Gold dust sparkling on lifted hands. Delicate white feathers filling the air. Fragrant oil dripping down the guitar fret.
It's just another Charismatic worship service.
For many congregations and worship gatherings around the globe, these signs and wonders are becoming the norm. We truly are living in days when the things of heaven are invading earth. And we shouldn't be surprised: Jesus said "signs and wonders" would permeate the world we live in and WOULD follow those who believe. Within the body of Christ, however, there are various beliefs about these unusual signs. My personal opinion is that these signs are just that - signs! Signs that point to the wonder-full God we serve. I've seen these wonders with my own eyes. Gold dust in the air, jewels popping out of no where, oil appearing on my instrument...and all I can say is He truly is full of wonders and as long as these signs point back to Him, I'm all for it. And by "point back to Him," I mean that they don't become the focus of our attention, just an added bonus of His nearness. He, after all, is the point of it all.
I recently had coffee with someone who spoke to me about these unique signs. I sipped my tall dark roast as they sat explaining how they were part of a monthly gathering that got together to see these wonders happen - looking for them, expecting them, and asking for them. My heart sighed as I took another sip: once again I had found myself confronted with an epidemic that can so easily fill our hearts - making God's STUFF greater than God himself. It's happened to me before and I believe it can happen to anyone.
And before you write this off and say, "Oh, well, I'm in the category that doesn't believe in those signs so I don't need to worry about it," hear me out...because it's not just the signs and the wonders that can become our focus. Healing, answered prayers, that "feeling" you get in a worship service, that nearness you sense in prayer...all of these beautiful gifts can so easily distract us from the One Thing that is needed: to simply worship Jesus. If we make anything else our focus or our goal, we've set up an idol...we've chased after God's stuff and not pursued Him for who He simply is. I will be the first to say that everyone needs an encounter with the Living Spirit of God! My husband and I encourage our congregation to pursue His manifest presence and we do everything we can to create an atmosphere that invites His presence so that encounters can happen in our service. The person who encounters the power and the glory and the majesty of Holy Spirit is far less likely to return to sin, but even still, it's far too easy to make the emotion and the feeling of an encounter with Him our focus, even our measuring rod for if a church service "is good" or not.
The sad reality is that many people have had powerful encounters with God, but because of lack of discipline, lack of character, lack of faith, they slide back into sin or complacency. The encounter with God in prayer or the encounter with God in worship is suppose to build upon the life of faith I am establishing. Once again, understand that I have had many, many encounters with God that leave me snotting on the carpet, leaping for joy, and have left me completely changed! But even still, if I make the feeling I get in those moments my focus, then I have taken faith out of the equation completely, I have taken devotion out completely, I've taken faithful perseverance out of the equation, and this is something scripture tells me to pursue over and over again...even above the encounter.
Hear me, saints - I fully expect the encounter because He loves to love on His kids. But if I make a worship service, prayer meeting, or my devotional time about what I feel and experience, then I am making it all about me. I'm simply chasing another high. The question we need to ask ourselves when we leave these moments in His presence isn't, "Didn't that feel great?" but "Did I touch His heart?" That question needs to be the measuring rod of a "good service". In the growing days of signs and wonders, revival fire, and greater glory, let us each pursue a life that says, "Even if I never feel another thing, you still have my worship."