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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 72
November 1996

TAKING PLEASURE IN THE LORD


"For many hours I learned new things about Maleldil and about His Father and the Third One ...

"He dwells (all of Him dwells) within the seed of the smallest flower and is not cramped: Deep Heaven is inside Him who is inside the seed and does not distend Him. Blessed be He!

"All which is not itself the Great Dance was made in order that He might come down into it. In the Fallen World He prepared for Himself a body and was united with the Dust and made it glorious for ever. This is the end and final cause of all creating, and the sin whereby it came is called Fortunate and the world where this was enacted is the centre of the worlds. Blessed be He!

"Where Maleldil is, there is the centre. He is in every place. Not some of Him in one place and some in another, but in each place the whole Maleldil, even in the smallness beyond thought. There is no way out of the centre save into the Bent Will which casts itself into the Nowhere. Blessed be He!

"Each thing was made for Him. He is the centre. Because we are with Him, each of us is at the centre. It is not as in a city of the Darkened World where they say that each must live for all. In His city all things are made for each. When He died in the Wounded World He died not for men, but for each man. If each man had been the only man made, He would have done no less. Each thing, from the single grain of Dust to the strongest eldil, is the end and the final cause of all creation and the mirror in which the beam of His brightness comes to rest and so returns to Him. Blessed be He!

"All things are by Him and for Him. He utters Himself also for His own delight and sees that He is good. He is His own begotten and what proceeds from Him is Himself. Blessed be he!"
C.S. Lewis[1]


Years ago, when I was but a wee lad, my parents gave me a brand new transistor radio -- my first -- for my birthday. Oh, my, but it was a grand thing: larger than palm-size, a handle on top, and colored a handsome tan. It had a glorious sound, and I thought it was surely the finest birthday present a boy had ever received.

The second best present I got for my birthday that year was time with my dad. Dad was not an inattentive father, but he worked long and hard hours, and didn't always have the time or opportunity to spend what we today refer to as `quality time' with his two sons. So it was a special occasion to be able to spend some private hours with him -- just me and him.

The rationale behind the decision escapes me from this decades distant perspective, but at the time it made perfect sense for us to spend the remainder of my birthday at a nearby limestone quarry, just east of town. Long since deserted, the old quarry offered a singularly daring adventure for a young boy and his father, with its roughly hewn crags and precipitous cliffs high above the huge water-filled pit. We spent the afternoon climbing about, testing our skills along the sharp ledges, discovering and exploring nooks and crannies amid the excavations made so long before -- with me, all the while, carrying my new radio in hand.

What made the event memorable for me was simply the time together. I have no memory of grandiloquent pronouncements from my dad, no lingering bits of eternal wisdom considered over fading twilight. My dad was of simple stock, an honest laborer with old grease pressed indelibly into the lines of his hands. His rudimentary vocabulary may have let him describe the machines that had carved up the stone in the quarry, but would have failed him in consideration of epochal mysteries.

No, what made the day special was simply being with my dad -- together, alone, sharing whatever there was around for us to share.

 

Communism

As I receive correspondence from people, on a regular basis I hear the following sentiment voiced, words to the effect: "I long for a closer, more consistent walk with Jesus."

This could easily be the petition of every believer; don't we all long to spend every day in closer communion with our Lord. Yet how is it accomplished? For every person wishing for such a thing there is surely a different book or pamphlet suggesting its own three- or ten-step method for accomplishing the desired result. For every believer dissatisfied with his or her walk there is someone else ready to tell them how to go about improving it.

Most of us can recognize deficiencies in our daily relationship with Christ, but the last thing we need are any more ten-step programs promising surefire success; we don't need anyone telling us that whatever has worked perfectly for them will surely work just as perfectly for us; and we certainly don't need anyone slipping us another paperback book, or cassette tape.

What was it that made that birthday with my dad so special? Why, after all these years, do I remember it with such fondness? Because, for a little while, I had the privilege to spend time with my dad, to get to know him more intimately, without anyone or anything else around to get in the way. It was special because I was given the chance to see him as he really was -- without distraction, without any fatherly or husbandly posturing -- my dad, yes, but also my friend and confidant.

