Coming out of Charismania, part II

Out of the ashes came this sense of being so grateful!

This was something I had rarely experienced. In the excess and chaotic stimuli of Charismania, I merely focused on what would happen next! Like addicts, we called each other to ask: “How was church today?” when we dared to miss. Because we knew we must have missed something! We had to know: What happened? How’d it go down? Who said what? God forbid that The Revival would start on the Sunday we chose to stay in bed with the sniffles.

I was wound up in a great ball of yarn only God could unravel. As He did, I went through a modified version of the five stages of grief: shock, anger, fear, depression, and finally and still ongoing, deliverance and joy. Shock: I was deceived! Anger at the wasted time and energy, lost opportunities, the religiousmess of the whole house of cards so often and ironically built on denouncing the Religious Spirit. Fear of how deeply I might be deceived; everything became fodder for question. Depression: my pride sank low enough to reveal itself to repentance, hallelujah!

The joy of gratitude—of knowing the depths of your deliverance—gave new meaning to the Word: “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Before, that joy was elusive; I was never sure how to obtain it without trying to work it up. Now I knew that joy. I was so grateful to the Lord for giving me “eyes to see and ears to hear.”

I had prayed that phrase a thousand times. But, in my heart, I was looking to be carrier/knower of the next new thing—the hidden thing of God (and rise above all those ordinary Christians just plodding along in the usual.) For it was thrill and status, my heart desired.

In her manual of deliverance War on the Saints, Jessie Penn-Lewis writes: “The elect may be deceived, and from Daniel’s words, are apparently permitted to be deceived for a season, so that in the fire testing they may be refined.” (p.24, Diggory Press, 2005) (Be sure to buy the unabridged version of this book, written with Evan Roberts, of Welsh Revival fame. This book was published in 1912 after the revival fizzled, to warn of the same manifestations Charismania now claims to be of God!)

My particular experience involved learning to see and do (emphasis on Do) the things of God by following the teachings—one might say formulas—of various famous Charismatic teachers. Whatever word floated across the Elijah List became the teaching of the moment. Come up higher! Reclaim your destiny! Shaking all that can be shaken! Except, of course, our steadfast belief that by applying various words and types of prayers we could do greater things than Jesus did—for He said so!

Learning to see as God sees meant examining everything. It was all spiritual! The numbers, the colors, the falling feather! Each dream packed a potential wallop of info. I dutifully recorded each one.

I learned that my words were weapons of cursing and blessing. I was not to pussyfoot around with asking God, but to just declare it to be so! I was to watch out, lest my discouraging word curse myself and others. We declared health and wealth! Declared prosperity. Bill Johnson taught me that God doesn’t want anyone to be poor or sick. Suffering was of the devil.

Ever before us was that elusive carrot of the Great End-Time Revival, when, ala Joel 2:28-29, God would pour out His spirit on all flesh and, ala Paul Cain, stadiums would be filled with worshippers.

The Jesus of the Bible taught a great falling away of the faithful in the last days and asked if he would find faith on the Earth when he returned. But we wiped away his words and whole pages of Revelation as we gobbled down prophesies of how throngs of faithful would retake the Earth, establish dominion over its Seven Mountains of power and influence, and enthrone Christ as King of the Universe.

Scripture was always secondary to personal revelation and experience, if not in word, it was in deed.

During the eight years of my travels in Charismania, I had many nudges that brought these teachings into question. At first, I put them down to my polluted legalistic upbringing as a fundamentalist Mennonite, combined with 20 years of rebellion against God and a sinful lifestyle. I just couldn’t “see” God right, because I didn’t know enough.

Ever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth, I read more books, listened to more CDs, trying to get on track with God.

Yet, I prayed sincerely: “God, lead me to the truth. I want the truth.” I asked for the clean hands and pure heart of Psalm 24. Isn’t it wonderful how He answers the prayer of a struggling heart?

The nudges continued, until finally I heard something, and I knew it was from God. He said: You travel over land and sea to make a disciple twice the child of hell. Jesus says in Matt. 23:15: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”

I began to hear two directives quite clearly: put away the books and read the Bible. Take a step back from the dream fascination.

And then God began to lift the scales from my eyes.

You want to know how that happened in five easy steps? It wasn’t what I did. It is what He did.

Suddenly, I did not see things through rose-tinted glasses. It was as if one day I saw it that way, and believed what my teachers said, and the next, I saw it clearly and could not believe I had been so blind. Consider Paul’s transformation, upon meeting Jesus.

Where once I lapped up certain teaching, now questions sprang up with bitter truth. My stomach turned at what I had swallowed.

