My parents taught me that Jesus was the son of God at an early age. I don’t remember ever denying His existence, however, I lived as if I never knew Him for the first 45 years of my life.
I was raised Roman Catholic. I left that system when I was a teenager, and delved headlong into the study of parapsychology and all things connected with esoteric and New Age spirituality. I used what I learned to turn Jesus into a mystical spiritual being. I filled my mind with Gnostic type beliefs, and molded Christ Jesus into the image of a silent and distant being of light, who could only be approached by a select number of spiritually advanced people.
Despite my false beliefs, my sin, and my rebellion against God, Jesus was always faithful. He never forgot me and never stopped calling me to Him. I had a burning desire to know Christ Jesus, which often brought me to the point of tears as my heart ached to be in His presence. I worked hard for over 25 years to acquire esoteric wisdom and to practice the exercises of anthroposophy to build up the spiritual capacities that I believed were necessary to meet the Christ face to face. I was convince that my esoteric knowledge of higher spiritual worlds was better than the scriptures of God contained in the Bible.
In 2001, I was attending massage therapy school and heard God’s quiet call to pray for my clients. I considered myself to be a “spiritual” person, so I was willing to pray even though my gnostic beliefs caused me to question whether the current stage of human spiritual evolution had advanced us beyond the need for prayer. In part, my willingness to pray was based on the fact that I could pray silently without the knowledge of my clients. To my surprise, I began to watch the lives of several clients physically and emotionally transform as I prayed from week to week.
Then, I perceived that Jesus was asking me to invite Him to be present in my hands as I did massage therapy. I had never heard of the biblical practice of laying on of hands, so this was truly an alien thought!
Several of my clients, who had no idea of what I was doing, remarked that they had unusual spiritual experiences. One client said that she saw an angel in the room as I worked. This freaked me out, not because I didn’t believe in angels, but because, well, I didn’t notice the angel. I learned to see spiritual beings when I spent a couple years exploring spiritualism in my early twenties. Later, as a student of anthroposophical spiritual science and Goethean science, I had developed different methods for seeing phenomena in the spiritual world. I was surprised that these tools did not equip me for seeing what my client saw.
After I graduated from massage therapy school and opened my practice in the fall of 2001, I faced a new challenge from God. He started asking that I pray aloud for my clients during therapy sessions. I was providing colored light therapy and massage to my clients. I couldn’t imagine how I could incorporate prayer into this work. It sickened me to think that my clients might mistake me for being a “Christian.” I would never have even considered such activity unless it came from God’s urging.
After several months of resistance, I offered to speak prayers for my clients during their sessions. Of course, I gave each client the opportunity to say “no.” To my astonishment, they all said “yes” when I offered to pray for them. Even a woman who described herself as an atheist said “yes.”
Based on what I now know, I was not a Christian even though I spoke of “the Christ” when I prayed. My prayers were a mixed up jumble of thoughts and beliefs that encompassed lots of spiritual beings from Gnosticism, the Roman Catholic Church, and the New Age movement. I believed that I was very spiritual, because I was a Christian occultist. I was well educated in Christian esoteric studies and looked down on Bible believing church attending Christians. I tried hard to avoid praying in a way that would give the impression that I was just a “common” church-going Christian.
During this time I experienced a burning desire to learn about the Holy Spirit. Even though I was confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church, I was clueless about the third person of the Holy Trinity. I could not find satisfactory answers to my questions about the nature of the Holy Spirit within the context of anthroposophical spiritual science, so I began reading books about the Holy Spirit from the charismatic Christian perspective. I spent the entire month of January 2003 reading about the Holy Spirit. I quickly realized that I was missing something important, and I decided that I wanted the Holy Spirit in my life. One author said something such as, “If you want the Holy Spirit, then pray to receive Him. If you want the gifts of the Spirit, then ask God for them.” So, I prayed as he instructed.
