When the Truth Becomes a Lie

I Googled my full name the other day (Athena Dean Holtz) and stumbled upon the latest twist in the ongoing rampage against my character. My jaw dropped as I read it…I was stunned at the blatant deception that was communicated. A perfect example of the truth becoming a lie. Here is the statement made about me:

Spokesperson calls Athena Dean a “rabid griper who makes a career of attacking the church.”

This quote was cited on the website created by Tim Williams to smear my reputation and cause people to question my character. The people he most hopes will continue to buy his lies are the handful of followers who continue to consider him a “man of God.” Those whom he’s convinced will be destroyed if they listen to anything I have to say. (Truth be told, if they actually did read everything I’ve written, they’d realize they too have been duped by this con-man who calls himself a pastor).

So how has this truth, this quote about me, become a lie, at the hands of Tim Williams? Here’s how. The way this quote has been cited leads you to believe someone else with authority agrees with Tim Williams, that I have made a career in attacking the church, as in, the body of Christ. But what is the context of this quote about me, and who actually said it? Seattle PI Article 1984

Since their resignation, the Deans say church members have heckled and harassed them. Scientologists who worked for them have quit. The Deans believe it’s part of a church process called “disconnecting” or “striking a blow to the enemy.” That’s ridiculous, said Ruble, the local Scientology president. Ruble, who oversees 16,000 Scientologists in three Northwest states, called the Deans “rabid gripers” who are making a career of attacking the church.

The full article can be found at this link: http://www.xenu-directory.net/news/library-item.php?iid=1919

Pretty ironic, really.

This was a newspaper article from 1984, 2 years before I became a Christian. And the most compelling parallel is that all those years ago I was standing up to yet another cult… the church of Scientology… another toxic organization that bullies and intimidates anyone who speaks out against them. Amazing how all cults use the same tactics…threats, intimidation, lawsuits towards the defectors, and extreme isolation of those who are still buying the lie…heaven forbid they should learn the truth that they’ve been led astray.

So when you read the quote on the website that was created to expose my “lies” and bring to light the truth about “who I really am,” does it mean something different now…now that you actually know who said it and what church they were referring to?

Of course.

But that’s just exactly how the enemy works. He doesn’t want you to know the truth, because it’s the truth that will set you free. Instead, he wants to keep you in bondage with word games that hide the truth.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. Col 2:8

Please pray for all those still ensnared by the hollow and deceptive philosophy of Sound Doctrine and Tim Williams. Pray that they Holy Spirit would be able to get through to them and open their blind eyes, and that they would be humble enough to admit the truth…that they’ve been duped.

That’s a hard thing to do when you’ve burned all your bridges.

Just the other day I’d heard about “confirmation bias,” and was amazed at such an accurate description of what happens to people who stay in cults and turn against those who have the courage to leave and expose the truth.

Confirmation bias (also called confirmatory bias or myside bias) is a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions or hypotheses regardless of whether the information is true.

It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs.

I must admit, I lived for 12 years being manipulated by a man who knew how to take advantage of our sinful human nature that looks for a way to prove we are right when we are really dead wrong. I think the Bible calls that PRIDE.

Please, please, please…pray with me that the power of the enemy would be broken in the lives of those who remain loyal to the wolf and that Jesus would draw them back to Himself.

One Year Ago Today WinePress Closed Their Doors

It was a year ago today.

My gallbladder had just been removed and I was groggy from the anesthesia.

I’d been living in San Antonio, Texas for 14 months, having moved away from Washington State to help my brother care for our 90 year old mom who was on hospice. After she passed I was given the opportunity to host a radio show for women on the local Salem affiliate, KSLR (www.alwaysfaithfulradio.com), and absolutely loved what I was doing.

I’d told God in no uncertain terms that I would never return to Washington. Too many bad memories from the 12 years I was duped by a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Over a decade believing a lie was the truth, losing the 20 year old company I’d poured my life and energy into building and making a valuable resource for Christian authors.

A year ago today I got the call… WinePress Publishing has closed their doors for good.

Since early 2012, I’d been warning people on this blog and all over Facebook that, due to my own misjudgment of character, WinePress had fallen into the hands of leaders who were spiritually, emotionally and financially abusive, arrogant and elitist. Leaders who used scripture out of context to silence and shame anyone who questioned their words or actions… anyone who spoke up and told the truth. Those who, as I found out months later, were sexually abusive as well…and all in the Name of Jesus. How tragic for those whose lives were forever scarred by their sick and twisted actions.

