Benny Hinn, Beth Moore, Bethel, Bethel Church, Bethel Redding, Christian, Christian Testimony, Contemplative Prayer, Creflo Dollar, False doctrine, False Teaching, Forgiveness, Hillsong, Jesus Culture, Joyce Meyer, marilyn hickey, New Apostolic Reformation, Personal testimony, Priscilla Shirer, Prosperity Gospel, Repentance, Sound Doctrine, Sozo, Testimony, Word of Faith
I grew up with a mentally ill single mother. My father had had an affair with her and went back to his wife before I was born. After my Christian step mother found out about me, she would witness to my mother and I over the phone. My home life was very unstable and chaotic and I almost committed suicide at the age of 13. I had decided I did not believe in God.
A few months later, Child Protective Services took me away from my mother and placed me in foster care. The first time my father ever called me was to ask if I would like to live with him and his wife- under the condition I would go to church with her. He did not go nor was he the spiritual leader of their home.
My father was awarded temporary custody and the day I moved in with him was the day I met him face to face.
I began to go to my stepmom’s charismatic, nondenominational church when I was 14 and was saved several months later. I had a deep rooted resentment and bitterness towards my dad and it was at this church that I was introduced to being “slain in the spirit”. The leaders would pray over me at the altar and although it felt as though they were pushing me over at times, I would fall to the floor “overcome by the Holy Spirit”. I grew up around prophesy, tongues, and women in unbiblical roles. Despite- and not because of- this, the Lord was merciful and gracious and through the years He did indeed deliver me of the stronghold of hatred towards my dad and I grew in my faith of God’s sovereignty. Unfortunately, however, my stepmom was heavily influenced by televised false teachers such as Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Benny Hinn, Marilyn Hickey, etc., and would share many unbiblical, yet convincing, ear tickling things with me. She was my number one mentor and a best friend. I also struggled tremendously in trying to be a good Christian but fell into many temptations such as extreme promiscuity and partying over the course of almost a decade. It seriously is only by God’s unfailing mercy that I am alive today.
In my early 20s, I married my second husband while in the Army. We were a “dual military couple”. I became pregnant with our son and discharged from the service to become a stay at home mom. I found a Southern Baptist Church while we were stationed in Texas and it was there that I grew tremendously in my love for God’s infallible Word and was discipled by our Sunday school leaders, particularly the wife. I was baptized and my husband soon began attending after initially refusing to.
However, our marriage was in a very terrible state and he was abusive.
Being an Army wife afforded me many opportunities and it was through joining the military ministry, PWOC (Protestant Women of the Chapel) that in many ways stunted my growth in biblical discernment, wisdom, and Truth. I became super involved and volunteered on and off for several years. I did many Bible “studies” by Beth Moore and others by leaders such as Priscilla Shirer.
At our next duty station, which was in my home state, we joined a church where I joined a prayer group that was led by the worship and youth pastor. He was a young man that was deeply deceived by the teachings of Bethel Church in Redding, California and many like-minded leaders, including the “Toronto Blessing”. The focus is on bringing heaven to earth, spiritual gifts, and signs and wonders. It is all very much based on emotionalism and New Age mysticism, but laced with Christian lingo and severely twisted Scriptures. I became even more influenced by leaders in the Word of Faith, “Name it and claim it”, NAR, post-modern Christianity, etc.
It was during this time that I fell into going outside of God’s Word and I would literally beg God for “more”, to be “undone” by the Holy Spirit and for Him to “visit” me. I wanted the power that I was duped into believing I deserved more of and was entitled to as a child of God. I would ask and even sing along to the song, “Fill me up, God”. I experienced being “drunk in the spirit”, received numerous visions, words of knowledge, operated in the gifts of tongues and prophesy, and had many incredibly convincing experiences. Much of what I was caught up in was contemplative prayer- emptying ourselves and letting “jesus” speak to us and giving “him” control over our prayer times. Only occasionally was a Bible actually opened (honestly, I used it the most during our meetings) yet we took precious care of the journal we would write in to document our prophesies and visions. Some of the other prayer group “members” would travel up to the “Toronto Blessing” church and even attended Sozo meetings out in the west. We also operated in automatic writing and speaking, and spoke in tongues without interpretation. The pastor also would take the teenagers on “treasure hunts”. They would pray, receive “clues” in visions and other ways “the spirit” would tell them, then go out into the city and find their targets. They would then approach the people and pray for them. This of course was very special, secretive operations only to be known by certain people.
We were taught that every decision in life should be directed by “the spirit”, neglecting the truth that “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3.16). It was all very mystical and completely unbiblical.
During all of this I was still in the Word and there were many red flags that would wave, yet I was so caught up in the feelings and “power” of the experiences I was having. Not to mention I was being taught by a pastor who seemed very knowledgeable and had a “passion for the Lord” so what did I know? Truly he must know more than me.
When you are caught up in this heresy, you are always looking for the next high. You are never satisfied with God, despite the fact that Psalm 107.9 says “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” One is truly enslaved by greed, lust, and idolatry.
