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Fear’s Funeral Dirge

“Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”

Revelation 1:17-18, NLT


What is your experience like when you sit down with a hot drink and an open Bible? Why do you go there? What do you hope to draw out of the word?

Sometimes I come to the Scriptures hungry and needy and melancholy and desperate. I have waited too long and now I come, realizing that I am not enough. Ever. I come wondering if my lingering delay has damaged intimacy with Him. I come realizing that the depth of my own dysfunction clouds my thinking and incites fears that need not persist.

Pushing my fears aside and choosing to believe the Truth, I open my Bible, and then . . .

There is a tremor in my spirit. All my longings are concentrated into a single moment and I am confronted with holiness. I am in the presence of the Ancient of Days, the One Now Living, and the One Who Is to Come. There is no other like Him.

In His presence, I am completely exposed for who I really am. There can be no pretense. It is risky to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the God Who Sees Me. I must come to Him honestly, candidly—nothing to hide—ready to admit all, confess all, release all. He is the Lord. I am His servant. It must be so, for I am a missionary who lives from day to day in a country not my own, living and working in someone else’s culture and language, trying desperately to make it possible for them to come to the Scriptures and experience God through the word in their heart language.

Yet sometimes fear sings fortissimo. I need it to sing fortepiano. I need my spirit to not be overcome by the volume and painful pitch of fear in a situation, but to immediately quiet it to little more than a whisper in the background. Fear sings its loudest dirge when death is at hand, like in the days following my oldest brother’s death a few months ago. A mere fifty-six years old, he died in the night, sitting in his favorite chair, alone, of a heart attack. I am not much younger . . .

The Scriptures teach me much about life after death, but the experience of death remains a mystery. Before I moved to Papua New Guinea I had images of this beautiful land fixed in my mind. There was something magical about the imagined New Guinea. But the imaginary New Guinea lacked the intense heat and suffocating humidity, the pungent smells, the sounds of a thousand tongues and the complex relationships that must be cultivated in order for Jesus to be known here. It was but a dream. Even though I had talked often with others who had long lived here, the experience was still not my own.

Some of the images used in this composite are courtesy of www.lumoproject.com.

I talk with Jesus about death. I must. He’s been through it and this is what he says to me about it: “Don’t be afraid! I died, but I am alive—forevermore!” That tremor returns to my spirit. I am in the presence of Someone so holy and powerful that death itself has no hold on Him. I am overwhelmed with awe. But He’s not finished: “I hold the keys to death and the grave.”

Courage, dear friend. Courage! When the deceiver threatens your very life, take courage in the fact that death has no sting and the enemy of our souls is not in charge. Jesus alone holds the keys. You were made that you might shake the foundations of hell by shattering the deceptions and empty threats of a defeated enemy. Let the only tremor you feel in your spirit be in response to the holiness and overwhelming power of the Risen One.

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Clear Voices

“He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.”

John 1:11


Confusion

We live in perilous times. Truth is considered by many a personal choice. The lines blur between reality and fantasy as people are bombarded by fake news, revised versions of “history”, and augmented reality devices become widely available and sought after by the masses. The glut of untested and undocumented information creates an atmosphere of confusion. People are losing their capacity to discern truth from error.

Nothing New Under the sun

Similar confusion existed when the long promised Messiah arrived on earth in a little town called Bethlehem. Rome had conquered the world, administrated by men like Pontius Pilate who famously asked Jesus, “What is truth?” Cities were completely given over to idolatry, sensuality, and self. Slavery was the technology of industry. Mob rule ensued when the economy was threatened (or was perceived to be threatened).

Closer to the Truth

Standing in high relief against the vice of the Roman world were the Jewish people with their laws and traditions and worship of the true God. Yet they were divided. Some Jewish leaders thought that political upheaval was the answer, hence the Zealots. Others thought that strict adherence to the Law was the answer (Pharisees). Their authorities abused this conviction by adding law upon law, making it impossible for anyone to live “righteously”. Sadducees were something like Jewish nihilists, teaching that there is no resurrection, only the grave. Despite so many competing voices, there was great anticipation that God would send his Anointed One, the promised Prophet, Priest, and King.

Most thought he would be a political deliverer who would restore Israel to her former glory, as in the days of David or Solomon. Though they held the Holy Scriptures in their hands, they did not discern well. They interpreted reality (and prophecies) through the lens of their own aspirations, dreams, and desires. Their idea of a Messiah was not God’s idea of a Messiah.