A year ago today… WinePress Publishing, the God idea that was high jacked by the enemy, after being ridden into the ground by excessive spending, exorbitant salaries for the Williams family members, and the height of incompetence, finally admitted defeat… albeit at the expense of many innocent authors.

With the closing of WinePress, nearly 2,000 authors became displaced, unable to get their hands on the books they’d paid to have produced and made available.  195 authors who were in process…who had paid for publishing services and never received what they paid for… left in the lurch without any hope of recovering their investment.

When I was asked to return to help them, I knew it was the right thing to do. And I’m so, so grateful I was given the opportunity.  I never could have guessed that I’d have the chance to help so many authors get back what was rightfully theirs, and at the same time, offer new solutions to the publishing dilemma.

It’s really almost surreal.

A year ago today.

I was out of publishing, on the radio, in Texas, 14 years single and waiting and not happy about that, I must admit. It was a struggle to believe God really did have a husband for me… one who loved God and would love me well.

Boy, was I ever wrong about that.

To Love Mercy…

Thankfulness-featured-wideBeen reflecting back on Thanksgiving and how much gratefulness is spilling over the brim of my heart today.

I went into the holiday yesterday with a bit of nervousness, not sure what to expect. My first Thanksgiving with the Holtz clan, I knew, would be special… but would I step on toes? I wanted to be sensitive to all those in the Holtz family who missed their mom or Nana. I so wanted our house to be warm and welcoming, but I am definitely my mother’s daughter…she was always such a perfectionist when it came to family meals during the holidays. Everything always had to be just right.

As I tried to accomplish everything that was on my list, plus some added things I wasn’t expecting, I could feel myself grumbling… and on a day of thanks, no less! In the middle of that emotional “mother-like” moment by phone bleeped…a scripture from my GoTandem app.

No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8 NLT

To love mercy.

Hmmmmm.

That part kinda jumped off the screen of my Note and melted away all the grumbling in my heart. I’ve actually been pondering it ever since.

The Hebrew word for mercy means goodness, kindness, faithfulness.

I confess. When I am in perfectionist mode, I am definitely anything but kind. Oh how I need to work on that! My friend, Tammie, gave me a copy of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” and I must admit, perfectionists sweat waaaay too much small stuff!

Going back a few verses we can see that the Lord doesn’t really want us doing all the things that look perfect, like a huge sacrifice on our part…

What can we bring to the Lord?
Should we bring him burnt offerings?
Should we bow before God Most High
with offerings of yearling calves?
 Should we offer him thousands of rams
and ten thousand rivers of olive oil?
Should we sacrifice our firstborn children
to pay for our sins?

Micah 6:6-7

I spent 12 long years being taught that we had to perform just right, check off our spiritual to-do list every day, and be pleasing in the eyes of certain people or our salvation would be in jeopardy. My goodness…how much of that type of thinking still permeates that perfectionist part of my personality?

Verse 8 says it all. He’d just rather we do what is right…be kind, merciful, walk in humility before Him.

Hmmmm.

Not only am I mindful of how much He wants to continue refining me and teaching me to walk with Him, I am so, so thankful that He has given me someone to walk with who is the epitome of Micah 6:8. A man who strives to do what is right, overflowing with kindness, and walking humbly before God. Someone who tempers my perfectionism and strong-will with His love and grace.

Yep.

Gratefulness spilling over.

For a husband who loves the Lord and me well.

For my family… biological and by way of marriage.

For The Summit and all that He is doing in and through our local body of believers.

For the opportunity He has given me to use my gifts to help authors through Redemption Press.

For friends… close by and far away… so many who have prayed for me over the years and sought God’s face for my deliverance and healing.

And more than anything, for Jesus who is the Ever Faithful One who saved me and made me His own.

For all these things I am incredibly thankful… moved-to-tears-of-joy thankful.

Yep.

Thankful.

Rescued from Satan’s Dominion

Today is feeling a bit surreal.

Up at 4am to get my pastor-husband, Ross, to the airport to attend the National Coalition of Ministries for Men in Little Rock, AR where he will formally receive his national award of NCMM’s “Pastor of the Year.”

Home by 5:30…spending some quiet time and doing my study for “If God is in Control, Why am I a Basket Case?”

