Archive for November, 2007

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Biblical Foundations of Theophostic – Hearing God

November 29, 2007

Jon was a quiet, personable young man. He had been a Christian since he was a young boy and loved to serve God and be involved in church gatherings. But Jon also had a dark side. His depression and isolation from deep, meaningful relationships was getting severe. He came to me in desperation and told me about the many nights of loneliness and sadness he had experienced. None of his friends could understand it, since they all really liked him. He had been on several psych medications, gone for many rounds of counseling, and even considered putting himself in an inpatient treatment center for chronic depression. TPM (Theophostic Prayer Ministry) was a last resort to institutional committal.

As we went through the TPM prayer process, God brought Jon back to a memory of him sitting in his father’s study on the floor playing. As he was playing, he noticed that no matter what he said to his father, the reaction was always that he was bothering his dad and that he should play quietly. Into his mind came a thought: “I am a bother. I am a bother to everybody”. As I mentioned in the last blog entry on TPM, little children often fall into the trap of universalizing a belief. The truth is that children sometimes do bother adults. That is a reality of life. However, that doesn’t make them worth any less or mean any less. Nor does it imply they will be loved any less. It certainly cannot mean that the entire human race will always view them that way. But try explaining that to a 7-year old.

We asked God at that point (as is always done in TPM) to reveal truth in that memory. God’s voice was quiet, simple and profound. He simply told Jon “You are never a bother to me. I always have time for you.” That was all God said. At the end of that session, Jon didn’t look any different, and said that though he felt peace, he was skeptical that much had changed.

I ran into Jon about three years later. He came up to me at a conference and greeted me warmly. He explained who he was and asked if I had time for coffee. We went out and he told me the story of the intervening three years. The depression left that evening we had prayed together and never returned. He was developing deep friendships and was enjoying life.

Isn’t that wonderful? All God said was “You are never a bother to me. I always have time for you.” Who would have thought such a simple truth could reverse years of destruction and futility? Yet this often happens in the ministry of TPM.

There is a wonderful biblical basis to this. It would take too long to describe all of what the Bible says about this (I am currently working on an entire book on the subject). But I do want to point out that God does speak to people today, and how that forms the foundation of what is practiced in TPM.

In John 10:1-10, we have the analogy of the Shepherd and the Thief. It is not a parable, as some have described it, but rather fits into the category of allegory. A parable is a story which is points to one major truth (sometimes two truths – but rarely). The details of the story are the spice in the soup and are not as important as the main point. One big mistake in interpreting parables is that people often make too much of the details. For instance, in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:19-31), people often spend hours commenting on the meaning of some of the places mentioned like Paradise, Bosom of Abraham and Hell mentioned here. The meaning of the parable is that there is more to life than this life and that we will all have to answer for the decisions we made here. To make more of the story than that is dangerous.

But in John 10:1-10, we have a different kind of story. In this story, every aspect is meaningful. The Shepherd is Jesus. The Sheep are his followers. The Thief (also called the Stranger) is satan, the enemy of our souls. The Gate is also Jesus (he is the way into God). In verses 3 and 4, Jesus lays out the daily walk he desires all his “sheep” to have with Him:


3The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He
calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his
own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his
voice.

Notice that the only skill the sheep need to have in this process is the ability to listen to the Shepherd’s voice. They follow because they listen to His voice. They go where He is going because they listen to his voice. They have salvation because they listen to his voice.

Now, look at v. 5:


5But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him
because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice

The stranger’s voice is unfamiliar to them. They actually run away from him because it sounds so different from the Shepherd. Therefore, listening to the Shepherd causes an ability to be formed in the sheep whereby they can then hear the stranger’s voice as a dangerous and evil thing and run away from it.

In v. 9 it says

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.

The Greek word for “pasture” is a word which actually means “an expanding place”. The idea of growing, expanding and reaching further is inherent in this word. This has particular meaning to those going through the Theophostic prayer. The enemy’s job is to restrict our life, to place artificial fences around us through lies and deception (we will go more into the lies of the enemy in the next blog entry). But when we hear the voice of the Shepherd, we follow him through the gate into an ever-expanding life that keeps feeling more and more free.

In John 8:32, we read “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free”. The word for know is a very carefully chosen word by Jesus. The Greek verb is in the middle voice, which when coupled with this verb “to know” means to come to an understanding of something by being lead there. It is the word used of a couple having sexual intercourse. It means that we know something not by learning it ourselves, but being brought into the truth by someone else. Only God can teach us these kinds of Truth experiences. When God interacts with the Truth in our lives, then we are set free to an ever-expanding life.

What is often missing from so much counseling is the inner voice of God speaking to those in need and in trouble. In TPM, the process opens up the opportunities for the voice of the Shepherd to come into memories where deluded and stinking thinking has invaded. Like King David and his Shepherd’s sling, the voice of the Shepherd has the ability to chase away the lies, and they run like scattering wolves.

