Chapter Eighteen: The real battle begins......
Lawrence walked right up to Jeff and Sandy, frowning. Either God was giving him a special message, or he was angry. Lawrence looked away and peered into the window in the center of the door. "You shouldn't have done it, Jeff," he said. "You should've trusted me. It wasn't the Lord's will for you to have gone at this time."
Jeff was silent. He felt like a young child being scolded for misbehaving. He worried slightly at what Lawrence might do as punishment, such as kick him out of the complex, but pushed the thought away quickly. Lawrence wasn't that kind of person. Besides, Jeff had learned long ago God could take the worst situations and turn them into something good, and Jeff knew God was at work here somewhere. Otherwise, He wouldn't have healed Nick.
When Jeff had first carried Nick in, he took him straight to the doctor. Nick's knees were mangled, and his blood practically soaked every fiber of Jeff's shirt. But when the doctor prayed over him, he was instantly healed and started fighting again. So, Jeff dragged him to this holding cell.
From where he was standing, Jeff could only partially see through the window Lawrence was still looking through; inside, Valerie and Nick were locked in straight jackets, cursing and swearing at those looking in, throwing themselves against the walls in frustration. Luckily, the walls and floor were padded.
"But the Lord tells me He knew all along you would," Lawrence said and looked at Jeff. "You are impetuous, aren't you. Well, I'll call for Stephanie and see what she can do. In the meantime, I'm going to my study for private meditation. I'll ask the Lord what He wants us to do next." Lawrence walked away and Jeff could tell he was indeed angry, something in the way he stomped down the hall.
Jeff decided to take another peek inside. The room about 20 feet by 20 feet and almost soundproof. His wife and son were mouthing curses, but he could hardly hear them. Nick was frothing at the mouth as he flung himself against the wall repeatedly. Valerie was wailing and squirming on the floor as if she were being overrun by ants.
When Jeff was done, Sandy took a look.
"I hope Stephanie can do something," Sandy said. "She's never failed before, but then we've always stayed within the Lord's boundaries before. I wonder if your losing your gift today is a sign."
Jeff hung his head in a somber gesture. "Yeah, except for today, I've always been able to call down an earthquake. Nothing happened when I stomped my foot."
Sandy looked back at Jeff. "Are you saying you think the Lord might not free them?"
"I don't know anymore." Sure, he knew God could free them, but whether or not He would was another matter. Jeff began to have some doubts, realizing how reckless he had been. He should've known better than to rush God. If God wanted them saved, He would have done it in His own time. Perhaps this would be his punishment, watching his family being tormented by demons, locked in a tiny padded cell for the rest of their natural lives, knowing an eternal hell awaited them upon physical death and being helpless to save them.
After several long minutes, Stephanie came whirring by in her electric wheelchair. "I'm all prayed up, dad, and ready to kick some demon ass." She smiled and Jeff felt her special presence grow as she neared. Such power and love started to pelt his mind, a stronger feeling than he had ever sensed from her before. Understandable, he thought. She was fighting for family this time. She used her mouth to push some buttons on the navigation bar that was fastened to the wheelchair and positioned in front of her face, and the wheelchair slowly came to a stop in front of him.
At this distance, Jeff almost fell to his knees from such an awesome and overpowering feeling of love, both from his daughter and mixed with a strong sense of the Holy Spirit's love and power. He started to weep. However wrong Jeff and Sandy may have been, Jeff realized God's gifts were never withheld from His people, which increased his confidence that Stephanie would be successful in the battle about to begin.
"I'd like you to stand by my side for this one, dad. I think it'll give me strength and comfort to know you are there."
Jeff nodded and wiped his eyes. He entered the room with her. Sandy stayed outside. For several hours, Stephanie simply stayed in the center of the room, praying and speaking the Word of God over Valerie and Nick. For the most part, they cowered in one corner and periodically cursed Stephanie, but they never attacked her. Eventually, she closed her eyes and Jeff could sense her entering a mind, but he wasn't sure which one.
