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Presence of Christ

Theophostic Prayer and the Presence of Christ

Critics concern: Is it theologically correct for a facilitator to be addressing the person of Jesus in a ministry session since it is the Holy Spirit that communicates with us today? Smith states, “Theophostic Ministry leads people to the place where they can experientially encounter the One who is truth: Jesus” (Healing Life’s Deepest Hurts, p. 69). Is this a problem theologically?

 

 

Ed Smith’s response: In principle and to be “theologically correct” I agree with you in this to a point.  I have no real issue with the semantics of what you are saying. I cannot recall ever hearing any person actually praying, “Dear Holy Spirit…” Even Jesus said to pray “Our Father…” However, let us not forget what the Scriptures declare when it says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).  We have to be careful when we start trying to separate the Trinity. It is hard to say where one begins and where another leaves off. Of course I do not believe that a person has a personal visitation from Jesus in the flesh, but when the Spirit of the Lord is present Jesus is present as well. Jesus Himself said that “where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Lets also not forget that the Lord Himself said that He was the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” I also believe that the Holy Spirit can communicate with the person through visuals and pictures representing the person of Christ. If He chooses to create a visual representation of the person of Christ I have no problem with this since I understand it to be a word picture and not a literal representation of Jesus. This “imprecision” hasn’t seemed to limit God’s involvement in the process.

I believe that the Lord is thrilled whenever we submit ourselves to Him, however clumsily we may come.  However, I am always looking for ways to improve this system and make it as biblically accurate as possible.  However, I do believe that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to “pray for us since we do not know how to pray” (Rom. 8).I was not as clear about this as I should have been in the earlier editions of the training, but I believe that I am much more clear today (2007 edition).However, I have found that people use the terms Jesus and Holy Spirit synonymously for the most part whether in a TPM session or in general in the Body of Christ.  When people pray they say Father, Lord Jesus, etc.  When they refer to God speaking to them they rarely say the Holy Spirit said this or that but rather the Lord, Jesus, or God said.

I understand that the theologically correct way would be to pray something like this, “Heavenly Father, (as Jesus taught us to pray) what is it you would like this person to know about what she believes in this memory.  Please speak to her by way of your Holy Spirit.”  However, we must not be too dogmatic about this in that there is some indication that the Apostles did not follow these rules to the letter.  In 2 Cor. 12:8-9 we see Paul praying to the Lord (which seems to be Jesus not the Holy Spirit) and the Lord speaking to him.  Also in Acts 9:5 we see Paul and Jesus having a conversation back and forth.  I am not trying to press a point here other than there is room for discussion.  When the Apostle Paul ask who it was that was addressing him on the road to Damascus the answer was, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 22:8).You might come back with the explanation that this was a unique moment that is never to be repeated. Who is to say? I honestly do not know.

I have no problem with a person using this process and only speaking to the Father when they address God and only saying that it is the Holy Spirit providing truth. This would just be very awkward for many people. However, for a person to say that Jesus has never communicated directly to people and that it is only the Holy Spirit that has done this since the ascension, has to deal with passages such as Acts 9:5, 9:10, Acts 26:15, Revelation 1:17-18 and more.

Concerning this issue I do address this further in the 2007 Basic Seminar Manual,

“When Jesus departed this earth, He sent the Spirit of Truth to us to lead us into all truth (John 15:26; 16:7). I believe it is the person of the Holy Spirit who communicates truth to people during Theophostic Prayer Ministry sessions. One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to bear witness about Jesus.

The Apostle John quoted Jesus’ teaching about the role of the Holy Spirit with the following words: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send you from the Father, that is, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me” (John 15:26, ESV). This may shed light on why people often speak of Jesus revealing truth to them during a ministry session. I believe that whatever is received as truth in a session flows from the communication of the Holy Spirit and not the person of Jesus. I believe that the Holy Spirit is com­municating truth and bearing witness of Christ. If people “see” the Lord in their mental picture, I believe they are receiving a Holy Spirit-created word picture communicating the presence of Christ.

While the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers, intercedes for us and speaks to us (Romans 8:26), it was Jesus who connected us relationally to God when He became flesh and blood and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God came to us in Jesus so that we could know Him from a human, relational standpoint. It was Jesus who told us that we are His friends (John 15:15). Practically speaking, it seems that many Christians tend to address Jesus in their ongoing communication with God rather than the Holy Spirit or the Father. I find this to be true in my own prayer life.