The statement on page 58 jumps out at me:

Express your gratitude to God the Father and Jesus Christ for all they’ve done to rescue you from Satan’s dominion.

Hmmm.

Fitting indeed.

Today marks 3 years since God rescued me from the height of deception…believing a lie to be the truth for 12 long years and forsaking all to hold onto it.

Yep. Satan’s dominion, for sure.

1,095 days ago today I was numb, disillusioned, battered and bruised…wondering how I could have allowed myself to be duped, losing everything that mattered to me as a result. November 10, 2011 I packed my bags and called my son. “Aaron, it’s your mom. Where are you? I’m coming.” Words that I’d been convinced would mean I was turning my back on God. But in reality, they were words of freedom and deliverance.

I had lost my marriage; relationships will all my kids, my house, my car, and the company I co-founded. All as a result of believing a wolf in sheep’s clothing who knew just how to quote scripture out of context to control and manipulate those who had zeal without knowledge. A master at using shame, condemnation, and the fear of losing your salvation to get his followers to do nearly anything to please him…truth be told, it was all for his own selfish, evil gain.

But oh, how glorious is the grace of God. How He could take such destruction and use it for good is beyond me…but it is exactly what He has done.

Just last night I was talking to a friend who reminded me of our last visit together, over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday last year. I was so forlorn…so discouraged. Had I missed God altogether? Would He ever bring me a godly husband? I finally resigned myself to being single for the rest of my life and was determined to be content with that.

Who would have guessed that just a few weeks later God would be bringing me back to Washington, back into publishing, and back to The Summit…where He would provide the perfect husband for me…making me a pastor’s wife, no less! So much has been restored … relationships with my family, back in my old offices helping authors once again … it’s as my late momma used to say, “Mind-boggling!”

My memory verse from Colossians is from chapter 1 verses 13 & 14:

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

I am so grateful today for the way He has worked.

He has indeed rescued me, redeemed my life, forgiven me, and continues to make all things work together for good.

Yep. Faithful. That’s what He is.

A Letter on Leaders Who Abuse Authority

I received this email and the author agreed to let me share it here…praise God for His truth and Charles’ courage

Dear Athena,

You may not remember me, but we talked once back in the end of 2004. I had signed up with WinePress books to publish a book called “Where is the Fear of God? Finding the Treasure of the Lord”, but I was never able to get it in print through them. I was going to the mission field to Kenya at that time and was trying to get it published before I left. At the time it was so frustrating, for each time we did what they said to do, and each time they came back and blamed the problems on us, when we did exactly what they said. After a year of trying I (and my friend back here in the states, Ros Chin) gave up, forsook the money we had paid to get it printed, and walked away. Little did we know what was taking place at WinePress and that this was right when the takeover was occurring.

When I came back from Kenya in 2009 I tried again to get it published through a ‘secular’ company and in 2 months time I had books on my doorstep, super easy. I never understood why it never worked with WinePress, until you ‘told your story’. So today nearly a decade later I finally understand why God never allowed to be published by WinePress, and I am truly thankful, for God’s ways are higher than our ways. So thank you for not being afraid to tell your story, it has truly encouraged me in several ways.

One of the things that goes far deeper than the publishing of the book was how you and I both were delivered from the snares of the devil. I also found myself in a cult (though for many years I truly felt I was in the best church on earth). But through the years it began to change and more and authority was brought in which abused and manipulated and bullied the members of the church, until finally there in Kenya Nov. 2011 I finally took a stand to say I was not going to compromise and not going to obey a man’s word over Jesus Christ. Well, that was the end for me in that ministry.

Once I brought correction to the leader on where he was contrary to Jesus’ example and his words, now men and women from around the world were stirred up against me to condemn me, strive with me, shame and rebuke me – ‘How could I dare question the man of God?’ Didn’t I know he was ‘Moses’ and the ground would open up and consume me for even questioning him? Now for the first time I felt what so many who were dis-fellowshipped before me must have felt: judgments, condemnations, curses, warnings I would go to hell and my wife and children die if I left their ‘perfect’, ‘loving’ fellowship that was so of God, how deceived I must be even to think they had any error.

Apparently I was even denser in understanding, than others as to what this ministry had become, because I served there faithfully with my whole heart for 22 years. Every friend I had in this world was there. Yes, we did the same things as you. We cut off every one who did not agree with us, we separated ourselves from family members who didn’t submit/agree with our doctrine, Yes, I mortgaged my home, as well as many other church members, and gave it all to the ‘Set Man’, the Lead Elder, so that he could run the ministry. We were not as extreme as some of the practices that you went through (like living in other peoples homes), but it is amazing how many of the practices were identical.

