“Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness.”
Exodus 7:16, CSB
One evening, during prayer, I thought God said that I should begin praying to Him on a small rug that I’d purchased a few years earlier.
“Nonsense,” I thought. “God wouldn’t say such a thing. It must have been my own brain saying that.”
Having listened to my own brain in the past, and knowing the disastrous places it often led me to, I decided to not listen.
Years later, I did listen. I began using that rug in my time with God. The difference has been astounding.
Let me explain…
“Love the Lord your God and worship him with all your heart and all your soul.”
Deuteronomy 11:13b, CSB
I became a Christian in the summer of 1990. While driving alone through the Central Valley of California in the wee small hours of the night, I had an encounter with Christ. Right there in that little Honda. Of all the places! God never stops chasing after us, and there’s no telling when, or where, we’ll all of the sudden be ready to turn to Him. For me, it was in that car on that road on that night.
If you were to paint me with a broad brush of common jargon, you might say that I’m a Bible-believing evangelic Christian. The boundaries of such a phrase, however, are so broad as to be indefinable in a practical sense.
Here is what is relevant to this topic: I believe the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and the only inspired Word of God.
I believe, also, that the apprehension of objective information found in God’s Word is superior to all subjective experiences. By that I mean the Bible is superior to every experiential “encounter” I may have, or claim to have, with the Holy Spirit. The Bible trumps such things every day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been there, done that.
Holy laughter, slain in the spirit, other shrieking “spirit-filled” agonies, and (of course!) speaking in tongues. My own personal walk has taken me through such places and experiences. It has brought to me a conviction that such are not often of the Spirit of God. Rather, they are manifestations of emotion placed within the context of worshipping God, and so they are attributed to God.
How do I know they often are not of God? Because many times “a word” is shared by someone; a word that (although supposedly from God) turned out, in time, to lead nowhere.
When Almighty God speaks, it is truth. And, so, those “words” I’ve gotten, or heard others receive (from no doubt well-meaning Christians) that weren’t true… those were NOT from God. At least, not how they were repeated in my hearing.
My distrust of subjective experiences can be traced also to four years of immersion in New Age religion/philosophy. That’s far too big a topic to cover here. Let me just state that, in the end, I realized that all things I’d studied and encountered while in the New Age led back ultimately to subjective aspects of existence.
My friend, the subjective nature of reality is nothing upon which you should pin your eternal hope.
Again: I believe in the apprehension of God’s objective Word above all subjective experiences. God’s Word can be trusted. Subjective experiences cannot be trusted entirely, and I am one who is quite untrusting of such things.
My own personal prayer life, however, is often marked by subjective experiences in that during prayer or worship I can be moved to joy or sorrow, and sometimes I weep in either case. Other things may occur. There’s no recipe that should be consulted; no playbook from which to “lead” such events into occurring.
Mind you, I don’t go to prayer or worship in order to conjure up such things. They either happen, or do not happen, in their own time and in their own manner. The focus of prayer is God, not the experience itself (which can be difficult for some to see or understand).
It can be a tough task to sweep from yourself the powerful desire to create a subjective occurrence in the midst of praising and worshipping God. I completely understand that desire. It can, however, be done. I think it SHOULD be done, lest you chase forever an endless repetition of sensations, church to church, town to town, people to people, in order to get a “buzz” from the experience.
The daily and private worship of Almighty God cannot be a buzz to chase.
“Therefore, fear the Lord and worship him in sincerity and truth.”
Joshua 24:14a, CSB
Back to the things we hear in prayer, and whether they are of God or not of God.
My own personal reaction to notions I receive in prayer is to seek confirmation through other sources, and from the Bible itself. If I think I hear something, I check it out with a trusted friend. Whether that friend agrees, or not, with the thing I thought I heard, I also check it out with the Bible.
My own “hearing” while in prayer can be wrong, because I see through a glass darkly (as do we all).
My friends “hearing” can be likewise wrong. And, we can each be wrong at the same time (very important!).
God’s Word, however, will not be wrong.
If I heard in prayer that the sky is red, and if my friend also heard that the sky is red, but God’s Word says that the sky is blue, then the sky is blue. God’s word trumps subjective experience every time. End of story.
Well, not quite. There’s another aspect to this sort of subjective experience that is common, and let me present it with an example that follows from the one above: Someone may approach me and tell me a word they’ve received and that they’re supposed to give to me.
“The sky is a color.” They might say.
The sky is a color. Well, yes. That’s true, isn’t it? And, such a vague statement has endless ways that it could be interpreted, and an equally endless number of circumstances by which it might be “proven” right.
You can’t disprove it. And, you may find myriad ways to prove it!
Listen: Specifics that do not come true, and vague statements that could be true in a thousand ways, need to be avoided. Should you get the former from a person you know, stop listening to their “words” when they pass them on to you. If your church traffics in the latter, flee that church! No, really. Flee such a place as deals in the vague. Such churches have, as goals, that which is vainglorious: They want your head for their head count, and your hard-earned pay for their leisure. Leave them.
“He answered, ‘I will certainly be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I am the one who sent you: when you bring the people out of Egypt, you will all worship God at this mountain.’”
Exodus 3:12, CSB
God told Moses (and all of Israel, actually) that He would lead the people out of Egypt, and that they would worship God at Mt. Sinai. That all happened. And, when the Israelites got to Mt. Sinai, they camped near the mountain and remained there for more than two years.
During those two years, God taught the Israelites how they were to worship Him.
When, on that particular evening, I heard God say to me that I should pray to Him on that small rug, I of course rejected it as being a subjective manifestation of whatever complex and ever-changing physical-emotional-social algorithm it is that prompts human thought and behavior: An endless stream of consciousness goes in, combines with past experiences, and out comes a particular thought or behavior. That is, what I reasoned, it must have been.
Maybe I’d read too many books on witnessing to members of Islam, and the image of a prayer rug sprang into my mind’s eye.
Maybe I’d had a repressed negative experience with the rug, and this notion was a way for my mind to create an emotional bridge by which I might bring the rug back into a more fragrant meadow of emotional comfort. SMH!
Or, maybe I’d just had too much spicy pizza for supper. Honestly, what you ate for dinner can effect your emotions & behavior.
So, no; of course not. I didn’t think for a minute that it was God who said to me that I should pray to Him on that rug.
Why would He say such a thing? What would be the point? Aren’t we, as believers, relieved of the need to worship God in temples built by man? Aren’t we to worship in spirit and in truth?
What’s the point of having to pray on a rug, and what possible Bible verse could support such a behavior? None, and none! God spent more than two years at Mt. Sinai instructing the Israelites in worship. Where-How-Why would a rug fit into the concept of God leading me to spend time with Him?
But, doesn’t God’s Spirit intercede with our spirit? Isn’t that how God actually does communicate with us?
Yes, of course. That’s Biblical. But, again, we see as through a glass darkly. We cannot be certain of seeing & hearing clearly and perfectly. That’s why we seek confirmation (especially from God’s Word).
It wasn’t very difficult, then, for me to put aside the idea of using a prayer rug (that particular rug, actually). It wasn’t from God, I thought. So, no need to dwell on it.
The problem was this: It just wouldn’t go away.
“Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.”
Psalm 2:11, NASB
In the Spring of 1986, I was on a flight from New York to London. I sat beside a woman who identified herself as a Christian author. I remember thinking that she couldn’t have been a very successful author, because she was sitting next to me in coach.
Now, this was before I became a Christian. It was, in fact, at the height of my time in the New Age. In another week, I’d be placing my hand on a centuries-old tree (somewhere in Fife) in order to seek wisdom from that old soul.
I believed, at that time, that Jesus Christ was a marvelous teacher among many teachers who had tried (nearly in vain) to teach us normal people that we are each “god.” I looked at Bible-believing Christians with a kind of pompous disdain disguised as sympathy. I thought of that woman on the plane as I thought of all Christians: Too foolish to know they’ve been fooled.
“No matter,” I’d have thought, back then. “She’ll have plenty of lifetimes to figure it out. I’m just so glad that I’m enlightened, and I ALREADY have it figured out!” Me, and that old tree, I guess.