Our congregation cheerfully chanted Bill Johnson and Bethel Church’s pre-offering prayer, while I sat stunned and unable to tithe. Essentially, we gave our offering while “believing God” for big bucks in return. Phrases like “checks in the mail,” “estates and inheritances,” and “favorable settlements” were declared as benefit to our joyful tithing.

Here’s one report, which includes the whole prayer:

I went to the pastor with my concerns over the prayer. Still in confusion, my explanation for discomfort boiled down to “it’s icky.” And it is! It’s also demanding, appeals to the flesh, and opposes the very way that Jesus and the apostles lived. The next Sunday, someone got creative and concocted an even more ethereal and super-spiritual version of the same prayer that may or may not have invoked minty green angels wafting feathers over our dunderheads.

I cannot completely denounce Charismania for it was the vehicle that brought me back to seeking God. It took me off the path of self, of career, at a time when I was overcome with fatigue at career ladder climbing.

 Charismania taught me to look beyond myself. If anyone had asked me, I would have said I was seeking God, but really I was simply seeking to raise myself up higher again—this time on a spiritual plane. I am struck by Oswald Chambers’ definition of “being religious” as “using religion as a higher form of culture.” (March 29, My Utmost for His Highest)

Now, instead of charting career, I was racing the exhausting hamster wheel that I termed Spirituality. I wasn’t religious, I was spiritual, I told previous friends stunned by my newfound obsession with all things God oriented. I went to this church and that, listened to teaching CDs, filled my iPod with podcasts of sermons and worship songs, and bought and read hundreds of books. I paid thousands to go on a mission trip, flying in planes over land and sea, and staying in nice hotels while we held meetings to lay hands on people and pray for them to be healed.

Life was a whirlwind of activity. I exhausted myself by looking for the spiritual significance in every small happening. Peace was elusive.

One of the verses I’d latched onto to denounce legalism was Isaiah 28:13: “So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there— so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.” The formulas, the pronouncements, the always learning, became my snare.

“Satan uses the strategy of elevation in temptation, and God does the same, but the effect is different,” Chambers writes (March 27). “When the devil puts you into an elevated place, he makes you screw your idea of holiness beyond what flesh and blood could ever bear, it is a spiritual acrobatic performance, you are just poised and dare not move; but when God elevates you by His grace into the heavenly places, instead of finding a pinnacle to cling to, you find a great tableland where it is easy to move.”

Charismaniacs are fond of quoting 2 Cor. 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Freedom! We screamed, shoving dull ceremonial swords toward the sanctuary ceiling. The men rallied round Braveheart images, while the women tried to look…..spiritual. But we did not proceed on to verse 18 where we were transformed into his likeness, nor did we attempt that by learning to take up His cross daily.

The books and teachings and sermons of Charismania rarely focus on that. They focus on miracles, on warfare, on taking back and forging new, they focus on what we Christians take and get through the power of God. The songs are about us and the teachings are about our destiny.

(In freedom I think: Wow, I can get rid of all these wacky books on strategic warfare and maybe have room for some novels. For those of you still struggling, one universal sign of coming deliverance is a yearning to just read the Bible! )

One day I thought to ask: What’s the point? I was a great recorder of dreams (had my own journal, books, CDs), in case God was trying to tell me something by that mystery dream language that only certain gifted people could explain to me in six teaching CDs for a mere $39.99.

My interest had taken me to the point where, I believe, that evil was exhausting me at night with intricately detailed dreams that amounted to following Alice down a rabbit hole. As I dutifully wrote them out each morning, I had to face it: this was not God speaking to me. There was no peace and no fruit.

I do believe God speaks to us in dreams. It’s quite evident in the Bible. I also believe that satan masquerades as an angel of light and can easily impersonate truth to someone grasping for spiritual elevation.

Facing the deception brought anger. I had wasted a lot of time, energy, and money following not God but people, who are living quite well on our collective bucks.

I had been foolish, for it was my own desires that led me astray, and it was my pride to be part of the “in thing” of God. Jesus was not enough. I wanted prophecies, dreams, visions, miracles.

We all wanted “to do the stuff!” Jesus told us we would do greater things than He did, and we believed it, demanded it, and chased it. However, we did not chase the lesser things: the humility, the caring, and the self-sacrifice.

Some of the anger was even rooted in the fact that I was now being deprived of a church home and community. By daring to question, you become a pariah—a rebel gunslinger.

For me, it became a choice between community or truth. Church or Christ?

A mentor advised: Stay as long as you can stand it.

Where could I go and feel comfortable? That was answered by more questions and one answer: Where did Jesus go?