As I read the criticisms of TPM from several different publications, I have this observation to make. The majority of them have been written by those who hold to a cessationist view of the work of the Holy Spirit. That is to say, they do not believe that God speaks today outside of the Bible. They do not believe that Holy Spirit can speak to individuals in a personal way outside of biblical illumination. Therefore, it is logical that they would conclude that TPM is wrong. One of the core beliefs of TPM is that God speaks. The critics of this method would say that this opens people up to hearing a voice other than God’s. I agree with that. It does open up that possibility. That is one reason that the facilitator works with the person receiving prayer. On a number of occasions, I have helped people to reject voices that do not agree with God’s revealed Truth in Scripture.

But I also want to make this observation for all of us. When people read the Bible, there is a possibility of the enemy suggesting lies through the Scriptures also. That possibility is always there. That is why we have people help one another in their Bible Study. More cults have been founded upon an improper interpretation and application of the Bible than on supposed “Words from God”. We are not necessarily on better foundations by saying that we are just to trust to the “objective” Scriptures and to avoid the “subjective” voice of God. We need both. There is nothing objective about the Bible if people are skilled at manipulation. That is why 1 John 2:27 says that

“As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not
need anyone to teach you.”

He wrote this according to v. 26 to give them a way to deal with those who were trying to lead them astray. The “anointing” is the Holy Spirit. That is the historic teaching of the church. It is the voice of the Spirit inside of us that gives us the clear interpretation of Scripture. We need the Bible and the Spirit. And they always agree if we listen long and carefully. TPM agrees with that completely.

I find it offensive that people would call TPM heretical. For the most part, it simply disagrees with the cessationist view of the Holy Spirit. TPM has founded its methodology not on Psychology but on the simple statement “My sheep hear my voice.”

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Biblical Foundations of Theophostic – What we Believe

November 20, 2007

One of the core teachings of Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) is that lie-based thinking contributes to many of the toxic decisions and reactions we have in life. Later in this series, we will talk about how the enemy of our souls contributes to the formation of lie-based thinking, but in this first teaching, I want to give a biblical basis for how our internal beliefs are formed in life.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul gives us his now-famous “ode to love” wherein he lists all the action attributes of love: Love is Patient, Love is Kind, Love does not seek its own etc. As lovely as this list is, and for all its popularity at weddings, it is a mocking list. You read through it and, if you are honest, you come away thinking “that sounds wonderful. It sure isn’t the way I live”. I don’t believe God ever puts things in the Bible to mock us. So, the inclusion of this list of love’s characteristics is supposed to spur us on to desire better things through the power of the Spirit.

In that context, verse 11 stands out. It reads, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. As I’m becoming a man, I put away childish things”. There is so much in this verse to ponder and consider and much of it relates to lie-based thinking. Leaving aside the first phrase in the verse “I talked like a child”, we come to the second phrase “I thought like a child”. The word for thought in the Greek language that the Bible was written in is “phroneo”. In all the lexicons, this word means “to form an opinion, or come to an understanding”. In all the textbooks on child psychology, we recognize that children begin this process of forming opinions about themselves and the world around them somewhere between ages 4-5. That is why we see the emergence of the question “why?” so much at that age. They want to know and understand and relate to this wondrous and scary world around them.

As the child reaches these conclusions, they are rarely accurate in their assessments. This is because they lack experience to tell them that what they’re observing does not always apply to all of life. For instance, a little boy may have big ears in first grade. It seems about that age that all boys have big ears. I think their heads grow faster than the rest of their bodies. At school, a few of the boys make fun of the ear situation. That causes the child distress and horror. There are people in this world that don’t like them. They may even hate them, they do hate me, I am hated by people, I am hated by many people, I am hated by everyone. This may be the thought process that they go through before ever arriving at home. The problem? It is not true. The entire world has not met them yet. How can everyone hate them?

But their first sentence upon bursting through the door to mom is “Everyone hates me!”. The tears flow and mom tries to stem the flood with cookies. But no matter how much mom tries to reason with the boy, he still firmly believes that everyone hates him. This is lie-based thinking. There are several different ways that we can believe lies. This one is the lie of Universality: Attributing an isolated incident to the rest of life. Other lies may include lies of Content: What we thought was happening was not happening. That may happen if a child assumes that a parent who leaves the home did so because the child was naughty the day before; lies of Context: What a child thinks was directed at them was actually directed at someone else (e.g. Dad saying “I hate my life” meaning “I hate my job, my health, etc.” taken to mean that he hates the child). There are other kinds of lies that children believe, but we must come back to 1 Corinthians 13:11.

