I woke up thinking about the phrase, “manifest presence of God”. I am not sure where I even heard that phrase. I had not thought of it in ages, but the phrase popped into my head when I slipped from my dreams last night into a brief state of consciousness.
I would say that the so-called “Asbury revival” is an example of the manifest presence of God. What happened there was completely organic. It began after Chapel ended. it began after a very ordinary sermon on a very normal Wednesday morning.
It wasn’t planned or orchestrated. There was no leader. Some students simply lingered. They did not want to stop worshipping. They began praying for each other. Then someone felt the need to repent openly for sin. Others did the same.
One thing led to another. At the same time, students who left the chapel began to make their way back to the Chapel for reasons they could not express. Other students heard that Chapel hadn’t ended and began coming to see what was going on.
Administrators found out something was going on, and they investigated. They recognized that something special was happening, and they had the wisdom to give their blessing to it, not to take over leadership of it, but to let what God was doing simply unfold.
The ongoing Chapel was student led from the beginning. Most of the time, the students leading worship were off to the side. People playing instruments came and went. No one was the center of attention – only Jesus who was lifted up in reverent, tender worship one moment and exuberant praise in the next.
Administrators stayed in the background and supported the students. They protected them when outsiders came flooding in, and they prayed with them. They kept Christian celebrities from taking over the stage and they kept news media out. The University President described it this way:
“What we have experienced since that Wednesday morning has been a current of immeasurable goodness flooding our community and quickly moving into other regions of the world. Words fail any effort to communicate the abundance of experiences and stories that will leave us forever changed.”
The routine chapel service that started on February 8, 2023, was officially ended on February 23, 2023, fittingly on the National Day of Prayer.
God’s manifest present was demonstrated in the repentance of sin, the deep and abiding sense of God’s peace, love, forgiveness, and healing. People spoke of physical healing and deliverance, but it wasn’t front and center. There was little to no spectacle.
The atmosphere in the Chapel was reverent and convicting, but uplifting at the same time, and Jesus was at the center of it. God God was exalted, and Jesus was lifted up as people confessed their sins to one another and to God, repented with tears and weeping, found forgiveness and new joy, prayed for each other and worshipped God. All without a program, or a plan, or a person directing what happened.
Many people would say this was a revival. I don’t know, but it was an example of the manifest presence of God. God simply “showed up”. Not that He was not already present; rather His presence was manifest. To individuals and to all who worshipped corporately.
As I think about the idea of the manifest presence of God, I am reminded of Psalm 139. We can go nowhere that God is not present. We cannot escape him. If we ascended into the heavens, or even to hell, He is there!
He is intimate with us. He knows our innermost thoughts and the intents of our heart. He can even number the hairs on our head, and He knows the words we speak before we even say them.
God is present with us, but his presence is not always manifest. We do not always feel the presence of God. Sometimes, we go long (weeks, months or years) with no sense of the presence of God in our lives. Sometimes, we have trouble even giving mental assent, if we are being honest, to the fact that God is present with us.
When we do feel or sense or see evidence of the presence of God in our lives, we are encouraged, inspired, comforted, and renewed by it. Those times when we are aware of God’s presence can sustain us through the longer, wilderness times. We need to know God in this way.
Jesus is the Bread of Life and the Living Water! What bread that we eat does not satisfy our hunger, and what water that we drink does not quench our thirst? How much more should the Bread of Life and Living Water fill us up and sustain us?!Continue reading “Asbury University and the Manifest Presence of God”