I fell in love with the truth of Ephesians, from the incredible Spiritual blessings outlined in chapter 1, to the story of redemption in chapter 2, to God's plan for the church and His people in chapter 4-5.
What has blessed me the most is the message of power that weaves its way throughout the book.
This power is defined in chapter one:
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength that He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the Heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that may be given, not only in this present age, but also in the age to come." --Ephesians 1:18-21
Incredible! Did you catch that?? The power that He has for us is the same power that raised Christ from the dead! It is resurrection power, new life power, death-defeating power!
Again and again in Ephesians, the word "power" is used, with the chapter 1 verses to be used as the definition for the "power" Paul continues to write about. Consider the following verses in the light of that definition:
"I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." --Ephesians 3:16-21
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." --Ephesians 6:10
For me that definition changes everything. The resurrection power of God enables me to understand the height, width, depth, and length of the love of God. Through the work of Christ, God is able to do immeasurably more than all that I ask or imagine in my life. And through the defeated grave of Christ, I have the strength to face anything in this world--and from beyond this world.
Ephesians 6:10 is a prelude to the part of Ephesians that has always baffled me. I memorized it...but when the time came for me to really study that section, I stopped. All throughout Ephesians there is an underlying theme of the supernatural--that God's work spans all of time and place. His work is cosmic; it is clear from this book that God does not operate in the earthly realm only, but also in the "heavenly realms", a phrase used 5 times in Ephesians. When the book starts popping out with terms like "spiritual forces of evil", my mind starts drawing a blank.
I know there is evil in this world. I have seen it first hand. But for me, it is hard to distinguish the natural evil that is in the heart of man and the evil where Satan and his demons are actively working. How do I know when I am facing these spiritual forces that are, according to Ephesians 6, running everything?
"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
I bring all of this up because I feel like for the first time in my life, I have recognized the effect that these spiritual forces have on the lives of people. I am fighting a battle that is bad enough physically and emotionally, but incredibly worse spiritually. Caught in the crossfires of Satan's stronghold and the Kingdom of God is a very small, very sick boy named Enrique Pierre.
I returned to visit Enrique in the Dominican Republic this weekend after receiving the news that he had fallen desperately ill...news that he had been in the hospital for 19 days. I had been fighting for him for almost a year, warring against the disease and malnutrition that has been attacking him. We had seen a drastic improvement; now Enrique was more sick than he had ever been.
When you walk in Enrique's yard, you recognize the general destruction. It is utter squalor--a miry pit of mud, filth, and garbage. Poverty, to me, reveals Satan's destructive work at its finest, reducing man, made in the image of God, to a mere animal--lives squandered and wasted due to desperate want. Bodies can't thrive here; minds can't thrive here. But even here--as a matter of fact, anywhere--I am confident that the Spirit can thrive. That is our hope, isn't it? In Christ, even the darkness shall be light for us. And so God compelled me to step into the darkness of poverty, to do my best to shine His light into Enrique's life.
You can never quite shake the feeling that somewhere, Satan is laughing. John 10:10 reminds us that "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." In this place, in Batey Consuelo, you can see that the thief has been hard at work, stealing worth, stealing dignity. The family drinks from a muddy hole in the yard. They cook over someone's refuse. During storms, rain drives into the shanty, soaking God's precious creation. This is not the abundant life. This is bare existence.
Enrique is almost at the end of his existence. His life has been one of consistent neglect. His tiny frame, at 13 years old, is roughly the size of a 7-year old's. His body is racked with all kinds of disease. He is easy prey after a life of chronic malnutrition.
This past weekend, I went to the Dominican Republic in order to shine light for this boy--to deliver gifts of medicine, of clothing, of a bed--of basic needs to restore to this boy His sense of worth. I came to show him love--the Father's love.
I have been in His home several times, and yet somehow, I began noticing things this time that revealed the true nature of Enrique's battle. Inside the hovel where he lives, there are three beds. Two are neatly made and covered with mosquito nets to prevent mosquito borne illness. In those two sleeping areas, personal belongings are hung neatly. And yet in the third area, there is another bed. It is lumpy and old, with no sheet and no net. There are no clothes hung neatly--only a few plastic sacks with clothing stuffed inside. It is as if the person who sleeps there is invisible.
The true horror is revealed only when we take the old mattress out to make way for the new bed. As the old mattress is picked up, something begins to fall out. It is garbage--the mattress had been stuffed with garbage. Old clothes, plastic sacks, wadded paper, and even sticks had been the filling--not to mention the vermin. This was Enrique's bed.
But there is another room in the house...out of the way, shielded by a curtain. I had not noticed this area before. Out of curiosity, I pulled back the curtain. My friend nudged me sharply, whispering to put the curtain down. Behind it, there had been a table set carefully with curious items. Little cards and candles...
Nujerling said, "They don't like you to look at those things."
In a rush I understood. Little Enrique told us, "Every Saturday, my mother gives service to the devil." He went on to tell the story of the time his mother sold their archaic washing machine to pay to have demons cast out of him. What I had seen was a voodoo altar--an altar to Satan.
In America, we play with voodoo. Tarot cards, Ouija boards, and voodoo dolls are funny novelties--but in the Haitian culture, they are part of a very real, very destructive religion.
I have yet to say the worst. After we left Enrique's home that day, Enrique's health declined rapidly. He began to burn with a fever, shake with cold. His body became so weak he couldn't stand. He began passing the parasites that were infecting his small body. He coughed all night, a wracking cough that was too big for his tiny body. By the time we left him the next day, he was too weak to do anything but sleep. I carried him to his bed.
You see, Satan is a cruel master. He is the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He comes to take more than you have to give. God alone is the giver of all good gifts.
In the voodoo culture, Satan requires sacrifice, and sometimes, he requires his servants to pay a dear price...
Dedicated to him.
Which would explain many things.
In Enrique's culture, he is cursed. Cursed to be hungry, to be neglected, to be sick, to sleep in a mattress filled with garbage.
You see, I approach Enrique's situation armed with truth. I serve a God of love--a God who gives instead of takes. I serve a God who places value and dignity on each life, a God who seeks my good, who provides for my needs--to the point that He died for me.
Satan is strong, but God is stronger.
I am armed with power--the resurrection power of Christ. In this situation I am not only wrestling with flesh and blood. Enrique is fighting a stronghold of Satan, and I believe, in Jesus' name, that the battle can be won. Who once was offered as a gift to Satan accepted Christ as his Savior last week. Enrique is a child of the King now.
Please pray with me. Enrique is not just poor and sick--he is under attack. Consuelo is a stronghold, and the light is breaking through in the life of this small boy. He is the first child from his family or from his neighborhood who has learned to read and write. If he grows to adulthood, he will be able to read the truth of Scripture for Himself.
Some have asked if I was afraid. Some asked if I felt the darkness and oppression in his home. I can only answer by saying that in Christ, I have nothing to fear--but my heart is deeply saddened and angered by the destruction of Satan and by his attack on this child and these people who are living in darkness, deceived by his cruel lies.
In truth, I am scared that my boy will die--that poverty will choke out his small life. But poverty can never choke out his Light. I trust the Lord almighty and His incomparably great power for those who believe...and I trust in all things that He "is able to do immeasurably more than all that we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us."