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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Other gods

MoneyThou shalt have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20:3)

That short sentence is the very first Commandment. Which brings up a question…

Are there other gods — real ones, that is?

No-one counterfeits a three-dollar bill, but they do make fake tens and twenties. As any bank teller knows, the best protection against being deceived by a fake, is to know the real thing, really well.

In light of some counterfeit, esoteric, secret, good-sounding mysteries and “new” revelations going around today, I think we need to be reminded of the real thing: God’s word.

“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” (Deut. 4:2 KJV)

“Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Prov. 30:5-6)

“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Rev. 22:18-19)

Also,

“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Matt. 24:11)

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22-23)

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matt. 24:4)

Now to that question, Are there other gods — real ones?

“For all the gods of the people are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.” (I Chron. 16:26)

“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.” (Isa. 43:10-11)

“Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” (Isa. 44:6)

“I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isa. 45:5)

“Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:22)

Note: There are actual deceiving spirits masquerading as god, but they are created entities, angels who fell along with their master. They don’t go around looking like evil spirits, of course, they are charming, attractive, persuasive con men. If they didn’t exist, the Bible wouldn’t warn us about them.

“Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.”  (II Cor. 11:14-15)

Okay, who is Jesus, really – is he God?

“(God) Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;” (Heb. 1:2)

“And, Thou, Lord, (Jesus) in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.” (Heb. 1:10)

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3)

But aren’t there many ways to be saved?

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:17-18)

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name (Jesus Christ of Nazareth) under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

To reiterate:

“And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.” (Luke 21:8)

“And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” (Matt. 24:11)

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22-23)

“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.” (Matt. 24:4)

These cautions are especially relevant to believers today.

Discovery, ongoing process of worship

GrandSpiralGalaxyNGC1232So much more vast than all of space, Father God, just the edge of your little fingernail could crush our whole universe and disintegrate us into dust.

Creator of multitudes of galaxies, you are fully aware each moment of each infinitesimal component as each spins in perfect balance, obeying your design for it.

Yet having set these multitudes into motion, you made yourself small enough, intimate enough, personal enough and individual enough that you can see your own work with our eyes!

You experience it, explore it, examine it and enjoy it through our eyes, hearts, minds and souls. And as we discover your works in the vastness of your creation, you lead us to discover You.

You, your person and your personality. Your heart and your care for us, who you dreamed of and fashioned on this earth, this tiny planet, the people you have chosen for a habitation.

As we discover more of your works in heaven and in earth, help us never fail to discover more of you.

Adapted from February 2008 post, Creation.

God in Psalm 91

Psalm 91:1-2 (KJV) “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High elyown (el-yone’) – an elevation, lofty, the Supreme; from alah (aw-law’), to be high, ascend

shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty shadday (shad-dah’-ee) – from shadad, to be powerful, destroy, oppress, lay waste.

I will say of the Lord, yehovah (yeh-ho-vaw’) – self-existent, eternal

He is my refuge and my fortress: my God elohiym (el-o-heem’) – (plural) gods; supreme gods; from eloahh (singular), a diety; from el, strength, might; almighty;

in him will I trust.”

Imagine a majestic bird of prey, a raptor such as an eagle or hawk high among the mountain crags, powerful ruler of all it surveys. Destroyer of anything unwelcome that enters his domain, yet carefully sheltering and protecting its young — you!

Read this Psalm with that image in mind…

(1) Most High = elyown (el-yone’) – an elevation, lofty, the Supreme; from alah (aw-law’), to be high, ascend.

(2) Almighty = shadday (shad-dah’-ee) – from shadad, to be powerful, destroy, oppress, lay waste.

(3) Lord = yehovah (yeh-ho-vaw’) – self-existent, eternal; Hebrew national name for God, not pronounced; elohiym used instead.

(4) God = elohiym (el-o-heem’) – (plural) gods; supreme gods; from eloahh (singular), a diety; from el, strength, might; almighty.

God is working…

In the desert…


I have a dream
Excerpt from the Arabian Peninsula Newsletter
Used with permission
October 2010

Much like the famous song “I have a dream,” many Arabs have a keen awareness of the supernatural world of dreams. To dream something must mean something. It is also not uncommon for God to use dreams and visions among Muslims to give them a glimpse of Himself and His love for them.

Dreams are seen as being in touch with the higher world, an avenue of the gods. When folks do dream, they tend to ponder on their meanings and seek interpretations from their religious leaders. The founder of Islam had many dreams too; therefore they are very open to receive messages from above too.

When asking a seeking Muslim if he ever had a dream of Jesus, the answer is most likely a resounding YES. Somehow God uses this unpredictable world of dreams to reveal Himself in a personal way to many, if they liked it or not. For some it is the jump start to a spiritual pilgrimage for the truth, for others it is a fleeting memory to be filed away for later reflection.

Thousands of ex-Muslims testified that dreams played a significant role in their decision making process before becoming a Christian. Since it is not possible to influence the content of dreams, they experience it as very significant pointers on their road to salvation.

“How did you know it was Jesus in your dream?” was one of the questions asked of the dreamers by their curious friends. Sometimes they just knew, while other times Jesus talked to them in an audible way. They usually could remember an overwhelming sense of love and light, and often woke up in tears of longing. Meeting Jesus just seemed to change a person’s life forever.