Jeff had never stood by Stephanie before during an exorcism, and felt unsure what he should do next, so just grabbed her hand and held it tightly. He was amazed to find that the special connection he had with his daughter suddenly increased dramatically. Usually he could only sense her presence and some emotion, but now he could see a vague picture in his mind of what she was doing, a strange sensation he had never experienced before, seeing something in his spirit but not seeing it with his physical eyes.
He could sort of envision Stephanie approaching a large black castle, and felt the sensation of red, then an image of the castle walls dripping blood popping in and out of his mind. Fire...a mote, castle surrounded by a mote of fire, yes that was clearer now. The castle seemed alive and opened its drawbridge partially, as if the bridge were a mouth. The castle seemed to recognize Stephanie and asked for help, and Jeff just somehow knew the castle represented Valerie's mind.
"I'm here mom," Stephanie said. "Don't worry. These ones are no match for the power of God."
A jolt of electricity shocked Jeff's hand as Stephanie said this, and he felt his daughter's faith surge and a feeling of raw power traveled up his arm. A blurred image raced towards the castle, a boulder, or something like a rock. Jeff focused his mind and concentrated and sensed the rock was Stephanie, focused harder and for a few seconds could see an image of a six foot tall woman with shoulder length red hair now standing at the drawbridge. The woman was broad shouldered and muscular, and Jeff could only recognize the woman as Stephanie by the flowing red hair, just like her mother's.
"Drop that drawbridge and face me, demon," Stephanie said firmly. "Or I'm coming in."
A bright yellow flash blinded Jeff's mind, and he saw something like fire or molten metal spitting out of the castle windows and enveloping Stephanie. When the flash cleared he could picture a rock within a clear bubble, protected from the fiery assault from the castle above. The bubble popped and the rock opened its mouth to speak.
"Is that the best you can do, demon?" Stephanie said. "I've been doing this a long time now. Your gonna have to have something better in your bag of tricks or this is gonna be real quick."
Way to go girl, Jeff thought and felt another jolt of power electrify his body.
A chorus of voices, at least several dozen, shouted defiant words, and he saw a blurred image of people rushing atop the castle.
"So you're more than one. At least that'll give me more of a workout."
He felt sorrow, anguish, and pain in his spirit... coming from the castle...Jeff started to weep again, as he felt Valerie's pain. The drawbridge opened wide and a loud voice pleaded for Stephanie to enter. Then the castle screamed in pain.
"Leave her alone, you sons of bitches," Stephanie said.
A feeling of anger, turmoil...the images shifted quickly. Jeff saw a blur rush across the now open drawbridge and enter the castle. Soon, flashes of white light and blood began to spill over the castle walls. Black and red figures where thrown high up into the sky, simply to come crashing down into the castle again, and then be thrown up again into the sky. Jeff couldn't make out the black figures clearly but several red figures hovered in the sky momentarily, and Jeff could make out creatures that looked like a cross between a dinosaur and a dragon, with faces something like the head of a Tyrannosaurus Rex and massive wings like a Pterodactyl.
Stephanie grunted and her head vibrated noticeably, rocking her wheelchair. She started to breathe heavily and beads of sweat started to form on her forehead.
Jeff could see blurred images of black and red continuing to flail over the sides of the castle, enter the castle again, and be thrown out again. Then the red and black figures changed tactics and started spewing bluish fire at the castle walls.
A strong sensation of anguish and pain overwhelmed Jeff's spirit...physical pain, confusion, emotional turmoil. His spirit felt like it was on fire and he just couldn't hold on anymore. He let go of Stephanie's hand and even had to step back a few feet to lessen the sensations he was getting off of his daughter. In the corner of the room, Valerie suddenly began to scream and wrestle in her straightjacket.
"I'm sorry," Jeff said. "I just can't do this anymore."
