What’s in a face?

I was reading 2 Chronicles 7:14 one day, “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”

A phrase in the middle sort of “lit up” from the rest and stopped my reading. I thought I knew that verse by heart – after all, I often referred to it when asking the Lord to forgive our nation and send revival.

But that little phrase in the middle, how had I missed that? What did it mean exactly, “Seek my face?” I soon found several other verses containing that phrase:

  • “Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually.”  (1 Chron. 16:11)
  • “When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek.” (Psalm 27:8)
  • “Seek the LORD, and his strength: seek his face evermore.”  (Psalm 105:4)

Other passages came to mind. Face to face is how God spoke to Moses, although cloaked in the pillar of cloud. The face of God is always on his people and his ears are always open to their prayers. The eyes of God run to and fro through the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are right towards him.

The meanings of the root words are pretty basic and easy to understand. Seek is from the Hebrew word darash, meaning “to resort to, seek, seek with care, inquire, require.” Face is from paniym, “face, presence, sight, countenance; i.e. the front of something, or in front of something. The surface.”

Since that day I’ve given that phrase a lot of thought. What is a face? What’s in a face? Here’s what I have thought, so far.

A way to communicate, one type of body language
Expressive; shows or hides emotions and physical feelings
Thoughts show on your face
Attentiveness, inattentiveness
Interest, boredom, curiosity
Attraction, repugnance, horror
Startle, surprise, fear, fright, terror
Concentration, determination, frustration, irritation, distraction
Meditation, thoughtfulness
Shyness, boldness
Embarrassment, shame
Anger, rage, wrath, anxiety, worry
Slyness

The mouth, ears, eyes, jaw, cheeks and nose; all the face is involved in expression, including the skin
Skin color changes, blushes, blanches
Eyebrows askew
Eyes wide open or squinting
Eyelids blinking; winking
Looking past, up, down, or direct; indicates attention level
Stare, ogle, glare
Wrinkled brow, raised brow
Wrinkled, raised nose
Pursed lips
Open mouth, closed mouth
Clinched teeth, clinched jaw
Smile, grin, or no smile
Frown, grimace
Twitching, tics

Indicates or hides direction of attention or focus
Eyes show focus of view, near or far; into the distance while meditating
Facade, fake face hiding real one
Intelligence personnel are trained to keep a stony face; comedians can tell jokes with a “straight” face

Slang terms / idioms in common usage
Face the facts
Face up to your responsibilities
Face up to it
Face it like a man
Face your fears
Face value
Face the consequences
On the face of it
Just a pretty face

So, “Seek my face.” What do you mean by that? I asked the Lord another night, after meditating on it a while. Here’s what he said:

My presence, my opinion, my feelings, my directions, my conversation, my fellowship, my purpose, my interests, my purposes, aims and goals.

My affection, my forgiveness, my mercy, my teaching, my training, my correction, my advice, my attention, my ear, my assistance, my mentoring, my example.

My face is not like your face. Vision, for instance, like X-ray vision. MRI. Ultrasound. Sonar. Infrared. Not bound by space or time or physics. Multidimensional, physical and/or spiritual, either or both at once.

He stopped speaking at that point and I started thinking about it again then, and often since then. Some of those thoughts, in no particular order, include

  • God has senses… well, of course he does.
  • Humans were created in his image; so were their senses, their computing and feeling abilities.
  • Any senses we have, God had first.
  • Sometimes there is a sweet smell like perfume, the aroma of his presence when you’ve been worshiping and praising him.
  • God has physical and spiritual hearing. Even the deepest thoughts of men are discerned by him.
  • The face of our thoughts is the surface of our soul.
  • But thoughts are not all on the surface. Thoughts are many levels deep, God’s and mine; they are similar in that way.
  • But God’s thoughts are countless levels deep and wide, not bound by time or distance.

There’s much more to learn, I know. More to search for, more to find. The Holy Spirit wants us all involved in that kind of search, I know. I don’t think we’ll ever finish finding out more about his face, his presence, his person.

The Prince of Peace painting is by Akiane Kramarik. It can be downloaded free of charge from https://art-soulworks.com/collections/prince-of-peace. 