So I know a little of what you went through, and I can honestly say I am sorry you had to endure such things at the hands of one who called himself a man of God. It is the greatest shame. Sadly such men because of the extreme self-deception and over-abundant pride that is in them, cannot see that they are doing ANYTHING wrong. They have an amazing ability to discard their conscience, to justify EVERYTHING they do and to shift blame on others. I just wanted to know I will be praying for you that God will heal your heart and that you will continue with God in fellowship with other believers. That of course is one of the boasts of such men, that ‘everyone that leaves us is shipwrecked’. They truly believe they are ‘messiahs’ and that people are lost without them.

Those who abuse authority in the church always want to gloat that those who leave their ministry are always shipwrecked and don’t serve God anymore and their lives are destroyed. But if we truly received a good foundation at a ministry which prepared us properly as the bride of Christ, shouldn’t many of those who leave continue on faithfully in the Lord? Isn’t that a test of every ministry? Isn’t that the hope of every true parent? “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Pr 22:6  Is it possible that God will inspect the devastation in the lives of those who were associated with a certain man of God and credit that as bad fruit?

Thank God we are not shipwrecked. We will go on to serve God without Diotrephes lording over us. We will be a testimony of those who have been delivered by the Lord himself from the oppressions of unjust men. Such men do not know the devastation which they have caused in the lives of so many who have left their ministry and the condemnations those who leave have had to endure. First, they make those under their rule dependent on them, removing every support they have. Then when some can no longer endure the hypocrisy and are tired of being used and abused, finally decide they must leave. Then they are condemned, shamed, and evil spoken of, so they leave broken, disillusioned, deeply wounded. When such people wander spiritually or many forsake altogether the things of God, such leaders use that as ‘proof’ that they never should have left?! Amazing how such leaders never hear Jesus’ words: “whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Mt 18:6

I could hear in your words on the Blog, some of the same things I have had to pass through and still at times struggle with: How could I be so stupid not to see what was going on for so long? Why did it take me so long to get out? Why did I let another talk me into what I knew in the depth of my heart was not right. This surely is one of the tools of the devil, to try to crush with shame those who come out of cults. But I pray all who come out of such abusive groups will in time become even stronger through such things to help deliver others who may still be caught in such groups and not even know it.

So thank you and God bless you and lead you. May he heal the places of your heart that were trampled on by the proud and arrogant. They will meet their day, if not before the courts of men, then surely before the court of God. Where will all the men who exalted themselves before God’s people hide themselves on the day of the Lord when he returns?! On that day: “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.” Isa 2:11-12

Praise the Lord for his mighty deliverances! He has set the captive free. The day will come when he will show “strength with his arm”, when he will scatter “the proud in the imagination of their hearts”, when he will put down the mighty from their seats”, and he will exalt them of low degree (Lk 1:51-52). I have to say I was grieved by the first person that responded on your blog. It truly shows how so many have no understanding of the abuse and pain people pass through when they are in such groups. In reality why did we get involved in such? Simply because we had a pure and humble heart and wanted all that God had for us. That is what prideful men of God take advantage of, when they begin telling us what we need to do in our walks with God, and stepping into the place in our heart which only Jesus the Lord is to occupy.

There is a spirit that is working in the earth which works in men who wield authority in the church and subtly they become lifted up just like Lucifer was and now they expect people to listen and obey WHATEVER they say. They become leaders after the manner of the Gentiles exactly like Jesus warned his own 12 that they were NOT to do: What you encountered was none other than the very same spirit of Diotrephes where a man wants preeminence in the church and in the hearts of God’s people, so that he may rule over our faith. But Paul, though he was a man of great authority was never like that. Notice how he and those with him did not “have dominion over”, they did not ‘rule over’ the faith of the believers, but were “helpers of [their] joy: for by faith ye stand.” (2Co 1:24).

