Dale Lake; Sierra National Forest; Central California
December 6, 2021
As I was growing up in California in my Catholic family, I started hearing the word ‘worship’ from a young age. To me, the word always had connotations of the worshiper being in awe of God, and having to place himself in a subservient mindset before a powerful and distant being, usually on his knees. This usually invoked fear and thoughts of forced obedience within me, and it made me feel uneasy and far from God. This was especially trying when we were all, on some unique occasion, supposed to line up to kiss some blessed statue of Jesus, or even the ring of the Bishop. The feeling that I got was that you had to obey this God or you were in trouble! He was the boss and you were his servant, although somehow a kind boss. And it always seemed to me that the church was the preferred link that connected me to this God, effectively keeping him distant and unapproachable. It always made me wonder why, in light of this remote relationship with God, that most of the churchgoers I knew seemed relaxed and happy. Catholic school was similarly authoritative and made me afraid of getting out of line, especially in grammar school.
Outside of church and school, however, when I prayed or was just simply thinking about God and life, I felt a friendship with him and sensed his presence and caring for me. Also, whenever I was outside on our farm, I always felt a tranquil peace and enjoyed feelings of well-being and safety. Here I was free from fear and felt at peace with the world. I would wonder: Is this outdoor friendly God the real one, or was it the seemingly demanding one who watched your every move? I pondered this apparent dichotomy about who God is as I matured to adulthood.
As I reached 18 years old and beyond, this pressing question of exactly who God was became more and more important to me as I got closer and closer to the time when I would need to take over the reins of my own life from my parents. Honestly, the very word ‘worship’ scared me, and made me feel like if I really earnestly engaged in it, I maybe would have to give up my personal identity and let God control my life, almost like I was his slave. An uneasy thought kept coming up in my mind: Would I simply disappear? I really did not want that! What I really wanted was the friendly God that I always felt when I was outside on our farm and immersed in nature.
This all came to a head in 1974 when I was 26 years old, working for the CIA in Washington DC, and living in Virginia–far from my home state of California. Being “filled with the Spirit” was all the rage in segments of Christianity at the time, and that to me seemed closer to a personal encounter with the friendly God that I liked, rather than the authoritative and judgmental one. As I have mentioned in a couple of the articles that I previously published on this Journey to Truth website, I decided one night to risk asking God to “fill me with his Holy Spirit” and see what happened. Well, I did, and all my wondering about what the real God was like ended in a glorious revelation of God’s Spirit directly to my spirit! It was like visiting heaven without having to die first. This was accompanied by “speaking in tongues”, also known as ‘glossolalia’, and God’s Holy Spirit has been with me personally ever since.
This experience made me realize that God’s ultimate goal for humans in life was not simply to know about him, or to enjoy the fruits of his creation, or to learn about what is right or wrong to do in life. No! What he does is stock life with myriads of evidence, signs, hints, experiences, and wonders which point to his existence, and inspire us to seek him all our lives with all our heart until we find him. He can actually be seen and exists in every form of life, in every human being, in every facet of earth’s order, purpose, and beauty, and in the universe’s immense vastness and complexity! He is everywhere, you have only to persistently seek him and you will find him. And he is always very near, not far away and remote as one might imagine. I found him personally by earnestly petitioning him one night by merely saying, “God, please fill me with your Spirit.” But to seek him you must first want him, thirst for him, wonder about him, and then finally search for and find him. If you don’t pay attention to all the signs pointing to his existence, and will continue to point to him throughout your life, you tend to drift towards looking for other gods. This often tends to lead us to discard the real God underlying all of existence, and instead, substituting in his place a reveling in enjoying earthly pleasures as if that is the main purpose of life. Although scripture does expound on God’s desires for us to be successful in this world, it is always fruit that is prompted by his hand, rather than fruit that we produce and lavish upon ourselves. Scripture teaches us that first we seek and find God, and then he prospers us as he wills. And his prosperity does not primarily mean earthly pleasures, but rather our receiving the gift of himself as his ultimate wish for us, even on earth. That is because in our receiving his Spirit, we are receiving an infinitely greater gift than merely the world’s things and pleasures that he created. The world is not our god and not our goal in life. Only God is our God! In fact, if the world becomes our goal, then we become enemies of God. This leads us into all kinds of unexpected conflicts:
“Where do the conflicts and disputes among you originate? Is it not your inner cravings that make war within your members? What you desire you do not obtain, so you resort to murder. You envy and you cannot acquire, so you quarrel and fight. You do not obtain because you do not ask. You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly, with a view to squandering what you receive on your pleasures. O you unfaithful ones, are you not aware that the love of the world is enmity to God? A man is marked out as God’s enemy if he chooses to be the world’s friend.” James 4, 1-4
This scripture quote from the book of James above, gives us a clear picture and warning about the two paths that we can choose in life. One is pleasing ourselves, and pursuing as much worldly success, with its pleasures, things, and experiences that we can possibly attain. At the present moment, this is what we constantly see in America as the “new way” to live, and many people are choosing to trod this path in life, even Christians. Many also proselytize this path as the “universe’s” ultimate goal for all mankind, and that we must all cooperate to make it work. Any and all who oppose this goal are labeled enemies of this mindless universe’s will. They confidently assert that there is no God except ourselves, and we need only to look deep within to discover our own sort of divinity with its infinite power and direction to lead us. Beware!!! This is a satanic delusion which will ultimately lead only to your death and destruction!
The antidote that will effectively immunize us against Satan’s seductions is to take the other path in life. That path is to seek God, our maker, with our whole heart and soul and actually find him, like I did way back in 1974. Finding him will lead you to finally understanding life and just why we are here. There is nothing that can substitute for your knowing him in a personal way. When you do find him you will never again have to wonder about being willing or even able to worship him. Worship is merely a human being’s natural response to beholding the exquisite glory, beauty, and awesomeness of God’s stunning perfection! Real worship is not possible without his true presence within us. He is holy, he is sinless, he is powerful, and he is eternal. And the best part of all is his engulfing love and acceptance of all who sincerely seek him. No human is left out who approaches him with a humble and contrite heart. This means every one of you reading these words.
We cannot worship God if we don’t know him, as the title of this article proclaims. This is because our worship flows from the blending and intermingling of our spirit with God’s Spirit. At that moment we become one with him and share in his divinity, his eternal nature, his perfection, and his desire to be with us and love us. There is nothing like what we first feel when we realize that God actually wants to be with us, even with all our hangups, imperfections, lacks, and sins! This is when we begin to realize the immensity of who God actually is. None of this can possibly happen if God is only a concept to us. He is real, and we need to feel that reality to worship him.
Probably the best scripture to help us to understand the true nature of worship is found in the gospel of John, when Jesus meets the woman at the well:
“You people worship what you do not understand, while we understand what we worship; after all, salvation is from the Jews. Yet an hour is coming, and is already here, when authentic worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth. Indeed, it is just such worshippers the Father seeks. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” John 4, 22-24
Christians do not worship the air, they worship a living being; and that being is God Almighty, maker of all things visible and invisible. And he woos all people to be his beloved; that’s why the Church is called the “Bride of Christ”. Seek and find him today, and enter into a beautiful relationship with the one and only Eternal God!