That sounds like an admirable goal for any Christian, doesn’t it? I first saw it on a Facebook post by ‘Jesus Savior Beliefnet’. I’ve seen it a couple of times with different pictures in the background. It’s part of a ‘Christian’ oriented advertisement inviting the reader to ‘Live a Daily Life in The Presence” and offering a free streaming DVD from which you could learn more about ‘Living in the Presence’.
Curious, I signed up for the DVD. I was provided the login/password ‘LiveIn/ThePresence’ after providing some information about myself. I logged in and began the video stream. The presentation is the first episode, with more to follow, designed to teach you how to ‘live in the presence’ of God 24/7. The main menu offered five numbered sessions with a small segment about ‘spiritual journaling’ before the first session and after the fifth session. The remainder of this post is a summary of the contents of the DVD, including the spiritual journaling segments and the five main ‘sessions’.
My first impulse was to take a peek at the spiritual journaling beginning and ending segments. Since they ‘bookended’ the sessions it seemed to me significant to the overall purpose of the DVD’s teaching. I was not disappointed.
The segment at the beginning “Introduction to Journaling” presented four steps/keys to spiritual journaling.
1. Quiet yourself down.
2. Fix your eyes on Jesus.
3. Turn to spontaneity.
4. Write down what you envision, hear, and perceive.
The final segment was called “A Brief Guide to Journaling” first explained that spiritual journaling is different than ordinary journaling. Ordinary journaling is more like a diary and contains a record of daily activities. Spiritual journaling is all about inward thoughts and emotions. Then we are told to:
1. Use the provided participant guide as a journal and always have it handy.
2. Set and keep a set time to journal your thoughts and emotions.
3. Be prepared. Bring your Bible and read it.
What caught my eye during that segment was seeing pictures of people ‘journaling’ in different quiet settings, but there wasn’t a Bible in sight. When it mentioned the Bible it did show a graphic of a woman sitting on a couch and reading it. Was there a message in that?
The five ‘sessions’ had three interspersed main elements. There was an interview between a woman and a Catholic Priest in Haiti. There was another interview between a man and Johnathan and Mellisa Helser, who are worship leaders for Freshwater Worship, a Christian multi-media organization based in Mooresville, N.C., and the producers of The Presence. Lastly, worship music by the worship team lead by the Helsers.
Session 1 – Breakthrough (@30 mins)
The DVD narrator introduces The Presence as a series of stories from all over the world sharing how people in various locations are “experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, including the miraculous.” We are told that we can all expect and experience “heaven to earth encounters” and that “His presence is your breakthrough.”
Then we read the following quotation to set the stage for the rest of the DVD:
“We must develop a growing awareness of God’s presence among us as if we are to draw from the presence and walk out our own God given assignment.” – Bill Johnson, Bethel Church
In the interview between Sally and Father Rick (Richard Frechette), we are told of life in Haiti and the dangers present there caused Father Rick to begin seeking “deeper”, for “something more”. He spoke of becoming “fully alive” as a result and the need to “train the inner life”. We must all learn to discern between the ‘evil voices’ that can speak to us and the actual ‘voice of God’ – something anyone can do.
In this first session, the interview with the Helsers (worship leaders) we are told that the first step in learning to live in The Presence is to be “willing to let the presence come in”. She spoke of being healed of a disease and it coming back, and having been healed again. I assume that to be connected to being in/out of The Presence in some way.
(Where do we see anyone in the Bible healed twice from the same malady/disease?)
Session 2 – Peace in the Storm (@5 mins)
Living in The Presence means “listening and actualizing God’s Gifts.” Do we feel the need for “something more?” That something more is “the presence of God.”
(Doesn’t the bible tell us already have the inward presence of God in the person of the indwelling Holy Spirit?)
Father Rick called living in The Presence “living in the awareness” Sometimes it’s there and sometimes it isn’t. “You need to put yourself into that stage of consciousness.”
Session 3 – Hearing the Holy Spirit (@5 mins)
According to Father Rick, the Holy Spirit is the 6th Sense we talk about. The Holy Spirit can speak:
1. In a still small voice
2. In what family and friends in Christ say to us
3. In impressions, feelings, and experiences
4. As a consequence of sin
The emphasis in the DVD is on numbers 1 and 3. Where’s the Bible in the list? It isn’t, and yet it is through the Bible, the written word, through which the Holy Spirit speaks to us as we read, study and pray.
Father Rick however, tells us we just need to develop the skill of discerning God’s voice and only acting on its leading. Knowing God’s voice out of all the others is spiritual; maturity. A can do it, but you have to be taught.
In the small segment with the Helsers, Melissa tells us that if we REALLY want to know what God is like, we need to live in The Presence and be able to “access the presence on a moment’s notice.”
Session 4 – Becoming Like Him (@5 mins)
In this session, we are asked by the Helsers if there’s a “religious rhetoric” or “traumatic event” that is hindering us from entering The Presence?
After all, Saul became Paul because of an encounter with God’s presence! Our transformation likewise begins by ‘encountering his presence’. We are given advice for becoming like Jesus: “As you journal this session, ask the Holy Spirit how you can become like him in your daily life.”
(We can’t just read the Bible and find that out?)
Father Rick talked about dealing with things like ‘hate’ and needing to speak ‘mantra’ like to yourself something like “I cannot carry hatred like this anymore” over and over and over.
Session 5 – True Worship (@5 mins)
“Worship is not what we do but who we are and who we were created to be.”
“We are free to worship in all kinds of ways that use our talents and personalities.”
“The key to true worship is to resonate with the song God is singing over you and sing it back to him in the setting he has provided for you. A lifestyle of unreserved thankfulness is a life of true worship.”
(The worship team featured throughout the DVD is seen really rocking back with Melissa imitating a ‘whirling dervish/Tasmanian devil on stage.)
I could have skipped the 5 sessions and trusted my initial impressions from just reading the ad. The ‘spiritual journaling’ segments said it all. What is being taught is nothing more than a ‘Christianized’ form of transcendental meditation. The music is a ‘hook’ to suck in the undiscerning believer, ‘experience’ based rather than Bible based Christianity. Subjective feelings and impressions rather than objective truth based faith. Beware of this and anything else that smells like it!
Scripture tells us we know we know God if we keep his commandments. Start from 1 John 1 and then research the rest of the Bible for what it tells us about knowing God. Maybe that’s another post all its own.
It is not almost a week since I watched the DVD and wrote this review. I hesitated to post it until I kept seeing the same ad for ‘The Presence’ and reading all the “Amen” comments approving it. I even got into a couple of interesting conversations in ad comment sections. Overall, people are being deceived in vast numbers, and some are our brothers and sisters in Christ!
You can share this with whomever and however you want.