So when Messiah arrived, they neither recognized nor received him.

A Clear Voice for Grace and Truth

One clear voice emerged to set things straight: John the Baptizer. John was eccentric, a prophet in the truest sense. He lived apart in the wilderness. He ate whatever he could find in that arid land.  He called people to turn back to God, baptizing and preparing a people for the arrival of God’s Promised One. He did so fearlessly.

Photo courtesy of www.LumoProject.com

But being a prophet can be dangerous business. Truth alienates (and often angers) those ducking for the shadows. Truth tellers push the keepers of the status quo to the limit. Pharisees and Sadducees make odd bedfellows, yet they united against both John and the One he was preparing for.

In an age of confusion, though, people look for clarity–especially when it comes to the will of God. Ordinary people were drawn to John because he both understood and taught that Jesus’ mission was to be “the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.” Who will declare this good news to our generation?

Your clear voice is needed

We need many John the Baptizers in our generation. We need clear voices calling out above the din and roar of partisan politics, social media, and personal comfort.

Will you be a clear voice in your generation?  Will you risk looking weird, wild, and wooly to speak Truth? Our generation will never find clarity in this chaos if we don’t bring it.

Take a risk. Shake the gates of hell by standing out in high relief from this generation as “a voice of one crying in the wilderness.” Lead people to the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  

Jesus is mounting his white horse, adorning himself in white robes, taking up his sword and preparing to come. We dare not delay.

Will our generation receive him?

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Whose Glory Is It Anyway?

The Least

135,000 soldiers filled the valley of Jezreel. Like a swarm of locusts they noisily consumed every living thing before them: crops, cattle, donkeys, grass, trees, wild animals, everything. When they moved through, nothing was left.

Within earshot of this vast swarm of humanity, Gideon bent over with his threshing rake, tossing what little grain he could in the bottom of a winepress, afraid. Perhaps he was peeking over the edge of the winepress when he spied a man sitting under the oak tree in Ophrah that belonged to his father, Joash.

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Looking around: “You talkin’ to me? Well … if the Lord is with us, then why do I need to thresh the grain in this winepress? Eh? Why is Israel overrun by these locusts, these Midianites? Why are we so poor, then? Answer me that! Where are the miracles? The deliverances? What about the stories my daddy told me when I was knee-high to a grasshopper? The Lord cut us loose. He handed us over to Midian … mighty warrior … let me be. I’m busy.”

“Shut up! … and listen. You have some strength left. Go and save your people from Midian. It’s Me talkin’ here … you will set your people free–by my hand.”

“You serious? I’m from the weakest clan in Manasseh, and I’m the least of that line.” Something clicked in Gideon’s mind. “You mean it? You’re going to use me to do this thing? You’d do that? Really?

You know the rest of the story. If you don’t, you’ll find the story written in Judges chapters six through eight.

Encouraged

I find Gideon’s story encouraging, if puzzling. Gideon is essentially a nobody in Israel. Today we’d call him an “everyman”. He’s taking care of his family, putting food on the table, trying to keep his head down and make it through tough times.

He’s honest. He speaks his mind. No filters. Even to the angel of the Lord. Even though he couldn’t wrap his head around the great tragedy that he was living through, he knew that Jehovah was (and is) the God of Israel. He wants to believe what he’s being told. It’s just so blasted hard when he looks both around him and within. He’s confounded. “Why me?”

His story shows me that it is OK to speak plainly to the Lord in prayer. God doesn’t smite him or grind him to dust. The ground doesn’t open up and swallow him. His questions are honest, not rebellious. He’s not opposing God, he’s just trying to understand, to discern the words being spoken to him. Though there is a twinge of fear in his heart, he obeys anyway. He fears the Lord more than he fears what might happen if he obeys.

His first task is to tear down Baal’s altar and cut down the Asherah pole, these abominations to false gods. He goes in the dead of night, but he goes nonetheless.

Gideon’s story is a picture of God’s grace and mercy. He uses a no-name to do deeds that were so pivotal in God’s greater story that they would be recounted for thousands of years. Gideon, though hesitant, was obedient. God used him to deliver Israel. He conquered an army of 135,000 with a mere three-hundred men, delivering Israel.

Lessons?

What can be learned here that will help us shake the gates of hell?