Many of us, if asked to think about God, would probably envision Jesus in some way. This makes sense because Jesus came to earth as the Father’s representa­tive and is now our advocate and mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Some have sug­gested that once the Lord ascended to the Father all communication ended between the Lord and man. There are several instances recorded in the Bible in which the Lord Himself appeared to or spoke to the disciples after His ascension (Acts 9:5, 9:10, Acts 26:15, Revelation 1:17-18).Some will argue that the Lord only talked with the apostles and this communication ended at their deaths. An exception to this would be Ananias with whom the Lord spoke concerning pray­ing over the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9).


If you have difficulty believing that God still com­municates with the believer, wait until you witness a deeply wounded person come into freedom by hearing the voice of the Shepherd. I believe that the Holy Spirit is communicating to the believer’s heart and bring­ing truth. However, so that I won’t be misunderstood I will say it again. I do not believe that anything that a person receives from the Holy Spirit supersedes or augments what is contained in the written Word of God. I believe what is received is personalization of what is contained in the Word. The Word of God is to be the grid and standard by which all that occurs in a ministry session is tested.



Critics concern: Does Theophostic Prayer Ministry teach  that Jesus is literally appearing in the person’s mind and providing a personal visitation?


Ed Smith’s response: I do not teach nor believe that a person has a literal visitation from Jesus during a ministry session or is this has been intentionally taught in the training. First of all, it is not taught that you should expect to see anything during a session.  I have received hundreds of hours of personal ministry and I have never had any visual of Jesus or anything else.  People see whatever they see if they see anything. I tend to see the back side of my eyelids and do not even “hear” any message. Visual truth that people receive would be a word picture communicating truth to the person but not a literal visitation from the Lord.  This is not anything new in the church history.  The bible has many examples of people receiving truth, direction, confirmation, etc. through dreams, visions, and audible messages.  As stated, I do not believe people are seeing the literal Jesus but only a word picture of the Holy Spirit communicating with the person. I have clearly taught in the training that I do not think that people are seeing Jesus but rather a word picture.  This visual is only what the person has reported and NEVER because the facilitator has suggested it or anything else visually.  Some people report visuals; many do not.  Visualization is what happens with some people.  As I said, I have never personally ever seen any visual image of Jesus in the hundreds of personal sessions that I have received.


I address this further in the 2007 Basic Seminar Manual:

“I personally do not believe that people see Christ in the flesh during ministry sessions; rather, they see a visual representation of Him. I call this communication from God a word picture. The Bible says that God (Jesus) “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).

My understanding is that the next time anyone will truly see Jesus in person will be when He returns in the clouds. However, I have observed hundreds of people come into perfect peace after encountering truth in a visual representation of Jesus.

Even though in earlier editions of this training manual I suggested otherwise, facilitators of Theophostic Prayer Ministry should not ask the question, “Do you see Jesus?” or suggest, “Look for Jesus.” Such directives are tantamount to guided imagery. I have learned more and more the importance of staying out of the way and letting the Lord do what He needs to do to bring true renewal…

When Jesus departed this earth, He sent the Spirit of Truth to us to lead us into all truth (John 15:26; 16:7). I believe it is the person of the Holy Spirit who communicates truth to people during Theophostic Prayer Ministry sessions. One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to bear witness about Jesus.

The Apostle John quoted Jesus’ teaching about the role of the Holy Spirit with the following words: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send you from the Father, that is, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me” (John 15:26 ESV). This may shed light on why people often speak of Jesus revealing truth to them during a ministry session. I believe that whatever is received as truth in a session flows from the communication of the Holy Spirit and not the person of Jesus. I believe that the Holy Spirit is communicating truth and bearing witness of Christ. If people “see” the Lord in their mental picture, I believe they are receiving a Holy Spirit-created word picture communicating the presence of Christ.

While the Holy Spirit interprets our prayers, intercedes for us and speaks to us (Romans 8:26), it was Jesus who connected us relationally to God when He became flesh and blood and “dwelt among us” (John 1:14). God came to us in Jesus so that we could know Him from a human, relational standpoint. It was Jesus who told us that we are His friends (John 15:15). Practically speaking, it seems that many Christians tend to address Jesus in their ongoing communication with God rather than the Holy Spirit or the Father. I find this to be true in my own prayer life.

