2 Peter 2:1-2: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”
The summer months are a popular time for various ‘religious’ festivals to be held throughout the country.
While we are not able to focus on every single one of them, one which took place last weekend is of particular note.
That is the Open Skies Festival which was held in Shane’s Castle in Antrim town from Friday, 9 to Sunday, 11 August.
It is not just because of the heavy involvement of Bethel and Hillsong musicians.
It is not just because of the heavy involvement of the Belfast based Crown Jesus Ministries supremo known only by the matey moniker of ‘Mitch’ (pictured, top).
It is not just because of the heavy involvement of one of the Causeway Coast Vineyard lead pastors, Tre Sheppard (pictured, below) or indeed any of the other characters who were speaking at the festival.
While all those issues deserve highlighting individually and collectively, there is another, even more sinister and concerning aspect of this event.
That is a session which was held on the Saturday morning of the festival entitled, ‘Introduction to Sozo’.
No doubt, many will be asking, what is Sozo?
An article from the Christian Post, which plays, to use a cricketing analogy, with a straight bat throughout, giving both sides of the argument without taking any particular strong view, gives us some details, which we will reproduce at intervals throughout the article (you can read it in full by clicking here).
It says: “The Sozo ministry or Sozo prayer started in Redding, California, in 1997 by Bethel Church — a nondenominational charismatic megachurch. The idea was inspired after a healing evangelist, Randy Clark, held a prayer training at the church.”
Several alarm bells should be ringing already at this point.
Bethel Church, based in Redding, California, is a dreadful organisation replete with heresies, false teaching and extra biblical nonsense.
This is something we have already highlighted on ‘Protestant Revival’ and you can read about some of the heresies of Bethel, including attempted raisings from the dead and the disputed practice of ‘grave sucking’, by clicking here.
Another alarm bell should be attached to the name of Randy Clark, leader of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), which the likes of Open Skies and numerous churches we have featured are strongly influenced by.
He was a leader in what became known as the ‘Toronto Blessing’, the frightening movement which saw those falling under its spirit howling like dogs, laughing hysterically and rolling around the floor.
It is alleged by its practitioners that this is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, but the spirit causing such dreadful manifestations is most certainly not holy.
Randy Clark, indeed, is said to have received his “anointing” in this ungodly delusion and deception by none other than the self-proclaimed Holy Ghost bartender Rodney Howard-Browne, a man whose heresy you can read of by clicking here.
The word ‘sozo’ is a Greek word, meaning ‘to save, keep safe and sound’. Using the language of the New Testament is another shallow effort by its creators to sound orthodox.
The Christian Post article continues: “The Bethel Sozo website describes Sozo ministry as ‘a unique inner healing and deliverance ministry aimed to get to the root of things hindering your personal connection with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit’.”
What hinders our relationship with God is sin, whether we are saved or unsaved. Confessing of our sin and living a blameless life for Him is what gives us a closer relationship with God.
We don’t need some charismatic delusion or gimmick to bring us closer to God, we need to study His Word and commune with Him in prayer ourselves.
The Christian Post article speaks to one keen practitioner of this heresy, a Paula Noble who is apparently an “Assemblies of God pastor” (1 Timothy 2:12).
Explaining how she handles sozo “appointments”, the article says “the person seeking inner healing meets with no less than two leaders, one who leads the Sozo prayer and another who records what God says throughout the meeting.”
This individual writes down what God apparently says to the “sozoee” and, even more remarkably, the pastor then tells them which bits of what the sozoee believe God is saying to them God is actually saying to them.
This Paula Noble says: “There’s a learning process for leaders too. [We need] discernment to say ‘that doesn’t sound like how Jesus would talk’ to someone because the enemy would totally try to sideline them.
“He’s never demeaning, He’s never harsh, and what He says always aligns with His word. So if the enemy tries to sideline a person and throw something else out there, I’m very quick to identify it.”
It’s very good of her to step in and let people know what God is saying to them.