Anyhow, I remember several things about that woman. First, she was quite patient whenever she would listen to how I answered her questions. That struck me as strange, since I’d come to think of Christians as being short-tempered and closed-minded. Not her. She was patient, and she would let me ramble on and on and on without jumping in and trying to shout me down.
The second thing I remember about her was this statement: “No, you’re wrong. The devil’s got you.”
She must have said it eighty ka-billion times. Or, maybe five or six times. But, the fact that she’d repeated it more than once made it seem like she’d said it eighty ka-billion times.
I never forgot those words.
Keep in mind that just because I was a New-Ager didn’t mean that I had stopped pursuing God. To me, the New Age was a path, not a destination. It turned out that it was a path that took me ever-further from the Truth of God, which is Jesus Christ. The real Jesus Christ. Not the Jesus of A Course in Miracles, or the Mormon Jesus, or what the Dalia Lama says about Jesus, or the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, or the Jesus of a hundred other false religions, each of them invented by man
The New Age was a path I followed in the pursuit of God; a pursuit that was the central imperative of my life. And, because that path diverged from Truth, so I also diverged. It created in me an angst. It was an angst that grew like a dark cloud on the horizon, promising a terrible tempest.
It was an angst that led, eventually, to a chair and a noose. And, as I stood on that chair with that noose around my neck, I was so “holy” and “righteous” in that moment that I felt nothing at all.
No fear. No anger. No impatience. No remorse. No sadness.
I was about to step off into eternity, and there wasn’t even a bump on the needle in the meter of my emotions. Zero passion. Nothing.
The Buddha would have been so proud of me!
But, that chair, that noose… it’s a story for another day.
To re-focus: What’s important is to know that as loving as God is, and He truly is the definition of love, He must also be awe-inspiring. The word from Hebrew often translated into English as “fear” (as in “the fear of the Lord”) is a word that combines the ideas of reverence and a fear-producing awe. Not a fear as in “I’m afraid of snakes.” A righteous fear, because, in His presence, or in the proximity of the knowledge of Him, we are undone in our imperfectness; our unholiness. Combining the whole of the thought expressed, we are awestruck by His perfect holiness, and a taste of fear is produced in our submission of everything we are to His perfect glory.
Playing around with gods and religions that are false is a trap that will ensnare you for all eternity if you submit to them instead of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This, too, should create in anyone, saved or unsaved, a righteous fear of an eternal blackness outside of His presence. Outside of His presence is where you will be, forever, if you reject the trumpet call to return to God by the blood of His son, Jesus Christ.
Reverent awe before Almighty God. It is as appropriate as joy and wonder. None is a negative reaction. Absolute pure joy and love will be, and can be, ours in His presence, even as we carry our reverent awe of His majesty and splendor!
“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.”
Nehemiah 9:5b-6, NIV
Long after I’d gotten off of that flight, long after I’d returned to the United States from that trip, I kept hearing the words of that woman.
“No, you’re wrong. The devil’s got you.”
I heard them always in the same curiously sad manner in which she spoke them. She was neither brow-beating me, nor lecturing. She was being very matter-of-fact with me, actually. She’d listen to me patiently as I told her who Jesus really was, and what the message of Jesus really had been. It had saddened her, and she’d say to me, “No, you’re wrong. The devil’s got you.” And then she’d try to give me a verse or an explanation to reach me.
I never remembered any of the verses she quoted. I can’t remember much of anything she said, actually. Her witness wasn’t in the explanations. What her witness was, as it turned out, was she herself. She was the witness, not her words.
In her patience, in her resolutely unshakeable stance on the Bible, and in her sadness (most memorably in her sadness), she was a witness to me of Almighty God. And, her words reached me for Him in ways probably no other words had.
“No, you’re wrong. The devil’s got you.”
I heard it in the idle moments throughout my days. I heard it as I drove from this place to that place. I heard it come out of my own mouth as I’d repeat to my laughing friends that hilarious story of a Christian weirdo on the airplane.
How preposterous! I was holy! I was becoming a god through my New-Age teachings, wasn’t I? I didn’t believe in a real devil, did I? Nonsense and malarkey! How elementary a thought in a world of “post-graduate” spirituality! Ha! How sad of that woman to believe something so small!
Yet, I heard it over and over again, and often in those wee small hours as I waited for sleep to come.
“No, you’re wrong. The devil’s got you.”
Always patient. Always matter-of-fact. Always just a little sad.
Like a tiny hammer, the words chipped away incessantly at the rock of my own resolutely unshakeable stance: That God and the Bible were impossible to reconcile. Like matter and anti-matter, they did not occur in the same place and at the same time. God was not in the Bible, or so I thought. Jesus was incorrectly portrayed in the Bible, or so I thought. And, so, although I was seeking God with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul, I was refusing to consider the very Truth of God in the Bible: Jesus Christ.
That irreconcilability nearly killed me. But, before it came to that, the tiny little hammer kept chipping away for years, patiently trying to break through to the malleability God has placed in the human heart.
I imagine, sometimes, the sadness in her words came from a thought she’d had: That it may never come to pass that the young man she was sitting beside on the airplane might never come to be reconciled with the God who made him.
When you consider the eternal effect of not being reconciled… Sad, indeed.
“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.”
Psalm 100:1-2, NIV
Back to the rug.
I’d had tiny hammers go to work on me before. This wasn’t anything new; only the message was different: The ever-repeating call to get on that rug and pray. The difference was that now the hammer was coming from what I believed might be the Holy Spirit attempting to “speak” to me directly, not through someone else; to testify to my spirit so that I might hear.
The Bible teaches that we, as Christians, have the Holy Spirit in us, testifying and interceding with our own spirit. It’s a way that God communicates with us while we’re still living in this realm. It’s an imperfect communication system. It’s imperfect not because He’s a poor transmitter. It’s imperfect because we, us humans, have ruined our relationship with God, and we are poor receivers.
Once we’re saved, we’re sealed for eternity. But, we still have years left to live in this life, within these bodies, wherein God’s perfect Spirit speaks to our spirit. But, the incessant yammering of our flesh renders His words to us as somewhat or mostly unintelligible.
He speaks perfectly. We just can’t hear Him very well.
“A prayer rug? Me? Not possible. No way that was from God. It’s not Biblical.”
And, the words kept coming back.
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
Never angry. Never accusing. Never “I-told-you-so.” Just a statement of truth.
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
“I don’t have to pray on rugs! I’m a born-again Christian. I have the Spirit of God in me. I don’t need a place, or a time, or a reason, or definitely a rug. I’m saved, and God will hear me whenever I pray to Him!”
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
“That’s not coming from me. That’s some weird psychological expression of repressed anger.”
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
“That’s just me. Right here in my own head. That’s just my own craziness, and we all know I’m a little crazy!”
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
I wonder if it was actually from God.
“Nah! Cant be! Not possible. No way that was from God…”
Did I mention that this went on for twenty-two years?
“They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God.”
Nehemiah 9:3, NIV
Twenty-two years. If I ever try to tell you how holy and awesome my walk with God is, just say this:
“Twenty-two years, pal.” I’ll know what you mean.
The Israelites spent a little over two years at Mt. Sinai learning how to worship God. And I always thought of them as being stubbornly hard to teach. Ha! Look at me! Twenty-two years just responding to the call!
For twenty-two years I made circuits around the buffet of Christian experiences. But, at certain moments, spaced sometimes years apart, I would take stock of my faith and find that I wasn’t really making much headway in growing closer to God; in submitting more wholly to the Yoke of Jesus Christ.
Not much at all, really.
And, so, it occurred to me, in the Spring of 2017, that maybe (maybe) [maybe] possibly? The words about the rug had truly come from God.
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
The fact that we still had the rug seemed like a miracle in and of itself. We had, during those twenty-two years, experienced some dire financial times. The temptation to sell the rug, which had noteworthy value, emerged on more than one occasion. My wife would suggest it, and I would mumble a vague agreement and an equally vague promise to look into it.
But, how do you sell a rug that you think God might possibly have told you to pray on?
How do you work that into the conversation?
“We should sell the rug.” She said. “We really need the money.”
“No, we can’t.” He said. “God told me to pray on it.”
“Turn in here, Babe,” She said, “I need to run for my life and call 911.”
It’s not an easy thing to bring up.