Many of us, if asked to think about God, would probably envision Jesus in some way. This makes sense because Jesus came to earth as the Father’s representative and is now our advocate and mediator between God and mankind (1 Timothy 2:5). Some have suggested that once the Lord ascended to the Father all communication ended between the Lord and man. There are several instances recorded in the Bible in which the Lord Himself appeared to or spoke to the disciples after His ascension (Acts 9:5, 9:10, Acts 26:15, Revelation 1:17-18). Some will argue that the Lord only talked with the apostles and this communication ended at their deaths. An exception to this would be Ananias with whom the Lord spoke concerning praying over the newly-converted Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9).

If you have difficulty believing that God still communicates with the believer, wait until you witness a deeply wounded person come into freedom by hearing the voice of the Shepherd. I believe that the Holy Spirit is communicating to the believer’s heart and bringing truth. However, so that I won’t be misunderstood I will say it again. I do not believe that anything that a person receives from the Holy Spirit supersedes or augments what is contained in the written Word of God. I believe what is received is personalization of what is contained in the Word. The Word of God is to be the grid and standard by which all that occurs in a ministry session is tested.

I received this testimony from a person using TPM. He said,

“I went through a process of paradigm shifts in my own Christian journey. At first, to me, God was remote and only interested in my obedience. If I obeyed, He was happy. If I didn't measure up (most of the time), then He wasn't happy. Being the compliant child I was, I tried really hard to please this remote God. But I usually blew it. And I found abundant scriptural evidence to support my views here about how the Christian life really worked – I.e, it's an obedience trial. But, over time, I made the incredible discovery that God likes me. Wow! Who would have guessed? And not only that, but He really likes hanging out with me. And He didn't just deposit the Bible and take off to some remote and inaccessible corner of the universe, leaving just His Holy Spirit here to “convict” me every time I screwed up, but instead He is here, enjoying a relationship with me. Relationships don't work very well when one party is totally silent. So God is not silent in my life. He speaks to me. Now, I know that my mind also plays games with me sometimes, so I'm not going to elevate what I think I get from God to the same level as scripture, but neither am I going to dismiss it. It is the stuff of which our relationship is made. For God to speak to me is no big surprise, and, ideally, it shouldn't be for any Christian. That He chooses to speak or otherwise enter into the places of deep hurt in my soul – that is precious to me. Now, who speaks, when (I think) God speaks to me? Is it the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Or is it an angel, a demon, or my own imagination? Take one individual sentence “from God” and I might not be able to pin that down for you beyond a shadow of a doubt. But, take the whole relationship, and there I will tell you that there is no doubt. God speaks to me. You theologians can figure out whether it's the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit.”

 

I don’t think the idea that God the Holy Spirit would be manifesting Christ’s Presence (which is what Holy Spirit does) to accomplish Jesus’ mission statement in Luke 4:17-19 should be surprising but rather it should be expected.Why would it be so absurd to suppose that the Holy Spirit would in fact re-present Christ to us pictorially within our mind?  I think all mystical experiences should be evaluated by Jonathan Edwards two-fold test of the manifestations of the Spirit provided by his reflections in the context of revival.  One, do people come away more in love with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Two, in the perspective of time-- 3, 6, 12 months --or whatever, do the people produce increasing measures of the fruit of the Spirit and Christ-likeness (holiness) in their lives.  Frankly, if this test were applied to most evangelical pastors and counselors many might be forced to close up shop.  Theophostic Prayer Ministry uses a five fold test which include two of those just mentioned.


Critic’s Concern: It appears that in the teaching found in the TPM Basic Seminar that Jesus is believed to supersede time and thus when He shows up in a memory he is in essence changing what happens in a memory.

Ed Smith’s response:  I had addressed this earlier but I will expound on it more.  I make a statement that when we “heal our past we redeem our present.”  What I am referring to here is when the Lord (Holy Spirit) engages us in our memory he is able to bring truth to that which we have embraced that is false.  It is the lies we harbor in a memory that causes the emotional pain in the memory and not the memory itself.  The lies need to be changed but a memory cannot be changed.  When a lie is exposed and replaced with truth this does not change the event but only the interpretation we have given the event. When I say heal our history I am not suggesting we can change the past for we cannot and nor does God seek to change our past. However, we do need to correct the false ideas, interpretations and beliefs that we learned in our history.  This is a part of what is involved in mind renewal.


