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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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10 comments

  1. Mike, you may be planning on addressing this later so I apologize if I am jumping the gun here. Is there any way to present this to someone who categorizes him or herself as a cessationist? Or is there little point to broaching the subject? I could see the conversation taking a rabbit trail down diverging theological lines, completely loosing track of the original topic at hand.


  2. Aaron: There is a point in bringing this up to a Cessationist. It is to help him/her see that TPM is not based on a heretical system of hermeneutics,but is actually consistent with belief that God speaks today. Too many of the criticisms of Theophostic would be resolved if people could just say “I don’t agree with that theology” instead of saying some variation of “this is a cult”.


  3. At times, I hear God’s voice speaking from deep within my spirit. But his voice jumps off the page when I read the Bible. Sure, there are times when it’s a dry reading, but that is rare. Sadly, some Christians say and do a lot of irresponsible things because they believed they heard from God, when all they heard was their mental voice expressing their desires.

    If I hear of another story about some person’s miraculous healing, I’m likely to shave my head, don a white sheet, and start selling incense at the airport. I have thought about this a lot and here are my conclusions: Jesus healed a lot of people during his ministry, and people he healed eventually died. Not only that, consider the time in history when Jesus was on earth. There were few medical choices for the sick, injured, and mentally disturbed. That means the numbers of the infirmed were staggering. Jesus must have walked past hundreds or thousands of people who needed healing. Yet, we have no indication that he stopped to heal every person who needed help.

    It can be discouraging and create cynicism when the church focuses too much on healing. It is like politicians and CEO’s who tell the people everything is all right, when not everything is all right. Sometimes we won’t hear God’s voice, we won’t get any visions in our mind, we won’t be healed, and we will continue to struggle with the same sins and emotional problems for our entire lives. Is this too gloomy for you? I no longer want to pretend that everything is fine. I’m in a fight, and so are you. Some of us have infirmities and temptations we will carry for the rest of our lives. What are we to do when healing does not happen? Do we cling to a false hope, or is there another way to live with the reality without diminishing the preciousness of our faith?

    Theophostic counseling is not evil, it’s not heresy, and it’s not cultish. It can reveal lies that remained hidden for decades, causing us to enter sinful or harmful behaviors. But even after the lies are revealed, many carry those scars for the rest of their lives. But that’s how it is in an imperfect world. I’ve heard a couple of Christians speak of theophostic counseling as if it were a great discovery. But what about that dusty Bible sitting on the shelf?


  4. I agree with anonymous. I know that the Lord heals, but not eveyone while here on earth.

    Well stated anonymous!


  5. Anon: The Bible and TPM are not in opposition to each other. Can’t we have both? The Bibles will also fade away in heaven, but for now, they are a comfort. TPM is not just healing, it is health. That is a difference.


  6. I am not saying TPM and the Bible are in opposition. I am suggesting that some Christians place more hope in TPM than they should.

    I do not understand what you mean by “TPM is not healing, it is health.” If you don’t mind, please elaborate.


  7. Certainly I will explain. Someone in this discussion pointed out that even though Jesus healed people they still died. Why then did He heal them? Wasn’t it for His purposes and not just to make them feel better?

    TPM is often confused with the Healing of Memories movement. No memories get healed in TPM. The purpose is really not to get at what happened in memories at all. This is what confuses me about most criticism of TPM. It tends to focus on the accuracy of memories, the predominance of memory regression and the possibility of suppressed memories.

    The key to TPM is that Truth comes into a faulty belief system and has the power (because it comes from God) to supplant the lie that attached itself to a memory.

    One of the primary goals of God in our life is that we be “wholly sanctified in Body, Soul and Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The process of sanctification is one where the effects of sin are dealt with one by one so that the life we lead on this earth is “healthy”, strong and spiritually mature. One way to really move that process of Sanctification along is the live in the Truth and to get rid of the lies that hold us down.

    TPM is not healing in the sense that physical healing is. I respect the person who wrote here that they are tired of hearing stories about healings (although since I am the one who tells many of them, I am curious whether you feel I have misrepresented their purpose). Physical healings are a sign of the power of God working in a life and wanting to do a work. TPM is more sanctification than it is healing. That is why there is often need for several sessions of TPM to get rid of other lies.

    I hope this helps explain what I was talking about


  8. Thank you for the explanation. Still, I believe many people initially go through TPM because they are seeking healing, and I am not convinced they are thinking of sanctification. But let us assume they are pursuing sanctification. You—not you personally, but pastors in general—tend to fixate on success stories. Whether it is someone who was freed from a faulty belief system, or someone who was cured of a disease; you frequently use them as examples in your message. I know Jesus had a purpose for his miraculous healings, but what is the purpose of exalting TPM success stories when many people struggle with the faulty belief system even after they have identified the lie through TPM? It is the same with miraculous physical healings—for each person healed, I believe hundreds do not receive healing. But all we hear about are the special few who were healed, or sanctified. Good for them, but I am weary of it. I want to know what I am supposed to do or think when sanctification or healing doesn’t happen. I am ready for reality, not: and they lived happily ever after. I think we get the message that our God heals and sanctifies, but what about the times when it doesn’t happen miraculously?


  9. I am one who has been undergoing Theophostic prayer, and I understand your confusion, Anon, about “healing” and TPM. I have had several sessions, and I have been freed from several lies that have virtually driven my life. However, as I am freed, sometime another lie comes to the fore, and I must deal with that one. Sometimes the same symptoms show up for a different lie. I feel I still have a ways to go, but each time I am freed from a lie, I have a great sense of relief. It could be called healing, I suppose, but in reality it is dealing with baggage from my past. I am emptying each old “bag” and throwing it away. Just as I collected these bags over the years, so I have to empty each one, with God’s help, in turn. I know people who have had “instant” healing, if you will, but I am not one–and I believe that is because God is teaching me things about myself as I am freed from each lie. Some of us will need time to get through the TPM process, because God has an agenda that we don’t see, and I am willing to wait on His agenda, and not my own. Believe me, the patience to wait is not my strong suit, but having seen His work, I want to wait. Are you willing to wait, or are you looking at the results with other expectations in mind?
    djm


  10. Thanks DJM for giving us another perspective on this process



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