A Yamer was on long weekend leave and called the pastor out for lunch. And so we met, ate and talked over all kinds of topics related to the Christian faith. Somehow we came to the topic on phenomena that had swept the church over the last century and how it began with the Pentecostal Movement and to a later phenomenon that is commonly termed as the manifestation of the glory of God. The most common forms include the presence of gold dust falling down during worship in the church or covering individuals during prayer in the home, gold fillings appearing in people’s mouths, and the strange appearance of precious gems and feathers. These phenomena could not be explained and many who experienced it claimed that it drew them closer to God. So they called it the glory of God. I told the Yamer that a friend of mine has left the mainstream church to join the crowd. He replied that he left such a crowd to join a mainstream church. So the question beckons: how do we explain these things and are they really manifestations of God’s glory?
My honest answer is why not? The Bible has shown us ways that the Lord had chosen to reveal his glory to people. Didn’t he appear as a burning bush which has become the emblem of the Presbyterian Church? Didn’t he thunder out of the whirlwind and humble Job? What about the cloud filling the tabernacle during the exodus and the temple during its consecration? I could go on and the idea here is that we cannot box God up and dictate how he may or may not reveal himself or his glory in strange ways. Yet not every manifestation is truly of God. For other pagan practices and religions also claim supernatural manifestation and power. Didn’t Pharaoh’s magicians entertain Moses with tricks of their own until they ran out of tricks? And not all manifestations are truly supernatural as well. Don’t we have magicians and illusionists in our time who can perform tricks that defy human wisdom and deceive human minds? So how can we tell if this phenomenon is truly of God and not a demonic deception or tricks put by humans to deceive or impress others?
Now let me say that I am not writing to question or malign anyone who claims to have experienced the glory of God in the same manner that I do not question those who speak in tongues. As a Christian myself, I am not overly concerned with these things and I believe the path of discipleship that glorifies God is more than all these. But as a pastor, I need to deal with it because people may ask about it. What can I say to them? So here is my personal reflection that came out of that lunch talk. Allow me to use gold dust falling in church as a test case for our discussion.
First of all, we need to agree on what a supernatural manifestation is. This would determine whether it is of God or of men. If technology, gadgets or human aids are needed to create it, then I cannot agree that it is supernatural and our discussion should end! The challenge of course is to prove that these things are not used. And it is known that churches which claim to have gold dust appearing during worship would not allow critics to check out their premises. And those who managed to ‘capture’ some of the gold dust had it tested and found out that it was nothing more than cellophane that glittered like gold. But what if it is real gold? Could it really be the so-called Shekinah glory of God? Well, do you remember how a group of people had come together with their gold and made for themselves a golden calf and called it their gods? My point is that the Almighty Creator who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing does not need our gold or assistance to reveal his glory in a supernatural way! Therefore I believe that if given the chance, it can be proven objectively whether a manifestation is supernatural or not and hence of God or of men.
Now what if it is indeed supernatural and the gold came out of nowhere and no one could explain or recreate it? So is it of God or could it be demonic? My question is this: what happens when God reveals his glory to someone? My conviction from Scriptures is that the poor chap would have perished if not for God’s mercy and he is more likely to prostrate in fear than get into a state of frenzy like the Israelites before the golden calf. His life should also change thereafter, for one encounter with the Almighty is all that it takes to set him on a path to glorify the Holy One, as shown in the lives of Moses, Joshua, Isaiah or Paul. He might perform mighty deeds like opening up the Red Sea, casting out demons or even commanding gold dust to appear out of nowhere if need be but I think we should not confuse these things done in the name of God with God appearing in his glory. So my point here is that it can be shown subjectively whether a supernatural manifestation is of God by observing and comparing the lives of those impacted by it with how true believers of God ought to conduct themselves according to Scriptures. But it can be hard these days to educate people on the teachings of Scriptures and convict them to abide by it. As such it is not surprising that even the elects can be deceived by great signs and wonders performed by false christs and prophets. Didn’t Jesus warn us about these things? (Matthew 24:24)
I suppose this is all I would say without causing further confusion or distress. Let me close by assuring us that Jesus will return in full glory and every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So do not be overly concerned if you feel that you are missing out on something exciting because of all these phenomena happening around you. Instead let us work out our salvation with fear and trembling and we shall truly rejoice and not tremble with fear when we see the glory finally revealed.
Rev Ronnie Ang
October 26, 2014