There were also the puppies. Puppies chew things. Chewing things is their job, and they’re good at it. You can hide a leather slipper on top of the refrigerator, and when you come home, your twelve-pound puppy somehow has little leather bits of your slippers hanging out of it’s mouth.
The puppies got to the rug and chewed off a section. It may have ruined any monetary value. But, by then; by the time the puppies had gotten to the rug, any monetary value was moot; I had come to think that it was true that God had told me to pray to Him on that rug. And now, the rug was damaged. That seemed quite appropriate, actually.
And, so, I prayed on the rug.
After twenty-two years of arguing with myself, I prayed on that rug.
“Why not?” I’d asked myself. “Just give it a try.”
After twenty-two years of just never seeming to be able to draw closer to God, I prayed on that rug.
After twenty-two years of not being capable of letting myself be yoked more eagerly to Christ, I prayed on that rug.
After twenty-two years of a little hammer chipping away at the stone density of my hard-headedness,
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
“You should pray to me on that rug.”
I prayed on that rug.
After twenty-two years, I took that damaged little rug in my hands and brought it to my study. I rolled out that little rug. I got on my knees upon it, and I prayed to the Lord God of all things. I prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; The God of the living, God of all; Yahweh; Elohim; Abba, my Father.
I got on my knees, on that rug; on the rug I’d finally become convinced God had told me to pray upon, and I prayed.
I prayed to God on that little rug.
After twenty-two years, I got on that rug and I prayed.
And God said, “No, stop doing that.”
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.”
Job 1:20, NASB
In our imperfect manner of hearing God, as His Spirit ministers to ours, I believe that we sometimes hear kind of the right thing, and we sort of interpret it a little wrong. I just broke every rule of literary affirmation, I know. But, there aren’t really any defined and clearly marked lines in this. We get the gist of what God’s Spirit is communicating to us, perhaps. But, the finer points may be entirely wrong. It can lead to confusion, if we aren’t careful.
For instance: I was once convinced that God had directed me to become a pastor. Yeah, I know: This is me we’re talking about! A pastor? But, being the good steward with prayer that I’d hoped I was, I took it to a friend. Actually, I took it purposefully to a friend whom I believed looked at me (in general) with a jaundiced eye. I thought that if anyone in the world would tell me, “No, that’s not really where I see God putting you.” He’d be the one. Surprise! He was actually quite enthusiastic about it.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t work out. As hopeful and obedient as I had become with the idea, doors just slammed shut. It became clear, after a time, that I wasn’t going to be a pastor.
Well, what in the world had happened? Why had God told me to do it when it wasn’t going to happen, I thought?
In the years since, I’ve become convinced that I had heard God say words to the effect. However, I believe it’s most likely that He had been saying He wanted me in some kind of pastoral duties, not necessarily as the pastor of a church. However, me (not hearing clearly) heard “Be a pastor” when it might have been “Go into support ministry.”
Hence, the doors shut on the process of becoming the pastor of a church.
Let me give you another example, which is one that occurred as a result of my praying for God to lead me, as opposed to it coming to me out of the blue, so to speak, as the pastor idea had. I prayed for God to show me how to witness in my everyday walk.
At that time, I was very fit. I played a popular sport at a local league level. I thought, “That’s it. God, because I am strong and fit, use me in the sport to be a witness to people!” I imagined having a new and unexpected breakthrough in my skills that would astound everyone, leading them to ask, “What’s gotten into you?” I could then tell them about God and Jesus. Perfect!
Nothing happened on the field. But, one day, on the road, I came upon a stalled car. The guy needed to push it out of the dangerous location in which it had stalled. I got behind that car and gave it my all. We pushed his car maybe a hundred yards, or so, up a slight incline. Yes, uphill. Very hard work! We caught our breath once the car was in a clear location, shook hands, and off I went.
After the third (THIRD!) such car, stalled on the side of the road, that I had to help push out of a dangerous location, it finally occurred to me that God had indeed answered my prayers. I was just too focused on the exact manner, or doorway, that I EXPECTED God to act to see where He really was moving.
Yes, I can truly be that dense. Because of how dense I can be, I can relate to the poor spiritual eyesight of the people of Israel in their often-tumultuous relationship with Almighty God.
Let me circle back from my digressions: Sometimes I hear… kind of. But, I don’t catch everything, at least not too clearly, and I focus on what I think I heard. By doing so I can miss the actual opportunities God has given me because of my own self-centered short-sightedness.
I’ve seen that effect in others, too. I’ve listened to more than a few people complain about how something they’d believed God had called them to do wasn’t working out. I’ve heard some of them express anger and even a little resentment about it. I understand. I get it. But, it isn’t that God is not faithful to His words. I think it must be true for all of us what I had discovered in my own walk: That we don’t always hear so well.
Therefore, I think we should go into such ventures with as many pathways as possible open before us as we begin to walk forward in our obedience. By limiting what we pursue, in the name of following God, we may be missing where He really wants us to go! By me walking straight toward the one door of becoming the pastor of a church I had missed wherever it was that I might have landed. I had excluded all other possibilities, when (in fact) I should have left open as many ministry pathways as possible, then allowed for God’s Spirit to guide me to the right door among many doors.
“Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord
in the splendor of his holiness.”
Psalm 29:2, CSB
Back to my den that day on the rug.
I was shocked to hear it; to hear as I was literally praying on the very rug God had told me for twenty-two years to pray on, “Hey, stop praying on that rug.”
Wasn’t it God who had told me to pray to Him on that rug? It was the same rug as I’d had twenty-two years earlier when God had first spoken the words, “You should pray to me on that rug.”
Same rug. Same me. Didn’t God intend to put the two things together, me and that rug, when I prayed to Him? What else could “You should pray to me on that rug” mean other than me…
praying to God…
… on that rug?
Twenty-two years of hammering, and now… ?
But, that was just the first thing God said.
He’d said it almost immediately. I mean, my knees weren’t on that rug very long at all; my prayers hadn’t been in the air for long, when I’m certain that God said, “Stop.”
So, I stopped.
What else could I do? I listened. I listened really carefully.
“Not pray. That’s not what I said. Don’t pray. Worship me. On that rug, on your knees, worship me.”
It didn’t come to me in a demanding way, like some mafia boss telling a lieutenant to kiss his ring.
Not angry, as if God were mad that I was waxing His car wrong.
Not egotistical, like some new manager at work who wants to lord it over you all.
Plainly. Matter of fact. In Truth. God said, and this was clear, “Worship me, on your knees, on that rug.”
And, so, I did. I changed my prayers to words of worship.
To be honest, I soon ran out of words to say. But, it was clear that what God had wanted me to do for so long was to make time for Him, to worship Him out loud, on my knees, on a special place (the rug); a rug that I can take almost everywhere I go.
God wants my worship of Him to be special in many ways.
I changed my prayers that day to words of worship. And, I’ve been doing it every day (almost! I’m not perfect at it!) ever since.
It has made a profound difference.
God didn’t tell me to stop praying. I still pray. I offer intercessory prayers for sick and hurting people. I pray for my family and my marriage. I offer prayers that He increase my faith. I offer prayers that Jesus yoke me ever more deeply and securely. I offer countless other prayers of the sort we all offer to God.
I just don’t offer them during private worship time.
I’m sure that I’m no prophet. But, it must be true that we can hear God occasionally in ways that are quite clear. I think that God had been speaking clearly about that rug for twenty-two years. I’d just heard it wrong the whole time!
What I believe God had been calling me to was time with Him. He is Yahweh; Elohim; El Shaddai; The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; The God of the living; All God, Only God; Ever God; Always God; Holy God. He is my Creator. I am His creation. And, out of reverent awe of Him who created all things, I should worship Him. In a joyous liberty provided by the Holy Lamb of God, I should offer worship to The Almighty.
Holy God! Amen!
On my knees, on that rug, I worship the God of all space, time, and eternity. I worship Him out loud, and in numerous manners that I cannot reveal to you. Your private worship will be taught to you by Him in time. The point is to worship God!
The point is to worship God!
I mean, get used to it! It’s what we’ll be doing for all eternity!
“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’”
Revelation 5:11-12, NASB
Remember this: God has revealed to us that, in the afterlife, we will spend eternity (whatever that is) worshipping God.
