It happened. I’ve been asking the Lord for more than a year, and it happened. I saw a glory cloud. I’ve just returned from more than a week in Redding, CA where I attended a Leaders Advance conference at Bethel Church – 800 leaders and pastors from 37 countries. I stayed a few extra days to spend time with friends.
All week, the Presence of God almost felt tangible. It’s why I love going to Bethel. During the conference, the hunger and single-minded focus on Jesus of everyone there was inspiring, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if a glory cloud showed up at any one of those meetings – even if we were talking about strategic parking plans or discussing the coffee shop offerings – everything was focused on Jesus. Everything in heaven centres on Jesus, so if I had been heaven’s stage director, I would definitely have chosen one of those high points to introduce the glory cloud.
But it didn’t happen during the conference; it happened during the Friday evening service. There were some remnants leftover from the conference (like me), a few Bethel leaders, but not many of their highest level of leaders and all the high-profile worship bands were taking the night off because they had been worshipping with us during the conference, so the band was made up of interns. Mostly, we were everyday people, worshipping and loving Jesus.
We had been worshipping for about an hour and the worship time was coming to a close; we were directed to pray for one another and then the band would play another song before transitioning into the message portion but God decided to show up in the glory cloud. I had my eyes closed in worship and my friend nudged me and told me to look up. Above our heads was a swirling cloud of gold sparkles – it was amazing.
The most radical part was I didn’t feel any different. Prior to this experience, I tried to imagine what it would have been like to experience a glory cloud – would I sing? Would I jump up and down? Would I fall down? None of those things happened – I simply looked and cried tears of happiness because God chose to reveal himself so my eyes could see it but I didn’t feel a rush of heat, or any other kind of sensation on my skin. I didn’t feel any more or less peace or joy or love. We continued to worship for another hour or more, all the while the glory would hover over, seeming to fall upward. It stayed over our heads but also went towards the stage, over the musicians.
This is what I learned from the glory cloud: whether we see God physically manifested in a glory cloud or not is not indicative of whether or not he is present. I loved the gold sparkles in the cloud and it was an incredible gift from a loving daddy but God was already there and I was already enjoying his Presence whether I could see it or not.
Bethel church is an awesome place to encounter God. I’ve been to Bethel four times in the last year (it’s about a 12 hour drive each way) because I want to be anywhere I can experience God like that. Does God love Bethel more than my church, or your church? No, I don’t believe so but Bethel has been fostering the Presence for years; there is maturity.
If we want to experience what Bethel experiences personally and corporately in our churches, we must get out of the mindset that we have be somewhere special and know, just as Jacob discovered in Genesis 28:16, God was already there, he just didn’t know it. Jesus lived under an open heaven, and Jesus’ life is resurrected in us. Therefore, we live under an open heaven.
If I really believed it, how would my life look different? How would your life look different, if you fully grasped the revelation that we host the Presence all the time?
This is some video footage I took with my iPhone, just after people started noticing it. It was hard to get a good shot but you can see the sparkles - that's the glory cloud.