Some ministers it seems that their truest joy is not in bringing joy to the believers, but rather in keeping them under their control, in lording over the sheep, and reminding the sheep of all the ‘great things’ that such a minister has done. In such places the leader often gets more attention that Christ Jesus himself! Such ministers want to convince the sheep that they ‘stand’ by their obedience to that man and to his subordinates. But scripture is clear, we stand by faith, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, not faith in men. But I have even heard it said from such men, “All I ask is that you trust in the Lord and trust in the servant of the Lord and when we ask you to do some thing, just to do it.” That may sound innocent to some, but that is unbiblical. That is EXACTLY what the antichrist wants from each of us – just to trust him and do what he says.

I was blessed just yesterday with a scripture. Even God shows us why we should trust him. Why do “the children of men put their trust under the shadow of [his] wings”? because of “how excellent is [his] lovingkindness” (Ps 36:7). But men want to say that “ALL” they want is for you is to just trust them?! We are truly in the last days when men are deceiving and being deceived (2Tim 3:13). When men partake of such a spirit, requiring people to trust them, they indeed have drunk of the Luciferic principle. Praise God for the scriptures, which set us free when we see them rightly.

Ps 146:3: Put NOT your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.

Ps 118:8: It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

How sad some church leaders use the word of God as a club to beat the sheep into submission, to intimidate and to bully, the very opposite of what Jesus said to do (Mt 20:20-28). Truly many have forgotten the servant model that Jesus left us. Who should be the greatest servants in the church? Many men make it be the sheep, but Jesus said it should be the leaders! How then can a church leader call himself “the Shepherd” (which in truth is no different than saying he is “the Senior or Chief Pastor”) when only Jesus is “the Shepherd” and certainly he is the Chief Shepherd?! How can this be, unless such a man is already drinking of the Luciferic principle! How can a church leader call himself “the set man” or “the lead elder”? unless he is blinded by his own pride and self-importance. How can men praise themselves in the house of God while God is watching, and feel no shame? unless they are Pharisees inside their heart.

Some of the very things you have experienced I also have gone through, although not to the same depth. But it is the same spirit of antichrist authority that would put God’s sheep in bondage to the will of a man and keep them under his control, rather than growing in maturity and being able to discern the will of God for themselves. I pray that you again rejoice to here your Shepherd’s voice (Jesus) as he leads you into the green pastures he has for you.

Sincerely,

Charles von Hammerstein

29 Months Out of Captivity

Today marks 29 months of freedom from deception. It’s a strange mix of emotions. Joy wells up inside me as I think of God’s faithfulness to heal me and restore me during these months. At the same time, it’s sobering to consider the damage that I caused with one bad decision. I praise God for His grace that forgives me for the part I played in the WinePress debacle, and the lives that have been effected by my actions.

Just last week on April 1st was the 4 year anniversary of the completion of WinePress being transferred to the enemy camp. I posted this on Facebook and today am more in awe of His hand in all that I am experiencing.

Four years ago today I allowed WinePress Publishing to be stolen by the enemy, through a wolf in sheep’s clothing named Tim Williams. Of course, it started much earlier than four years ago, but April 1, 2010 was the enemy’s final coup when the ownership of WinePress officially changed from me to Sound Doctrine…from light to darkness.

Up until November 10, 2011, I kept trying to convince myself that I was doing, and had done, God’s will…but praise God He finally allowed the scales to fall from my eyes and gave me the courage to admit how wrong I was—that I had believed a lie to be truth for twelve long years and had hurt many people who loved me in the process.

I’ve spent the last 2 ½ years repenting and healing and learning who God really is…not an angry taskmaster waiting for you to screw up so you can be disciplined until you repent to his satisfaction. No—that is a tragically false picture of our loving Heavenly Father.

I’ve learned anew that our God, Jesus Christ, is a God of grace and truth—a balance of both—a loving Father who encourages us to be who He made us to be, to glorify Him.

On this anniversary of the height of devastation, I am amazed at the restoration God has allowed. In a few minutes we will be doing a ribbon cutting ceremony with City of Enumclaw officials, friends and family, to celebrate the official launching of Redemption Press in my old publishing offices at 1730 Railroad Street in Enumclaw, Washington, (Click here to read the story of how Redemption Press came to be).

He has turned my mourning into dancing, and restored what I allowed the enemy to steal. He is redeeming every area of my life, and for that I am grateful. Truth be told, that word does not do justice to the emotions I feel when I consider all that He has done. He truly has given waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert…and I can only praise Him for His goodness.

Because I have given waters in the wilderness
And rivers in the desert,
To give drink to My chosen people.
“The people whom I formed Myself,
Will declare My praise.”
Isaiah 43:20b-21