Stephanie was sweating profusely now, and grinding her teeth. "N-o...n-e-e-d to...apologize," Stephanie grunted out in short bursts, obviously unable to hold a normal conversation and still maintain focus on the mental battle.
Jeff shook his head in awe and admiration for what Stephanie was able to do. He figured she must endure everything he had just experienced but even more intensely. Despite some insulation provided by years of training and experience, it was obviously a struggle beyond his ability to fully comprehend.
"G-o...d-a-d. Noth--ing...can d-o...a-n-y-way."
As he exited the room, Valerie started to scream again and tears began to well up in Jeff's eyes. He pushed back his own feelings of anguish and closed the door behind him, muffling his wife's voice as he did so, confining her screams to the small padded room but carrying her pain with him in his own way. He tried to encourage himself with the idea that it would be more productive to simply go back to his room and pray, and he did so.
For the next several days, Jeff would go and visit his wife and son. Stephanie ceaselessly battled and battled. She vowed she would keep fighting until her mom was either freed or God told her to stop; everyone in the complex was also praying for Jeff's family. This went on for a week, and Jeff refused to go on missions for the entire time. He moped around the complex, visiting his family and praying. Sandy stayed behind for a few days to comfort him, but eventually went back on the road.
Stephanie had supernatural physical strength when locked in these types of demonic battles. Jeff had seen her go at least a week without food and water, but for some reason, this time after only three days had past, the doctor had to hook Stephanie up with intravenous feeding tubes, as her body began to emaciate and shrivel.
Lawrence would periodically call Jeff into his office and try to encourage him to go on missions. He would talk about how much weaker Jeff's team was without him, how they needed an earth-shaker, how dangerous it was without him, but Jeff doubted if his gift would work. Lawrence was always sympathetic and tried to convince Jeff that God had forgiven him, but Jeff continued to be depressed. All he did was eat a little, sleep a lot, visit his family, and pray. Slowly, even his prayer life started to slide. He became so discouraged his joy started ebbing away and he hardly read his Bible anymore.
At the end of the week, Lawrence called Jeff into his office again. "Please, have a seat," he said as Jeff opened the door. Jeff sat in a chair opposite Lawrence's desk.
"Any word yet from the Lord about Valerie?" Jeff asked. Almost daily, Jeff asked Lawrence this question and was usually told that this battle was not fully ordained by the Lord at this time and so it would be a more difficult struggle. Whether or not they ever would be freed, Lawrence could never say, which added to his anxiety. Today, he sensed in his spirit that Lawrence had more insight from the Lord.
Lawrence sighed. "I'm sorry to say that the word God gives me is death for one of your children."
Fear overwhelmed Jeff's mind and he felt as though someone had just stabbed him in the heart. "What does that mean? Just physical death, or spiritual death too? For one or both of them?"
"Stephanie is sealed by the Holy Spirit and can't experience spiritual death in the lake of fire. The blood of Christ covers her. Other than that, the Lord hasn't given me any more details about what that means. Just prepare your heart for that outcome, whatever it means. He also tells me life for both Stephanie and Nick had you waited."
Jeff started to sob and begged Lawrence to intercede on his behalf but Lawrence refused. "This is the way it has to be, Jeff. The Lord is hard on His people sometimes. He has high standards and expects obedience. That's just the bare minimum He expects of everyone. You are spiritually mature enough to have known better. He expected better of you."
"Then punish me instead!"
Lawrence just shook his head. "There's something else I must tell you."
Jeff nodded meekly.
"For many years now, I've run this operation as best as I could. The Lord has been with me mightily, giving me wisdom to lead wisely, and the privilege of hearing His voice audibly."
Again, Jeff nodded.
"Everyone here has been marvelous, a blessing to me and each other. The Lord has given us wonderful diversity, and yet there has been very little division. Each has been given a remarkable portion of grace, able to really love one another and work together. They have been willing to obey God and trust me as His servant. And I've never abused that trust. Everyone has seen my hard work and knows I'm sincere."