What? You mean like Heaven is just a really long Casting Crowns concert?
Well, let me back up for a sec. First off: The Crowns rock, in every way there is to rock, including (and especially) worship. So, yeah… the Casting Crowns are awesome. But, I digress.
Yes, eternity will be spent worshipping God. Will it be every second of every day (or whatever time will be in Heaven)? That’s not 100% clear from the Bible. But, here’s the thing: There isn’t a chance that you or I, or anybody else, has even one percent of a clue as to how unbelievably heart-soaring the worship of God in Heaven will be for us! So, I hope that’s what we’ll be doing!
Listen: It’s what we were created to do. God created us to have an intimate, interpersonal relationship with Him. Us and Him. Us, singly, and Him, wholly. Us, corporately, too. But, more importantly for today’s context: Us, singly. We are meant to have a singular, interpersonal, intimate, one-on-one relationship with Almighty God. And, an important facet of how that occurs is through us worshipping him! It’s the language we’re going to speak forever, only more than language. It’s not just what will come out of our mouths. It’s everything we’ll do. We will worship Almighty God, in speech and behavior (in whatever form those take in that place), throughout eternity.
And, it will be more splendid, more satisfying, more beautiful than anything we could ever imagine! But… we can get just a tiny taste of it here, in this life, when we begin daily personal worship time.
Now, hear me, please: Not every day in worship is “lightning and rose petals.” Some days are quite unimpressive in the manifestation of subjective experience.
Did I mention that we don’t do it for the experience!
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!’”
Revelation 5:13, NIV
We don’t worship God for our sake. We don’t worship God to “get” something. We worship God because He is God and He deserves to be worshipped. He doesn’t need it. He deserves it. It is right that all things should worship Him!
Denis Prager tells the story of when he was a young boy in a Hebrew school being introduced to daily prayer time. He tells of the day when he approached his teacher, during prayer time, and explained to the Rabbi that he didn’t “feel” like praying. And Denis Prager, in the way only he can tell the story, finishes by quoting the pregnant pause and then the words of his rabbi, “Denis Prager doesn’t feel like praying… So what!”
So what, indeed! It doesn’t matter one iota how we “feel” on any given day or time. We set our minds to the daily personal worship of Almighty God, and we do it. We don’t do it for a thrill. We don’t do it for a purple Rolls Royce. We don’t do it for this guy or that gal. We don’t do it for any other reason that this: He is Almighty God, and we should worship Him.
That’s it. No thrill, no bargain, no enlightenment, no bragging rights in the prayer circle, no better understanding of Scripture, no reason whatsoever to become puffed up. In fact, I think it will ground you more completely! But, you have to enter into it with the knowledge that it’s got nothing to do with you getting anything. Whatever God may bless you with is a blessing truly! And, it is for you alone and you should keep it that way.
Remember: We’re people, and sinful. And, there’s no stopping a mind seized with envy. If you tell your spouse, or your best friend, that (while you were in worship) God did such-and-such, then that other person is going to spend many nights staring at the ceiling wondering why God doesn’t do that same such-and-such for them.
You have a two-fold responsibility: First, to God, to worship Him daily and in privacy; and, second, to every other human being on the planet to NOT talk details about your personal worship time!
You can speak in generalities, as I do here. But, you’ve got to keep silent on the private matters that occur between you and Almighty God. I believe that He will not forget to bless you in some way that is profound to you. I mean, it may not appear like very much if someone was watching. But, it will mean so much to you! And, so, you will only cheapen that profundity by speaking of it to anyone else. You will only weaken that which God is making stronger in you.
Remember: It’s not for anything for you. It’s worship for God. It’s incense for the nostrils of The Almighty.
Friend, another thing: The private daily worship of Almighty God has instilled within me a truly burning desire to worship God every moment in eternity. I honestly used to consider that idea just a little bit frightening – as in, won’t it be monotonous?
Oh, my! If what happens here on Earth during our private worship time is a glimpse – just a mere flash – of what worship in Heaven will be like, then monotony will be a forgotten word there. Forgotten!
Well, then, to what end? What is the end purpose of this private worship time here on Earth? None that I know of, and none that I can think of other than He is God, and we should worship Him.
The only possible human perspective I might offer is this: That for you and I, our salvation stopped being about us at the moment we were saved.
“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it. And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.
“In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:
‘Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.’
“Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:
‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being.’”
Revelation 4:1-11, NIV
Our salvation is no longer about us. The picture of Heaven includes the vision of worship. We have, as an impression of our salvation moment, the idea that there was rejoicing in Heaven. Our salvation was all about us for the entire time that we wandered this Earth in unforgiven sin. It was all about us then, and it was about us right up until that moment we opened our hearts and cried out, “Yes, Lord Jesus! I believe! I accept God’s salvation through your sacrifice!” In that very moment, there was rejoicing in Heaven; in that place described in the Bible and printed on the pages above. Rejoicing in heaven!
And, then our salvation belonged to the unsaved world.
We are God’s light. Israel was God’s light for centuries. Humanity had become a desolation wherein just one family retained the knowledge of God in their thinking. Just that one family. So, God spared them, drowned the rest, and started over.
Can you not see how profound that is; that the knowledge of God cannot ever disappear from the Earth. God will not allow it. And, so, after the flood, God purposed a people; a people whom He would set apart. By their ways, which God Himself would give to them, they would be different; they would be set apart. They would be the light of God on the Earth.
They would make sure that the knowledge of God would never again depart from this world.
Jesus came into the world, and the Light of God comes to every person who accepts the freely offered sacrifice of Jesus. Just as in times of old when people stopped and said, “Who are those people, the Israelites?” People today should see us and wonder, “What is that light about them?”
Not literally. Words to that effect.
Listen: If you’re living as God wishes you to live, then His light will shine from you in the unique manner only you can shine!
That woman on the airplane… She shined the light of God in a very specific way to a very specific person (me). Only she could have shined God’s light in that exact way. By her shining God’s light in that exact way, at that exact time, in that exact place, to that exact person, I was shaken to my core. The light of God in her helped to take me eventually into the arms of our loving Father!
Don’t you see?! You have to shine God’s light! And, the only way to do that is to draw more closely to Him. There’s no on/off switch, and no way for you to use the light, as if it were some common flashlight or lantern. God shines His light through you. He shines it when He wants to shine it. The light comes out of you in a way that is unique to you. Don’t worry about it. Don’t even think about it, really, except within this context: God’s light will shine more brightly, and with more clarity, the closer you draw to Him.
So… by you devoting yourself to daily personal worship time, you will draw more closely to Him. You will shine. You may never in a million years know when and how you’re shining, or to whom you’re shining. That woman on the plane will never know how she shined God’s light to me. But, I know this: She was close enough with God to be able to shine in the manner He intended. Her salvation was not about her. In that moment, her salvation was about me.
Amen! Blessed is His Holy Name!
So, the only possible outcome for daily personal worship, if you have to have an outcome, may be simply this: Drawing more closely to Him who made you will allow for His light to shine more clearly through you.
“For all those led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons. You did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children, and if children, also heirs — heirs of God and coheirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.”
Romans 8:14-17, CSB
A few things have occurred to me in the years since I began worshipping God in obedience to Him, each one confirmed in God’s Word, The Bible.
God wants our time of worshipping Him to be personal. As it is written,
“The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children.”
Romans 8:16, CSB
I’ve experienced that personal aspect in a number of ways.
Personal in intimacy. We’re to worship God in private. Your place of personal worship needs to be private for the time that you’re using it to worship. Of course, it may change day to day. The concept remains: It needs to be private during the time you use it for worship. Maybe on Tuesday it’s your ten-year old’s room just before lunchtime. Just be sure that your ten-year old isn’t home. It needs to be private during the time you’re using it.
Personal in communication. However you worship, worship. I will not give you a detailed description of how I do it. This is between you and the God who made you! Listen: Just typing that sentence gave me goosebumps! Isn’t that a miracle in and of itself, that the God of all things wants to listen to us?
So, no, don’t YOU use my words, or Larry’s words, or Alice’s words. Let it develop into your own thing; just you and God.