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2018

2018 will be a year of contrasts, I think. I have been sensing some things about 2018. On the one hand, there will be more and worse disasters, chaos, tragedies, deadly weather, weird unique and odd evil happenings. So-called natural disasters will clearly be supernatural in origin. The magnitude and acceleration of these events will be impossible to miss.

There will be more political and religious deception, misdirection, sleight-of-hand and fake news. “Out and oust” has been my prayer in 2017 and we certainly have seen quite a lot of that! There will be more, occurring in many spheres of influence. Business, entertainment, media, and government will all experience their share of unpleasant revelations.

On the other hand, in this coming year millions more new Christians will come into the kingdom of God. There will be more appearances of angels and of Jesus. Breakthroughs will arrive – answers to long-time intercessions – as well as instant answers to current prayers, miracles and miracle healings; unusual supernatural events will become usual. Excitement, joy, exuberant praise and thanksgiving will fill the gatherings of excited new believers and mature disciples alike.

Sadly, while this is going on many people just won’t notice. The status quo will be the status quo. Many church members who like things the way they are, who like doing things “the way we’ve always done it” will be oblivious to marvelous miracles right outside their doors. Some of those churches will have the little spiritual life they still possess flicker and finally extinguish this year. As their numbers dwindle they may ask each other, What happened? By then it will be too late.

Teaching is one of my ministry gifts; some people know that prophecy is another. Prophetic prayer is one of the manifestations of that gift and prophetic teaching is a combination of both.

I pray for people around the world as well as here in Florence. Sometimes that does include prophetic prayer, but over these last few years prophecy and prophetic teaching have been reserved mainly for articles posted on Esther’s Petition. It’s true that quite a few of them have sounded pretty grim, but they have come to pass, nevertheless.

Many folks in our area don’t know about those articles. Many don’t even know I write Esther’s Petition, for that matter. I do post new articles on Twitter and Facebook, but of course not everyone uses those forms of social media.

2018 may be a year where those gifts are used more openly, more publicly, or more widely. I don’t know. But this one thing I do know: God is up to something, and he’s not going to be quiet about it.

The contrasts in 2018 are going to be vivid and obvious.

Worship

It was a mid-week church service, sometime in the early 1980’s.

Who was preaching? I don’t remember. Who was leading the singing? I have no memory of that. Who was playing the pipe organ, the piano, the drums and guitars? I can’t recall that either. Who was present? A few relatives, a few friends, myself and many others whose names I didn’t know. I was only a visitor, not knowing what to expect.

What was happening? That I will never forget.

The main floor and the balcony of the sanctuary was filled that evening. The preliminaries had taken place – greetings, announcements, offering, followed by hymns and praise songs accompanied by enthusiastic clapping. The congregation had taken their seats. But then…

A complete hush fell over the congregation. The silence was so deep you could have heard a pin drop. Literally. It was as if a thick cloud had descended, cutting off every nuance of noise. No foot shuffling could be heard, no throat clearing, no nervous coughing, no nothing. The quality of light subtly changed from that provided by the ordinary church chandeliers to a brilliance I’d never seen before. It was hard to keep your head up or your eyes open.

After only a few moments it was also hard to stay in your seat. Many didn’t. People began to slip off the front pews and platform chairs onto the floor, out of the side pews into the aisle. No-one spoke. Nobody even seemed concerned about it. Everyone was too affected by the manifest presence of God in the room to take notice of their companions.

About half-way back on the left side of the building, my own row was too packed with people for me to move but I couldn’t raise my hands from my lap. I just basked in the soft, cherishing, comforting presence of the Lord.

What was it like? The closest I could describe was like being wrapped in a warm blanket, sitting on my mother’s lap and hugged close.

How long did it last? I never looked at my watch so I don’t know. But gradually the cloud began to lift. The people on the floor were helped back to their seats. The pastor got to his knees, then climbed to his feet holding onto the pulpit, but he couldn’t speak. Maybe he wanted to try to explain what had happened but I don’t think anyone was listening anyway.

Because the entire congregation was worshiping, telling Jesus how much they loved him, how much they adored him, how much they appreciated him. Some stood to their feet with arms raised and tears flowing down their face. Nobody wanted to leave that night and many of us lingered for a time, too awestruck to drive home yet.

