Gatekeeping in my Neighborhood

Several years ago, my family was in a tough way and needed to find a home to rent. We made two lists: things we needed in a home, and things we wanted in a home. Through a series of miracles, financial and otherwise, we actually purchased a house that had everything on both lists. We were elated.

But the elation was short-lived. Our home had everything that we knew to ask for, but there were some things we didn’t know to ask for. In our first week living there, I learned of three drug dealers on our block. I watched drug deals go down at the front door of the house across the street while my kids played in my yard. They knew about that dealer, and they told me about the other two dealers on the block, and which houses they lived in.

This was absolutely not OK with me. I talked to the authorities, and they told me about the standards of evidence that they needed in order to intervene. I talked to other neighbors, and they shook their heads and “tsk tsk’d”.

Then I talked to God. More precisely, I whined at God. “God, why is this going on? This isn’t right! Make it stop!”

It seemed as if he let me vent for a while, and when I paused to catch my breath, He interrupted. “So what are you going to do about it, Son?” Hunh? That stopped my whining immediately. Once my head stopped spinning, I asked more intelligently, “Uh… what can I do?”

He gave me some prayer strategies: some specific ways to address the situation in prayer, rather than through legal means, social means, or whining. The specific strategies aren’t important except that they involved me obeying Him, and they involved me making some particular declarations over my neighborhood. Throughout the process, God used the metaphor of a gatekeeper with me: the one who decides who can come in and who cannot.

So I obeyed: I prayed the things He said to pray for, the way He said to pray it. It was odd stuff, so I did it in the middle of the night and the wee hours of the morning: I didn’t want someone calling the cops on me!

His instruction to me was to establish some "gates" at the entrances to my neighborhood. That felt really weird. I didn't see anything in the natural, looking with my "spiritual eyes," they looked like the gates of an ancient walled city.

Fundamentally, the decree to the "gates" was: "Welcome in the Holy Spirit, and the human spirits of the people who live here, and their legitimate guests. Keep out every other spirit, human or demonic."

Suffice it to say: it worked. Within 30 days, the three dealers were gone. The one across the street sold the house to a family with a daughter the same age as my daughter. The other two just picked up and left, leaving empty houses. All three houses were soon remodeled.

I was stunned. I don’t think I’ve ever seen prayer answered in more detail than I did in this adventure: first our house, then the removal of the drug dealers. Life was good!

Then my next door neighbor invited a woman to live with him. She brought guests: two silicon implants for him, two full-blooded wolves for herself, and a host of demonic co-habitants. Life was no longer good.

I called every government agency I could think of that might have some authority with wolves: federal, state, and local agents told me time and time again: “No sir, wolves don’t belong in a residential neighborhood, but yes sir, she does have the necessary permits for them. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

I ignored the time that they lunged from the back of her Toyota pickup and nearly ate me. But when they tried to eat my daughter (they didn’t succeed, but just barely – she was unscathed), I confronted the neighbor: politely, gently, because he was a wimpy little guy and I didn’t want to intimidate him. But the wimpy little guy got big and snarly when I suggested that the wolves shouldn’t live there: he cussed me up one side and down the other in his rage, and vowed in no uncertain terms that they were not leaving, not today, not ever!

Hokay! That’s not going to work!

So I tried prayer. Again, I whined at God; again, He interrupted, but more quickly this time. “What are you going to do about it?” Again my slack-jawed “Hunh?” Then He went on, “You’re my representative in that neighborhood. It’s up to you. What’s your decision? Do they stay or do they go?”??

That floored me. I didn’t have a theology to deal with that kind of a question, but I didn’t hesitate. The wolves wanted to eat my daughter, and God was saying that it was up to me? “Heck no! They cannot stay. They have to go!” and I knew I was speaking with the authority of a judge announcing a decree.

That very weekend, they moved out. No explanation. The guy that cussed me out and shouted that they were staying, took their wolf-house down himself, packed it into the Toyota truck and moved it away. We never saw the wolves again, or their owner with the implants, except once, and the Police arrived en masse with drawn weapons to make sure that didn’t happen again. No explanation for that either.

Since then, I’ve tried to exercise this authority in other ways, and when I felt that I was following God’s leading rather than my own, I have found that things often unnaturally change.

I have also found that I need to increase my skill in wielding this power: I watched a porn shop close after I made some decrees, only to be followed by another in its place, and that one was more firmly rooted (though it had a “going out of business!” sign on it regularly). A pagan worship center was closed, only to open up again a couple of blocks away. Both have since gone out of business

These are curious stories, and true ones, but what’s the purpose?

I have developed a couple of guiding principles from these events, and the others that surrounded them (this was an interesting season in my life!):

1) God delegates authority to His representatives in an area. (My “area” of influence was only a couple of blocks; others’ territory may be smaller or larger.)

2) He takes that delegated authority very seriously. When He gives authority, He means it.

I guess there’s a third principle:

3) I probably ought to exercise the authority that I’ve been given, and I probably ought to exercise it for good purpose.

I know I’m nothing special. May I suggest these principles for the life of the church in this season? May I suggest these principles for you?

The Pilgrimgram comes from an elder Pilgrim about the thing we call "church." Seldom politically correct, this is what I hear God saying to and among His Church today. Feel free to share it with others.

Freedom within Limits

"Freedom within Limits" is a real thing.

Years ago, I worked with a daycare that had a field for their playground; the kids stayed in the middle of the field, or near the building. When we fenced in the field, their behavior changed: now they used the whole field.

