Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chapter One: The Devil Called Collect

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:"
1 Peter 5:8

"There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan."
C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
British Scholar and Author

The jarring ring of the telephone awakened me from a deep sleep. Groggily, I picked up the receiver as I glanced at the clock. It was 2:00 AM.

Since I was the senior pastor of a large and growing congregation, I was accustomed to hearing the telephone ring at all hours. However, this was no everyday emergency call. The conversation which followed was one of the most bizarre I had ever experienced.

“I have a collect, long distance call for anyone from Jessica. Will you accept the charges?” the operator asked.

In my half awake mind, I could not think of anyone I knew by that name, but I reasoned that whoever it was must need help so I answered, “Yes, Operator, I will.”

Next, I heard the pleading, soft, almost childlike voice of a young woman. “Hello, this is Jessica. Can you help me?”

“Where are you? What kind of help do you need?”

“I’ve been hitch-hiking and I’m on the side of the road in Atlanta. Somebody gave me your name and number and said that maybe you could help me.”

“I would be very happy to do whatever I can to help you,” I told her. “But, I’m in Augusta and that’s 145 miles from Atlanta. Why don’t you call the Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta first thing in the morning? I believe their office opens at 8:30. There are lots of wonderful people there and they are close enough that maybe they could give you the help you need.”

“But, I’m afraid,” Jessica replied. “You see, I’m a witch of the fifth degree. I’m about to be initiated into the sixth degree of our Order and all of a sudden I’m scared. Strange things are going on and I’m afraid something bad might happen to me.”

It wasn’t my intention to put Jessica off or dismiss her lightly. She obviously needed help. But, I told her a second time, “I really think it would be better if you called the Mount Paran Church there in Atlanta.” I let her know I was a personal friend with the pastor and some of his staff and I was certain they would do whatever they could to minister to her.

Jessica’s voice became more pleading and desperate now. “But can’t you help me?”

Witchcraft was definitely not a subject about which I knew a great deal. My experience in ministering to people trapped in the occult was limited. “Jessica,” I answered, “to be truthful, I’m not sure whether I can help you or not. But I know someone who can. His name is Jesus Christ. Have you ever heard of Jesus? He has the answer you are looking for.”

I was shocked when I was answered, not by Jessica, but by a man’s curt, demanding voice. “No, no, you can’t have her. Just hang up the phone. You can’t have her. She is mine!”

I thought that Jessica must have had a boyfriend standing beside her in the phone booth who had been listening in on our conversation. “Who are you?” I asked.

What came next startled me as nothing ever had before. The guttural masculine voice spat back, “There are many of us.”

For a split second, I thought “many of us” might refer to a group, like a motorcycle gang. Then, my mind flashed to the incident in the Bible where Jesus encountered the demon possessed maniac of the Gadarenes. When Jesus asked the man his name, the demons had answered through him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Mark 5:9.

“How many are you?” I asked the voice.

“There are about three thousand of us here,” came the demonic reply.

Now I was so wide awake that I knew I would not be able to sleep again that night. My wife was also awake, so I frantically motioned for her to get out of bed and go listen in on the kitchen telephone. She would be able to tell me that the voice I heard was real and not just a nightmare or a trick of my imagination at two o’clock in the morning.

I demanded of the voice, “If there are so many of you, then who are your leaders?”

In rapid succession, the voice spat out four names, “Orion, Adrian, Beelzebub, Leviathan.”

I had heard of this kind of phenomenon but in nearly two decades of ministry, this was my first such personal encounter with demonic spirits. I had never made a particular study of how to deal with demons. Yet, a sudden resolve gripped me as I was now standing beside the bed. I was surprised to hear myself suddenly speaking with an authority that surpassed my normal demeanor. “Orion, Adrian, Beelzebub, Leviathan, I command you to go in the name of Jesus. I come against you and cast you out by the power of Jesus’ blood. You must go and torment this girl no more.”

The demons were not to be exorcised so easily. A wicked, mocking laugh came back. “No, we won’t go. She is ours. You can’t have her.”

“No, Satan! Jessica has called me for help and I am a child of the most high God. She does not want you to be her lord any more. In the name of Jesus, I command you to go.”

“No, we won’t go.”

“You have no choice. Be quiet and let me talk again to Jessica. Now go in Jesus’ name.”

I found myself listening once again to the pleading, soft voice of the young woman who had first called me. “What happened?” she asked in bewilderment. “Why are you talking to me like that? Are you mad at me? Where do you want me to go?”

“Oh, no, Jessica,” I assured her. “I’m not angry with you at all. I was speaking to the demons that were talking through you. Did you not know that enemy spirits were using you to talk with me?”

“But there’s no one here except me and the telephone and the radio.” “Jessica, do you know anyone by the name of Orion or Adrian?”

“Yes,” she answered. “Those are some of the spirits that we use in our witchcraft. Why do you ask?”

“I was just talking to them through you, and also to Beelzebub and Leviathan. Were you not aware when they were talking through you?”

“That can’t be,” she insisted. “I know those spirits but they don’t use me. I use them. They never appear unless I summon them to come.”

“They have deceived you, Jessica,” I explained. “You have allowed them to possess you and now you are no longer in control of the spirits but they have control of you.”