If our desire is to have a more intimate, more consistent walk with Jesus Christ, the answer lies less in programs or methods than in recognizing and understanding two foundational things: First, knowing the person and personality of our Friend and, two, understanding who we are in His eyes.

This issue of Aspects will address the former.

 

ONLY ONE THING

Deep down, when everything less consequential has been cleaned away, when people say that they long for a more consistently close walk with Christ, what they seem to be really saying is that they long to be more like Him.

Spending time with Jesus means that His character traits are rubbing off onto us -- not the other way around; our goal is to be like Jesus, not to expect Him to be like us. We must approach Jesus on His terms.

Yet the mysterious paradox of this relationship is that, in Jesus, God has already met us halfway. God knows that people made of flesh will respond better to a Savior made of the same. So, in this walk, our companion is at once our God and our Brother. And therein lies the unique beauty of Christ: He is kin, yet superior, and our goal should be to emulate Him.

Today's society, however, has turned this around. It does not seek a relationship with a God who is already perfect, but instead seeks to conform -- what is in its eyes -- an imperfect God to its own standards.

It doesn't seem to occur to those who seek a "contextual" god that such a deity would be no god at all; a god who is a chameleon, changing his stripes to fit his environment, cannot possibly be real -- no more real than the crocodile god the ancient Egyptians invented so they wouldn't be eaten alive when dipping their toes into the Nile.

The point is not to lower God to our culture, but for us to rise into His.

 

One and the Same

No one wants a liar for a friend, so you either believe that Jesus was telling the truth when He said

or you should have nothing to do with Him. If you do believe, however, then this is your starting point. Time spent with Jesus is time spent with God, and is a precious occupation. This is what Martha's sister understood ...

Mary understood that a friendship with Jesus was like no other, and must be treated in a unique way. She understood that having Jesus as a friend meant that time spent with Him must take precedence over everything else. No other person in the room would be more important; no other activity could possibly replace sitting at His feet, listening to everything He had to say.

 

SWEET CONDESCENSION

The word `friend' has been devalued in our society. But in Jesus we see the character traits of a true friend.

The most fundamental -- and necessary -- requirement for a friend is that with full knowledge of our failings, he or she still chooses to spend time with us. Jesus knows us inside and out -- better than anyone else. Yet in spite of that knowledge, He still desires our company. In fact, we might almost conclude that Jesus actually prefers the company of sinners ...

 

Profit

[The Time is c.27 AD; the place is the home of Matthew, the publican. Matthew enters, holding the door for his guests, smiling and being the cordial host, pleased to have them here again in his home.]

MATTHEW


Miriam, more food for our guests!

(to the guests)


Joseph, was the lamb roasted to your liking? The honey sauce was made specially for you. And Ezrah, I know how you love the dates; my wife has prepared a bag of them for you to take with you. My friends and guests. You bring honor to this house by your presence. Most of us go back many years. Ephraim, my brother, it was you who brought me into this lucrative business -- and I am grateful.

(to the rest)


We have shared times of pleasure, opulence ... prosperity. We have drunk old wine and squandered new money. But now we must part.

(raising his arms to acknowledge their protest)


Please. I know; it's as much a shock to me as it is to you. But you see, this day I have made a new friend. This very morning I met Him and He has brought me wealth far surpassing what I have already. The riches He brings are difficult to bank -- but easy to spend. No -- no, Laban. He's not a new overseer from Rome!

 

(laughing)


My friend's treasure is not in a currency recognized by our gracious benefactors. No, Laban, He has bestowed upon me ... . light, where once there was darkness. He has opened my mind to truth where before was only greed and deceit.

(seriously)

My friends, we are a close fraternity and tonight the gates are shut against our detractors. Tonight let us be honest with each other -- just as my new friend has taught me to be honest with myself. We have taken freely from our countrymen!

(becoming agitated)


Under pretense of tax-increase we have systematically stolen -- yes, stolen from our brothers. And it is to our shame that we get away with it. Let me tell you something my new friend told me -- What? Oh I haven't?