As we milled around, we discovered that several miracle healings had occurred throughout the sanctuary. Nobody had laid hands on the sick or offered to pray, but as the presence and power of the Lord engulfed them the sick and hurt were made whole. Pneumonia in an elderly violin-maker – lungs completely cleared. A cracked elbow in my school teacher sister-in-law – bone completely healed.

That was my first experience of worshiping God in spirit and in truth in a church service. I’ve had similar worship experiences since then, in church buildings, convention centers, and the privacy of my own home. God instigated, they are not for his benefit, but for ours.

(Originally posted in December 2015, worth sharing again.)

Church Set Free

It was a mid-week church service, sometime in the early 1980’s.

Who was preaching? I don’t remember. Who was leading the singing? I have no memory of that. Who was playing the pipe organ, the piano, the drums and guitars? I can’t recall that either. Who was present? A few relatives, a few friends, myself and many others whose names I didn’t know. I was only a visitor, not knowing what to expect.

What was happening? That I will never forget.

The main floor and the balcony of the sanctuary was filled that evening. The preliminaries had taken place – greetings, announcements, offering, followed by hymns and praise songs accompanied by enthusiastic clapping. The congregation had taken their seats. But then…

A complete hush fell over the congregation. The silence was so deep you could have heard a pin drop. Literally. It was as if a thick cloud had descended…

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High things, anti knowledge of God

Acrocorinth_And_Temple_of_Apollo

Acrocorinth mountain fortress (one Temple of Aphrodite was located there), with the Temple of Apollo below. Both were in ruins at the time of Paul’s visits.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (II Cor. 10:5)

Paul was quite familiar with “high things” in Corinth, high places such as the walled summit of Acrocorinth as well as the various temples to gods like Aphrodite, Apollo and Poseidon. Their worshipers sought love, peace, and protection with many forms of worship, including temple prostitution.

Worshipers sought success in life, whether it was good weather and good crops for farmers, safety in sailing the seas, excellent sales for merchants, the right mate, healthy children, good government, peace and calm, freedom from war.

Whatever the need, there was a temple to that god. Right worshiping, right offerings, right behavior – those were sure to produce right results. Right? Maybe not.

For “high things” Paul used the Greek word  hýpsoma, meaning an elevated place, height or high thing. Specifically it referred to an elevated structure, a barrier, rampart, or bulwark, high things such as walls built for protection around cities, temples, or castles. They were barricades to keep people out.

Only one other New Testament verse uses this word and there it is translated height: “Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)

Temples made with hands were everywhere in Corinth, just as in Athens, Rome, and Ephesus. Operating these temples was big business in this prosperous Roman colony. Who did this foreigner think he was, saying they were fakes? False? Phony?

Paul preached “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.” (Acts 17:24) Persecution was the inevitable result for Paul and the new Christians, then as it is today. Truth isn’t popular when it comes to big business, big money from immoral worship.

Everyone I know wants love, peace, protection and provision, including me. And they are indeed available, but not from false believing, not from false gods or false worship. Believing the wrong things puts up a barricade to experiencing and knowing the true God, his love, mercy, forgiveness, grace and power.

Paul warned about those wrong “high things” everywhere he went, including Corinth.

corinthThe following is from PBS (In the footsteps of Peter and Paul) about the city of Corinth and Paul’s visits there: http://www.pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/footsteps/footsteps_6_1.html

“After this he went to Corinth. Here he met a Jew named Aquila, who, with his wife Priscilla, had come from Italy recently because Claudius had ordered that all Jews leave Rome.”

“Paul approached them and, because they were of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked with them. They were tentmakers. He also engaged in discussions in the synagogue each Sabbath, attempting to win over both Jews and Greeks.” (Acts 18.1-4, 11)

Paul could have approached Corinth from Athens by land or by sea. After settling in, he spent his days in Corinth plying his trade and preaching in the synagogues with his hosts Aquila and Priscilla. The couple had left Rome with the Jews expelled by the emperor Claudius, and like Paul they were tentmakers. The tents they made or repaired would have been in demand for soldiers, travelers, and market stalls. Large, heavy and colorful, the tents were usually made from leather and heavy canvases.

