“He must increase, I must decrease. “ (John 3:30)
Let us move on to the second part of the triangle now. This will answer the question: What will obedience do for me personally? We saw what our obedience will do for others in this sinful and fallen world. We also saw what it will do for us eternally (earn us rewards). But what will it do for us here on the earth before we die and go to heaven to spend eternity in the presence of God?
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing…” (1 Peter 4:12-13)
The answer is simple—it will earn us suffering! The relationship between obedience and suffering is direct and linear—the more you obey, the more you will suffer! Little obedience equals little suffering, big obedience equals big suffering.
Well, let’s ask the question that everyone is surely asking at this point. Who in their right mind would sign up for suffering? Once again, this brings us back to Christ and the command in Scripture to live as He lived. Christ, our Savior, obeyed God, His Father, but His obedience led to suffering. Why would we expect anything less? At this point, let us study some verses that aren’t commonly preached on because they aren’t marketable.
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.” (Philippians 1:29)
Consider it joy
After the apostles were flogged for spreading the gospel, Scripture tells us that, “they went on their way from the presence of the Council rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41) What is wrong with these people? Let’s review what these verses are saying.
Rejoice to the degree that we share in Christ’s horrible suffering. Suffering is a gift, granted to us and put on the same level as the gift of believing in Christ’s name. After receiving, most probably 39 lashes, each of the apostles fell on the ground rejoicing and celebrating that they were counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s name? This is all so counterintuitive that it appears difficult to ascertain what the Bible is trying to teach us. But, it is actually simple when we truly understand salvation.
When we are saved we are saying that our old nature died with Christ and now we are a new creation. Paul puts this best in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” This proves that Paul fully understands salvation, and so should we.
Following salvation, our flesh, the part of us that wants to avoid suffering secondary to the carnal sense of self-preservation that dominates our every action and decision, should be dead, crucified on the cross with Christ. Don’t we understand that Satan is the ruler of this world, and he does not want us sharing the gospel with anyone who he has in bondage? If you are obeying God’s Word, through sharing the gospel, what you are doing, in essence, is destroying Satan’s kingdom on this earth. Do you really think that Satan is going to take that sitting down? Absolutely not! He will come after you with every demon he has, and this will result in a life of continual demonic opposition against everything that you are doing in obedience to expand God’s kingdom on this earth. This is why the Bible promises suffering to the Christian. This is how Christ, Paul, and Peter, can say that suffering is a guaranteed aspect of the REAL Christian life. The reference verses reveals this below.
“A slave is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)
“Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)
“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
(2 Timothy 3:12)
So are you suffering for the cause of Christ? If you aren’t, it means one thing. Satan isn’t worried about you as you represent no threat to his kingdom plans on this earth. It must be said though that suffering is not something that should be sought out. Recall my earlier comment that the only aspect of the triangle that involves our free will is obedience. If you are going out to look for suffering, you are a fool!
Suffering should come as a result of obedience. Suffering will come in varying degrees within varying ministries in varying countries and cultures. 1 John 3:8 says that, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” Jesus came to earth for one, sole reason—to destroy the works of Satan. Thus, it only makes sense that if we claim to be living as Christians, through the power of Christ, that we should be focused on the same one thing that He was—destroying Satan’s work on this earth. This will surely invoke Satan’s wrath against you. Therefore, suffering will ensue as a by-product of your obedience. Expect it, because it will come. It is promised to come! Consider it a gift though. If you are doing God’s work on this earth, the world will treat you just like it did Christ. Therefore, sharing in Christ’s sufferings becomes an honor, a mark of genuine, real, dedicated, obedient Christian work.
One powerful word
Over the last 3 months in Haiti, we have experienced events that would be relevant to this discussion. As you know, one of the biggest arms of our ministry is the vodou ministry. God has clearly revealed to us that Haiti’s widespread worship of demons is the primary foundational problem in Haiti and this demonic power must be eradicated through the power of the gospel. Since our efficacy in this ministry is limited by our number of workers (we can only see a few vodou priests each day), Joy and I were praying and asking God to reveal additional ways to both augment and strengthen the existing evangelistic ground effort. God quickly revealed His answer to us. The answer was a single, yet powerful word—PRAYER!
This made perfect sense. The declining number of workers only effects the one-on-one, personal evangelistic efforts that focus on the individuals who are living in bondage to Satan. What about the power that fuels the entire vodou system? This power, of course, is purely demonic and thus demons are the spiritual source of every vodou priest and priestess' power. If that power can be decreased or eradicated, vodou would have no foundation to stand on and the system would collapse. At the very least, it would get vodou priests to question what is conquering their demon’s power, which would lead them straight to the power of Christ! The most powerful way to strip demons of their power is prayer. We listened to what the Holy Spirit was telling us and began to plan a prayer effort that would be aimed directly at the demonic power, authority, and strongholds that we were aware of in our region.