(warmly; gesturing to introduce Jesus)


Why, His name is Jesus. But let me tell you what He said. My new friend said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store your treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves do not break in and steal."

(chuckling)


His words puzzled me. When I found my tongue, I told Him I was a man of reason and logic. I told Him what I understood best were figures on a balance sheet -- not poetry. Would He kindly explain the procedure for storing one's treasures in heaven? There was kindness in His eyes when He answered: "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world ... yet forfeits his soul?" It was then I realized -- for the first time -- how I had sold my soul for these worthless baubles! Thieves could clean me out and I would be left with nothing. Nothing! But Jesus offered me something far more valuable ... priceless, really: eternal life -- with Him. My friends, I chose His riches over mine. I have transferred all my precious possessions to His storehouse: my spirit, my devotion ...

 

(gazing at Jesus affectionately)


... my love.

 

(happily)


The rest I leave to you! Now I belong to Jesus. I don't know why, but He wants me. He has decided to include me on His balance sheet. But, my friends, I will be the one to profit.

[Matthew exits with a flourish.][3]


 

Now I Belong to Jesus

Jesus my Lord will love me forever,
From Him no pow'r of evil can sever,
He gave His life to ransom my soul,
Now I belong to Him;

Refrain

Now I belong to Jesus, Jesus belongs to me,
Not for the years of time alone, but for eternity.

Once I was lost in sin's degradation,
Jesus came down to bring me salvation,
Lifted me up from sorrow and shame,
Now I belong to Him;

Joy floods my soul for Jesus has saved me,
Freed me from sin that long had enslaved me,
His precious blood He gave to redeem,
Now I belong to Him;

             Norman J. Clayton

 

TOUGH LOVE

A little bit of knowledge about Christ can be a dangerous thing. For so many people -- both within and without the Kingdom -- the historical Jesus remains a friendly, tenderly sympathetic, rather bland individual who never raised His voice, never expressed any emotion beyond a simpering, "flower-child" kind of love for everyone around.

The whole truth is that Jesus was anything but bland, in possession of a spirited, energetic personality capable of the complete range of human emotions. And no one -- friend or foe -- should want to be on the receiving end of his wrath.


The Junior High years are when young boys can be guilty of doing some very strange things. During those hormonally charged days so long ago, I was whittled down to size most dramatically -- and traumatically -- during one Friday night football game ... by a friend.

Actually Dave Forrest was our next-door neighbor, a high school biology teacher, and all-around neat guy who taught me how to fertilize the garden by lining up dead fish between the rows of vegetables.

Friday nights in my hometown were reserved for high school football. Someone wisely arranged the seating at Franklin Field so that all the respectable townsfolk sat on one side of the field, while all the less-respectable students sat opposite. But many of the junior high boys (even less respectable than their older colleagues) mostly spent the entirety of the game roaming about the periphery, looking for as much mischief as possible -- and generally not paying attention to the game at all.

All along the east end of the fence that encircled Franklin Field was an ancient growth of wild cherry bushes. One fateful Friday night, while the hometown team was doing battle down on the gridiron, my companions and I were taking great delight in picking pocketfuls of ripe cherries and lobbing them anonymously into the students' stands from the relative safety of the shadows.

We were getting away with our mischief until, to my horror, Dave Forrest (what was he doing up there?), my friendly next-door neighbor, stood straight up in the middle of the crowd, swung a bony finger straight at me poised to hurl another missile, and shouted down for all the world to hear: "Lampel!"

I could have died. My friend and usually good-natured, easygoing neighbor was not only very angry with me, but he was angry in a most public and humiliating way. If there had been a rabbit hole nearby I could have easily squeezed inside. I was mortified -- and quite sure I had lost a friend.

But I hadn't. Even at that young and erratic age I understood that he was absolutely right: I was wrong to be doing that, and needed to be taken down a peg. Who better for that task than a friend.

 

True Friend


Many people think God's grace consists only of His blind acceptance of us in spite of our sin, but His grace has more dimensions than that. It also consists of His caring enough to train us up well, to disciple us, and to rebuke us when necessary. That is true grace.

