q’aeda. If the two movements were to experience a serious rapprochement it would obviously spell further danger for the world, and is therefore something worth praying against.
What ISIS believes and prophesies is not predestined to occur. God has revealed a great deal about the end times in His Word, and He is overseeing the events in the run up to the return of His Son.
Pray for the power of God to be at work, to touch the hearts of the many caught up in its net, and to protect multitudes from its ravages. But please see our article Reaching the Muslim World: The Wider Picture to draw our hearts closer to the Lord’s own heart, and away from essentially racist attitudes that make it easy to denounce but reluctant to reach out to people whom Jesus loves, and for whom He died.
For an introduction to teaching on what Sunnis believe about the end times, see
For those who would like to brush up on their own understanding of biblical eschatology, you might find the following sites helpful:
Bible Prophecy Blog
Learn More About The Bible – This Is Your Bible
Many years before the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Lord frequently used to call us as a group to action stations to pray about the “menace” that Russia posed to the nations. At the end of our time in Oxford, one of our flatmates had a dream that, long after people had forgotten about it (from a military point of view at any rate) Russia would rise again and spring into action. Russia’s continuing flexing of its military might in Ukraine and Syria remind us of verses God spoke to us through many decades ago, such as Jeremiah 6:22, prompting us once more into pray about the direction the nation is moving in.
Russia’s flexing of its military might in Syria reminds us of verses God spoke to us through many decades ago, such as Jeremiah 6:22, Continue reading
In 71 years on from D day we focused on just a few of the “new” dangers facing the world, highlighting that the breakdown of the Soviet Union has led to a great deal of discord and fragmentation rather to stable new nations emerging. In this edition we would like to focus on a tiny snippet of land called Transnistria that represents another serious potential flashpoint.
Where? Transnistria! Not a single nation in the UN recognises this as a country in its own right, but it is a self-governing province that is, or was, part of Moldova, but which declared independence from Russia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to Der Spiegel Moldova and Ukraine reluctantly agreed to permit just over 1000 Russian soldiers to act as peacekeepers there until recently, when Kiev revoked the right of these Russian soldiers to travel through Transnistria.
This has infuriated Russia, which has again ramped its huge propaganda machine into overdrive and is making incredible claims that Ukrainian troops are “massing at the border,” poised to destroy Tiraspol, (the capital of Transnistria) and to set up the EU flag there.
The Frankfurter Rundschau warns that the Minsk peace deal between Moscow and Kiev is now “bleeding to death” since the surprise attack against the Ukrainian town of Marinka a few weeks ago. Russian military officials are now talking openly not just of defending Transnistria but of marching on into Kiev. The danger is that people begin to act in accordance with their propaganda. The situation remains highly volatile, as witnessed by a recent exercise in which 33,000 Russian troops practised a simultaneous invasion of Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, allowing Russia to seal off the Baltic and isolate Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. See: Russian forces practised simultaneous invasion of Norway, Finland, Denmark and Sweden.
In June last year, Russian jets simulated a nuclear attack on Bornholm, timed to coincide with an annual festival on the Danish island involving the country’s entire political leadership and 90,000 guests. Had the attack actually taken place, Denmark would have been destroyed.
To say the least, these are alarming reminders of the comment made earlier this year by Dalia Grybauskaite, the President of Lithuania, that Russia was “practically at war with Europe”. We should definitely take this as a call to pray.
Stepan and Nadia Germanov – missionaries of – “To All Nations” write:
People are leaving the impoverished country to look for work abroad . . .The kids in Transnistria are left alone. They need our help . . .
The Lord blessed us and we are honored, to do ministry in this beautiful region on the banks of the Dniester. Until now, the whole territory of Transnistria has posts of peacekeeping forces.
Factories in the region are not working. Therefore, the majority of the working population has to look for work outside the country. The children of these families are with their grandmothers, and quite often are left with their neighbours. Parents spend years abroad and lose contact with children. The problem is further compounded by the fact that many are losing their jobs abroad and return home, but their family has already fallen apart.
We as the church are trying to help these people. We speak with them, take their children to summer camps and offer family counseling. In our region, we have many boarding schools for children. The divorce rate is very high, parents are often deprived of parental rights, because of drug and alcohol use.
