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Breaking the Back of the Strongman

Breaking the Back of the Strongman

It all started one afternoon while I was driving to work. I worked as a senior pastor at a small Pentecostal church in Fort Worth called Cornerstone Church. The church was in the southeast part of town, just north of where I-20 and I-820 come together near Mansfield Highway, if you know where that is.

You may remember that busy intersection along the freeway where an infamous cluster of SOB’s—that’s “sexually oriented businesses,” if your wondering—maybe 4-5 adult bookstores, even more strip clubs and massage parlors, oozed out of the hillsides like festering, neighborhood sores. 

All those joints, as the old men called ‘em, had been there as long as I could remember, and I had been up and down Mansfield Highway since early childhood. In fact, I had mostly tuned them out driving by each day, since I had long ago learned as a child that you couldn’t catch a peek through any of the darkened doors with my dad driving by at 70mph. Sort of disappointing to my naughty 10-year-old mind.

This day was no different. I sped around the curve on I-820 hastening like Jehu to my exit at Sun Valley Dr. a half mile away. The SOB’s loomed up in my right peripheral vision, but I paid them little mind. Then, clear as a bell and out of the blue, I heard a voice say,

“When you break the back of the strongman of this city, I will close these places down.”

What?

“When you break the back of the strongman of this city, I will close these places down.”

That was odd. 

Now, I knew, of course, that it was the Lord, and I knew what he meant. I had heard and done enough preaching on dominion and spiritual warfare to get the gist:

“This city” was Fort Worth. Obvious enough.

But who was “the strongman of this city”? As I understood it, the “strongman of the city” was a shadowy figure that the Bible describes as a “principality” or “power,” one of a group of fallen angel-figures that dominates the kingdoms of men and manipulates human society through violence, greed and sex. And false religion. And politics. And broken family systems. And whatever else they can get their grubby hands on.

Not a pleasant bunch. 

The Book of Daniel records the most explicit account of these invisible powers, but they are mentioned or alluded to often throughout Scripture. For example, Paul warned us that our battle is not with people, but with these hostile, spiritual forces.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  (Ephesians 6:12)

However, Paul also told us that Jesus defeated these powers at the Cross and stripped them of their right to rule (Colossians 2:15), a right they had been given back at the Tower of Babel when God divided the nations.

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God (angels). (Deuteronomy 32:8)

As Peter put it, Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him” (1 Peter 3:22).

There’s a million other passages—more or less—that say much the same thing, but the point to grasp right now, as I struggle to pull this story back on topic, is that “the strongman of this city” is a stubborn, invisible power who rules illegally over the human race and resists the kingdom of Christ. The church of Jesus enters every city in every nation preaching that the Powers must yield to Jesus, that every knee must bow and every tongue confess that “Jesus is Lord!” That is what we gather and go to preach.

Michael Heiser |  Unseen Realm

Michael Heiser | Unseen Realm

(Check out Michael Heiser, Unseen Realm for one of the best biblical overviews of the Powers you will ever read. Get it HERE. )

So, when I heard the Spirit say, “When you break the back of the Strongman of this city,” I knew exactly to whom he referred.

And when he said “break the back” I had a good idea what that meant, too. It is a phrase somewhat like Paul’s powerful declaration to the believers at Rome:

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. (Romans 16:20)

Paul did not mean to say that Satan would be utterly destroyed and removed from the earth prior to the return of Jesus, but he did mean to say that there would be degrees and levels of dominion that would be achieved by believers in every nation under heaven as the kingdom of Christ grows in the earth. And that is exactly what has happened in the last 2000 years of Christian history starting with Rome, the city of the believers to whom Paul wrote. The “gates of hell” cannot prevail! (Matthew 16:18)

So, when the Lord said, “When you break the back of the strongman of this city,” he was prophesying a level of dominion that we would exercise through preaching and praying the gospel of Christ. He was telling me that Satan would be pushed back and his power to pervert human beings made in the image of God would be reduced in that specific locale.

And it happened just like he said.  

Here’s how it happened.  

I drove on to the office that day with that curious promise echoing in my head. I told Jeana about it later that evening, but didn’t mention it to anyone else. I think it was Friday. Late in the week, regardless. Sunday came and went, and I never felt to mention it to the church. That next Tuesday night (we had church 24/7 back then!), my brother, Tim, was our guest speaker. He preached on dominion and spiritual warfare. Powerful message. After he wrapped up, I went to the pulpit to close the service with a time of prayer. I felt an urging in the Spirit to share what the Lord had said to me the previous week:

“When you break the back of the strongman of this city, I will close these places down.” 

So I did.  