God chooses the weak, the nameless, the forgotten to fight the war in the heavenly places. Jesus chose fisherman and tax collectors and hot-headed zealots to be his disciples. When God chose the nobodies he equipped them to follow. They were chosen for their obedience and character, not for their name. He empowered them by his Spirit to carry out bold and courageous missions. God acted in the midst of their obedience and faith.

Warning

There is a stern warning here as well. Israel was quickly confused about who delivered Israel. They wanted to make Gideon their leader. But Gideon was not having any of it. His response was as straightforward as his initial prayers, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son. The Lord will rule over you.”

He next did something, perhaps with good intention, that became a snare. He took his share of the plunder and made into an ephod, which became an idol to the people. They worshiped the thing that represented victory to them. They worshiped “success.”

Today there is no end of books, blogs, and emails promising the secret to growing a successful church, building your mailing list, making a platform for your message. More often than not these are thinly-veiled business principles reimagined for religion and reputation. And what if we build a list of 100,000 readers or congregate of thousands of people? Gideon’s success became a snare for Israel. Could not our “success” be a snare to us? Will “success” make Jesus’ name famous or ours? (I’m not suggesting that well-attended churches or highly read authors or growing organizations are wrong or evil. By no means. I am suggesting that success doesn’t necessarily indicate blessing or eternal reality and that we should guard our hearts from seeking the wrong things.)

Whose Glory?

Shaking the gates of hell is something that happens in the heavenly realms and occasionally manifests in this one. Israel looked at the man God used to bring deliverance and wanted to worship the man. He wasn’t looking glory for his “success”. He was simply obeying. Whose glory is at stake anyway? God’s or ours? If we are seeking glory over obedience, it is surely time for repentance, humility, and submission to the Lord of hosts lest we destroy ourselves with our “success” and bring shame to the only Name that matters.

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Tested and Tried

Plato attributes the famous saying, “Know thyself” (Γνώθι σεατόν) to fellow Greek philosopher and mentor, Socrates. Socrates’ notion seems to be the preoccupation of the privileged, an activity of leisure. Not so. Consider what Paul had to say to the church at Corinth when preparing to visit them:
“Examine yourselves; to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV)
While Plato was using Socrates’ teaching to make some philosophical point to other philosophers, Paul was writing to ordinary people, some of them really messed up and in need of transformation, in order to give them means to remain strong in the faith, to make a daily choice to stand.
To examine and test one’s soul is no easy task. Says commentator Simon J. Kistemaker: “True faith is active and constantly forces Christians to test themselves to see whether Jesus Christ through the Holy spirit lives in their hearts. True faith testifies to intimate fellowship with the Father and the Son (I John 1:3).” (Emphasis mine.)
Yet this intimate fellowship we have with the Father and the Son draws us into deeper, more challenging testing. This fellowship takes us beyond our own conscience, placing us in the domain of the Father’s testing us. Consider what is written in Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
When we examine or test ourselves, we find either affirmation that we are in Christ or not. When God the Father tests us, he humbles us, removes our mistaken ideas that we exist on the merit of our own strength and genius, to see whether or not we will still follow him when it doesn’t make us look good in the eyes of those around us. What pride can we possibly derive from being fed and watered and lead, helpless and needy?
We are prone toward pride and independence, are we not? Hence the warning in verses 17-18: “Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
It can be easy to become discouraged in times of testing, misinterpreting the purpose of the test. We can feel attacked, forgotten, isolated, devalued. We can fall into the Satanic trap of feeling less than zero. But, in this case, truth trumps emotion.
Deuteronomy 8:16 indicates that God humbles us to do us good. He can use broken, submitted, humble servants: those are qualities ascribed to Jesus’ time in the flesh, on the earth. Our pilgrimage is to become Christ-like is it not?
Should you choose to take up the mission to shake the gates of Hell in your generation, you must take up the habit of examining and testing yourself, to see whether or not you are in the faith. You must take up the habit of submitting to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that Jesus might be represented well in this generation, that those who have ears to hear might receive the gospel, that those who choose to reject Him will do so not on the basis of ignorance, but having been informed of what they choose to reject. Friend, “Know thy faith.”


[1] Kistemaker, Simon J. New Testament Commentary: 2 Corinthians. Pg. 450. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997.

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Beyond Baca

When I was young, the thought of moving to the edge of the world and shaking things up was attractive. Whether I had some innate need to prove to God (or other Christians) the extent of my devotion or I just wanted to do something meaningful with the days given me remains a mystery. In my immaturity, it was probably a bit of both.

