HomeDooley Noted: When God shows up

Dooley Noted: When God shows up

By now you’ve probably heard about the spontaneous outpowering of praise, repentance, prayer, and worship that broke out in the tiny town of Wilmore, Kentucky at Asbury University. The revival began on Wednesday, February 8, after an improvised sermon about God’s love offered by a volunteer soccer coach. What followed can only be explained by an outpowering of God’s Spirit. Eighteen students lingered in the chapel to pray. Soon, they began texting their friends, imploring them to return. As more and more students joined the unplanned prayer meeting, they began to sing around the clock. To date, the gathering is approaching 300 consecutive hours.

Though news spreads much faster today than in years past, Asbury has a history of similar type meetings where God seemed to come down in an unusual way. Comparable prayer meetings extended for weeks and beyond the campus in 1905, 1908, 1921, 1950, 1958, 1970, 1992, and 2006. In the age of social media, more people have become aware of what’s happening in Kentucky more quickly. As news of the continued outpouring moved across the nation, worshippers made their way to Wilmore by car and by plane. Tens of thousands have flooded the sleepy community in order to experience the presence of God. Now, reports indicate that similar revivals are taking place at Cedarville University in Ohio, Lee University in Tennessee, and Samford University in Alabama.

Time will tell if these gatherings will have lasting impact. With so much discouraging news in our world over the last few years, it seems that people are hungry for a genuine encounter with the Lord. I am praying that the churches in our community will see a similar visitation from God in the days ahead. The heart cry of every human heart is to know and connect with our Creator in meaningful way. To better understand what these students are experiencing and what we should be praying for, I’d like to make a distinction between the omnipresence of God and the manifest presence of God.

The Lord’s omnipresence simply means that He is everywhere at the same time. Psalm 139:7-8 illustrates that it is impossible to escape God’s presence: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.” The problem, though, is that God can be present while we remain totally unaware that He is with us. He may be everywhere, but He works differently in various places.

For example, is God is present in a church building when its doors are locked and the people are not there? Certainly! But is He present in the same way when His people gather in that building for worship? I hope not. The manifest presence of God, you see, refers to those unique moments when God makes Himself known in such a way that we cannot ignore Him. Scripture offers plenty of instances of these rare but powerful moments of meeting with God.

  • The Lord walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden during the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
  • Yahweh spoke to Moses through a burning bush (Exodus 3).
  • God met with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in Babylon’s fiery furnace (Dan. 3:19-25).
  • The Holy Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost in an undeniable way (Acts 2:1-12).

When God manifests His presence, we realize that He is our greatest treasure. Thus, every time we gather as believers, in the spirit of James 4:8, we should draw near to God believing that He will draw near to us. Like Moses, what we need more than anything or anyone else is a glimpse of God’s revealed glory (Exodus 34:6-8).

That’s when we learn that God is compassionate. Though we are dead in our trespasses and sins He is willing to make us alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-7). He is gracious. Though our sins are like scarlet they will be white as snow (Isa. 1:18). He is slow to anger even though all have sinned and fall short of His glory (Rom. 3:23). He is abounding in loving kindness, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). He is abounding in truth, because He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). He forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, though we pierced, crushed, and chastened Him (Isa. 53:5). He is holy. Because He is unwilling to leave the guilty unpunished, He will smite the nations with the sword of His mouth (Rev. 19:15).

I fear that far too often, we prefer God’s blessings over God Himself. We want protection from Hell. We need healing from sickness. We crave material prosperity. We approach God like a genie in a bottle expecting Him to give, give, give. We want just enough religion to make ourselves feel better, but still so little that it makes God sick. And we forget that, without God in our midst, all forms of religious piety are dead and worthless.

So, let’s pray that God will revive our hearts. Let’s submit ourselves to the gospel of Christ and the authority of Holy Scripture. Let’s seek the Lord while He may be found. Pray that our hunger for God would grow. Pray that God’s presence would fall on Jackson, Tennessee. Pray that our churches would grow tired of business as usual. Pray that God will show us His glory!

Dr Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at adooley@ebcjackson.org. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.

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