Peter may not have been thinking of grace that day when, once again, he uttered foolish words. Like me at that Friday night football game, he may only have been thinking about finding a hole to crawl into. Only a short time before he had given a perfectly splendid showing of himself when Jesus had quizzed him and his fellows.

It's easy to picture the group standing about, scratching their heads, wondering to themselves what Jesus wanted them to say.

Maybe some of them were as confused as those they quoted. Jesus wanted to know what they thought.

And now here's Peter, elbowing his way through the others to stand before Jesus, to declare forthrightly:

Jesus, the perfect friend was quick to praise -- but just a short while later was equally quick to rebuke.


Here is the kind of friend we truly need. In this day of "political correctness", rampant pandering and duplicity, it's difficult to find anyone who will be straight with us.

Jesus will be straight, an honest friend. When we're right, He encourages us; when we're wrong, He corrects us -- and because He is God, He has the right to.


Selah

I need Jesus, my need I now confess;
No friend like Him in times of deep distress;
I need Jesus, the need I gladly own;
Though some may bear their load alone,
Yet I need Jesus.

I need Jesus, I need a friend like Him,
A friend to guide when paths of life are dim;
I need Jesus, when foes my soul assail;
Alone I know I can but fail,
So I need Jesus.

I need Jesus, I need Him to the end;
No one like Him, He is the sinner's Friend;
I need Jesus, no other friend will do;
So constant, kind, so strong and true,
Yes, I need Jesus.

             George O. Webster


 

THE TIRELESS SERVANT

The apostle John wrote

Anyone who questions the reality -- and susceptibility -- of that earthly flesh need only read the gospel accounts of His ministry:

During His time on earth, Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, yet His deity did not prevent His flesh from becoming weary of the pace and the constant demands placed on Him by the crowds of people.

But Jesus was always giving -- even when His spirits were at their lowest.

John was the cousin of Jesus, but more importantly, he had been God's designated forerunner -- the one to announce the arrival of and go before the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. So in one stroke of the executioner's axe, Jesus lost His friend, a member of His family, and His ministry partner.

On top of that, Jesus was bone-weary from the constant traveling and ministering to the needs of others. With the sad news delivered by John's disciples, and His need for rest, Jesus sought some time for restoration.

But as so often happened, the people weren't far behind. Hungry for His good news -- as well as His miraculous healing touch -- the crowds of people pursued Jesus everywhere He went.

Matthew tells us that Jesus also healed many of the people. How large was the crowd? Five thousand men, plus women and children. Jesus accomplished all this in spite of His being tired in body and sick at heart over the loss of His friend and brother in ministry, John.


Jesus still gives beyond measure. He may no longer become weary in body, but Jesus is still a friend who never grows weary of meeting all our needs; He is still an advocate who never loses faith in His charges.

Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all;
He is my strength, from day to day,
Without Him I would fall.
When I am sad, to Him I go,
No other one can cheer me so;
When I am sad He makes me glad,
He's my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
My friend in trials sore;
I go to Him for blessings, and
He gives them o'er and o'er.
He sends the sunshine and the rain,
He sends the harvest's golden grain;
Sunshine and rain, harvest of grain,
He's my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
And true to Him I'll be;
Oh, how could I this Friend deny,
When He's so true to me?
Following Him I know I'm right,
He watches o'er me day and night;
Following Him, by day and night,
He's my Friend.

Jesus is all the world to me,
I want no better friend;
I trust Him now, I'll trust Him when
Life's fleeting days shall end.
Beautiful life with such a friend;
Beautiful life that has no end;
Eternal life, eternal joy,
He's my Friend.

             Will L. Thompson

 

"JESUS HIMSELF ... WALKED ALONG WITH THEM"

Is there anything more pleasing and satisfying for the Christian, than the idea of Jesus, the very Son of God, dead then resurrected, walking alongside, taking part in our lives?


Here we have what may be the best Scriptural example of how Jesus works in our lives today -- how He comes alongside, for a little while, to help and enlighten, to set us straight, then quietly leaves as quickly as He came.