I stayed a little longer, to pray. I stayed a little longer for the outcasts, for the rebels and the prodigals that were coming in, drawn like I was to the novelty of a church that was loud and in your face and seemingly full of power and something different.

Yet, I grieved that they would face the same journey through deception, seeking God but finding only the shallow wisdom of men.

I find strange comfort in Christ’s warnings that in the last days many would fall away from the faith. He warned us, so there was no reason for surprise or alarm. It is, in fact, a sign of his soon coming.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Coming out of Charismania, part II

  1. findingthemotherlode says:

    Among many other things worthy of note, you said,
    “But, in my heart, I was looking to be carrier/knower of the next new thing—the hidden thing of God (and rise above all those ordinary Christians just plodding along in the usual.) For it was thrill and status, my heart desired.”

    David Wilkerson did an excellent teaching on The 2 Doctrines: The Doctrine of Christ and the Doctrine of Jezebel. Jezebel was religious, self-willed and craftily intelligent. She manipulated to get her own way. You can always tell Jezebel is at work when there is a desire for gain that ends in the promotion of self.

    The agony of victory is the best agony.
    God bless,

  2. Pingback: Coming Out | Faithful Emphasis

  3. godlee4life says:

    I totally get the gist of where you are coming from girl. Wow—someone else who has been helped by “War on the Saints” by Jessie Penn-Lewis. Not that I agreed w/ the part about Christians needing to be delivered of demon inhabitation—because only the Holy Spirit can indwell true believers. But that book really helped me to come out of so much——mainly the spiritual passivity I had fallen into that had allowed demons to torture me from without, passivity that led me into the occult.
    The irony is that a friend of mine loaned that book to me a few years ago. This year when I finally thought to give it back to her and talk to her about it—–she wouldn’t listen. She has recently been bitten by the “River”—–Bethel bug.
    She like you and I—-had dabbled in different stuff. She used to be in witchcraft, but also raised in Catholicism, where she learned Catholic mysticism. I was raised in a very legalistic, dead Church of Christ…… One reason I searched for a deeper walk w/ God. But when I left that church I dived head first into a type of Catholic mysticism/Word of Faith. There I got into a lot of superstitious rituals—–believing that if I prayed over something, it then contained “spiritual energy”, anointing, etc. I began sprinkling “anointed” salt on everything, putting “anointed” olive oil on doorposts to keep evil out, etc. To be honest, I truly believe I went into temporary insanity!! It was all getting so crazy. My kids would find salt in their shoes, etc. because I believed they’d be protected. Just so much I wouldn’t know where to begin explaining the bondage I fell into and what it was doing to my whole family.
    But like you, I still believe the Charismania was a way that God brought me closer to Him—–or lets say He allowed me to go that route to show me it wasn’t the truth. I had to totally depend on Him to get me out of the insanity. That’s when I began reading older stuff because God led me to the vs. in Jer. 6:16—-“Stand in the ways and seek out the old paths, where the good way is and you will find rest for your souls” I began reading works from the 1600s to the 1800s. There I began to get away from “the new thing” and was led to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I am so free and at peace now, it’s almost indescribable the joy I have in knowing Him in truth. More on that later—-
    Perhaps we are slowly coming out of it all—-how long have you been out of the Charismania scene?

    • I find that I am STILL coming out…but began about 2 years ago, when Bill Johnson’s offering prayer raised the final red flag that sent me into the pastor’s office in protest. (He liked it. I left.) Still coming out in that I often have to reevaluate what I was taught as “truth” in the light of scripture. But what a freedom and release without all that doing, decreeing, worrying you spoke death and not life, blahblahblah, not to mention room on the book shelf! I don’t need their books to tell me how to do God right now….the Holy Spirit is my teacher and doing God is not an option. A funny story on the annointing with oil: a friend suggested I annoint my husband’s shoes so he wouldn’t walk in sin and I went on to annoint our bed so no demons would defile it. Guess who COULD NOT sleep in that bed from then on? Yep, me! I had to get real and repent before I could sleep there again.

      • Katie says:

        I am currently dealing with this offering “prayer” in our church. We say it almost every week & I kinda just mouth the words…it bothers me a great deal. I notice on the Sundays we do not say it before the offering, I feel much more at peace. Thanks for sharing this. I sometimes feel that I may be the only one in our congregation who feels this way, but I am sure there are others. It’s like demanding God to bless! Ugh!

  4. loyaldidymus says:

    Wow. The little church that just came out of was doing this as well and I did not understand it as we never did this at the little church I grew up in. Now I am aware of its meaning. I didn’t always give so I did not utter on those days. Ha! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s