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

Courtesy of

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.


Facing the Unthinkable–Three Realities That Will Change Your Life

The lights in the cabin were dimmed. The almost unnoticed sound of air slipping over the skin of the airliner reminded me that I was at 40,000 feet. I sat, bleary eyed along the rear bulkhead, reading light on, notepad on the tray in front of me. It was Father’s Day and I was suspended between heaven and earth separated from my children and facing an unthinkable tragedy–I was going home, alone, to the U.S. to help my family bury my father. There were no words to pray. Sitting numbly in a stupor, I pressed pen to paper and began to write. “The last words my dad ever said to me were, ‘I love you, son. . .'”

Uria Village, PNG

The sun rises over Uria Village, Papua New Guinea

Mountains across the valley emerged from the darkness as dawn approached. Fog flowed through the valley below us, a great white river that would disappear soon enough. The friar bird began singing his morning prayer as did the dozens of Papua New Guinean neighbors encircling our house. I listened to the cadence of my wife’s breathing and of the gentle words of caring friends outside. Though we had lived in Papua New Guinea only a short time, my health was mysteriously failing. Why? Our friends were crying out to heaven for answers.

A different night a line of flaming torches flickered against the mountainside. People were descending into a maelstrom of violence and hatred, ready to burn, to kill, to revenge. Sin had to be dealt with, swiftly and severely, shame mitigated, respect restored. The torch bearers thought that someone in our village had performed a revenge-killing on one of their relatives and they were coming to make war. We were caught in the middle of friends who were suddenly at war with one another.

Loss, sickness, and violence. Three threads of my New Guinea experience. Why were they so frequently present? What was I to learn about shaking the gates of Hell from these harsh realities?

First, I learned that in even the most unthinkable, hurtful, and skewering situations, I do not come to God with answers–I just come to God. I learned that I don’t have words, most of the time, to adequately express the loss, the hurt, the frustration or the fear. I learned that there is Someone to help me with all that.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27, ESV)

Second, I learned that in even the most unthinkable, hurtful, and skewering situations, God is with me. I know this, in part, because the Son submitted to the most inhumane, brutal torture and murder, in order that I would not be charged and executed for my wrongdoing. I know this in part because when He was undergoing life in a human body–the temptation, the taunting, the torture, the rejection, even death–he experienced more of the unthinkable that I could ever imagine. Therefore, He is qualified to empathize with everything I’ve experienced. He takes that experience and prays with understanding for me.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

Third, I learned that even the most unthinkable, hurtful, and skewering situations serve to make me more like Christ and are used by God to make me more than a conqueror. They are used to make me fit for heaven, to be purified in the inner man, to be holy as He is holy. They are normative Christian experiences, not exceptions. They do not separate me from Him, they deepen my dependence upon him.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

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.  (Romans 8:35-38, ESV)

These three truths transform my heart and mind, stealing me away from fearful, tentative tendencies, making me into a fearless, intrepid intercessor who intercedes along with the Holy Spirit and the Son, shaking the gates of Hell, causing rumblings in heavenly places, risking all for the honor of being called “son” by the Creator, Conqueror, and Counselor.


Day 39: Please Pray, December 30, 2013

I’ve been asking the Lord to give me direction for the coming year. What should 2014 look like? What should our goals be? What does the time line look like? I’ve been asking for very specific areas. Aside from a few personal “nudges”, the Holy Spirit has consistently pointed me back to basics and to some overarching principles to walk and work by:

  1. Our primary and foundational strategy for ministry is prayer. It is our desire for 2014 to be characterized by transformational prayer. This concerns not only our personal prayer practices but also how we train, organize, inform, and inspire our prayer partners. Pray with us that God will grant wisdom, discernment, strength, and power to overcome the enemy–that we might honor Jesus’ name by fulfilling the duties of our ministry wisely and with zeal.
  2. God is in charge of the calendar and the activity of ministry. We have placed July 2014 on the calendar to return to Papua New Guinea. I look at the months on the calendar, the $$ needed and all that must take place and, honestly, I cringe. That cringing is not a faith act, though, it is a fear or flesh actPray that we will have an increased awareness and sense of God’s timing in all that he has ahead for us. Pray that we will have willing and submitted hearts regardless of the specifics of the Call. Pray that we will enthusiastically put our hand on whatever plow the Lord holds out to us and to serve wholeheartedly. Pray that our faith in God’s provision and plan will survive the purifier’s fire.
  3. Our season of building a prayer and provision team will result in praise and glory for God–especially in the faith-stretching and impossible-to-see moments and events. Pray that we will have deep awareness of God’s work in life and ministry. Pray that we will be able to tell His story well, that we will be able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, encourage and inspire his people in their faith. Pray that this season will also be a powerful testimony to the Somau Garia people as they watch and wait for the Word to be made available in their heart language.

