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