The rhythm of city life in the Mediterranean would have found Paul at work from early morning until midday, leaving off work in the hot hours of the afternoon, and resuming later in the day. For eighteen months he built his community in Corinth, and he would return to Corinth more than once over the next years. When he left, he was joined by his friends Priscilla and Aquila. Paul was headed back to Antioch, but the couple would stay in Ephesus, and found a fledgling Jesus community there.

Located on the south side of the isthmus connecting the Peloponnese to the mainland, at the foot of a mountain fortress, Corinth was the capital of the Roman province of Achaia. A great lighthouse and Temple to Poseidon guided ships into the harbors, to fill the city markets and the warehouses down on the wharves with merchandise from the around the empire and beyond — spices from India, silk from China, linen from Tarsus, local Corinthian marble and variegated marble from Turkey, Greece, and North Africa, timber from Italy, and wine and olive oil, fruits and vegetables from fertile fields of Corinth.

Ships were dragged across the isthmus on a road called the diolkos, and in 67, Nero would begin to build a canal — using the labor of 6,000 Jewish prisoners from Judea — though it was never finished in antiquity. The city had made a remarkable comeback after its total destruction at the hands of the Romans in 146 BCE. The entire city had been razed-its people killed or enslaved.

Julius Caesar revived the city as a colony in 44 BCE, and by the mid-first century CE, Corinth had the largest population in Greece, a population that would swell with visiting sailors and merchants to the ports, and tourists attending the festivals of athletic games. Corinth served the nearby Isthmian games, an ancient international athletic festival held every two years. Dedicated to Poseidon, the victor’s prize was a crown of wild celery. Contests included chariot and foot races, and literary contests.

The games were revived in the Roman period, and added to with games in honor of Caesar. Two days journey from Corinth was the city of Epidauros, which had one of the most important sanctuaries to Asklepios, the god of healing. Pilgrims would come from around the empire in hopes of healing.

Because of its great wealth and transitory population, Corinth had a reputation for luxury, and uninhibited pleasures. This reputation was further bolstered by the city’s association with Aphrodite — her image appeared on the city’s coinage, and Corinth had at least three temples to the goddess of love, including one on the very high summit of Acrocorinth, where she held a shield before her like a mirror.

In addition, the harbors had their own temples to the goddess of love. In pre-Roman times, one temple of Aphrodite was served by temple prostitutes, and, though modern scholars debate whether ritual prostitution had ceased by the time of Paul’s arrival, there is little doubt that prostitution would have thrived. Brothels have been excavated in several Roman cities, including Pompeii and Ephesus.

But Aphrodite was important to the city in other ways, too. Born out of the sea, she could protect the sailors and ships on which the city’s economy depended. And Julius Caesar, the city’s colonial patron, claimed descent from Venus, the Roman form of Aphrodite.

The new city of Corinth is located east of the ancient city. A canal was finally built through the isthmus in the late 19th century, but sections of the diolkos are still visible. The excavations at ancient Corinth give some idea of the city’s former prominence; a Temple to Apollo has standing columns, and some streets and market shops can evoke the flavor of the trade city.

Along one side of the Forum is a bema – a platform from which Roman officials would address the public. Here the governor may have refused to arrest Paul. There is a museum onsite.

The mountain fortress Acrocorinth still looms over the site, and the view from the summit is well worth the hike. Also on the summit are ruins of the Temple of Aphrodite, among others.

The fortifications on the mountain are, in the main, much later than the Roman period, but indicate the continued strategic importance of the site for centuries. The harbor town of Cenchreae is largely underwater, but warehouses and a sanctuary of Isis are visible.

Nearby Isthmia, site of the biannual athletic contests, has a museum and remains of the stadium, city walls, and the sanctuary of Poseidon. In Epidaurus, the sanctuary of Asklepius is undergoing excavation and some restoration. The well-preserved theater at Epidaurus presents live theater in the summer.

For more, also see http://www.padfield.com/2005/corinth.html

Play it by ear

Or how I learned to play the piano by ear – I didn’t.

My daddy’s oldest sister, Aunt Myrtle, sponsored my piano lessons as a little girl. She had been a pianist for silent movies in the early 1900’s and loved any and all types of music. I dearly loved to hear her play, especially sitting close to watch her nimble fingers. Runs up and down the keyboard, crashing chords or delicate trills, it was all thrilling to me!