Perhaps I saw this adventure like an Indiana Jones movie, where the hero is the mild-mannered scholar by day, who sometimes just crawls out his office window in search of adventure—to find the rare, much sought treasure. Though the adventure seems risky, the viewer knows that the hero always survives peril, emerging treasure in hand, lesson learned, feeling more chuffed and heroic with each successive victory.

I’m not so young anymore. My adventure has taken a lot of unexpected turns over the years. The lessons learned have been hard ones. The peril is real. Any feelings of heroism evaporated long ago—probably on day one. Some days the hope is merely survival.

The romantic notion of heroism evaporated when I understood, rightly, that strength for this adventure is not my own. What is so heroic about being carried along, protected, and given all that I need by Someone else? Heroic? No. Blessed? Yes.

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you,

In whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the Valley of Baca

They make it a place of springs . . .”

Psalms 84:5-6

Blessed are those whose strength is in God himself. Blessed are those in whose heart are the highways to Zion. To attend the primary feast of Judaism, Passover, Israelites had to journey from northern Palestine to Jerusalem through the Valley of Baca, its brackish waters seeping from the rocks, weeping as it were, into the way. Passover reminded Israel that God himself delivered them from slavery in Egypt and gave them the Promised Land. Passover is central to both Old Testament and New Testaments because it puts mankind in right relationship with God. God delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. God delivers us from bondage to sin.

When we depend upon God’s strength, not ours, we are blessed. Our hearts are ever turned towards the activity of God in our lives and our world, away from fascination with our own efforts.

Just as the Israelites had to pass through the Valley of Baca to fulfill their pilgrimage, so we must suffer with Christ, to follow his Via Dolorosa. The valley we travel is dark and forbidding: the name literally means Valley of Weeping. The Psalm does not read “if they pass through,” it reads “as they pass through.”

Try to pass through this dark valley of weeping in your own strength and you find only tragedy and loss, desperation and despair. Why?

Psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed in 1943[1] that man’s highest need is self-actualization—like the Army slogan: be all you can be. His ideas permeate Western culture, making it difficult for Westerners to assign legitimate meaning to suffering. This lack of ability to assign meaning to suffering becomes a critical deficiency as we search for hope in the journey through Baca.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl writes in Man’s Search for Meaning: “Despair is suffering without meaning.” If we try to find fulfillment in personal glory or adventure or merely in some ambiguous sense of duty, our walk through the Valley of Weeping quickly becomes meaningless suffering.

Our pilgrimage must be the pursuit of God himself. When it is, the outcome is something quite surprising.

Rather than being an occasion for despair, Baca’s brackish waters become fresh springs, a place for all those who come after to find refreshment, nourishment, and rest.

Shaking the gates of hell is sometimes a matter of holding tightly to the One who is carrying us through the dark weeping, trusting him to light the path and make brackish waters fresh. The gates of hell are shaken when others benefit from our suffering. The gates of hell are shaken when He brings us beyond Baca.


[1] Maslow, A.H. (1943). “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Psychological Review. 50(4): 370-396.

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An Altar in the Wilderness

There exists a deep sense of displacement in many of our hearts. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have a tent to live in, but we are looking for a city with foundations, built by God. While we walk in the shadows of the dark valley, the enemy sneaks along the hillsides above us, spying and sniping, trying to kill us before we reach the open country. We are easy targets. We carry the Light through this strange country we wander in.

We do not, however, wander aimlessly. There are waypoints in the wilderness. Consider Isaiah 19:19: “In that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border. It will be a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts in the land of Egypt.” In New Testament language, we might say, “Every knee will bow, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” This prophecy provides hope for the future and spiritual principle for the present.

As you journey, look around you and you will see people with strange customs, alien affections, and selfish pursuits. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, who worship all sorts of things. In ancient Egypt it was the Nile River or frogs or fertility. Today the gods have different faces, but the affections of the worshipers are the same. Whether by ritual or sorcery or science, fallen mankind desperately tries to control all that threatens or promises to promote.

We, too, face fear, but God has not forgotten us in this wild country. He has allayed our fears by releasing us from the overwhelming need to control all. He has given us an altar outside the camp , where Jesus suffered in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. In so doing, He has changed our affections, transformed our customs, and made our pursuits transcendent instead of transient. We have lost our place in this world, becoming pilgrims, aliens, and strangers.

