Pull Down Strongholds! Raise a New Standard!
On April 23, I had a dream multiple times throughout the night. Every time I went back to sleep, I had it again. In that dream, God was preparing a new pathway, a new road, because He was about to open the eyes of the blind, and many of them were people everyone thought would never respond to the Gospel, people who could not be reached. I realized how often we don’t recognize the newness of things and how we take things for granted. But as we gathered in that private, quiet place on our knees and we took the posture of pulling down strongholds, God began to do something. In fact, I kept repeating in the dream, “Pull down the strongholds! Pull down the strongholds!”
At the first signs of breakthrough through payer, the chant changed to, “It’s time to raise a new standard! It’s time to raise a new standard!” Then I saw thousands upon thousands across the nation converging on the public square. They didn’t even know why they were there, but they were being drawn to hear message of the Gospel—the new standard that was being raised. Many of them were scoffing and jeering. My daughter Ashley was standing next to me as she prepared to lead worship, and I encouraged her not to be distracted by the nay-sayers but to keep her focus on worship and let God do the rest. Though I was speaking to Ashley, it was a message to her generation.
As I pondered and prayed over the next few days about what God had shown me, I kept sensing there was significance to the timeframe beginning June 21 and ending September 21, not realizing until later those dates were the first and last days of summer. I believe that is a window God has given us to prepare, through a summer season of focused prayer and worship, for what He is about to do. And as I’ve shared the dream through social media and other avenues, it has resonated in the hearts of many others.
(You can click here to see a video of Doug sharing more about the dream.)
WHAT IS A STANDARD?
Historically, a standard serves three purposes:
- To identify a group (tribal or national)
- To claim possession of a space or territory
- For festivity or celebration
Each of the 12 tribes of Israel had a standard or flag identifying its tribe, in camp and in battle. In battle, a standard is used to identify regiments or platoons and to communicate a variety of messages, including nationality and instructions to advance or retreat.
A standard is also a banner, and God’s banner over us is love. Jesus has already set a standard over us and is calling us to raise that same standard of life, love, and purpose for others to follow when the world is getting dark. It’s a standard of hope!
In the Battle of Iwo Jima, amidst the bullets and the carnage, five American Marines and one Navy Corpsman grabbed the American flag, raised it, and set it in the ground as if to say, “We will not be defeated!” The moment was immortalized in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph that speaks a thousand words even today as an act of courage and inspiration.
In the same way, when we are unashamed of the Gospel and unwilling to compromise the Word of God, we are tearing down strongholds and raising a new standard high for all to see. And as we move forth in courage, others are encouraged and inspired to persevere.
ROOTS OF UNRIGHTEOUSNESS
In the aftermath of the recent shooting at Santa Fe High School—which occurred just weeks after the ParkIand, Florida, tragedy—I joined with 60 or so pastors to minister to and pray with the devastated families. What has happened to our nation when we have students killing fellow students on such a regular basis?
We can blame it on Hollywood, education, music, or guns, but the real root is moral decadence from a society that says, “We don’t need God.” The root of the issue needs to be uprooted, but the answer will not come from man, politics, good ideas, or theories. We need Jesus at the throne of our hearts so His reign can manifest in our environment, through the hearts of God’s people.
As a nation, we’ve lowered the standard, and it’s time for us—you and I—to raise that standard once again. Many voices of compromise are out there, but the Bible is our standard for truth. We must set up His Word as our own standard, raise it, and follow after God with our whole hearts.
It’s time to create a new narrative because those who tell the story define the narrative and create the history. We need to be telling the story of the Lord, the Gospel of Good News, that brings salvation, healing, deliverance, and freedom!
PREPARING AN ARK OF REFUGE
As I prayed and processed the dream God gave me, the Holy Spirit led me to scriptures about the harvest:
“Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Matthew 9:38)
Then He said to them, “The harvest is truly great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:12)
Years ago, Steve Riggle, founder of Grace International, preached a powerful message on the God of the suddenlies or Baal Perizim, which means “God of breakthroughs.” I believe we’re on the verge of a breakthrough moment now!
Just as Noah, in simple obedience, built an ark before there was any sign of rain, we need to build up our churches as arks of refuge. Like Nehemiah, we need a weapon in one hand to protect from the enemy’s attacks while we also get things in order so transformation can take place. God is calling His Church to be an ark of refuge to receive all He is about to do!
DEEPER CONSECRATION, HIGHER EXPECTATION
In 37 years of ministry, challenges, and storms, I’ve learned two things that have sustained me:
First, we must keep our vision of hope and destination.
All of us go through difficulties and have storms to overcome. It can be distracting and disheartening if we do not have the right perspective. King Solomon said, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” But he also said, “A merry heart is good medicine.”
Daniel 11:32 says, “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.”
The original word for “know” here is “yada,” and it means knowing in a very interactive and personal way. When we know Jesus this way, we can call upon His name because we have a relationship with Him. His name brings the power of heaven to earth because He is pre-eminent. He is Creator of all things, and He desires to give that same authority to us:
…to the intent that now the [manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 3:10)
We carry the family name, so we also carry the authority.
Second, we must keep our expectation level high.
One of my daily personal prayers is this: “Help me go deeper in consecration, higher in expectation.”
