The Felt-Presence of God

Revising Our Awareness of the Divine

In 1993, what came to be known as the “Toronto Blessing” hit the United States. Rodney Howard-Browne held his first convention in the Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland, Florida.

That convention went on for weeks. From there, it quickly spread to other parts of North America—most notably Toronto, Canada; Melbourne, Florida; and Pensacola, Florida.

Upon hearing about the new move of God in March of 1993, I traveled to Lakeland and sat in on those first meetings where “the blessing” had just begun. In January 1996, I traveled to Melbourne, Florida, and attended a meeting officiated by Randy Clark when the phenomenon had spread there in full force.

I will not share my observations in this chapter. But I’m glad I went to those meetings.

Ever since I’ve been a Christian, I’ve had an insatiable hunger to know my Lord more deeply. If I hear a report that God is uniquely at work in a given place, I’ll move heaven and earth to visit it. This is what prompted me to check out those early meetings in Lakeland and Melbourne.

One thing I saw in those meetings is something I have observed ever since I’ve been a Christian. Namely, a large portion of the Christian population is seeking a fresh touch from God. They are seeking to experience His presence.

Some, however, appear to be almost pathologically dependent on trying to “feel” God’s presence. For these souls, “feeling” the presence of the Lord becomes a benchmark to measure their spiritual condition.

I spent most of my early Christian life drinking deeply from the wells of a particular movement that stressed the miraculous power of God. While I learned many valuable lessons in that movement, I also have a few reservations. One of them is that the propensity to seek “the felt-presence of God” in that movement is central and overwhelming.

I watched many Christians struggle with this quest to the point of concluding that something was wrong with them—that God loved them less—all because they weren’t “feeling” or “sensing” His presence on a regular basis. 

On the other hand, I have known Christian women and men who were utterly devoted to the Lord, extremely gifted, spiritually insightful, and fruitful. Yet in private, their confession was that they had never “felt” the presence of God. 

I’ve also personally known Christians who were in dire spiritual straits. Some were living double lives. Yet they didn’t wince at their poor condition, because during worship services or prayer times they regularly “felt” the presence of God.

This being said, I believe there’s a great deal of confusion over the matter of God’s presence. Part of it is rooted in semantics. Another part is rooted in bad theology. Either way, it’s an area where revision is desperately needed.

Let’s look at the semantic problem first. (Semantics refers to the words we use to express certain concepts.)

From Revise Us Again by Frank Viola, author

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It Takes God to Be Human

We all were born into Adam. We were all born into an old, fallen, corrupt humanity. Strikingly, God has chosen not to renovate, improve, or correct the old humanity. Instead, He has chosen to do one thing with it.

Crucify it.

We got into Adam by birth. The only way to get out of him and his race is by death. And the only way to get into Christ is by birth. New birth.

Note Paul’s words: “Knowing this, that our old man has been crucified with Christ” and “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2:20).

You aren’t really human until you’ve died and risen again. The good news is that this has already happened (Rom. 6—8).

The old Adam cannot be cosmetically adjusted, repaired, or improved.

He must be put to death.

Jesus Christ was a living portrait of God’s thought for humanity. He was the true human.

In His resurrection, Jesus became the Head of a new humanity that transcends the old distinctions of race and gender (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:10–11; 2 Cor. 5:17). The man, Jesus, is what God intended humanity to be. He was a person who lived by God’s life. In the same way, every person today who lives by the life of God is revealing their true humanity.

It takes God to be a human.

Adam and Eve were offered the tree of life in the garden. But they never partook of it. God’s intention from the beginning was for humans to live by divine life.

And here’s the good news: Jesus Christ is the reality of the tree of life. He has been offered to us today to partake of (John 6:57). We can partake of Him now and thus be fully human and part of a new humanity—a new creation—a new kind of human.

What a beautiful way to present the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus: Here is a way to become fully human. Receive Jesus Christ, the Head of the new humanity.

No other religion offers such a glorious thing. 

5. Everything Wears Out Except for Christ

Albert Einstein once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

I often feel that way about contemporary Christianity. As an observer of the passing parade, I’ve noted the following: Most of what’s put on the table with respect to reforming and renewing the church are the same ideas repackaged from decade to decade.