We have become a sign and a witness to the Lord of hosts. This is our mandate, our role, our place. To paraphrase (or personalize) 1 Peter 2:9: “But we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that we may proclaim the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We are living witnesses of Jesus’ sacrifice, his resurrection, his ongoing intercession, his call to draw all people to himself.

Do you, too, feel your displacement in this world? What altar to you sacrifice at? Are your affections, customs, and pursuits the same as or different than those around you? Are you pursuing eternity or time? Are you a sign to your generation? A witness?

Take these questions before God in prayer … then go out and shake the gates of Hell today!

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Get Your Prayer Guide Here

Prayer is a vital activity in advancing the Kingdom of God. Christians are called upon to be constant in praying for enemies, for governments, for authorities, for fellow believers, for open doors, for boldness, etc. Christians are called upon to be devoted to prayer.

experimental-prayer-guide-book-cover

Even with all the Bible passages that direct us to pray, many of us struggle knowing how to pray enemies or governments or fellow believers or, as in our case, missionaries. Not knowing how to pray often kills motivation to try. Don’t give up! One helpful means of discovering how to pray is to use a prayer guide. Click here or on the image to download a prayer guide to assist you in praying for the people involved in the translation of the Somau Garia New Testament.

 

Thank you for joining us in making the scripture accessible to the Somau Garia people!

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You Can Still Shake the Gates of Hell When Things Don’t Go As Planned

You Can Shake the Gates of Hell

When Things Don’t Go as Planned

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways,” declares the Lord.”

– Isaiah 55:8

In the West, we highly value productivity — or at least the appearance of productivity. We Western Christians all too often herald the expectation of productivity as a core value of following Jesus. Many of us believe that our life in Christ is only valuable if there are attendant measurable, attainable results (products)—or the appearance of them. Many of us even stake our identity in this idea.

What happens when God the Father decides that our dependence upon productivity is a huge hurdle to our growth in maturity and Christlikeness? How do we respond when God’s highest purpose for a season may very well be to teach us to deal with frustration, waiting, desperate praying, or trusting that there is real activity in the other realm that eyes cannot see?

I am a Bible translator in Papua New Guinea. My family and I live in a mountain village that gets upwards of 200 inches of rain a year. Mountainsides slide. Roads erode. Floods flow. The nearest city is over 60 kilometers away and is sometimes blocked by all of the above. Used to these realities, the locals here are … patient, easygoing, not concerned with speed or efficiency. Survival is enough.

These realities are disruptive, as are the questions. In the moments when this world is caving in on my expectations and the flesh is tired of waiting, the enemy goes to work on my sense of self-worth and accomplishment. He knows all too well how to use the expectation of productivity against me—and perhaps you, too.

Satan wants us to lean into our efficiency, to depend upon our productivity as a means of earning God’s affections. He wants us to think that if our productivity is interrupted by cancer or car wreck or even living in the developing world, that our faith is worthless and our position in God is null and void.

If you want to shake the gates of Hell, don’t take the bait. Don’t allow the adversary to convince you that the substance of your life is pent-up in getting things done efficiently any more than it is in the abundance of your worldly goods.

My college-aged sons and I were walking between villages a few months ago. We were talking about life and what we had planned for that day. We had made very efficient and productive plans for that day, but we instead found ourselves hiking and talking.

Our original plans thwarted, we asked God for his plan. The answers to that prayer took us to the house of a man who was sick and needed to be encouraged. They took us on a journey that would help establish a program board to streamline the work of translation among the Somau Garia people. God’s efficiency is about building people and his kingdom rather than merely giving us a personal sense of accomplishment.

The enemy hates it when we respond to frustration with prayer; when we choose to trust the Unseen rather than wallow in despair of what is only dimly seen. His designs for our destruction are thwarted when we surrender to our Father and his plans.

Are efficiency and productivity negative values? Of course not. Ministries like Bible translation are too great a task to finish without employing these values. But we dare not confuse the outcome of a set of work habits with fruit born of the Holy Spirit. Shaking the gates of Hell is done in the Spirit, by fruit born of Him and effort made through the strength of Christ—especially when things don’t go according to our plans.

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The Long Awaited Update

Uria Mopo Road Repair-2I have a confession to make. It has been months since I’ve posted here. OK, so you already knew that. Whew! I’m glad we got that out of the way!

I last posted a few weeks after we arrived in Papua New Guinea. Our initial weeks here were spent in the provincial capital, and then we transitioned to Uria Village, where we live most of the time.