Now, in honesty, let me say this: For a time, early on, I copied worshipful Psalms and other Scriptures onto 3 X 5 cards. I placed those cards on the rug in front of me so that I could read from them. After a relatively short time, however, my own words of worship began to develop more and more clearly.
It’s a process.
Whenever you hear yourself copying some other person, stop. You aren’t J. Vernon McGee, or David Jeremiah (unless you are David Jeremiah, in which case I think you already know of this whole daily personal worship thing!). Stop talking like them, or anybody else. Take out a Psalm and read it back to God from your heart, if necessary. By and by, God will give you the words that are meaningful in a very personal way to you, and those words will come up before Him as rightful worship.
By the way, I sometimes do repeat a Psalm or other scripture. There’s nothing like using God’s word to worship God Himself!
For the most part, though, I worship as it seems best to worship at that moment… His spirit with my spirit… just like the Bible said.
Another point: Make it out loud.
You don’t have to shout. It could be barely above a whisper, if need be. But, make it words stated in the very breath God gave you. God breathed life into you. God spoke, and the universe leapt into existence. Say (or sing) your worship. Out loud. Say your worship of God Almighty to God Almighty! If the stars in the heavens each have their own songs, then you surely have a song to sing (so to speak). Speak your worship in the adoration of Him who made you; to the One who made you!
Make it a purposeful event. That’s why I stay on the rug, even though I’m convinced that God doesn’t need me to be on a rug. In fact, for a short time I stopped using the rug, and simply got on my knees anywhere in the house. Then I realized that I was bypassing a small but noteworthy act of purposeful effort; the act of going to where I keep the rug, rolling it out, and taking my knees upon it.
It’s a very small effort, I know.
But, it’s effort.
During the two years at Mt. Sinai, God taught the Israelites how to worship. It was a lot to learn! Why? Because God was purposing a people to be different in evident ways from all other people on the planet. They were to be the light of God that would never disappear from the Earth (as had nearly happened before the flood). By their presence in the Earth, the knowledge of God would not depart the people of the world.
It took a lot of effort on the part of the Israelites to learn, and to put what they learned into practice.
Our task is the same as was the task of the Israelites: To retain the knowledge of God in the Earth. We are the light of God to all people. Our task must take some effort. It may not be of the magnitude of two years at Mt. Sinai. But, the daily personal worship of Almighty God is a joyous effort of ours. Accept whatever your effort is.
Don’t look to simplify and reduce your effort. We’re sort of wired to do that in our culture, to look for more efficient ways of doing everything we do. Don’t do it here. Not with your daily personal worship of Almighty God. Whatever effort is yours to make, make it as part of your daily sacrifice of self.
That modest sacrifice of effort on our part is an aspect of worship. I’m of the opinion that if God had wanted a herculean effort from me for my daily private worship, He’d have demanded much more than the use of the rug. He’s not made it very difficult, though, and I shouldn’t want to make it any more difficult. Neither should I look for ways to make it easier.
So, the fact that I take the time to go get the rug, to roll it out, to get onto my knees upon it… all of that (and more) speaks to the sacrifice of my time, and of the rejection of the “my way-itis” that can overcome my best intentions.
Take time. Make an effort of some kind… of any kind.
Make it a sacrifice of you, as well, and not of anyone else. In the effort of making a time and a place, don’t sacrifice someone else’s time, or anything about them.
For instance, don’t say to your kids, “I can’t walk you to the bus anymore, because I’ll be worshipping God at that time.” No. By doing that, you’d be diminishing their time; their relationship with you.
“Bob, I’m glad you’re staying over at our house tonight. I need you up and out of there by 7:30 so I can go in and worship alone, because I always worship in there at 7:30.”
No. Let Bob sleep in, and you go find an alternate place to worship in the morning. Again, the sacrifice may be small. Just make it your sacrifice!
But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.
John 4:23, NKJ
Who, exactly, do we worship? Seems like a dumb question. But, it’s important. Don’t miss it.
We, as Christians, worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God Almighty. The I AM, Yahweh. Elohim. El Shaddai. Abba, Father.
And His son, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. The One who spoke, and the universe leapt into being; who, by His stripes, we are healed. The Truth, incarnate. Jesus, our Savior.
And the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and lives in us. Counsellor. Spirit of the Living God.
The words should begin with God’s Word, the Bible. What does God call Himself? What does the Bible call Jesus? What does the Bible call the Holy Spirit?
The words you speak in private worship should be both His words and yours. Make them yours in your heart.
Now, do I think God knows who we’re praying to? Yes. But, we should exercise care in the words we choose. The Apostle John wrote that many antichrists had already come… two thousand years ago! How many more are there among us now? So… please. Exercise care that your words remain within the boundaries of God’s written Word, the Bible. Whether in your native language, or Greek, or Aramaic, or Hebrew… whichever you please. Just… stay within the construct of the Holy Bible.
Make the worship worshipful. Remember how I took the time to tell you that I’m not a huge fan of the subjective experience? Yeah, well, that’s still true. But, in personal worship, I find that it’s normal (if such a word can be used in speaking of such things) that I be moved to emotional… um… blossoms, may I say? I don’t want to use weathered words whose meanings are different among various churches within Christendom. “Blossoms” works nicely. However, and this is important, the subjective experience is not the worship.
The subjective experience is not the worship.
Worshipping God is bringing to our mind the incredible things He has done, and then giving to Him (with our voice) the spoken awe we have of Him and for Him.
Praise? Yes, and at some other time in your day. Worship is different, and it has a different facet of voice and attitude. Find it. Find your private worship. God will lead you… remember: His Spirit with your spirit. And, when it’s right, for you, you’ll know. By that I’m not putting this on par with one of those mysterious “get it” things, like the old lies everybody told during the TM movement from the ‘70s:
“Do you get it?” “Did you get it?” “Yeah, I got it!”
You, on the other hand, will understand when you have found your voice of personal worship. Again, it’s not always lightning and lily blossoms. It can be very subtle much of the time. The point here is that the subjective should not lead you in this. Although I cannot deny the subjective aspect of private worship, it is the objective knowledge of Almighty God that must lead us.
God has given to us, in His Scriptures, what we are to know of Him. We worship the real and actual God of all because He has given us an objective knowledge of who He is. Our worship of Him must be objective in practice, although it may well result in subjective experiences.
Again, this is me: Mr. I-Don’t-Trust-Subjective-Experiences himself; me who is saying this. There is an undeniable subjective element to personal worship, and (in some ways) it has been difficult to adjust to after years of being wary and suspicious. I didn’t just come to know the subjective through daily personal worship. There was a time when I embraced the experiential end of the Christian spectrum. That, as much as anything else, served to give me caution regarding the subjective. Now, however, I acknowledge the subjective human reactions that can occur.
Let me repeat, at this point, that the experience is not what we seek in the worship of Almighty God; not the subjective experience that can be a result of our worship. We seek to focus objectively on the one and only King of the Universe and shower Him with worship.
Yet, how can it not be profound? We – us, you and I, regular people – we worship the I AM! We get to worship the I AM!
Blessed is the name of the Lord!
We have to be careful that we do not become one of that particular crowd who end up “chasing” an ever-higher volume in the concert of personal worship. If that happens to you, then you’re going off the rails. Bring it back to focusing on Him! It’s not about us and our experiences! Again, the point is to worship God, not to look for a spiritual buzz in the experience.
I’ve touched on this previously, and I’ll go to it again: I won’t share my experiences. Neither should you share yours. Such words could become a millstone around the necks of others.
When we hear things from other people, it can have a debilitating effect on us. Stay with me, here, because it bears repeating: If you say to me that you do such-and-such during your private time of worshipping God, then I may forever wonder why I don’t get called to do such-and-such, too. And, if one day in worship I do suddenly feel compelled to do such-and-such, it’ll surely cross my mind, “Is this the Holy Spirit, or is it me just trying to make this happen?”
Train to Worshipville derailed! Film at 11:00!
That’s all it takes to unravel someone. For that reason, we should keep the details of our personal worship time personal. Not to hide. But, to shield others from the effects of that peculiar kind of self-consciousness that can make worship difficult.