Thus, children are also turning to alcohol and drugs. They might run away from home at a very young age to never come back again. Others are dying of AIDS and drug overdoses.
Our goal is to give these little hearts help and show kindness. Some of the members of our church take orphans for a weekend into their home. We want the children to see a different way of life. We can not alleviate all the problems but at least we can do something to help.
We try to make regular charitable dinners for widows and elderly people. Approximately 60 people receive food packages for the amount of 20 dollars each. We plan to build a dining room and Sunday school, to feed the homeless children who live in the sewer systems and basements.
In our city there are three prisons, one of them is high security detention facility. In each of the prisons we have a church where we hold weekly services. We work with the families of inmates and their children who are in need of financial assistance in the absence of a breadwinner. NewFields.org
Further Links to Transnistria
I have already hinted at how strong Russian propaganda has been.
President Putin is currently extremely active not only in projecting military power but in forging stronger relationships with various countries including Egypt, which was, of course, Russia’s strongest ally amongst the Arab nations back in the 1950’s.
Meanwhile, ISIL’s acts of extreme violence have appeared to have galvinised the ‘giants’ of Egypt and Jordan to oppose them more actively, rather as Pearl Harbour once woke goaded the United States into action.
Putin has also been reaching out to Hungary, a country where the autocratic leadership, not always with the support of the people, are definitely developing strong Russia-leaning tendencies. President Orbán appears comfortable that his country is becoming all but completely dependent on Russia for its energy supplies. Despite being in NATO, he has voiced considerable contempt for the liberal values of western Europe, and admires Putin’s “strong” stance, holding him up as a leader to admire and imitate.
Putin’s strategic includes attempts to influence nations not firmly in the EU pocket, including Serbia and Bosnia, and in particular Greece. Yet again it is strange that the Balkans are involved in critiual flashpoint moments. Vladimir Putin building alliances around the world.
Keep Angela Merkel in mind as she continues her frontline shuttle diplomacy. She looks almost as tired as Petro Prooshenko himself, She has just returned from a visit to Hungary, (a country she does not normally visit on account of its autocratic Prime Minister) to try bolster relationships. Her visit does not appear to have improved relationships. Many Hungarians are unhappy at the pro-Russian stance their leadership are taking; Hungary itself has little reason to love Russia. Pray for Hungary, a country where, historically an unusually high number of people suffer from depression.
Meanwhile, Russia is massively beefing up its warlike propaganda, laying considerable emphasis on the fact that they are developing a nuclear capacity within their armed forces – and this ata time when the West has massively scaled down every aspect of its defence forces. Much of this may be being played out to impress the domestic audience, which has been taught to believe America to be hostile to Russia, and encroaching on its territory by trying to “poach” Ukraine. But the attempt to scare the West is ery real too – and what may be designed as brinkmanship can easily escalate and acquire a momentum of its own, spiralling out of control.
Western leaders have had no experience of handling people as complicated as President Putin. As this article suggests, they simply did not realise what they would trigger by pushing Ukraine to join the NATO camp.
The West cannot afford to get too directly involved in what is fundamentally a civil war in Ukraine – a country where decidedly unpleasant nationalist forces are at work, as Ross Kempe admirably reported when he headed into the heart of the battle zone to see for himself the dangerous spirit that lie behind the rising tide of nationalism that impels the Azov Brigade. http://features.sky.com/ross-kemp-ukraine/
In other words, we are not dealing here with a nation of saints! Pray for many to find the Lord a very present help in the midst of trouble.
In essence Putin’s strategy is simple: to ensure that the large tract of eastern Ukraine which pro Russian separatist forces have taken in recent weeks be recognised internationally. Putin already calls this region “New Russia”,, and wants a new frontline boundary be drawn up as the basis for a putative ceasefire. The question then, of course, is whether this will satisfy his ambitions?
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former head of Nato, warned that Russia is highly likely to intervene in the Baltic states to test NATO’s shaky commitment to collective defence. ‘This is not about Ukraine. Putin wants to restore Russia to its former position as a great power.’ Remembering how Russia seized an Estonian on the last day of the conference in Wales as a very visible “gesture,” he could be right, especially given the presence of so many Russians near the borders who might be used as a pretext for “inviting the Russians in to help restore the balance.”
We can certainly pray that Russia will conclude that to intervene here is more trouble than it is worth. Continue reading