The more I prayed to receive the Holy Spirit, the more I was shown my sin. I didn’t understand that the conviction of sin was a sign of God working in my life. I had never heard of the concept of repentance, and I didn’t understand that repentance was required for conversion. Actually I didn’t even know that my heart needed to be converted. I thought that Christians who talked about being “saved” were ridiculous.
Shortly thereafter, in March of 2003, God led me to brothers and sisters who laid hands on me in the context of a healing service. They prayed for me, and I experienced both the power of His presence and a crushing realization of the sin in my life. This was not what I wanted and was certainly not what I was expecting. In the late evening of that day, I quietly gave my life to Jesus. At that time, I didn’t know I should count the cost of my commitment and was totally unaware of the consequences that would result from my decision.
I spent the next five months living in agony. Sometimes I fought against the conviction of sin and sometimes I repented. God was shredding my life of selfishness and asking me to turn away from the false beliefs and deceptive practices of Gnosticism and anthroposophical spiritual science. One by one pieces of my old identity began to blow away through the power of repentance. The Holy Spirit led me day by day and point by point into a new life. I laid myself at the foot of the cross and systematically submitted my mind, heart, and will to Jesus.
Despite the discomfort of repentance, I kept begging God to keep crushing the false beliefs and self-centered attitudes out of me. I discontinued my sexual relationship with my partner Kathleen and we prepared to be married in August of 2003. We were both converted during the same healing service in March of 2003.
The first thing that God did, after I made a commitment to marry Kathleen, was to begin closing down my massage therapy practice. I cried out “WHY LORD!” as I watched my clients drift away one after another until the time of my wedding day, when I had zero clients.
After our honeymoon, I prayed and asked God, What kind of work should I be doing now? He didn’t answer that question — He just showed me more sin. My wife and I were then led by the Holy Spirit into another season of repentance as God brought to mind many long forgotten sins and various forms of idolatry.
In December of 2003 God responded to my persistent prayers about my work situation. His answer came all in one word, “Write.” I immediately said, “Write what Lord?” He did not say more.
I had worked for a half dozen years as a technical writer for a software company and gave up that work in the mid-90s. Did God want me to go back to that? I explored technical writing, but that door did not open again. I dredged up an old novel that I started writing many years earlier, but that went nowhere. I waited and prayed to learn about what I was to write while I continued to study the Bible, church history, and theology.
My wife and I started looking for a new church home in the fall of 2005 after a church split that left us on the outside of our congregation. That event was one of the most painful events in my life. We tried building relationships in other churches, but for numerous reasons we were unable to find fellowship. I began to think that maybe we had gone against God’s will when we left our former church, but God made it known to me that we were being set apart for a reason. Through the years that followed, God brought us into a time of even more intense study and isolation. He led us to understand that He was not punishing us for leaving our former congregation. We used the time for in-depth Bible study of the Book of Romans and began to closely examine Christian doctrine. We also began to study the history of the Protestant Reformation and the various denominations that emerged from the darkness of the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. It was all very exciting, but we didn’t feel at home when we compared our studies to the reality of modern church life. We began to wonder if there was a church where God was really calling us, or should we just pick one, and try to be happy, despite the questionable theology, political activities, and practices.
In 2006 God put me into a work situation where I was able to spend many hours per week writing. The content of that writing was related to customer service, but the discipline of continuous writing has helped me develop my ability to work with written language. It was preparation for the future.
One of the issues that have made it extremely difficult for my wife and me to participate in church life is my wife’s Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Exposure to artificial fragrances and mold make her extremely sick. Most church buildings where we live are moldy, and the people who attend church almost always wear large amounts of perfume and cologne. Their clothing reeks from the residue of dryer sheets, and the church buildings have a high level of fragrance residue from cleaning products and air fresheners. The combined effect of all these types of air pollution cause her to become extremely ill for several days after the exposure.