Jeff nodded once more, starting to feel uncomfortable.
"This never ceases to amaze me. Sure, we've had minor disagreements about how things should be done, but in the end, it has always worked out. Everyone communicates openly and honestly and is willing to submit to those in authority over them. This is how God wants His children to behave, but again I'll say it--I'm amazed. When I read the Old Testament, I see how Moses had difficulties leading the Israelites. They grumbled and rebelled against his authority. God even opened the ground on one occasion and swallowed up some rebels. In the New Testament, I read Paul's letters exhorting believers to submit to one another in love and to obey those in authority over them. Not only that, but Paul had to continually resist and rebuke improper behavior in the churches. Even Jesus had to contend with His own disciples' evil desires for power and prestige when they were arguing over who would be the greatest. I seem to have been mightily blessed as a leader. Everyone here has their priorities straight: God first, others, then themselves."
Jeff didn't feel like nodding anymore. He thought Lawrence was leading up to something, and felt convicted of his own wrong behavior. Lawrence would probably now rebuke Jeff again for his refusal to go on missions. He might lecture for a few minutes, and command Jeff to shape up. And he should; Jeff knew that. But Lawrence was also kind and sympathetic. He would do his best to encourage Jeff. "I think the power of His Spirit helps a lot," Jeff said.
"No doubt. In other times there hasn't been such an abundance of gifted individuals working in unity."
"I know what you're going to say, Lawrence, and I agree. I've been the black sheep around here lately, but you don't have to worry about me anymore. I'm going to dust off the cobwebs and get back into the action again. There's work to be done." Jeff had been leading up to this decision for the past several days, but this little talk had persuaded him not to wait any longer.
Lawrence smiled. "That's very commendable. Actually, I knew you'd say that, but it's not why I asked you in here."
"I wanted you to know it's not all your fault. This is also the way the Lord wants it to be. All complexes will meet the same fate. From this disaster our people will be weaned from the security of home-base. They've all been adequately trained. Now God will be with each of them in a mighty way. Each small group of believers will experience all the gifts. You will even hear His voice, Jeff. Like I do now. The people will no longer depend on me for direction, or the complex for safety, but they will depend totally on God. They will be forced into every conceivable corner of the world, and the gospel of Jesus Christ will go with them. This is what the Scriptures meant when they said the gospel would be preached as a witness unto all the world and then the end would come. He's coming back very soon now, Jeff, very soon."
Jeff frowned. "What are you talking about? What disaster?"
"They're coming for us, Jeff. It's like in the Old Testament. You know, when one Israelite would disobey God, the whole Israeli army would be punished and lose in battle. But it was only a temporary defeat. Soon, God would glorify Himself by turning the situation around and giving His people the victory again."
"I still don't understand."
"You disobeyed God when you went to get your family. You didn't even realize it, but several members of Nick's gang were in the area and heard the commotion. They followed you here. Jarius has wanted to find our hideout for some time. Now he knows. Since then, they've been planning to raid us, even enlisted extra men in their army and amassed more weapons and explosives."
Jeff's jaw fell open and he stared at Lawrence. "Wha...when will this happen. I mean I'm sorry. I couldn't have known." He knew the Lord had already forgiven him, but still started to feel guilty, realizing what all was going to happen because of his mistake.
"It's all a part of His plan, Jeff. You're going to go out and fulfill your destiny in ways you've never dreamed of. And I've also got good news. God has decided to free Valerie within the hour."
Jeff imagined his face must show a distorted picture of emotions. He was relieved and happy for Valerie, yet sad and afraid for his children. Then guilt started to creep over him once more, as he considered the pending assault on the complex, but he pushed it away, deciding not to dwell on the past. It wouldn't do any good. He couldn't go back and do it differently. He instead focused on the positive side: God would give His people the victory again. "What about Sandy? I can't leave without her, and you never told me when this will happen. Where will we go? Who will we go with?"