The battle plan
We initiated a three-pronged prayer attack through the utilization of groups that we were a part of. These consisted of mature Christians who were prayer warriors. The first group that we approached was our IDT group (Intensive Discipleship Training), which consists of 25 young adults aged 16-36, that meets at our home every Tuesday evening for an intense 2-hour Bible study. These young people were all personally invited by myself to attend this special study, secondary to the Holy Spirit pointing them out to me as future Christian leaders in Haiti.
At the end of one of these studies, I stood up and told them that the demonic power in this area—their area—had to be defeated. Even though we were doing our best to go to each vodou camp and share the gospel with them. We could do more—we could pray. I asked them right then and there to all join me in falling to our knees and crying out to God. We asked Him to tear down the power of the demons, preventing them to function as freely and unopposed as they had been up to this point for possibly centuries. After we prayed that day, I told the group to make this a daily practice, and that they should set aside private time every day to intercede for their communities and beg God to strip the demons of their power. They all agreed to do this. That day, while the entire group was on their knees praying against the demonic power that existed in this area, I felt the power of the Holy Spirit already at work in that room. I knew that we were about to witness demonic defeat!
Print and distribute
The second attack against the demonic came from the church. Joy and I sat one evening and listed all of the vodou priests that we were actively working with and others that we had just recently begun working with. We wrote every name that we could think of on this list, which included vodou priests, vodou priestesses and malfactors. (Malfactors are vodou priests who only do evil, including killing people.) We then entered every name into the computer so that we could print the list for distribution. The aim was to distribute this extensive list of Satan’s workers to all 9 churches that we closely work with in Haiti. The timing of this was perfect as we were just finishing up visiting and preaching at all 9 churches. We also distributed this list to all of the Christian leaders and pastors that we work with on the ground in Haiti. This totaled over 700 people, which included church congregants too. Each church was very excited to be undertaking this effort of destroying the demonic power that their communities had been sitting under for so very long. They were so excited about the potential of this corporate prayer effort that they additionally agreed to fast one day a week to enhance the effort. So we printed the lists, distributed them all over the course of 1 week, and all of the churches and leaders began praying and fasting on the same week!
From a distance
Lastly, we sent the list to our board of directors, the pastors and congregants of our affiliate churches in the United States, and various family members. The request was the same—to pray every day against the demonic powers that exist within our Haitian communities in an effort to weaken and destroy them! They all agreed and also expressed excitement about the potential of this prayer effort!
With every advancement or effort made in the direction of obediently expanding the kingdom of God on this earth, there will be demons lined up to oppose the work. The Bible directly warns us about this. Since we are forewarned in Scripture concerning Satan’s tactics, any Christian doing God’s work should be expectantly prepared to resist the Devil. We should not allow him a foothold in any aspect of God’s work.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:10-13)
I say all of that to say this—we were expecting a demonic response to our massive prayer effort, and we weren’t disappointed. As soon as we began this strategic prayer campaign against the darkness in Haiti, the spiritual tide began to turn. Even our Haitian friends said that the feeling ‘in the air’ was one of increased evil and oppression. I will share some of the ‘sufferings’ that began to surface during this time.
Not much has changed since Job’s time in terms of Satan’s style of attack against the saints. One of his favorite ways to hinder the work of Christians is by attacking their health. What we always must remember though is that, despite Satan’s intentions, God is always behind the scenes working for the good of those who love Him and to glorify His own name. So if seemingly bad things begin to happen, always remember that your loving Father in heaven has allowed this, and it is meant to advance your sanctification and display His glory! Joy and I both contracted the Zika virus shortly after initiating the prayer effort. We refused to let it hinder the work on the field though, so both Joy and I continued to work despite the sickness.
Abscesses began showing up on many people’s bodies in various places. As an aside, I don’t have any anecdotal evidence to statistically defend this, but it has been both Joy’s and my observation that demons love using abscesses specifically to torment people. I have encountered multiple ‘abscesses’ on people that I could not remove, secondary to the patient going into a seizure and losing their pulse. In every case, the individual worshipped demons, hadn’t paid a debt owed to the demon, and the demon marked them with abscesses/masses on their skin. When excision was attempted, the demon had a ‘legal right’ to take this person’s life! This is consistent with what we see in Scripture too.
We see Job struck with abscesses (boils) from head to toe in the book of Job. In Isaiah 38, we read about King Hezekiah who had what must have been a serious, deep abscess on his foot, because it was going to take his life. However, he prayed and God healed him, giving him another 15 years to live. The 6th plague of Egypt in the book of Exodus involved painful abscesses on everyone’s skin. We see that abscesses are one of the ‘marks’ of Satan’s work. (However, it's important to understand that not all abscesses are Satanic markings).