Paul’s decision is that in order to be mature, man-like, he must put away childish things. The Greek word for “putting away” is actually much stronger than it sounds in the NIV. The word is “katargeo” and it means to render something useless, to destroy it or to destroy something by taking charge over it. For instance, the word is used in Hebrews 2:14 when he says “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil” The word “destroy” is “katargeo”. It means to destroy something by taking authority over it. Light does this to darkness. The police do this to a criminal. Paul is seeing a situation where childish things do not automatically yield to the more mature. They must be confronted. They must be dealt with and destroyed.

And it isn’t only childish observations and understandings that must be destroyed. He also says in v. 13 “I reasoned like a child”. The word for reason is “logidzomai”, which in many cases means to “come to a conclusion or course of action based upon logic”. So a child makes faulty observations of life and draws conclusions from those. Out of those conclusions come decisions and courses of action that may affect the rest of that child’s life, even into adulthood.

Let’s come back to our situation with the poor big-eared boy. Concluding that he is universally hated, he must now decide how to deal with this at school the next day. Suppose he takes the innocuous course by wearing a hat. It’s not such a bad thing to do psychologically, and it certainly beats out some of the alternative “logidzomais” such as becoming aggressive, living in fear, hiding away, becoming the class clown, or any other decisions. So, he wears his protective hat. And he keeps wearing that hat long after he observes that not everyone hates him. He goes through life wearing this baseball cap. Now, he is 25 years old. He is sitting at a bar stool and a man accidentally knocks off his hat. He becomes incensed and starts beating up this innocent man. The police are called and he is sentenced to Anger Management classes. As he sits in my class, I ask him “So what’s with the hat?” He doesn’t know the connection. Rarely do we think about why we have some of the reactions we do as adults. We just put it down to having a bad day, or explaining that this is the way we’ve always been.

Paul takes a much different approach. He decides it is time to eradicate these childish ways. This is what Theophostic attempts to do. Knowing that we have this ability to believe something deep inside and also accept theoretical truth in our minds, we have a problem. There is a childish belief that leans one way and an adult belief that goes the opposite. We find when we are in a crisis, we resort to the childish belief. We can’t just cover up that belief with more and more teaching, because it is in the crisis that our true beliefs are tested, not in the classroom or the church service. This is why so many Christians can learn so much propositional truth and inexplicably cannot put it into practice in certain situations.

The lies need to be conquered, not smothered. They need to be gone, not ignored. That is what TPM does.

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Introduction to New Blog Series on TPM

November 19, 2007

Theophostic Prayer Ministry (TPM) is the primary focus of my counseling approach and is the only therapy that I currently mentor others to do. That is not to say I don’t recognize the validity of other therapeutic streams, but through years of experiencing many different types of emotional and psychological approaches to emotional health, TPM seems to show the most results.

But over the course of the last decade, many people have approached me and asked if TPM is biblical. Not everyone means the same thing by this question. Some imply that for something to be biblical, its entire approach must be contained in the Bible. I caution the reader in taking this viewpoint on whether something is “biblical” for it eliminates most legitimate approaches to serving God, including most evangelism and preaching. Other people believe that for something to be “biblical” it must at least be referred to specifically in the Bible. But, of course, this eliminates the work of the Creative Holy Spirit to do a new thing our midst. People who hold to this viewpoint try to eliminate modern worship (for it uses instruments not mentioned in the Bible) and criticizes church buildings (which are not mentioned in the Bible).

I don’t hold to those viewpoints on whether something is “biblical”. To be “biblical”, a belief or practice should adhere to the important and vital teachings of the Bible. While recognizing we will not always agree on application of truths, we can all respect the approach people take when they sincerely want to line up with the Truth claims of the Bible.

I believe that is what TPM does faithfully. In this six-part series, I want to lay the biblical foundation for what is practiced in TPM. My hope is that those who have doubts and fears about TPM’s origins and goals will set those to rest, or at least have another perspective to use in your search and journey.

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Are You Still Paying for Books?

November 10, 2007

For those who love to read, or those who simply like to sit down with a great book, here is one suggestion to save you a mint. Go to Project Gutenberg, one of the oldest websites on the Internet (meaning it has been around for at least 10 years) and download one of their more than 100,000 books available. That’s right…over 100,000 books can be downloaded for free.

Now, there won’t be any new books by Stephen King, Macomber or Vince Flynn, but there are some unbelievable titles you can read. In fact, there are many who believe that this project is saving books that will eventually deteriorate due to the acid in the paper. I just finished reading “The Crysalids” by John Wyndham and am going to read another two or three this weekend (probably “Beowulf” in advance of the movie).

One curious note however. They list the most popular downloaded books on that site. The most popular book on the site is “Manual of Surgery Volume First: General Surgery. Sixth Edition. by Miles and Thomson”

That freaks me out that there are so many people wanting to learn to do surgery. That is the “do-it-yourself” craze taken to a whole-new, and frightening, level.

Look over the list…are there any that excite you?

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