One challenge of living in Uria Village is that, while there is a cell tower nearby, its data transfer rate is very slow. Most of the time it is impossible to upload blog posts to shakethegates.org. I’m currently looking for an elegant solution to allow me to upload from Uria.

We invite you to pray with us regarding a possible solution to the challenge. The current tower is owned by a company called Digicel. While they provide excellent service in the urban centers, their rural service apparently hasn’t been upgraded since the original towers were installed in 2008. Digicel’s competitor, BeMobile (partly owned by Vodafone) is erecting two new towers, one to the north of us, the other to the south. I’m guessing that the BeMobile towers have upgraded equipment (3G or 4G LTE). If so, it is likely that we will be able to get data speeds fast enough to keep up with the website and social media. Please pray that we will be able to get increased access while in the village.

Pictured above is a portion of the track we hike on into Uria Village. Fortunately for us, there is a lot of work being done to improve physical access to our area. It is likely that by the end of rainy season (toward the North American summer), we will be able to drive into and out of Uria–something that we’ve not been able to do for a very long time. Pray that increased physical access will be a blessing and not a curse. Much is changing in Papua New Guinea, much of which is being used for evil.

Finally, we invite you to pray with us as we launch a very busy 2016. Our part in shaking the gates of Hell involves translating the New Testament into the heart language of the Somau Garia people of Papua New Guinea, a people created for God’s glory. Among other things, we are conducting a translation workshop (beginning February 8), a preaching workshop (later in the year), and a spiritual retreat for Somau Garia translators. Pray that the Holy Spirit will stir the hearts and minds of the participants, bringing transformation and renewed passion for Jesus Christ.

Thanks for stopping by shakethegates.org–and thanks for praying!

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What Does It Mean to Shake the Gates of Hell? Part 1

The early months of our missionary career left us with the indelible impression that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, that the water really does swirl in the opposite direction “down under”, and that the spirit world is not a state of mind, but a life-and-death reality. Our gates (and maybe our foundations too) were being shaken and we needed to learn how to live and—fight—in a whole new way. Rather than passively waiting to absorb attack, we needed to climb out of the trench and make the longest run across no man’s land to shake the gates of hell.

It is useful to have an operational definition of those gates if we are to wage a good warfare. In Biblical parlance, a gate is “a symbol of strength, power, and dominion,” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Volume 2, page 656.) As such, when referring to “the gates of hell” (as found in Matthew 16:18) it is understood that we are not referring to the place of eternal punishment, but to those spiritual entities in league with Satan for whom hell was created.

Courtesy of Lightstock.com

Courtesy of Lightstock.com

To confront this league of evil, we must wage war in the spiritual domain, using spiritual strategies, tactics, and assets.

Like a tent spread over all of the following thoughts is Romans 8:37–39:

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The principles offered in the next several posts depend upon the truth that our Father loves us and that there is nothing that can separate us from that love. Some of these principles may, at times, make us feel vulnerable, exposed to the enemy, at risk. Yet, we must risk suffering in order that we might truly know Jesus, that we might gain a better resurrection, and have our faith purified and made strong. Jesus defined eternal life as “know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

Be Known By God

Shaking the gates of hell is a cooperative venture with the Lord that begins with being known (or acknowledged) by God. In a general sense, God knows everyone. This is not about being known in that way. I’m referring to the kind of intimate, relational knowledge that the Father has of the Son and for those who, by faith, have crossed from darkness to light. Turn your attention to these passages:

Mark 1:9–11, “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ”You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.””

Job 1:8, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’”

Judges 6:11–12, “Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, ”The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.”

Our authority to wage war in heavenly places is rooted in finished work of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection, and the mandate given us by Him. We are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), therefore we exercise delegated authority. Just as an ambassador serves as an extension of the government he or she represents, we represent the Savior according to His agenda, his power, his authority.

The difference in the Kingdom of God is that we are not just one of a host of bureaucrats carrying out the political agenda of a distant and unknown leader. We are sons and daughters, co-heirs with Christ, intimately known and loved by the One sending us to do his will. He has given us his Spirit to indwell and empower us, gifting us for the good of the body.

Christ’s finished work on the cross, his resurrection, even his mandate all exist under the great umbrella of God’s love for those whom He created. While these establish a foundation for shaking the gates of hell, they are merely the beginning. In the coming posts we will examine other elements of fighting the war in the heavenly places. Until then . . . may the Lord bless you and keep you, may the Lord make his face shine upon you and give you rest.