As I review what I’ve written here, I’m reminded of the famous words of Sherlock Holmes: “Elementary, my dear Watson.” All these are elementary to true faith and Biblical ministry. Yet it seems like the basics are often the battleground. Please pray with us that as we move toward Papua New Guinea, toward telling the story again and again and again, that we will do that which is most elementary in the Christian life: put a smile on God’s face.


Please Pray — December 3, 2013


By now you expect to see a photo, a story, a plea. I’m laying aside all these today in lieu of a call to prayer. Today is Day 12 of 40 days of asking God for 40 new monthly financial partners, 40 new special projects partners, and 40 prayer partners.

Rather than seeing scores of new prayer partners and financial partners, we’d say we’ve seen an increase in spiritual warfare 40 times greater than normal (how does one quantify this sort of thing?) we’ve seen the enemy attack at any and every weak spot we have and we’ve seen a hate-filled, bare-knuckles beating occur. It has been brutal. . . we can’t say that we’ve enjoyed any of it. Once upon a time we might have thought of finding the next boat to Tarsus (and away from Nineveh.)

The sheer intensity of attack is telling. We are on the road to something transformational, foundation shaking, and spiritually significant in heavenly places.

Please pray for us as we endure the challenge before us:

  • Pray that God will cause us to stand in the evil day.
  • Pray that God will give us spiritual wisdom, understanding, and discernment to know how best to overcome in this season of opposition.
  • Pray that God will indeed raise up 40 new mature and wise prayer partners to stand with us in the gap.
  • Pray that He will grant us victory in this intense spiritual battle that is being waged.
  • Thank God for mercies extended already.
  • Thank God for giving us the power to plod through intense opposition.
  • Thank God for what He is already putting together to get us from here to there.
Prayers and Provision
Of course, if you’d like to join the team of intercessors partnering with us in this spiritual battle, click here to drop us an email letting us know of your desire to join the team. If you’d like to add dollars to your prayers and invest in foundation-shaking ministry, click here to visit our Donate page.

Thanks for praying!!!


Praying 40 Days to Freedom — Day 20

August 30 (Day 20) — Friday. Half way through the journey, friends. How goes the praying? Is Satan buffeting you, challenging you to give up and lay aside the work of intercession. Friends, stand firm. Pray today for yourselves and for others like you who are on the “hump day” of the forty day season today. Pray for clarity to see and acuity to hear what the Spirit is speaking to you in your prayer time. My prayer for you today is that He is filling you with all knowledge through Jesus Christ, that he is giving you the spirit of wisdom and revelation (in increasing measure) that you may know him better. I’m praying for you today that He is sustaining your strength and resolve as you imitate Jesus’ ongoing ministry of intercession, taking us to the Father and praying for us. Let’s pray for one another today.



Groaning, Joy, and Prayer

Groaning. This word is used in the letters to the Roman and Corinthian churches to describe our spiritual state and longing, groaning. We are told that “creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time”. We are told that we who have the Spirit “groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” We are told that we “groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.” Further, we are told that “while in this tent we groan and are burdened, not wishing to be unclothed, but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling.” Not only do we groan, but creation groans and even the Holy Spirit groans in intercession for us.

July was birthed in groaning and finished with the kind of joy a mother knows when she is holding her newborn close to her heart. We began the month at the lowest financial state we’ve been in the last 15 years. Our fiances were like Bilbo Baggins’ perception of his age: “ . . . Stretched, like too little butter scraped over too much bread.” Our response was to pray.

God answered those prayers in a hundred unexpected and creative ways, pouring out providence joyously and generously. God answers prayer powerfully today.

Don’t just go on my word, though. I invite you to join us in a prayer event pregnant with promise, filled with opportunity, empowered by the Spirit, each day a fresh chance to see the God of hand at work. Beginning August 11 and continuing through September 19 many prayer warriors are joining together to pray through “40 Days to Freedom”, a missions prayer event with one purpose–to partner with Jesus in setting the prisoners free. The prayer event is in concert with an evangelistic crusade being held in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea, where I’ll be serving as evangelist for the meetings. This prayer event is also in concert with a visit I (Todd) will be making to the village we served in for over a decade, to re-engage the translation of the New Testament, building on the foundation laid by the publication of the Gospel According to Mark, dedicated in 2007.

Interested. Two things you need to do. Drop me an email at  to let me know that you’ll be praying with us. Then pop over to “Resources” and download the 40 Days to Freedom Prayer Guide. Then, pray with all your heart. Use the guide as a springboard and pray as the Spirit leads you to pray.

Upon my return from Papua New Guinea, all the highlights, stories, and answers to prayer will be posted right here at

Blessings and thanks for joining in the battle!