"Calm down, Jeff. I've already recalled the missions. Sandy's team is returning from Texas and will drive straight through the night until they get here. She should make it just in time."
"And when will Jarius' men be here?"
"Tomorrow at 2:12PM exactly."
"That doesn't give Stephanie much time to work on Nick. It's taken a week to get Valerie free. How can we save Nick in..." Jeff looked at his wristwatch and noted it was almost six o'clock in the evening. "...only about twenty hours?"
"I don't know, Jeff" Lawrence said flatly. "I told you to prepare for death for one of your children. I'm sorry...I'm sorry."
Jeff exited Lawrence's office and ran to his room to pray fervently for Nick's salvation.After fifteen minutes of begging the Lord, he felt absolutely nothing positive in his spirit about Nick's fate, so he tried to distract his mind. He looked around the room and thought about the many things he would have to take tomorrow: clothes, towels, personal hygiene things, and books. He took several suitcases out of the closet and placed them on the bed. Then he thought about transportation. There weren't enough vehicles in the complex for everyone. And then he worried about where they would stay. It wasn't safe outside. He started to doubt God's loving care, as he mourned again for his son, and started to think the whole evacuation idea was crazy. Jeff looked at his watch, about forty minutes before his wife would be freed.
Lawrence's voice suddenly boomed over the speaker system. He explained to everybody about the impending assault, and split them into groups, stressing they shouldn't bother packing because God would supply all their needs. Finally, Lawrence closed with a good luck and the admonition to go wherever God told them to, as soon as they felt led.
Well, that took care of that idea, Jeff thought as he tossed the suitcases off the bed and onto the floor. Jeff need only wait. He put some hymns on the cassette player, turned the volume low, and lay on the bed, praying in his mind for Nick. Within minutes, he fell asleep.
Jeff shook off his sleepiness and looked at the clock on the wall. He'd been asleep for nearly three quarters of an hour. Valerie was right on schedule.
Jeff jumped up and opened the door. He saw a young boy standing in the doorway, a face unfamiliar to him.
"Stephanie sent me to give you the good news. Several minutes ago, the demons were forced to leave your wife."
Jeff smiled. "Thank you."
He ran down the stairs to find throngs of people already milling about in preparation for the onslaught tomorrow. He zigzagged through the maze of bodies and ran down the corridor near the main entrance. Before he even reached the end of the hallway, Jeff saw Stephanie exiting the holding cell with Valerie, both appearing exhausted and about five years older.
Valerie looked up. "Jeff!"
The joy of the moment seemed to knock the five years off and she ran to meet him, Stephanie whirring close behind in her wheelchair. Somewhere in the middle, they all met and embraced.
Valerie squeezed Jeff tightly. "I love you, honey. I'm so sorry for everything. I didn't know what I was getting myself into. The things I did..." She began to sob.
"Forget it," Jeff said. "It's all in the past now. It's forgiven and forgotten. I'm just glad I got you back. Did Jesus fill you with Himself?"
"Yes. I feel wonderful. It's been so long since I've had a pure thought."
They all had a refreshing cry before Valerie and Jeff started back up the hall. "I'll take Valerie to my room," Jeff said to Stephanie. "If you feel able, please get to work on Nick right away. We don't have much time. I'll come back to the holding cell as soon as I can and explain more."
Stephanie nodded and immediately turned around and headed right back to the padded holding room.
Jeff gave Valerie a quick verbal tour of the complex, but didn't bother showing her around. It would be fruitless; time was short and it would soon be destroyed anyway. Then they navigated through the mass of people, up the stairs, and into his room.
"It's not very big," Valerie said.
"Doesn't need to be," Jeff replied. "We're hardly ever here anyway. Most of us are on the front lines, fighting the spiritual battle."
Jeff and Valerie sat together on the edge of the bed.
Valerie almost started to cry again. "I know what it feels like to be on the other side."
"Don't cry, honey,"Jeff said. "As far as I'm concerned, that was the old you. You have been given a new life through Christ. Live it joyfully."