The frequency of abscesses that I was treating within the communities that we were praying for was impressive. There are four that stand out in my mind: 1) A large one on the wrist (a rare place for an abscess) of the grandmother of a little girl name Dialle who we have known and loved since we arrived in Haiti. This was the first time that I ever saw this grandmother sick. 2) Another was on a friend of ours, who we have jokingly nicknamed ‘the bushman’ secondary to his disappearing into the bush all day to work. He has been going to our church since we opened it in our living room almost 5 years ago. He showed up at my house with an abscess that made a hole, the size of a grapefruit, on the inner aspect of his knee. He had high fevers and was probably close to death as the infection had entered his blood. 3) A young teenage girl came to me with a very large abscess in her armpit (axilla in medical lingo), and she too was experiencing fever and sickness proving that the infection had entered her bloodstream too. 4) Lastly, while we were walking up to Nan Zimye, a new unreached area in the mountain that we are actively evangelizing, I was pulled into a small home at the desperate request of a young man. When I arrived on the porch I saw a woman lying there who was close to death. She was emaciated with a very high fever and barely conscious. After questioning the family and examining her, she had a large abscess of a lower tooth. This abscess had gone untreated and had spread into her neck. Her neck was very swollen and on both sides of her neck were large holes draining pus every time she turned her head. Essentially, she had an abscess that involved one of her lower teeth and her entire anterior neck. She could barely breath as the abscess was putting undue pressure on her trachea.
Through God’s grace, each of those four people, including the last woman with a neck abscess, completely recovered after surgical drainage and antibiotics. These are just a few of the countless abscesses that we treated shortly after the beginning of our prayer efforts against the demonic strongholds, but God allowed every abscess that we encountered to be treated effectively and healed.
We also began witnessing death at an unprecedented rate since we began working in Haiti. I was surprised by what I heard when I inquired about the deaths that were occurring around us, especially in Peredo (a village steeped in vodou). These many deaths were a result of black magic. Some very evil vodou priests had come to Peredo to teach a new magic that they had started using. This was called bottle magic.
It was very interesting to me that these evil priests decided to come to Peredo right when we started the prayer effort. I haven’t yet gotten to personally speak with any of these ‘visiting’ priests. But I do know that they came from the Artibonite region of Haiti, which is notorious for the darkest of magic involving, in many cases, human death and sacrifice. I would love to ask them if they had traveled to Peredo as a result of a command given to them by their demons to come and help set up a spiritual defense against the prayers. This magic that the Peredo vodou priests and malfactors were being taught involves taking a bottle and cursing it by summoning a demonic entity and placing it within the bottle.
The demon is released upon a person if, and only if, the vodou priest blows over the top of it in the direction of a person passing in close proximity. The vodou priests would perform this magic and then stand behind trees or large rocks at night, waiting for unsuspecting people to pass by. As people would pass, the priest would step out and blow over the top of the bottle in the direction of the passing person and would then run off. These people would fall very ill within 24 hours and die very shortly after that of what appeared to be some sort of wasting disease. These people would lose weight rapidly, lose their desire to eat and drink, lay in bed all day and rapidly die over the course of 1-2 weeks. No medicine could help them. I was called on for several of these cases and after hearing what had happened (the bottle magic) I treated them spiritually with prayer as all medicines that the doctors had given them hadn’t worked. Everyone we prayed for ended up dying with the exception of a single man. Interestingly, this man claimed to be a Christian while all the others were not. Just proof that God protects those He calls sons and daughters, and even though God allowed this man to get sick secondary to the black magic, He also healed him through our prayers. God is so good.
During this time of focused prayer we also experienced Charistan, our long-time friend whom many of you know from previous newletters and blogs, turned back to vodou. As the prayer effort began, Charistan said that things got really bad for him. Despite our best efforts to support him with food and small amounts of money that we would personally give him, he said that his situation and the temptation to return to the demon became too difficult. I found this out when I came to his home to check on him and I saw that he had replanted the iron. (The iron is a large iron rod that vodou priests place in the ground over a sacrifice that they had made to their demon and buried. The rod is a sign that you serve Lucifer.)
When I saw this, my heart just dropped. When I confronted Charistan, he just stood and screamed at me for an hour telling me how being a slave to Christ and suffering in the way that he was was too much to bear. He was unable to adequately provide for his family and the demon could fix all of these problems.
Everything in me wanted to leave and never return. However, the Holy Spirit allowed me to see a residual glimmer of regret in Charistan, which showed me that he knew he was wrong and he still wanted to live for Christ. Not being able to fully empathize with what it must be like to have no food, no job, and no income, I listened to what the Holy Spirit was telling me. Since that day of taking his verbal lashing, I have been back to give him food, pray with him, and continue to show him that my love for him is not conditional. I know that this is what will completely turn him to the Lord. Please pray for him!