Worship in private need not be a carbon-copy of how you worship corporately in your church, either. Don’t mimic how you behave in church with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Corporate worship is important; and, we all need it. But, it’s corporate. It’s not personal. Corporate means that it is meant to be engaged in with others. Personal worship is intended to be between you and God. Therefore, your personal worship shouldn’t be a replica of your corporate worship time.
Does that mean don’t sing? No, you can sing! Just don’t make it a re-run of how you were at church last Wednesday night! This is for God, from you. Whatever words or actions are worshipful in your spirit, do that. And, don’t be disheartened if you have to read Psalms for a while, or even sporadically. It’s OK!
God will help you worship Him. Why? Because He’s some kind of power-monger who needs to be validated? No! Because God made us, and we were made to worship. Remember? That’s our language, our action, in His presence. As the flowers open and bloom in the sun, so we were made to worship in the presence of Almighty God! Worship is our language with God! So, yes! Of course, He wants us to speak to Him in the language He gave us!
“Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.”
Psalm 28:6-7, NIV
Years ago, I seemed to be experiencing a refining of my trust in the Lord. It has happened again, soon after I began to obey God and worship Him daily in private. This time, the difference has been that I can see the element of fear that had been resisting my placing too deep a trust in God, as if there is such a thing! I’ve known for many years that fear is the main cause of my chaffing against the easy yoke of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now, that fear is much more in focus.
I’d just as soon not have to admit this to anyone. But, to be transparent with you, things like what happened to Joseph scare me. When Joseph went to prison, he didn’t know he’d ever get out. He was a convicted rapist; a scourge among men. God, on the other hand, put Joseph to good use in that prison. God’s plan is (and has been ever since The Fall) to save as many souls from hell as possible. You and I both know that we need to trust God. Sometimes, our fears can resist.
“What if God needs another person to go to prison?” My fears ask.
Well, OK; that’s a valid question. What if I were to be wrongly accused and convicted of raping someone’s wife? That is a frightening thought. I don’t want to go to prison! But, here’s the thing, and you’ve got to learn to catch these tricks of your human mind: That wasn’t the question.
Remember? What was the question?
Shhhh. Search, prayerfully, if you find yourself in that same spot.
Ask yourself, “What was the question?”
In this case, the question is not now, nor has it ever been, “Do I want to go to prison?”
The question is, and has always been, “Do I trust God?”
The question is: Do I trust God? That’s the question. That’s the right and proper way to phrase the question because it is the question. Rephrasing that question into “Do I want to go to prison?” is to actually tell myself a lie. But, that’s oftentimes what fear does. Watch for it.
When you and I rephrase questions like these, sometimes subtly, into different, fear-soaked phrases, as I have been guilty of doing in the past, we’re taking God’s words and twisting them to fit our own fears. Can you see that?
If I change the question, it’s because I want to fit it into the context of my own fear. I want to justify and give power to my fear so that I can justify acting on that fear. If I can change the question to “Do you want to go to prison?” Then the obvious answer is, “No!” And, that allows me to shy away from the yoke of Jesus; to resist the leading of the Holy Spirit.
The right response is to take God’s word as the standard, unchanged, and allow His will and Spirit to carry us through our fears. That’s putting us, despite our fears, into the context of God’s question, which is right where we should be.
So, did any of that understanding of the purity of God’s word versus the way that I can twist it to fit my fears; did any of that understanding come about as the result of my entering into the obedience of worshipping God? Yes.
A sharpened focus has emerged. And, I’m nobody. I’m Joe the Rag Man. I’m not walking a better walk than any of you. I am, however, walking a better walk than I did previously. That makes my walk better than it was, by my own reckoning, not in comparison to you, or anyone else.
Fear, for the most part (as far as I can tell) is of this world. What I fear are things that can happen to me, here, during this lifetime. Faith in God assuages those fears, because I have hope in the next life, the eternal life with God. Hang on a sec… follow me in this: My peace in this lifetime rests on the hope I have because I know that I will be with God in the next life.
Before I was a Christian, I experienced moments of terror on the job. I was not a Christian. I was, however, pursuing God, and had a faith in the god I knew then (which was not God at all). But, my faith in that false god gave me strength to get through the ordeal.
Around the world today, millions of people have faith in a false god, by one name or another, and their faith may help them in this life. It is undeniable that faith in even a false god can help a person in this life. But, because that faith is misplaced into a thing that is not real, they will find no hope in the next life, which will be eternal.
What Almighty God has been doing for thousands of years is chasing relentlessly His penultimate creation for the purpose of bringing as many lost souls back to Him as will answer the call of the Good Shepherd, and return to the Father by the blood of the Son. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob does NOT want that anyone should perish, though millions surely will. He has presented Himself to the world and announced,
“For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me.”
Isaiah 46:9b, NASB.
And, Jesus has echoed,
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’”
John 14:6, NKJ
Were they telling us that to brag? To confuse us? To be mean-spirited in some way? No! A careful study of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, demonstrates that Almighty God is pained at our brokenness and has been moving Heaven and Earth to get us to return to Him. And, Jesus, God’s Son, is right there with the Father, as he was in the beginning.
Why doesn’t God just wave His hand and ZAP us all into eternity, then? If He’s God and He can do anything, then why all of this; this endless misery and suffering in the human existence? Just wave Your hand, God, and ZAP us into eternity, right?
God can, of course, do anything. Listen: God gifted us with the power to chose. He will not inviolate our choices! Misery and suffering are the results of human choices. People spending eternity separated from God, in Hell, is a human choice. God will not inviolate the choices. We all have the power to choose. We have the choice to accept truth, or to reject truth.
Take a moment to consider Jesus’ very last night alive on this planet (before His resurrection). He, Jesus, stood in his pre-resurrection body and begged Pilate to recognize Him.
This is me paraphrasing, which is too often frightfully unbiblical. But, give me this: Jesus stood before one of the key people who would enact the crucifixion our Lord and Savior had to endure. He stood before Pilate, and he tried to reason with him. Jesus wasn’t trying to cut a deal and gain His freedom. He was trying to reach Pilate for God so that Pilate would have his eternal freedom from hell.
Two men, face to face. The one: Facing imminent death on the cross. The other: Not yet facing that certain fate that awaits us all. The first: Facing death, and then assured of life forever with God. The second: With more life to live here, but with no hope for eternity.
And the one tries desperately, even as His own death draws near, to reach the other; to reach him for all time and eternity.
‘I’m right here in front of you, Pilate.’ Jesus seemed to be crying out that fateful night. ‘Can you not see me? I am the truth! I’m right here in front of you! Can you not see the Truth?!’
For clarity, let me quote the Scripture:
“Then Pilate went back into the headquarters, summoned Jesus, and said to him, ‘Are you the King of the Jews?’
Jesus answered, ‘Are you asking this on your own, or have others told you about me?’
‘I’m not a Jew, am I?’ Pilate replied. ‘Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?’
‘My kingdom is not of this world,’ said Jesus. ‘If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would fight, so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.’
‘You are a king then?’ Pilate asked.
‘You say that I’m a king,’ Jesus replied. ‘I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’
‘What is truth?’ said Pilate.
After he had said this, he went out to the Jews again…”
John 18:33-38a, CSB
Perhaps one of the saddest retorts ever uttered by a person, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” and then turned and walked away. Pilate turned and walked away from The Truth; The Truth who was trying desperately to reach him. It’s as if Jesus were crying out, that night, “One more, Father. Please… one more! May it be so!”
God wanted it. Jesus tried desperately to give it. Pilate, though… Pilate wouldn’t have it.
God wants it for us all. Jesus gave everything He had to give it to you. You, though… will you have it?
We serve the only God there ever was, is, or will be. The only God. All other gods are false. The faith that people place in them may give those people relief from fears, or some other emotional cushions in this life. The relief is temporary; no god can save any person from the eternity to come; an eternity spent separated from the God who made them.
If some other god could save people, Jesus would not have stood before Pilate and sought to show him the way to the Father. Only the One True God can save people from Hell. Almighty God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob… He is The One. And, the way to the Father is by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ arms are open, waiting, always waiting.
And, should you come to Him now, there will be rejoicing in Heaven before the throne of God.