You will do anything you think is necessary to remain on the mountaintop and avoid the valleys at all costs. Although I never wavered in faith of God, my walk was extremely chaotic and like a roller coaster. I would go through severe bouts of depression. Yet I also would experience extreme highs and excitement while reading Scripture eisegetically. I based my “spiritual maturity” and my relationship with Jesus on my feelings and by whether or not I could “feel His presence”, as the focus in most of these “ministries” is on how you feel. Because I was always “up and down”, I actually wondered if I was mentally ill, given family history. Throughout the years – I would “storm the gates of hell”, interceding for my kids and “binding” the devil of his plans for myself and my family. I would actually yell at satan, deceived of what true Biblical spiritual warfare is.
Keep in mind, it was during this time that the abuse in my marriage was close to being at its worst. My husband was not at all the spiritual leader of our home and I held a tremendous hatred towards him and would fantasize and even pray that he would die. I knew that this was wrong; I just kept begging God to deliver me in whatever way He saw fit.
Our group was very secretive and the attitude among us was prideful; we had elevated opinions of ourselves and “our gifts”. But never would we have admitted that. Thankfully the other pastor and elders of the church soon caught on to what the pastor was teaching the teenagers and the heresy that he was spreading. He was removed from his position and it caused a division within the church. This threw my world upside down and our prayer group split, with certain members leaving the church. One lady actually said “my gifts are not welcome here”. However, I had never felt like I was a true member of the group- something was always off and I felt as if they didn’t fully trust me. Another former “member” I have since spoken with admitted to feeling the same. I’m pretty confident that I don’t even know the full extent of the dangers they were involved with. And for that – I am now thankful!
I also was incredibly involved in the church and volunteered in many areas. I even had a key to the building- which was a source of pride, one sin that I was very enslaved by.
I love to read so it was also during this time I had many “Christian” books and I began to be very confused and unsure of what exactly I believed because I had so many “teachers”.
We are currently at another duty station and it has been during this last year and a half that God placed someone in our Facebook newsfeed that will at times biblically expose false teachers. Despite other times where I would start to research and seek the truth, yet fall right back into the lies, this time I dove in. I have found legitimate sources and people who shine the light on Biblical truth. With the Lord removing the blinders I had on for so long, reading the Word exegetically and for how God inspired it to be written, and resolving to not look outside of His Truth, I am coming to a true, Biblical understanding of Who He really is (and who He is not).
It has taken me many months to let go of the “mind blowing” experiences I have had throughout the years and accept the realization that the majority of what I thought was the Holy Spirit was not Him. I had opened myself up to the occult- all in the name of Christianity and being tricked into believing I was “anointed”.
I am thankful that during all these years I had been journaling almost every day so I have proof of the horrendous dangers I was caught in. I have considered destroying them but have chosen to keep them and instead plan to write a letter such as this testimony to precede the journals for anyone who may someday read them. I want people to understand that where I am in life now and in my understanding of God and His sovereignty does not come from a fundamentalist, legalistic, outside opinion. I was very much involved in and deceived as you have read.
When we arrived at our current duty station, I was not as discerning as I am now growing to be. We started attending and stayed at a church for over a year. In the time the Lord has been exposing the lies I have been trapped by, He showed me that it is not a church to be at. There are many reasons we left, but one is that their “worship” music is more self and “spirit” focused. Much of it comes from Bethel, Jesus Culture, and Hillsong. We have since made the move and now attend one where God is truly glorified in the exegesis preaching, studying of the Scriptures (not some topical study some “teacher” has written), music worship, and fellowship.
I am truly thankful for all the Lord has done, is doing, and will continue to do in my life. Especially for delivering me from the stronghold of false teaching. Now that I am being led in truth and I’m growing in discernment, my mind is clear, and I am on a steady path walking with my Lord.
And as a side note (which is another testimony in itself!)- He has delivered me from my abusive marriage by way of revealing to my husband his sin- he has since admitted to and has repented of the abuse. He truly is not the man I was married to all those years. He no longer treats me the way he did for 9.5 years. Although he is not a “super spiritual leader”, God continues to work in him. And I am continuing to learn to follow the whole counsel of God- to not pick Scriptures out of context to support my opinions or what someone is trying to teach. It was in doing this with verses on marriage that kept me bound in abuse and almost destroyed our family. Our marriage is definitely not perfect and there are still things that the Lord is working on in my heart, but we overcame almost divorcing and the Lord continues to heal us.
I truly believe that our marriage- as well as my father and stepmother’s- is an example of the destruction that can happen when men do not accept their God-given roles in leading their families centered on Christ and grounded in the Bible. Of course, women also neglect their ordained roles and our society suffers because of each person’s choices.
For everyone reading this – please know that God’s inspired Word and His grace is all sufficient. We do not need to- nor should we- look to any false gospel (which is no Gospel at all) to have our needs and/or desires met. Every need/desire we will ever have in this life has already been provided for by Jesus Christ dying on the cross and His resurrection.
I want to thank Michelle for her work in contending for the faith once for all delivered (Jude 1.3) and for allowing me to share my condensed (at least I tried to keep it short!) testimony.
Ladies, God is still at work in the hearts and lives of His people, including yours! Would you like to share a testimony of how God saved you, how He has blessed you, convicted you, taught you something from His word, brought you out from under false doctrine, placed you in a good church or done something otherwise awesome in your life? Private/direct message me on social media, e-mail me (MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com), or comment below. Try to be brief (3-4 paragraphs or less) if possible. I’ll select a few to share on the blog another time. Let’s encourage one another with God’s work in our lives!