She’s basically jumping in and saying: “No no, God isn’t telling you this bit. That’s actually the enemy (who is this enemy? If it’s the devil why can’t you say the devil?) The bit before, God was saying that nice bit, but this bit sounds a bit harsh, that’s not God.”
It is so obviously a nonsense and such a shameful, confused mess.
The point this woman is missing is that the entire practice does not “align with His Word”.
Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to consult a church leader of any sort to get them to tell us what God is telling us as we pray to Him.
We are told in God’s Word how to pray and how God hears us.
1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.
Romans 8:26-27: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”
The Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ help us as we pray, our mediator is Jesus Christ, not some self-appointed pastor and expert on a nonsense invented 20 years ago by a church which teaches all manner of heresy.
Think even of the Lord’s Prayer. Did Jesus say we ought to get a pastor or minister and a church elder to come in to the room with us and tell us what God is saying? Of course He didn’t.
Furthermore, this also creates the problem that the pastor advising the person praying has total control over them, having full authority over what that person believes is God’s will for their life.
And that brings us to the most frightening, sinister aspect of this whole thing – “divine editing”.
The Christian Post article says that Bethel has came up with six tools to make the sozo process more effective, one of which is divine editing.
This is what the article says: “Divine editing has also been linked to Dr. Aiko Hormann in relation to the Sozo prayer.
“‘If your childhood lacked nurturing, invite your Heavenly Father to fill in the voids created by lack of nurturing. He will ‘edit’ your memories — both ‘edit out’ painful memories and ‘edit in’ His nurturing,’ Hormann’s website describes.”
How else can you describe changing people’s memories?
What a frightening prospect.
You don’t like a memory from the past? Just wipe it out.
You want to put a happy spin on an unhappy memory? Just change it.
As well as brainwashing, it also sounds like hypnotism.
Another character interviewed who practices and leads sozo sessions said of her experience (a key word among the charismatic delusion):
“As the facilitator continued to prompt me with questions, I began to see the cross and Jesus with His hand out for me to grab.
“Eventually, Jesus wanted to take me up a staircase to see God but I was afraid. The facilitator prompted me to forgive my earthly father; I did. Then I was able to go up and see God, my daddy on the throne and even sit on His lap.”
Since then, she claims, she is able to “visit Jesus” as well as “snuggle and even dance” with God.
What on earth is this nonsense leading people into?
Where does it say in the Bible that we can sit on God’s knee for a cuddle or go for a dance with Him? The very notion is outrageous and blasphemous.
This nonsense ties in with the false, ungodly notion of so many alleged “Christians” today who view God as a sort of Santa Claus in the clouds.
Yet this is what the Open Skies Festival is encouraging every one of its attendees to get themselves tied up in.
May God have mercy on every single one of them and deliver them from such ungodliness.
Every single speaker at this festival ought to be ashamed of themselves and every single one is implicated in this wretched mess.
Those speakers were, in addition to Causeway Coast Vineyard’s Tre Sheppard and good old Mitch of Crown Jesus Ministries, Jonathan Martin of ‘The Table’ church in Oklahoma, American worship musicians Leeland Mooring and Jason Upton, Azman Khairuddin of Journey Community Church, Hillsong worship leader Benjamin Hastings and Dario Leal of 1st Ballynahinch Presbyterian Church.
To be part of a festival which introduces a form of prayer which is utterly unknown to the Word of God and includes brainwashing practices such as “divine editing” is repugnant.
We would urge everyone reading this to please share this widely to warn of this latest grave deception which no doubt will now be carried round many Pentecostal and non-denominational churches throughout Ulster.
Sozo has not made it round this neck of the woods yet, but this is the start of the latest lie which does harm to the cause of God in our land.
We are seeking to warn against it and urge you to do the same.
Let us not be silent or neutral in such a grave matter, but rather let us fervently and “earnestly contend for the faith” in this day in which we are called to live.