Friend, if you have never actually realized your brokenness and gotten onto your knees before the God of Heaven & Earth, before the One who created time and space, who created you, then will you do so now? Admit to, and turn from, your sinful ways. Repent. Ask forgiveness. Place your faith in the finished work of the cross and ask Jesus to wash away your sins. Bring yourself to Almighty God and cry to Him, “Abba, Father, in the name of Jesus take me back into your arms so that I can be with You forever.”
Not one of us is promised another breath. That one you took just now could be your last. Do not wait, friend. What’s the point in putting it off?
For those of you who are already saved, will you not consider taking the plunge into the fountain of God’s mercy? Will you not respond to the call to worship; the call to the daily personal worship of our Majestic Almighty? Why wait? I waited for twenty-two years, friend.
But… I’m doing it now.
Worship God every day in a purposed, set aside time that is for nothing else but the worship of our Almighty God.
There’s no point in waiting. Just ask me.
“Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. He said in a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.’”
Revelation 14:6-7, NIV
Someday in the future, the angel foretold by the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation will proclaim that which is copied above. On that day, the angel will exhort people to worship Almighty God.
On that day. Why wait?
The Greek word for “worship” occurs more in the book of Revelation than anywhere else in the New Testament. That should come as no surprise to any Christian of even a modest acquaintance with the Bible. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew words for “worship” often occur in the historic narratives when God Himself utters the words, and in prophecy when God’s voice is spoken by those appointed for the purpose. The words spoken by God, or by His prophets, are a mix of both warnings to not worship idols and exhortations to worship the one and only true God.
John, in his prophecy, follows that same pattern. God reveals through John that many will worship the beast. We’re also shown how those in Heaven worship before the throne of God, and how the angel will shout loudly to the people of the Earth that they should worship God.
Well… why wait? Why wait until you’re either in Heaven, or until you see the angel in the sky crying out to us to worship? Why wait until Sunday service this week when you stand and clap and sing?
Why wait at all? You can worship God any time. Even right this very moment.
What about me? Do I have to have a rug to worship God? Of course not. This book is not about the rug. My worship of Almighty God is not about a rug. The rug was a call to worship for me, and only for me. You may have no such need of some physical thing to respond to the call for daily private worship of God. I needed the rug. But, then, I’m at least eleven times more thick-skulled than were the Israelites of old.
This book, then, has not been about a rug. It’s been about the call to worship God every day and in private.
This book has not been about not worshipping corporately. We should worship corporately.
This book has not been about not praying. We should pray every day, and often.
This book has not been about an object or a formula for daily personal worship. None is required.
God used the rug as a call to me. I’ll bet it was not the first attempt God made by His Holy Spirit in calling me to worship. I expect I flat out missed all of His other attempts. Many people, I’m certain, are not so thick-skulled, and will not require any kind of material aspect as a feature in God’s call to them. Although I required such a thing, make no mistake: The object of my worship is Almighty God. The rug is, as I’ve sought to explain, part of what I believe to be a small sacrifice of time and effort on my part every day as I go into private worship.
The rug has helped me to understand that worship is a truly sacred thing. Unspeakably sacred; beyond the reach of human words. That we do it corporately, and every Sunday, can give us the impression that it’s routine.
Worshipping the God of all things is not routine.
A carry-over from my daily private worship of God is the sharpening of my focus of what worship really is. It has shown me how deep and how sacred is the worship of Almighty God, and how unfathomable it is that a man like me is allowed to approach God in worship.
Worship aligns me under the covering of God, and shows me that it is right to begin each day taking my place under His covering, subordinate to His leading in my thoughts and my actions. Worship brings me to the point of being undone in this imperfect body stained by sin, and then reformed, each day, on my knees in the right posture of faith; undone as a willful disobedient denizen of this world each morning, and then reformed (each morning) as a man of faith; a grateful son of the Most High, adopted by the power of God, the love of Jesus, and the work of the Holy Spirit.
Worship teaches me that I still sometimes wrongly bring a worship-like behavior into my life that should NOT be there. Money, power, sex, and a host of other aspects of the human condition, can bring about in me a worship-like pattern of thoughts and behaviors. The daily private worship of Almighty God illuminates quickly, and more clearly, when and where those thoughts and behaviors emerge.
Daily private worship of Almighty God has become a time of instruction by the Holy Spirit; instruction in worshipping God in spirit and in truth.
Lest I should think too highly of myself, let me remind us all that the daily private worship of Almighty God is, after all, the very basic thing we were all called to do. To worship God; to speak the language of our eternal communication with Him; to offer ourselves before Him in the rightful worship of Him, is what we’re supposed to be doing.
It’s no secret. It’s not an advanced science. It’s Faith 101: Worship God.
But, in our world today, the enemy has obfuscated worship; has hijacked one of the most elementary behaviors of the believer and made it into a highly fragmented thing that people and churches argue and fight over.
We have, in our day, forgotten that worship begins in privacy. It begins there, in private, just you and God. May I repeat an often-read segment of God’s Word?
“Then God said to Noah, ‘Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number on it.’
“So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.
“Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: ‘Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
‘As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.’”
Genesis 8:15-22, NIV
When Noah left the ark, he immediately worshipped God. God didn’t tell Noah to do that. Noah just did it. And, God, whose heart had been grieved by what He’d had to do to the Earth, and to humanity, was moved. The one and only God of all creation, was moved!
Friend, your heartfelt and obedient daily, private worship of God may move God, too. I take from the above verses in Genesis, and from the whole of Scripture, that God is pleased by our acts of worship, and I believe He is pleased indeed by our private worship.
Jesus said that the time is now upon us when true worshippers will worship God in spirit and in truth. In my experience, true worship has emerged from the tearing down of various behaviors of worship that I’d adopted over the years as the “right & proper way to do it.”
In the daily private worship of God, His Spirit has led me to more clarity in worship. The corporate behaviors expressed (in general) by churches I tend to frequent have become less important.
I have come to love God so much more, and the nearly imperceptible actions I sometimes make now during corporate worship are all the more meaningful to me than anything I’ve done in the past while “caught up in the moment.” Those sometimes very subtle actions express the deeply personal worship of Him whom I adore. I think, although I won’t claim to be certain, that they are more meaningful to God, too. I think, although I won’t claim to be certain, that God’s Spirit teaches me, evermore clearly, how to worship as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said: In spirit and in truth.
That He would teach a man such as me… Oh, my.
I’m reminded so often, these days, of Isaiah Chapter Fifty-Five:
“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,’
declares the Lord.
“‘As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
Isaiah 55:8-9, NIV
Beyond the idea that God’s ways are past understanding is the fact that these words occur within the context of trying to grasp the forgiveness of God. How can it be? How can Holy God love or care about a wretch like me, let alone forgive me my sins? How can it be? The unknowable nature of God’s thoughts and ways are expressed in the context of our incredulity of His forgiveness.
How can it be?
Yet, it is so. We are God’s most-cherished creation, and He will never cease to pursue us corporately (the human race) yet singly (you and me). One God, one you. This is the intimate nature of worship: That we should worship Him daily and in private.
So, no; it isn’t about a rug. It isn’t about a place or a time or a thing. It’s about you. You taking time and making the effort every day to worship Almighty God in private. Just you and Him.
“God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
John 4:24, NKJ
For me, it came in prayer one evening, and I ignored it for twenty-two years.
You might be tempted to say, “I should wait for God to speak something like that to me directly.”
Well… maybe He is?
Again, I am not a prophet of God, and I don’t claim to be anything of the sort. I know, however, that sometimes God moves through other people. Maybe, just maybe, for you, these humble words of mine are that “other people.”
Maybe my story is to reach you in some way.
I’m not lovingly eloquent like Billy Graham was. I haven’t got the inspirational Biblical agility of Francis Chan. I’m not asked to speak at churches very often, or likewise asked to teach. I don’t seem to be a person people look at and think, “Man! That guy sure is spiritual!” No small groups are meeting tonight and reviewing my writings.
None of that is me. I’m Joe the Rag Man; just a regular guy. So, why should you listen to a thing I say?
You don’t have to. That’s the beauty of it. You can set this little book down and never give it another thought.
However, if you do want to grow more closely to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, then may I say to you, very solemnly, very earnestly, with all of my heart: Worship God.