When we keep our vision of hope, God gives us promises and a destination; then He gives us expectation beyond our human comprehension. We have peace that surpasses understanding, peace that prevails in our hearts. And in that place of expectation, our vision of hope remains alive. When we have great expectations beyond our circumstances, He gives us His perspective of the storm; when we rest on His shoulders, we can see from a higher vantage point.
David prayed: “Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” Jesus is the rock of our salvation, the rock unshakeable, the rock of ages.
Albert Einstein said, “Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.” The character of any kingdom emanates from character of the king. When we keep His perspective, His attitude, stay in the Word, and maintain fellowship with Him, circumstances don’t dictate our response. Our response comes from our relationship with the King and His Kingdom.
Nothing is impossible when we are in God’s manifest presence. He brings undoneness, but at the same time we experience His amazing grace. He picks us up, dusts us off, and commissions us with His authority so we can see our generation, our city, and our nation impacted with the Gospel.
STAY ON THE WALL
How many of us are broken hearted when we watch the news and see that state of so many lives, even entire generations, looking for answers? The world is distracting them from getting the real answers. What they need is Jesus—not worldly intellect or all the solutions imposed upon us through ideologies, systems, and politics. We need Jesus to manifest Himself upon our city, our nation, our generation, and to see His presence permeate and change lives, individually and corporately. We need that kind of move of God.
There is a battle for the soul of our nation and for the heart and soul of the Church. How can we change the soul of a nation if the heart (the Church) is sick? We need a defibrillation.
And they said to me, “The survivors who are left from the captivity in the province are there in great distress and reproach. The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire.” (Nehemiah 1:3)
Nehemiah is deeply burdened here because his people are in reproach and distressed; the walls of his city are broke down. This should be a place of protection and gathering for them, a place to grow in God and restore the altar of worship. Instead, they are unprotected and facing danger.
So it was, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned for many days; I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)
Nehemiah wasn’t praying for a list of things; He was praying for God to hear his cry and do something! He wept over the state of the people and the city.
Nehemiah prayed in the month of December, but there was no answer; he prayed in January, February, March…still no answer. It can be discouraging and disheartening when it feels like God doesn’t hear. But God is not a man, He does not lie; He keeps His promises. He answered Nehemiah’s prayer by sending him to his city, not only with the king’s blessings but with provision as well.
Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:1-3)
This is God’s word to you and me! The enemy wants us to distract us with difficulties and challenges any time we are doing a great work, but we must keep our focus and continue what God has called us to do.
Every person’s story is different but the ending is the same: We serve a great King! We serve the Creator of the Heavens who chooses to live in you and me, and He is greater than our circumstances. When I was battling cancer, I knew my healing was not going to come in leaving my calling—instead, my healing was IN my calling! If you stop doing what God has called you do to, the devil wins. Don’t respond to circumstances, but to what is true in God’s Word. Stay on the wall—don’t quit!
In 1989, I took a team on a mission trip to Belize. While my team went out to do street evangelism, I stayed behind to dig a large latrine hole to improve the community’s health and sanitation. I grew frustrated as I tried to dig through and around big rocks without the proper tools, and I began to have a bad attitude. I murmured and complained to myself, but God used this scripture in Ezekiel to remind me how many times He had cleared the stones out of my heart:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
As we prepare for this great harvest, we must be committed and persistent to overcome every obstacle and distraction the devil sends our way. God wants us to keep our vision of hope and destination, our expectation in Him, and a perspective from His vantage point. We need a clean heart, a right spirit, and a sharp, stable, sound mind so we can be ready when God says to move!
GOD OF THE SUDDENLIES
God is about to do a suddenly moment! A breakthrough moment! And we need to be prepared to receive the harvest. As God opens the eyes of the blind, they’ll have questions and we need to answer with the truth of God’s Word, seasoned with grace.
This is not about a militant strategy, and it’s not a battle with flesh and blood. Just as atmospheric pressure, which we cannot see, causes storms and destruction that we can see, the same is true with the spiritual atmosphere. Through knee-time and vertical worship, we can bring about a change in the spiritual atmosphere that we can see visibly in the natural. And when there is a breakthrough in the spiritual realm, the Church needs to respond as an ark of refuge, a place where people know they can go to grow in their faith and relationship with the Lord. Like Noah, we need to prepare in advance because when God moves quickly, it’s too late to start building. We need to be preparing and building now in every way: spiritually, physically, practically, emotionally, and mentally.
The God of the breakthrough is about to do a “suddenly.” We are about to see a pouring out of His presence.
What would happen if thousands more people suddenly started going to church? What if people at work and on the streets suddenly started asking you about Jesus? I’m expecting God to do that if His people come, by the thousands, to the place of pulling down strongholds in prayer and worship, with the expectation that God, who has all authority, can penetrate the most difficult of circumstances.
As we pray and prepare, I believe people will come out of the woodwork; they’ll be curious and not even know why. They will see God’s love through His people, pulling down strongholds and raising a new standard, telling a new story that creates a new narrative. That’s the expectation in my heart, my vision of hope, if people will gather and prepare. The Risen King lives in you and me. God is bigger than our circumstances. Storms will come, but circumstances do not dictate who we are.
We are living in a critical moment, and we have a window to get people’s hearts ready. Jeremiah 8:20 says: “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and the people cry, we are not saved!” Let’s not miss this opportunity. Will you join me this summer to pray for the Lord of the Harvest to send laborers and to prepare us for the coming harvest?