Myrtle still played for her own family, friends, and her own enjoyment too. Occasionally she accompanied someone who sang a classical-type solo at church, especially near Easter or Christmas time.

Mrs.WescottOh, how I wanted to play like Myrtle! And so, Myrtie Berry Wescott, a classical piano teacher, was chosen to instruct me. During the regular school year I would go to her house twice a week after school where for fifteen minutes per lesson she drilled me in music theory, scales, finger exercises, proper hand position, and practice, practice, practice!

I can still see her baton at the ready, threatening (but never actually rapping) the knuckles when your hands were being lazy, i.e. not properly lifted, fingers curled to strike – not mash – the keys.

Ms. Wescott was a stickler for playing music exactly it as written. She didn’t like her students playing anything she hadn’t approved… which meant no hymns, no sheet music, no “silly little ditties” such as Chopsticks, Three Blind Mice, or She’ll be Coming Round the Mountain When She Comes.

In her studio, only classical composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Chopin were used for memory work, especially end-of-year recital pieces. Difficulty increased, of course, as the years went on. Imagine playing 13 notes per measure with the right hand, to 12 notes per measure with the left hand. One of the Russian composers, my mind has kindly and lovingly blanked out that name and that piece – but I did learn to play it to her satisfaction, when I was about 15.

Well, while classical piano study was school-year work, summers were wonderfully filled with big band music, movie sound tracks, Hits of the 50’s etc., folk music, hymns and choruses, books and sheet music purchased by my parents as rewards for good work for my violinist brother and me.

I learned a great deal studying with Ms. Wescott. But what I didn’t learn was how to transpose keys. Whoever heard of changing the key on a Beethoven piece? Unnecessary! Unthought of! Unallowed.

Well, my lessons with her were completed when I was 16. After a few summer months of organ keyboard instruction sponsored by my church, I began playing the organ for Sunday services. (They had an excellent pianist but a fine organ with nobody to play it, until I came along.)

All went well for quite a while, until I joined Christian Assembly Church in the 1970’s and began playing the organ for services there.

The choir leader would sometimes say, “This hymn is pitched too high, let’s lower it a couple of steps.” I just looked at him in dismay – I had no idea how to do that. But the pianist did, so she would play and I would just sit there, feeling like a dummy.

After a few times like that I was disheartened. I loved playing. I loved the hymns, the gospel songs, the Easter and Christmas cantatas, all the praise and worship music. If it was written on paper, I could play it. If it wasn’t, I couldn’t.

It really bothered me. If I knew about the change of key in advance, I could write out the notes and practice at home and then things would go fine. But those occasions were rare. My heart almost grieved, not being able to play everything they needed. Should I resign as church organist and let them find someone who could do it? I was debating with myself.

One night I prayed about it – and woke up the next morning able to play by ear, in any key. (Only Christian music, oddly enough; anything else I still have to memorize as always.) It was amazing.

Not long afterward, a gospel quartet came for a special service one Sunday night. All their songs were lively and upbeat pieces they had written and as none of them played instruments, they sang with accompaniment tapes.

Then the pastor asked them to sing something slower, softer, more worshipful while people came forward for a time of prayer. Unfortunately none of their tapes contained that kind of music. One of them looked over at me and said, if we begin, can you just follow along? My heart pounded but I said, I’ll try.

And I did. Every song, even though none were familiar; they were all original pieces they themselves had composed. They sang and I played for over 30 minutes. No-one but me knew what a miracle that was, but it was.

Transposing choir numbers was no longer a problem. I just heard the melody and harmony in my head, found the key they needed and played.

Since that day I have played the piano in many places, sometimes with written music but more often without. Sometimes song leaders rotated from tenor to bass (Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship), or from soprano to alto (Women’s Aglow). I found that I could follow the leader in whatever key they needed. Our own church where I have played piano for many years uses chord charts, because the other musicians don’t read music. No problem.

So, whenever people ask me how I learned to play by ear, I just smile and say, I didn’t. Let me tell you about a miracle – did you know the Holy Spirit can play the piano?