Everyone rejoiced, thinking, no doubt, “That’s a nice thought.” Not sure how many actually believed it would happen. But, then, as I was wrapping up and the musicians started to play, a gentleman in the church came rushing down the side aisle to the right of the stage, over by the wall, gesturing urgently at me to come to him. I eased over to where he stood, a big, tall man towering over my slight frame even with me standing onstage. 

“Did you read the paper today?” he burst out. 

“No, I don’t take the paper,” I replied. I mean, this was the early 2000’s, the dawn of the Internet Age, and I was cutting edge: I got my news on Yahoo. 

“In the paper today,” he went on breathlessly, “there was a story about the adult bookstores and strip clubs on Mansfield Highway. They are going to court to close them down!”

 As it happened, the SOB’s squatted on a half-mile square piece of land sandwiched between three cities: Fort Worth, Kennedale and Forest Hill. Because the SOB’s were in the county, no city ordinances applied limiting their presence. Kennedale wanted to annex the land and close the SOB’s down because they occupied both sides of the main thoroughfare leading into their up-and-coming city. However, the City of Forest Hill also laid claim to the land and was stopping Kennedale from annexing through endless litigation that had been dragging on for months, maybe years.

But that day, that Tuesday, they announced a breakthrough.  

Kennedale agreed to give Forest Hill a fire truck if they would release their claim to annex the land. Forest Hill agreed, and everyone went home happy. 

So, Kennedale announced that day in the paper that they were annexing the land, and the first order of business, the City Manager said, was to file an eminent domain lawsuit in court forcing the SOB’s to move or shut down.  

Now, people, the timing of all that seemed like no coincidence to me, so I rushed back over to the mic and told the church what I’d just heard. A roar went up! The people shouted and praised God for the promise. Faith went through the roof. 

It took ten years to happen.  

For ten years, we prayed, worshipped and declared the promise of God over the city. We did not focus on the SOB’s, though we reminded ourselves often of what God said. But we focused on lifting Jesus up. We declared the Lordship of Jesus, preached on kingdom rule in our hearts, homes and in the world around us. And one by one, they started shutting down (how we raucously celebrated each closure!) until, ten years later, they were all gone (one moved across the highway into Forest Hill). Now, in their place stands a McDonald’s, a Popeye’s Chicken, a Quiktrip and several other community blessing businesses. (Yes, fast food is a blessing, thank you very much!) 

You should drive by there sometime and give God a shout of praise. Get gas at the Quiktrip and a Big Mac while you’re there.  

Pretty amazing, huh?  

But there’s one more thing.  

Somewhere at about year eight, I think, I was preaching at a church in Norway. Sherry, one of the pastors there, told of an experience she had in prayer. She saw a vision of a gateway, like the gateway to a walled, medieval city. And in this vision the Holy Spirit showed her that their praise and prayer were opening a gateway in the city through which angels came and went. The Lord said to her that their authority in the city was increased as they exercised dominion in the gateway. 

When she said that, time stood still for me. I felt like I was standing outside myself watching everything in suspended animation. And the Lord said to me, “That’s what the intersection of I-20/I-820/Mansfield Highway is—it is a gateway, a spiritual thoroughfare that is presently controlled by the Strongman of the city. But as you break his back, his power in that corner will be driven back, and the gateway will be opened for holy angels. The thoroughfare will become a heavenly highway, and the dominion of darkness over Kennedale and SE Fort Worth will be broken. The spirit of poverty will be broken. The spirit of violence will be broken. The spirit of immorality will be broken. The spirit of religion will be broken. The dominating spirit that has enslaved generations will be driven back. The gateway will come under the influence of heaven.” 

I stood there blinking back tears. I felt, as my dad would say, goosebumps riding goosebumps. I knew I had heard a word from God.  

And that is what is still happening at that intersection. Prosperity and blessing is flowing along Mansfield Highway in both directions. Change is slowly but surely coming to southeast Fort Worth and Kennedale. Renaissance Square, the first major economic development since the 1960’s (yes, you read that right—the 1960’s!) opened in southeast Fort Worth in 2011, a mixed-use development of major retailers, luxury apartments and a charter school. Kennedale has totally revamped the gateway—their word!—to the city, the intersection where the SOB’s once lurked. Mansfield Highway will become a thriving artery for business and community in the years to come. 

Isn’t that an amazing story? It was incredible to watch God work over the course of ten years. It was amazing how our faith grew and developed. And God is just getting started. We now lead Freedom Life Church in the City of Mansfield, and God has much to say about what he will do here through his unified church, the combined effort of numerous strong, gospel-centered churches in this city. Strongholds are being broken. Gateways are being opened.

I’ll share more about some of that later, but for now, just let me say again that God is just getting started! The work he will do in this city will be astonishing. As we pray, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” 

Let it be. In Jesus’ name!

Three Prophetic Words for Mansfield

Three Prophetic Words for Mansfield

“You thought you were who they said you were.”

“You thought you were who they said you were.”