Haven't we all wondered what it must have been like to be Cleopas or his companion that day on the road to Emmaus? Haven't we all thought to ourselves that surely we would have recognized Jesus immediately. Yet very often, even today, we miss His presence.

Like these two disciples,[4] we plod along, trying to work things out for ourselves, befuddled by events and frustrated by our inability to understand the mysteries of life. Like them, we're sometimes blind to the presence of Jesus, thinking we're doing things on our own when He's been there all along.

When we finally see that someone, or something, is there helping, we may imagine that it's only our own wisdom masquerading as a stranger. "Oh, then you know more than I; so tell me, so I'll know, too."

Something deep inside us -- why must we repeatedly be told that the Spirit is always at work? -- whispers that it is really the Lord, but we push the idea aside. It can't be Him; surely we can work this small thing out for ourselves.

But the Lord says "What things?" So we do our best to explain, stumbling and tripping over our tongue, our reason swathed in thick cotton, like trying to explain the clarity of nocturnal imaginings with clouded memory, a sleep-masked brain, and a tongue formed from the bottom of an old shoe.

But He listens, kindly, until even He loses patience with our slow-headed obstinacy. And, good friend that He is, Jesus takes us to task:

"You're being foolish! You should know this by now! How long will it take? Listen to me, let me explain again how it all works together..."

So we listen, but the dim bulb only begins to glow a little brighter -- not yet to full wattage. Recognition comes, but slowly. The many layers of human reason cling stubbornly to us, loathe to give way to the light of the eternal.

After awhile, though complete realization is still a ways further, we invite Him to stay. He's a pleasant enough chap, good company and, anyway, who knows -- maybe He just might hold the key.

So dinner is served, the table spread. We take our places about the table and, because we're polite, we invite the wise stranger to say grace. As He lifts His gaze heavenward and gives thanks for the bread, the bulb finally comes to full glow. It is the Lord!

It was Him all along! It was Jesus listening to our frustration, our confusion and misgivings; it was Jesus patiently explaining what we now see was the truth; it was Jesus who walked beside us, shared our weepings and our joy, who took hold of our hand, who picked us up when we fell. It was Him all along!



Here is the ultimate act of a true friend.

Jesus Christ has already demonstrated -- in a most profound way -- His friendship for us. He made the first move; He chose us out, and made the sacrifice before we even knew we needed Him to do it.

And how do we know Jesus is our friend -- real, touchable -- and not just some mystically conjured extension of God, sacrificed, then quickly retrieved to heaven?


Jesus, these eyes have never seen
That radiant form of Thine;
The veil of sense hangs dark between
Thy blessed face and mine.

I see Thee not, I hear Thee not,
Yet art Thou oft with me;
And earth hath ne'er so dear a spot
As where I meet Thee.

Like some bright dream that comes unsought
When slumbers o'er me roll,
Thine image ever fills my thought,
And charms my ravished soul.

Yet though I have not seen, and still
Must rest in faith alone;
I love Thee, dearest Lord, and will,
Unseen, but not unknown.

When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
And still this throbbing heart,
The rending veil shall Thee reveal,
All glorious as Thou art.

             Ray Palmer


Selah

Jesus is a personal Savior who is also a personal friend. In the spaces provided, list character traits you would use to describe the perfect friend. Then, to the right of each word, list Scripture references that show that Jesus possesses and demonstrates these traits.


                       Mat. 12:46-50
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NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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Issue No. 72
November 1996

NOTES

[1.] From his novel, Perelandra (Macmillan, c.1972), Chapter 17, p 210ff. (return to footnote 1)

[2.] Time Magazine, October 28, 1996 Volume 148, No. 20, Genesis Reconsidered, by David van Biema. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] Profit, from The Twelve, #mon3 in the His Company Catalogue; Copyright David S. Lampel, all rights reserved. (return to footnote 3)

[4.] Not part of the remaining eleven in the inner circle, but followers nonetheless. (return to footnote 4)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1996 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1996 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION


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