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The weird and wacky comes not only from the East, but also from the West.  The West Coast, to be specific.  In Redding, California, there is a church called Bethel.  And at this church called Bethel, there is a ministry called SOZO.  And within this ministry called SOZO (Greek for saved, healed, delivered) there is another ministry called Shabar.  (A Hebrew word meaning broken-hearted but which can also mean shattered).

There are six ‘tools’ that are used in SOZO:

  • Father Ladder
  • Four Doors
  • Presenting Jesus
  • The Wall
  • Trigger Mechanisms (Advanced Tool)
  • Divine Editing (Advanced Tool)

These are psycho-therapeutic techniques used by the facilitator (counselor) in a 2-3 hour session for determining the point of the client’s “father wound”, an idea straight out of repressed memory therapy and the inner-healing movement.

For those who have sought help, healing or deliverance through SOZO, but were unable to attain (or maintain) their help, healing and deliverance, there are special (advanced) methods within Shabar both for those who are aware and also for those who are unaware that they have been Shabar-ed.

I swear I’m not making this up.  But someone is.  Two someone’s, in fact:  Dawna DeSilva, the founder and leader of SOZO ministry, and Teresa Liebscher.  They, along with the Bethel SOZO team, are making their money by taking your money for a method of healing and deliverance that is not only nowhere to be found in scripture, but wasn’t found anywhere at all until they thought it up and marketed it.  Which, for those of you who haven’t noticed, is apparently how we do ‘divine’ or special revelation these days.  We download it from the recesses of our minds and imaginations, put it into a book or DVD format, stick a PayPal button on our website, and voila – we’re legit.  (Well, only if and when people hit that little ‘add to cart’ button).

Bill Johnson, and his wife Beni are the senior pastors at Bethel.  (A pastor, also called a shepherd in scripture, is someone who has the responsibility of leading, guiding and protecting the people of his church, especially from wolves-in-sheep’s-clothing;  A.K.A false teachers).  Bethel, which had its start in 1954 in Redding California, was originally an Assemblies of God church, but in 2006, under the leadership of Johnson, it became non-denominational.  It’s a large church, with a large and active healing and deliverance ministry, and an Alabaster Prayer Room where people can go to spend time in prayer, or for an experience called ‘soaking’.

I looked the word soaking up in the concordance to see what the Bible has to say about it, and here is what I found:

Absolutely nothing.

We live in odd times.  We live in an age of self-appointed apostles and self-proclaimed prophets, many of whom have everyone on Facebook hungering and thirsting to claim them as their new BFF.  It’s time to grow up, people.  There’s a lot going on in the world, and too many of us are running house to house and meeting to meeting to find out “what new thing God is doing”.  Except that most of it isn’t new;  we’re borrowing it from metaphysics and mysticism, which has been around a lot longer than we have.  We’re just putting catchy new labels on it, but idolatry by any other name is still idolatry.  We’re not making mature disciples, we’re making flaky ones.

If anyone tells you that they have received special revelation freely from God (and this isn’t, it’s been cobbled together partly from the teachings of Randy Clark, who took his show on the road to Bethel in the 90’s, and partly from ‘deliverance’ ministries in Argentina) and they want you to pay them in order to receive this special revelation from them, think twice before giving them access to your bank account.  And while we’re on this subject, if anyone requires you to sign a release of liability form before they will pray for you, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction.  Find someone else to pray for you, or do your own praying.  There should be all kinds of red flags and warning bells going off in your head on this one.  Can you see, anywhere in the New Testament, where anyone pulled a bunch of papers and a pen out of their robes before ministering and said “We’re going to set you free, but sign here first”?  I don’t think so.

I guess my primary concern with all of this is its propensity to create and encourage the formation of false memories.  In the secular world of psychology, methods like these were debunked and discredited long ago (well, according to a recent Harvard newsletter I received, not so long ago) but for some reason, the church – especially our local ones, are still doing the kind of counseling that isn’t so much about growth and maturity as it is about ‘healing your inner child’ and digging for whatever image may pop into your mind that would explain your current dysfunctional behavior.  There may well be abuse in your past, and quite a few traumatic memories.  But, by and large, people don’t forget trauma, and the dysfunctional behavior more often than not is due to the stress and pain caused by not being able to forget.  Any memory that you now have, that you didn’t have before your therapy, or before going for prayer (this includes Theophostic prayer, or the use of any other therapeutic technique that defies the laws of both science and common sense) is suspect and should not be taken as a real and legitimate [accurate] memory.  This includes psycho-therapeutic techniques such as writing about your early childhood with your non-dominant hand in order to probe the unconscious, or subconscious mind, to the use of hypnosis, or any other practice that results in an altered state of consciousness.  This happens quite easily after 2-3 hours of prayer or mindless singing (and chanting) of the same mantra, verse, or even worship music.  You alter your brain waves, which is exactly what happens when you are asleep and dreaming.

Yes, we do need to spend time in prayer alone with God, and there is nothing wrong with listening to worship music, or praying for extended periods of time.  Our days would go better if we did.  But we also worship God with our lives, and too many of us are wasting our time running all over town, and all over the country, after every new trend and teaching that appeals to our emotional needs and desires, and more importantly to our emotional pain and desperation.  The enemy knows this, and when he can’t tempt us into sin, he uses the strategies of deception and distraction, and that is all that these false teachings amount to in the end.

And so, for heaven’s sake – for your own sake – quit soaking, sozo-ing and shabar-ing, and be instead like the Bereans of Acts 17, who sought truth by searching scripture.  And keep your money in the bank.

 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.          Acts 17:11