"I still feel a bit guilty. I mean, I know you're right. It wasn't totally me, but it was. You'd have to experience it to fully understand. I was losing my identity, their thoughts and desires becoming mine. When the demons would act, it was me doing it and vice versa. Such a horrible predicament."
"But there was a part of you that didn't want to, right?" Jeff asked.
"That was God influencing your life. He never fully gave up on you. That's why you're here today. And it's the same for many more out there. That's why we keep pressing on to reach the world. Lawrence said God would give us the power to finish this war when we leave this place."
"I'll be happy if I can help. I'll never forget what it felt like to be a prisoner in my own body. For the entire week Stephanie was battling, my mind felt like it was being seared by intense heat. The demons fought with everything they had to stay, but on the last day, I felt more peaceful. I sensed it was nearing the end and the pain would stop soon, one way or the other. I really didn't care if I died. I just wanted it to be over."
"I'm glad you didn't die. I wanted to be able to tell you I love you, Valerie. I always have. Even when I handcuffed you and you yelled at Nick to shoot me, I wanted to say it, but I knew you couldn't receive it then."
"I can receive it now," Valerie said and gave Jeff a big hug.
Jeff explained about the mass exodus tomorrow before Jarius' men would arrive and about his deep abiding friendship with Sandy. "We have to wait for Sandy. I'm not leaving without her. She's been such a good friend to me."
"I understand. When will she be here?"
"We're not sure. Sometime tomorrow before Jarius."
"You two must have had some amazing experiences."
"Definitely. God has sent us all over Star City, the surrounding areas, the whole continent in fact. When we each do what God has called us to do, we're able to reach the world in supernatural power. Now Lawrence told us all the supernatural gifts will be fully expressed through each small group. I still find this hard to believe, but I don't doubt God will do it. My gift used to be causing earthquakes and hail storms to cover our escapes. When God pours out His Spirit's power on us, we'll be able to preach powerfully, cast out demons, heal the sick, talk to God..."
"Will I be able to do all that too?"
Jeff shook his head. "Lawrence said all the gifts will be expressed through each group, so I think everyone will still have different gifts which work together."
Valerie frowned, disbelieving. "But I haven't had your training. How can that be?"
"God can do anything. He can miraculously imprint every Bible verse into your memory if He wants to, and He can give you full revelation and understanding in a moment. Don't doubt it for a second."
"Wow," was all Valerie could say. "So where are we going?"
"I don't know. The Lord will tell us when the time is right. We should trust until then."
They continued to talk about the past, the future, and about their fears, desires, and hopes. All the time Jeff kept eyeing the clock on the wall. He wanted to give Stephanie at least an hour for the warm-up praying she usually did before tackling an exorcism, but now he felt it was time to go warn her about Lawrence's prophecy. He was also procrastinating telling Valerie the full truth, but it had to be done sooner or later, so he got to it.
"I have some bad news about one of our kids," Jeff said, as he explained the Lord's pronouncement that one of their kids would die.
Valerie gasped and her cheeks turned beet red. She doubled over on the bed, clutching her stomach, and started to sob.
"Don't lose hope. I've seen Stephanie do amazing things. God is in her gifting in a powerful way. I'm holding on to the hope that all Lawrence meant is physical death, which is nothing. It's spiritual death that I'm most worried about, being cast into the lake of fire to burn forever. I have to go talk to Stephanie. She needs to be warned about the death prophecy and that she only has about nineteen hours left to free Nick. Please, just stay here and pray while I go talk to her."
Valerie nodded and wiped her eyes, as Jeff got up to leave.
He left the room and gently closed the door behind him, muffling Valerie's sobs as he did so, reminiscent of how he had muffled Valerie's screams in the holding cell the day before, and feeling the same dreadful concern, but this time about Nick's fate. He walked as briskly as he could to the holding cell, hoping against all hope that Stephanie would be able to bring Nick back from the brink.