One day in 2007 when I was searching for a fragrance-free church on the internet, I found a link to Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg, Canada. I read their fragrance free policy and spent time looking around the website. They prohibit the use of perfume and cologne on campus, and require students and faculty to use fragrance-free versions of body care and laundry products. I hadn’t heard about the Mennonites, so I also looked for their Confession of Faith. When I read it, I found many points that encouraged me. As a result, Anabaptist history and theology were added to my program of study.
During the early winter of 2010, God began a serious round of pruning and refining in our lives. He permitted weather to invade our home. We had a serious ice dam problem on our roof, which caused water to begin seeping into one of the walls of our house. Despite numerous attempts to repair the situation, the leak continued for almost three months. During that time, mold began to blossom in the wall. It spread toxins throughout our home, which made my wife very ill. We ultimately discarded everything that we owned and sold our home in April of that year.
In terms of physical possessions, we began life over again in our mid-fifties. God used that situation and the worsening illness of my wife to teach us many more lessons. We could not just go and buy a lot of new possessions, because my wife’s chemical sensitivities could not tolerate the outgassing of new furniture. Also, my wife’s physical weakness made it very difficult for her to travel and shop. Thus, we only purchased a minimal number of items. God was teaching us to depend on him for every little thing.
In September of 2010, we moved into a brand new rental house with two folding lawn chairs, a mattress, a couple boxes of kitchen supplies and a trash bag full of clothing. I bought a laptop computer so I could return to work again, thinking that the worst of the mold problem was behind us. I was wrong, God had more to refine. After a month or so, my wife began to become increasingly ill with symptoms of heart failure. These were the same symptoms she had in the mold infested house that we sold 6 months earlier. This didn’t make sense since we were living in a brand new mold free house.
We ultimately discovered that the mold was coming from my new computer. Yes, computers are commonly infected with mold. It is not clear whether many of them are manufactured in moldy environments, stored in moldy warehouses, or they simply become moldy because of the fans that bring air born mold spores into the warm dark environment of the computer. Apparently this is not unusual.
I eventually had to choose between my computer and my wife’s health. I eventually tossed out my computer, took an indefinite leave of absence from work and went to work cleaning up the house from mold exposure. After that was done, I sat down and prayed.
“Lord, I am blind. You brought us to the western mountains where it is very unlikely that a blind person can find a local job. I am responsible for making money for our family and you have allowed Satan to take away the one tool that I can use to make money. I cannot work without a computer and I cannot write without a computer. What do you want me to do?”
God led me through 40 days of fasting from using a computer. He raised my level of dependency on Him and showed me that I can do nothing unless He opens the door for me. He showed me that He is the provider of resources for my family. During those days, I prayed, fasted, and cried out to God in every way I could imagine. Finally, after buying and liquidating five moldy computers, he graciously led me to one that was clean enough to not be harmful for my wife. During that time, He insisted that I no longer put my job and the making of money above His claim on my life. As a result, when I returned to work, I cut my hours of work back to less than 25 hours per week and began to use my free time for writing for His purposes.
The Conformed to Christ website is part of the fruit that is being produced from my new priorities.
My writing is based on what God has done to conform me to His nature. I am attempting to express what He has revealed to me through scripture and what I am learning about the Bride of Christ. I pray that those who read this blog will be touched by God and brought into a closer relationship with Him: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I am not writing as an expert in Biblical theology or drawing stories from a lifetime of Christian service, rather, I am simply communicating what I have learned from the Bible and sharing the experiences that result from following the actual commandments of Christ Jesus. I am continuing to invite the Holy Spirit to crush the selfishness from my life, to inspire me to repent for my sins, to release me from my long standing patterns of sinfulness, to enrich my prayer life, and to explain the deeper meanings of the Holy Scriptures. I pray that you will be blessed by what you find here and that your heart and mind will stay open to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life. I pray that you will submit your entire life to His control and you will be shown new ways to obey our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus.
John P. Thomas
(Last updated 6/2/2014)