Worship God every day, in private, all by yourself, with no other prayers or petitions offered. Offer your prayers at other times. As for your worship time… Just worship Him.
Worship Almighty God.
It could be two minutes. Keep at it. Like the young Denis Prager, if you don’t feel like it, so what? Do it anyhow. Every day. If you’re like me, you’ll miss an occasional day. But, it won’t be many.
I now understand how Daniel could pray three times daily. My hunch is that he spent some of that time in worship.
It will change you, my friend. I’d sought peace for decades as a destination; a thing to find; even a path to walk. Today, for me, peace is no longer a destination, or a road, and it isn’t a discovery. Today, peace is a blessing; a gift given to such as me.
As a gift.
To such as me.
And, that peace is part of the overall effect upon me of daily private worship of God. Again, I caution you to not pin your hopes on what effect I’ve gained. What you receive may be different, and the overriding imperative, anyhow, is that we worship Almighty God not to receive anything, but because He deserves our worship.
I wish I had the language to convey to you my earnest desire that you should begin today (if it isn’t already part of your life). You should. But, no, my friend. You don’t have to. You don’t have to enter into the daily private worship of Almighty God.
“That’s the beauty of it.” He’d written. “You can set this little book down and never give it another thought.”
… maybe you can’t.
Maybe you can’t ignore the call to daily private worship of Almighty God. Time will tell. Time itself is not actually the witness. But, time reveals what the actions of your life give witness to. Time, and a tiny little hammer. A year from now, and within the context of this matter, what will the passage of the year reveal to you about you?
Are you called to the daily private worship of Almighty God? Whether the answer for you is “Yes” or “No” I pray the answer brings you peace.
In the words of a truly wonderful Rich Mullins song:
“Peace to you. The Peace of Christ to you.”
The love of Almighty God, and the Peace of His Son, Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit… may they be upon you in power and in peace.
Peace to you.
The Peace of Christ to you.
All thanks to you, Abba, our Father!
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
Matthew 22:37-40, NIV
Dear friends, you will have noticed my quoting of four different Bible versions. You may be wondering, “Which one does he read?”
In today’s Christian world, we are driven apart by diverse issues & arguments. The question of “versions” is one of them, and I’ll not take the time to explain. You’ve either encountered the matter, or you simply haven’t bumped into one who embraces it, yet. Those who do become engaged in the matter alternately hate or love one version or another.
“Versions” actually are English translations of the Bible. If you count yourself among those who are passionate about one particular translation, then may these words of mine come to you as a reconciliation, not as a divider.
The Bible wasn’t written in English. Reading the Bible in our native tongue (English) is normal and right for us, because we speak English. So, it’s normal; it’s OK for us.
If you want to actually study the Bible, then you have to get out of the English.
Studying the Bible in English is very much like being a marine biologist who views the Great Barrier Reef without a mask. She has her fins to propel her through the water with ease. She has her wetsuit, thin and pliable, to help her stay warm, and to protect her skin from all things potentially harmful. She, likewise, has gloves to protect her hands. She has a scuba tank, with a regulator, that allows her to breathe air underwater, thereby remaining for long periods of time in that environment. She has a buoyancy compensator by which she can increase or decrease her buoyancy, allowing her to remain at one precise depth without effort as she studies a certain feature. She has each of those things (and more) for the sake of making a study of the Great Barrier Reef.
But, lacking a mask, she cannot see clearly. She can open her eyes underwater and see shapes and colors and some macro-level details. But, she cannot see the finer details that make an important difference.
The translator’s task is incredibly complex. Languages are not binary. That is to say that every word in Hebrew does not correspond to one specific word in the English (or any other language) that conveys the complete array of meaning.
Part of the work of the translator is to make the English translation of the Bible as accurate as possible AND (also) readable. To give you a glimpse of what I mean, H.C. Leupold, in his Exposition of Genesis, needed more than sixty pages of tiny font letters to provide his explanations on why and how he translated Genesis Chapter One. You’ve read Genesis Chapter One; it isn’t very long. In the Hebrew, it’s a little less than five hundred words in length.
More than sixty pages in English for less than five hundred words of Hebrew.
And, Leupold left a good bit out of his explanations (drat!). If, by the way, Leupold’s family or university has his notes, please publish them!
If the translators were to include every nuance of meaning in the thoughts being expressed by the original Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic languages, the Bible (when laid on the back cover) might stand as tall as a person.
That’s entirely unreadable.
We have, in our English translations, the shapes and the colors and some of the details. But, we don’t have the finest details. To get as close to the original details being expressed in the original languages, we need to STUDY the Bible in those languages.
I’m not saying you need to become a Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic linguist, although surely don’t let me stop you! There are plenty of excellent study materials out there to dive deeply into the original languages.
If all you ever do is read the Bible, you’re OK. You aren’t less-than in any way. But, by diving into the study of the original languages… Man! A whole new world opens before you in your understanding of the Bible!
The diving is really great, my friend!
So, no, I don’t generally have any preference as to which version I read from in the English, as long as it is Christian. Anything put out by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, or the Church of Latter Day Saints, to name just two, are no good, because those churches are not Christian.
By the way, there are good and bad study materials out there. Dive in; it’s the only way to become acquainted with them. Use this litmus test every time:
Does their translation or exposition change the nature of God, the nature of Jesus Christ, the nature of the Holy Spirit, or the nature of man from what the Bible teaches? Does it change the salvation of your soul into some works-based religion? If yes to any of that, then burn it and throw the ashes into your septic tank.
OK, listen: Don’t really burn it or throw the ashes into your septic tank. Burning things can hurt you or cause unintended fire damage to living things and property. Putting ashes into a septic system can cause it to malfunction, cease to work properly, and send a back-up of raw sewage into the building it serves.
But, the vitriolic derision necessary for such a fanciful reaction is what you should cast upon any study material that changes the nature of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or man, or alters the miracle of God’s plan for your salvation.
To the matter: I like to read Job in the King James Version, due to the extraordinarily colorful language, especially in Chapters 38-42 (Wow!). But, for the most part, I use another translation for general reading because it was the Bible I’d gotten several Christmas’ ago as a gift. It’s my “go to” reading Bible. Not for studying. For reading. I don’t know what the translation will be for my next general reading Bible. The one I have now is getting pretty torn up, and it’ll have to be replaced soon.
Maybe I’ll find out next Christmas!
“So if you faithfully obey the commands I am giving you today—to love the Lord your God and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul—then I will send rain on your land in its season, both autumn and spring rains, so that you may gather in your grain, new wine and olive oil. I will provide grass in the fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-15, NIV
“It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the LORD your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-15, NASB
“And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-15, NKJ
“If you carefully obey my commands I am giving you today, to love the Lord your God and worship him with all your heart and all your soul, I will provide rain for your land in the proper time, the autumn and spring rains, and you will harvest your grain, new wine, and fresh oil. I will provide grass in your fields for your livestock. You will eat and be satisfied.”
Deuteronomy 11:13-15, CSB
וְהָיָ֗ה אִם־שָׁמֹ֤עַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְוֹתַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיֹּ֑ום לְאַהֲבָ֞ה אֶת־יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶם֙ וּלְעָבְדֹ֔ו בְּכָל־ לְבַבְכֶ֖ם וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁכֶֽם׃ וְנָתַתִּ֧י מְטַֽר־אַרְצְכֶ֛ם בְּעִתֹּ֖ו יֹורֶ֣ה וּמַלְקֹ֑ושׁ וְאָסַפְתָּ֣ דְגָנֶ֔ךָ וְתִֽירֹשְׁךָ֖ וְיִצְהָרֶֽךָ׃ וְנָתַתִּ֛י עֵ֥שֶׂב בְּשָׂדְךָ֖ לִבְהֶמְתֶּ֑ךָ וְאָכַלְתָּ֖ וְשָׂבָֽעְתָּ׃
Deuteronomy 11:13-15, WLC
Scripture quotations marked CSB have been taken from the Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible® and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible® (NASB),
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. www.Lockman.org
Scripture marked NIV taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked NKJ taken from the New King James Version ®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture marked WLC taken from the Westminster Leningrad Codex, public domain. Retrieved 7/4/2020 from https://biblehub.com/wlc/deuteronomy/11.htm