The Bible treats us this way. In Galatians 5:13, Paul says "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature ; rather, serve one another in love." That's freedom within limits: "Yes you're free, but you're also free from sin! In your freedom, don't choose sin."

The Pharisees of Jesus time set a model that is occasionally followed today: "Yes you're free, but you're also free from choosing! In your freedom, don't choose anything." As leaders, they choose to keep us safe from ever making a mistake, ever becoming exposed to anything unhealthy, or anything that could eventually become unhealthy.

And so they set up fences to protect us. Like this poor guy has.

The foundation on which he stands reads "Freedom" but he's fenced in so tight he's functionally immobilized.

The fence around the daycare's playground enclosed about half an acre: there was room where the kids could run all day, wear themselves out. It also enclosed the coolest playground in town: bridges, climbing things, tunnels, a fireman's pole, all custom-designed and hand-made with love. There was so much fun inside the fence that we never had trouble with the kids even wanting to leave. In fact, it was difficult - on sunny days - to bring them back inside after play time was over.

There must be fences around our lives. But the fences must be so big that we can run at full speed as long as we can and still not run into fences. There must be enough play stuff inside the fence - stuff like opportunities to heal the sick, disciple young believers, field trips to glorious meetings, treasure hunts on the streets - there must be enough of a playground that we don't ever want to get out of the fence.

That's the way life in the Kingdom should be!


The Curse of Curses

It occurs to me that we the church don’t really understand curses the way we need to. I suspect that God will be releasing a fair bit of new revelation on the subject of dealing with curses over the next several years.
I need to think this through a bit. Fortunately, this is a blog and that’s what blogs are for: to think out loud. Thanks for sharing this with me.
Proverbs 26:2: Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight.
Obviously, if there’s no cause, any curses aren’t going to stick to me. But in this is the clear inference that if there is cause, then the curses may very well stick to me, and I will be cursed.
Now, on the validity of curses, consider Joshua and the city of Jericho:
Joshua 6:26: Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, "Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates."
Now add this verse from several hundred years later:
1 Kings 16:34: In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho . He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn , and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.
So Joshua declared a curse on the un-known rebuilder of the city. In other words, there was no cause for that curse to alight, but when a guy named Hiel starts building the city, suddenly curse sticks, and the conditions of the curse kicked in.
Curses are rather like laws. The law of this land – and to a certain extent, the Law of the Old Covenant – are not primarily a statement of “You may not do this,” but more a statement of “If you do this, this is what will happen to you.” The law cannot change behavior (we’ve known that, haven’t we?)
Joshua’s curse never said, “Nobody can ever rebuild this city.” Rather, he said, “If they do, this is what will happen to him.” That’s what curses are like: when the curse has “a cause”, it will stick to the person that gives it the cause, and bring about the results of the curse.
Sometimes, the details of the curse are not real specific, as in Abraham’s covenant with God:
Genesis 12:3: I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
In this case, the curse describes the person who will receive the curse, and the condition that will make the curse stick, and they are the same: whomever curses Abraham (and his descendents, since the blessing was for generations); but it never describes the nature of that curse. Those who curse Abe’s descendents will be cursed, but the nature of that curse are not detailed. I suspect that the curse that falls on the curser is the same curse they fired at Abe’s kids: whatever they curse Abraham’s children with falls on themselves, but that’s mostly an opinion.
For the record, this business of cursing is not for us as believers. Jesus commanded us:
Romans 12:14: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Also for the record, Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the Law:
Galatians 3:13-14: Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
And there will be an end to the season of curses altogether. In Revelation, John is describing eternity:
Revelation 22:3: And there shall be no more curse , but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.
OK, now for some principles on the subject of curses:
1. Anything we do from obedience to the Law – by extension, anything from a sense of obligation or duty as sole motivation – is cursed.
Galatians 3:10: For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse.
2. A curse may wander around unfulfilled for centuries until it is fulfilled. See the example of Joshua (above), whose curse sat there unfulfilled hundreds of years after Joshua declared it.
3. I can choose whether I get stuck with a curse or not by whether or not I live my life with a cause for that curse.
Now think with me for a minute about application of these principles:
If we put a Christian bumper sticker on our car and drive like hell, then we deserve the curses spoken against us by other drivers. Trust me, they’re being spoken, and passionately. We live under a curse – many curses – because of our driving.
If we have a habit of saying things like “That was stupid!” or “I always do that!” when we make a mistake, we’re speaking curses against ourselves, and they’re likely to stick. We live under curses because of our habits of speech.
We live in a season when our nation looks win disfavor, even anger, against Arab nations, and there is a fair bit of cursing of Iraq or Iran or Saudi Arabia in popular culture. Remember Genesis 12:3: there is a curse on those who curse Abe’s kids, and it also means that anyone who curses the Arab nation may also make themselves a target of this curse, as they are the children of his son Ishmael, who is the father of the Arab nations.
My recommendation is this: stop cursing. (That’s not the same as “stop cussing”, though there is room for that argument as well.) There is no good that comes from speaking evil over people, whether generally (eg. Iraq) or specifically (the guy who just cut you off on the freeway), whether others or yourself. If we deal in curses, we are likely to earn them ourselves, and then the swallow stops flying and the curses come to rest on us; instead of living under the blessing of God, we live under curses, and everything goes wrong. Or those curses rest on someone else, and they have to live with what we’ve foolishly declared over their lives.