Though I understand how you may have come to this place in your thinking due to a lack of clarity in the earlier teaching, you have misinterpreted me here.  I do not think that God changes my past since my past is unchangeable.  I believe instead He provides a new perspective or “changes the interpretation” of the event and not the event itself.  Though our history is fixed what we believe about the event is not.  Here again I believe it is the Holy Spirit that brings this all about and not the physical presence or visitation of Jesus.  However, the Holy Spirit may indeed use a visual to communicate this to the person during the session.  What I said in the video series you have referenced was probably the 1999 series.  Please view the 2007 edition if you can in that much has been clarified from the earlier training.  I think I bring clarity to this issue in the 2007 manual when I say, “Only Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, can enter into their historical reality and provide truth that can dispel the lies they believe from their past. If I speak a truth into their memory, it will have little or no impact on their lies because I am limited by my humanity.”

As I have already stated, how we separate out the presence of Christ in the trinity is not an easy thing to do.  Where Jesus leaves off and the Holy Spirit picks up is hard to say. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).It gets pretty complicated and I do not have a clear answer for this.  I do believe that God supersedes time and that he is not limited to the present (though this is not a crucial concept in TPM just a personal view that I hold loosely.)When the Holy Spirit accompanies me in my memory I do not believe it is His past but mine.  Before I was He already knew.  He can reveal His perspective to my past interpretations of the event and in doing so release me from a false interpretation that I was holding.  This is when freedom and peace come.

Please keep in mind that this explanation of all of this is up for discussion and does not make or break what can happen in a TPM session.  If you completely reject what I have said about my understanding of God and time will have no impact on whether the basic principles of this ministry are valid or not.  You are welcome to disregard this entire idea and TPM will still have the same effect.

It's helpful for me to think of Jesus / the Holy Spirit as “completing the experience.” Remember the disciples on the road to Emmaus. As Jesus spoke with them, He got their minds into position where they were ready to experience the aftermath of the crucifixion from God's perspective, rather than their own. Then, when He was recognized by them, this realization completed the experience. Before, they weren't seeing the whole story. Yes, Jesus did die. Yes, it was painful. Yes, He was buried. But no, that isn't the end of the story. Jesus is alive. And death will never again have any power over Him. At the beginning of the trip, their experience was incomplete. At the end of the trip, their experience was complete. I believe God does this in the life of the believer.  I believe I witness this often in a TPM session. He brings us to a place where we have the complete experience. For example, I see this with the woman on the live ministry session DVDs who had the little boy who strangled himself on the mini-blinds cord.  She didn't know that Jesus was there holding her son until God completed the experience for her.  Even in that visual she described it is hard to explain exactly what the Lord was doing.  The visual gave her a truth that the Lord was present and this in turn resolved the pain she was carrying.  How else do you explain such trauma being lifted and never returning other than a work of the presence of Christ/Holy Spirit?

Here again, it is also important to note that this whole theological/philosophical discussion has no bearing on the TPM method.  You can completely remove it from the manual and it will have no impact.  It is merely my feeble attempt at explaining the unexplainable.  I honestly have little investment here.

I appreciate your premise and understand your perspective.  I actually have no issue with it. I do believe the Holy Spirit reveals His truth into my memory/past and when this occurs I move away from the lie I was holding and embrace a new perspective resulting in resolution of the pain and a new found freedom in my present.  This experience with God does not change my past but does renew my understanding with truth.  I cannot scientifically say this is a permanent changed condition but only 12 years and holding for me personally. When I say “heal the past” I am not saying change what occurred in the historical event but freedom from lies I held as true.  Changing the past is of course impossible and never intended to be understood that way in the training.  I agree that there may be a better way to say this. When I say “redeem the present” I am referring to how my present life can be transformed when I find freedom from the lies I hold and the release of the pain that hinders my walk.


My interpretation of what I think happens in a ministry session is not what defines the process.  When I produce a revised version of the manual I will probably leave this entire thinking out.  It simply is not necessary. I believe that in a “Theophostic moment” it is the Holy Spirit providing truth that dispels the falsehood that I have been willing to expose and hold up to him.  I believe that this is no different than what might happen in a worship service, during personal prayer time, or when a person is being taught by a bible teacher.  When my heart hears the truth and the falsehood I have harbored is dispelled and I enter into a deeper level of freedom.  In a TPM session this is intentionally sought after.  People deliberately choose to own the pain in their lives, feel it and follow it to its belief source.  They then deliberately expose the false belief to God (confession) and ask Him for His truth.  This is a form of prayer.



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