The dreams put them on a spiritual journey that often cause them to go the mosque more frequently, to study the Quran more fervently, and to follow their prayer rituals more earnestly. But soon they discovered that Jesus is not to be found in the mold they were used to.

A sense of longing for more of Jesus persisted until they finally find a Bible in a language they could understand. Reading more about what Jesus said and did was like taking a flying leap forward in their search for the truth. They discovered that He was so much more than they ever encountered in their dreams, causing a longing for more of Him.

Some folks even dreamt some of the parables that Jesus told, and then discovered them anew when they read the gospels. By the time they made a decision for Jesus, they had long since stopped going to the mosque and rather spent their time in reading the Bible. Fortunately the Bible is available in a variety of Arabic dialects and translations, but finding a hard copy seemed to be a difficult venture. None of the bookshops in the Gulf countries (except one or two) sold Bibles.

The availability of the internet caused many to Google their way to a place where they could download their own personal copy to read. In spite of many government efforts to block Christian websites, the persistent seeker would always be able to find what they were looking for. Some even discovered Arabic chat rooms where they can voice their questions to a real person, or could chat for hours with a fellow believer.

“One of the most significant TV programs I have seen was when a Saudi man phoned in to an Arabic Christian TV show broadcast from Lebanon, asking the presenter a lot of questions about Jesus. When the presenter offered to pray with him, he immediately accepted, and prayed word for word after him, inviting Jesus into his life.”

“It was like peeping into the throne room of God, seeing a man transformed over the digital channel by waves of God’s love, finding peace and a future of hope. I was in tears with them, sharing their joy and awe,” confessed a worker in the region.

It’s time for urgent worship

Praise and worship are not the same thing.

Praise is telling God how you feel about him and what he’s done for you, how wonderful he is and how grateful you are, all wrapped up in a song somebody else wrote.

Worship is deeper, more intimate, more personal. It’s like singing a love song to the object of your adoration. Of course, you’re still using a song somebody else wrote.

And when you’re through praising God and worshiping, you give money to the church, hear a sermon from the preacher, request prayer if you need it, then go home.

That’s what I thought for years, until I researched original language for myself.

The English word worship comes from the old root word “worth-ship.” How much someone is worth, in respect, honor, position, wealth.

The New Testament Greek word carries a similar idea, but is used of a servant’s attitude towards his master – not exclaiming how great he thinks his master is, but being in submission, reverent, waiting for the master’s instructions.

The servant doesn’t inform the master of his own plans for the day. He doesn’t have any plans of his own. He doesn’t do anything until his master tells him what to do.

Jesus told the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well something about the future. He said, “A time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Just physically singing in a church service is not what he meant.

I still worship with songs other people wrote, but sometimes it’s not songs at all, it’s paragraphs, sentences or phrases, sometimes just feelings. Whatever it is, it’s not complete unless followed by listening for the Master’s instructions.

Recently the Holy Spirit said to me, it’s time for urgent worship.

What does that mean, I asked? What is it, and why is it time?

True worship begins with focused attention, he said. Not contaminated with distractions like other people singing. Not drowned out by the static of worry over what is going on in your life, your own thoughts.

True worship is hard, I had to acknowledge. I wasn’t very good at it. Trying to concentrate doesn’t wipe out all the distractions. My elbows hurt. My fingers seem stiff. Time for Tylenol?

I find my mind wandering, thinking about the people I love and their troubles. Concerned about the state of the world.

Worship too easily transitions over to praying for something. Praying is not bad in itself, but it’s not focusing on the worth-ship of God and listening to his voice, his instructions.

Without the critical element of true worship, I may not hear his instructions instantly or clearly enough to respond with confidence when he needs me to.

I was worried that I just can’t do it, no matter how hard I try. Then he reminded me of how I learned to play the piano, how I learned to type: practice.

Practice urgent worship. Focus on the Master and he will strip away all your unnecessary distractions. Don’t worry that you’re not perfect, just practice.

Okay, I said.

But why? I wasn’t sure if he would tell me, but he did.

Because a day is coming when he will speak a critical word. We must be able to recognize his voice and respond, perhaps in an instant.

Urgent worship will prepare his people to hear him clearly, when that day comes.

Creation

“Eye of God,” photo by NASA

Part of a Sunday night service at church recently was an assignment to write a poem or statement to Father God, to say what was in our hearts in worship to him. Those who were willing were encouraged to share what they had written. The comments and poems were beautiful, heartfelt, and ministered to the rest of us greatly.

Although I didn’t share what I had written, the following is adapted from it.

So much more vast than all of space, Father God, just the edge of your little fingernail could crush our whole universe and disintegrate us into dust. Creator of multitudes of galaxies, you are fully aware each moment of each infinitesimal component as each spins in perfect balance, obeying your design for it.

Yet having set these multitudes into motion, you made yourself small enough, intimate enough, personal enough and individual enough that you can see your own work with our eyes! You experience it, explore it, examine it and enjoy it through our eyes, hearts, minds and souls. And as we discover your works in the vastness of your creation, you lead us to discover You.

You, your person and your personality. Your heart and care for us, who you dreamed of and fashioned on this earth, this tiny planet, the people you have chosen for a habitation. As we discover more of your works in heaven and in earth, help us never fail to discover more of you.