During this time we also experienced all of our kids getting sick with high fevers (they all recovered). Our neighbor, Lilliyah, had a niece that we saw one day walking up our road appearing as a zombie. When we approached her and the family, we discovered that a demonic curse had been placed on her and she was wasting away. Her upper body was virtually a living skeleton, secondary to severe emaciation. Her lower body was seriously swollen with large amounts of fluid pooling in her legs. Her legs were so full of fluid that none of the bony landmarks that one usually can appreciate on a leg were visible. It appeared as if she had no knees, no ankles, and no calves—just a long swollen fluid filled sac of a leg that appeared as a thick tree trunk. Joy has been praying over her routinely. Her name is Josette. Josette cried out to God on August 15th and asked Him to save her from the evil one and to place His Holy Spirit in her, thanking Jesus for dying on the cross to save her. It appears that the curse is breaking and that she is beginning to recover. Praise God!
Odd things were occurring in greater frequency than usual. Our car was breaking down weekly to the point that we haven’t been able to use it for the last several weeks as one thing breaks down after another. It is too expensive to keep repairing it. We have been either walking or using motorcycles. The water and electricity has been frequently shut off so that we have no power most nights. This means sleeping in miserably hot and humid conditions, which prevents us from getting good sleep and having a productive next day. In reference to sleep, many people on our team in Haiti have been experiencing nightmarish-demonic dreams where demon come to them and put pressure on their chest or neck attempting to kill them. Due to the pressure and the inability to breath, the name of Jesus cannot be called out, and then they wake up in a complete terror. This same dream is consistent for so many people involved with Haiti that it should be directly prayed against. So as you can see, starting a corporate prayer effort against Satan and his demonic strongholds attracts the anger of demons and they begin to work tirelessly against what you are doing. Faith will conquer these attacks though. Even though they are difficult to go through, it is part of doing God’s work. Expect it and conquer it through the Word of God and faith in the God we serve and the Holy Spirit who lives within us!
Chris Nova and Sila
There are some initial successes to report though, and we know that there will be many more to report over the coming months. We invited two of the biggest vodou priests in the communities that we serve over to our house for dinner with their families. Chris Nova and his family on July 24th and Sila and his family on August 14th. This was important because every time I sit with these powerful men who work with and for powerful demons, I am in the vodou temple—the stronghold of the demonic forces that they work with. This is fine, as I know well that the Holy Spirit in me is much greater than anything in that temple. But it is still the priest’s stronghold.
We thought that it would be to our benefit to have the priests over to our home where the stronghold is no longer demonic, but rather Holy as they are entering a Christian home where the influence of their demon does not exist. So with the different Spirit present we will be able to make inroads into the hearts and minds of these vodou priests.
The dinners were great successes, and the difference in the countenance and receptiveness of the priests was a great thing to experience. Joy and I are going to make a regular practice of having over a vodou priest, vodou priestess, or malfactor to our home. (Over course, we will pray over and cover ourselves with the blood of Christ prior to having any worker of Satan physically enter my home). Furthermore, through our friendship with a young man and community leader in the community of DuPont named Renald, we had the opportunity to have two very large meetings of vodou priests and priestesses. (DuPont is an unreached village that exists on a mountain named Grand Rivier where we have been working for almost 4 years now.)
Is this a trick?
Renald had mentioned to me that he knew hundreds of priests on this mountain and he knew that none of them had heard the gospel. They knew nothing about the Bible due to the isolation on the mountain and their inability to read. I then asked him if it would be possible for him to invite all of the priests and priestesses that he knows to a large meeting where I could share the gospel with them all at once, as opposed to individually at their homes which would take months. Renald thought that would be a great idea, so he asked me to write out formal invitations that he could bring each one of the priests/priestesses and read it to them.
We also thought we could buy a rice and beans meal to provide at the conclusion of the meeting. So for the first meeting we printed out 100 invitations for July 15th at 10 a.m., which Renald hand delivered and read to 100 priests and priestesses. When we arrived only 58 priests and priestesses showed up because many of them were afraid that we were calling them all together as a trick to kill them all. So we shared the gospel with those initial 58 and then had a meal while they asked questions about the Bible.
It was a great success as I realized that these men and women really had never heard anything about Jesus. All 58 of them said they had never read the Bible. We planned for another meeting for August 7th at 10 a.m. as we had now gained the trust of the community that we weren’t there to kill them. We printed out 250 letters for the second meeting and over 200 priests, priestesses and their families showed up. We preached the gospel again, and again answered many questions. We will continue to work intimately with this community as we are seeing the initial seeds, that have been planted in hearts through hearing the words of the gospel, starting to slowly sprout. I just envision how awesome it will be when we get to witness our prayers completely conquer the demonic power on this mountain that has probably existed for centuries. So even though the suffering will come, the successes are worth it!