I remembered the scripture, “Hereby know ye that Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist….” I John 4:2-3.

I had once heard an evangelist preach that a person who is truly demon possessed either can not or will not utter even the name of Jesus except in a blasphemous way. Although I felt that premise could not be proven unequivocally by scripture, I thought it might have some validity. I asked, “Jessica, have you ever heard of Jesus? Can you say Jesus?”

“Sure, I can say his name if I want to,” she answered.

“Then say it, Jessica. Say Jesus.”

“Jekkkk,” came the reply, followed by a choking sound.

“Say Jesus, Jessica.”


“Jessica, can’t you say his name? Can’t you say Jesus?”

“But I said it,” she replied in a puzzled voice.

“Jessica, you tried, but the enemy spirits hate Jesus, and they would not allow you to say his name,” I told her. “Didn’t you notice when they choked you off every time you tried to say ‘Jesus?’”

“No, I thought I said it.”

“Let’s try this.” I suggested. “Let me hear you say Jesus is Lord.”

This time I heard the name of Jesus spoken clearly but it was not in Jessica’s voice. A demon hissed defiantly, “Jesus is a pile of s__t.”

“No!” I fired back. “Jesus is Lord! Jesus is Lord!”

“Jesus is a liar,” came the demonic retort.

“Now, Devil,” I demanded angrily. “I told you to go and I’m telling you again. Leave this girl and never come back to torment her any more.”

“And who are you to tell me to go? You have no power over me.”

A holy boldness welled up in me. “I am God’s child. I am filled with his Holy Spirit and washed in Jesus’ blood. It is not in my name but in his name that I say you must go.”

“No, you can’t make us go.”

“Be quiet, Satan. I don’t want to talk to you any more. I want to talk to Jessica. Now let me speak to her.”

Once more the bewildered voice of a young woman spoke. “What happened? Where have you been? Did you leave the phone and go somewhere?”

I explained that I had been there all the time and the evil spirits had taken charge of her again and talked through her.

“Is that why I’m getting this terrible headache?” she asked.

“It might be, Jessica. I don’t know for sure about that.”

“Well, I’m getting thirsty too,” she said. “Will you hold on for a while and let me go to get a drink?” I assured her I would wait.

For the next two minutes while Jessica was away from the telephone, I prayed fervently that God would direct me and somehow help me to reach this young woman who was so desperately in need of God’s deliverance. Compassion as I have seldom experienced came over me and I felt almost a sense of desperation to reach out to this lonely, pleading voice and set her free in Jesus.

There was a rattle at the other end of the line and I heard Jessica say, “Okay, I’m back.”

“Jessica, I’ll do anything I can to help you,” I volunteered. “Can you tell me where you are?”

“I’m in Atlanta.”

“Atlanta is a very big place. Can you tell me exactly where you are in Atlanta?”

“I’m hitch-hiking and I don’t know where I am for sure,” she answered, “just somewhere.”

“Listen to me very carefully,” I instructed her. “I could never find you in a big city like that unless you tell me exactly where you are. As soon as you get to any place that you can tell me where to find you, then please call me back. Wherever you are, I will come and get you. If you don’t want me to come for you, then please come to Augusta and meet me here. Do you understand me?”

“I understand you,” she puzzled, “but why do you want me to come to Augusta?”

“Remember, you called me and asked if I could help you. Well, I can and I want to. But, I can’t do it over the telephone. We need to get together.”

“No!” I was interrupted again by the mocking voice of a demon. “We will not let her come. We will kill her first. We will not allow her to meet you.”

I rebuked Satan once more and forbade him to hinder Jessica from reaching me. In the name of Jesus, I bound any power he had to harm her. Then, I spoke a final word to Jessica.
“Whatever you do,” I urged, “don’t lose my telephone number. Hold on to it as if your life depended on it because it’s my only link with you. Please, please call me back as soon as you know where you are. I’ll be praying that you will make it to Augusta.”

“Okay,” she said. “I’ll call you.” A click signaled she had hung up the receiver.

I slowly returned my telephone to the night stand. The moment the telephone hit the cradle, it was ringing again–now at 2:30 AM.

“Hi, Stephen, this is Don.” I recognized the voice as that of Donald Goodrum, a friend I had known since our college days together. Don was now pastor of a church in west Tennessee. I had not seen him for several years.

“Have you been talking with Jessica Leek?” Don asked.

“I didn’t know her last name was Leek, but yes, I have been talking with Jessica. How did you know?”

Don told me the same young woman had called him first and he had referred her to me since I was the only minister he could think of off hand in the state of Georgia. He said someone had given her a gospel tract with his name and telephone number on it. At least that explained the mystery of how Jessica had gotten my number.

After I hung up from talking with Don, I laid back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling almost in disbelief. I asked my wife, Pat, “Did you hear what I just heard? Was that real?”

“I heard it,” Pat said, “but I never heard anything like it.”

After a few minutes of stunned silence, I mused, “Can you believe I’ve been actually talking to the devil? And, he didn’t even pay for the call. The devil called collect.”

I stayed in bed but did not go back to sleep until after the sun came up a few hours later. As I awaited the sunrise, I prayed silently, but fervently, that God would somehow help Jessica reach me, or help me reach her, the following day.

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