There’s very little new in any of them.

But more critical, these “renewing” and “reforming” ideas and solutions lack one critical element. That element is best illustrated by what Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, said once during an interview:

Lots of companies have tons of great engineers and smart people. But ultimately, there needs to be some gravitational force that pulls it all together. Otherwise, you can get great pieces of technology all floating around the universe. But it doesn’t add up to much.… There were bits and pieces of interesting things floating around, but not that gravitational pull.

Jobs’s metaphor is an apt description of the great need in the church today. Christians have made the gospel about so many “interesting things floating around” but without the gravitational pull that brings them all together.

And that gravitational pull is the Lord Jesus Christ.

That said, if there’s anything I’ve learned by being a Christian over the last thirty years, it’s this:

  1. Any solution, cure, or remedy that doesn’t have Jesus Christ at its center is doomed to fail.
  2. Everything in the Christian life eventually wears out. The only thing that doesn’t is Christ Himself. He is new every morning.2

Consequently, all of our methods, techniques, innovative ideas, strategies, and solutions don’t stand a chance if the Lord Jesus Himself isn’t front and center of all of them.

He and He alone is God’s method, technique, idea, strategy, and solution.

He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Christ and Christ alone is the gospel (2 Cor. 4:5). Everything else tastes like plain yogurt.

From Revise Us Again by Frank Viola, author

Viola’s New Book JESUS NOW Hits the CBA Bestseller List

Frank Viola Author’s new book, Jesus Now, hits the CBA bestseller list.

From Amazon’s Frank Viola author page:

“During His ministry on earth, Jesus of Nazareth spent most of His time healing the sick, casting out demons, training disciples, teaching the people, and preaching the kingdom of God. But what is Jesus Christ doing today? What is His present-day ministry?

In Jesus Now, bestselling author Frank Viola gives us the first comprehensive treatment of what Jesus has been doing since His ascension until His second coming. In an easy-to-read format, Viola explores the seven aspects of Christ’s ministry today and shows how each one benefits the saved and the unsaved.

Open these pages and discover what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing now and how it will impact your life.”

More can be read at JesusNow.tv

here’s the top 20 in Christian Living on the CBA list for June 2014.

1 (5) Hope Quotient Ray Johnston, Thomas Nelson, c, 9780529101150
2 (13) The Circle Maker Mark Batterson, Zondervan, p, 9780310330738
3 (16) The Daniel Plan Rick Warren & Daniel Amen, Zondervan, c, 9780310344292
4 (17) Dont Waste Your Life John Piper, Crossway, p, 9781581344981
5 (18) Not a Fan Kyle Idleman, Zondervan, p, 9780310331933
6 (19) AHA Kyle Idleman, David C Cook, p, 9780781410496
7 (21) Jesus Calling (Women’s Edition) Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, l, 9781400320110
8 (22) The Five Love Languages Gary Chapman, Moody, p, 9780802473158
9 (25) 1 Nation Ben Carson & Candy Carson, Penguin Group USA, c, 9781595231123
10 (27) The Blessed Life Robert Morris, Regal (Gospel Light), c, 9780830736355
11 (29) Recovering Redemption Matt Chandler & Michael Snetzer, B&H Publishing Group, p, 9781433683886
12 (30) Four Blood Moons John Hagee, Worthy, p, 9781617952142
13 (31) Heaven Is for Real Movie Edition Todd Burpo & Lynn Vincent, Thomas Nelson, p, 9780849922077
14 (32) Love Does Bob Goff, Thomas Nelson, p, 9781400203758
15 (37) Forgotten God Francis Chan & Danae Yankoski, David C Cook, p, 9781434767950
16 (38) Captivating John Eldredge & Stasi Eldredge, Thomas Nelson, p, 9781400200382
17 (40) Jesus Now Frank Viola, David C Cook, p, 9780781405911
18 (42) Whispers of Hope Beth Moore, B&H Publishing Group, p, 9781433681097
19 (43) You’ll Get Through This Max Lucado, Thomas Nelson, c, 9780849948473
20 (45) Instinct T. D. Jakes, FaithWords (Hachette), c, 9781455554041