Over the years Tricia and I have prayerwalked in Northampton as I've written about. It gives us the feel of grabbing hold of and connecting God's Kingdom values with the spiritual landscape of this unique, small city. I experience his Presence when I pray this way.
Yesterday, I ran across a video of Tempe church planter Jay Moore. It's entitled Prayer Walking for Ordinary Christians Living Missional Lives: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/MissionalMeditations/~3/9bdJm2Hid_I/prayer-walking-for-ordinary-christians.html. Naturally, I was interested in what he had to say. In it he addressed the key reality of spiritual warfare especially in the context of entering into enemy territory and asking him to reveal demonic presences and tear down strongholds which hold people captive.
Smack dab in the middle of watching the video I heard someone coming up the stairs. I put it on pause, got up and greeted Hilary (not her real name). She was very forthright and shook my hand with a grip stronger than many mens' I've shaken. Hillary is an artist. She's also had a tough life. She does pencil sketches, and wanted to invite me to a show she was a part of in Northampton next week in the hopes she could have one at our gallery. She admitted she was really excited by the drawings she'd done, especially those of the Hindu gods (when she said it my mind actually flashed to the imagine Art Gallery filled with portraits of Hindu deities...what?). Then she exclaimed, "They really saved my life!!!" Her voice was filled with passion and sincerity. She seemed nervous; our interaction lasted on a few minutes.
I told her I would go see her work and I will. But after, I wondered what was the chance that when I was looking at a video on prayerwalking and spiritual warfare that a woman would come into our gallery and praise the Hindu gods in her life? A divine "coincidence?" God pointing and saying: "See where I'm taking you?" I had one of those God moment feelings we all get from time to time. Something's up.
Then, it happened again last night.
I was at my Friday night post hosting the gallery when four folks came in, parents in their 60's with their daughter-in-law and son. The parents were visiting from Cleveland. They began to tour the gallery when mom knocked on my office door. She praised the gallery, mentioned it had this amazingly peaceful vibe (it does and I know why) and told me she was a therapist. She mentioned she was Jewish when I told her of the TWiNE exhibit we'll host in May. Some the weavers are Jewish, and one in particular, has a tapestry memorializing the Holocaust. Then, she asked me if I knew where there was a store where she could purchase statues of gods for a friend - there is. I asked if she meant "like Hindu gods," and she said "yes!" She also was aware we are a church with a gallery. I'd mentioned it to her when she asked why we were here. She thought it was cool. Her spirituality was characterized as a belief in the universe, God or "whatever" as she put it. We fit there somewhere.
For the second time in the day I was talking someone relating closely to other gods. They came to me because of the gallery. Again, I wondered what was the chance I'd have a conversation about other gods on the same day? Both women talked as though they had tapped into divine reality. It made them happy. I thought of deceit and strongholds destroying lives. You might think that a bit strong. I don't and I have no malice toward the people; I don't have hatred for the false gods, however. I see their handiwork.
Twenty minutes later, I was in the office when two women came into the gallery. I did not hear them actually walk through. They were very quiet. The music may have covered their presence. They knocked on my open office door to inquire about the gallery. They loved the space. I mentioned it was an expression of imagine/Northampton, a church. She responded, "I know, but what kind?" I told her we were Christians, followers of Christ, but not affiliated with any denomination. The imagine Art Gallery was our effort to connect with the arts community in Northampton. They thanked me again and left. Not sure what they were thinking.
While the third conversation didn't lead to a discussion of other gods, it was clear the Holy Spirit was inviting me to pray in a very specific way. Northampton has a plethora of spiritualities all welcome, while Christianity is tolerated best if it behaves. While they might seem benign on the surface they are demonic strongholds all dressed up, likely guided by deceiving angels of light. Some might think my view judgmental, but the Scriptures don't. The Kingdom of God in the Old and New Testaments presents YHWH and His Son, Jesus Christ, as warriors overcoming the demonic forces of great darkness and death by proclaiming the truth, setting the captives free, giving sight to the blind, battling injustice and oppression, healing the sick, and giving dignity to the wretched and despised of the earth; the voiceless, unwanted, marginalized and weak.
My day began with a video about how to pray for others that the Kingdom might come in a particular place, and ended with folks who do not know Christ, crossing our threshold and revealing opportunity.
Therefore, my conclusion from yesterday is fourfold:
1. I need to pray with a more laser-beam sagacity about what God is revealing and confronting in this place with his tearing down and healing love. Divine love sears evil and consumes idols as if they're kindling. Discernment is paramount; without it we're nice, well-meaning people chasing our tails.
2. I mustn't fall into a sleepwalk with the imagine/Northampton routine I live. Church culture can easily become an end in and of itself, including our missional church culture. Efforts such the gallery, and the Open Table, the imagine Community Garden are in the right direction. There is more though...much more.
3. The spiritual people we meet here - there are many - are leery of us when they suspect we'll promote Christianity as the way, the truth, and the life if they get near us. And we must, but through the door of unbinding grace and love, the kind that demolishes fear because we live the courage of our liberty to love beyond first perceptions.
4. God must grant me the grace to struggle for a true manifestation of the Kingdom of the Almighty that will break though illusion, evil and pretense in this historic place of awakening and quickening of the Spirit. Without it, I'll remain merely a clattering cymbal. Not good.