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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 74
January 1997

WHO'S ON FIRST?


In New York City, in 1952, The Today Show premiered with Dave Garroway as host. It was unique for its time. The host wandered around the set with a curious round brace hanging from his neck that held the large microphone pointed toward his face. The camera roved with Garroway, showing the news people working at their desks (many of them puffing cigarettes with what today would be considered frightful elan), and revealing to the national audience the heavy camera cables strewn about the studio floor. When it came time to report the weather, Garroway stood behind a clear plastic outline of the U.S. and drew in the weather with a black marker.

My most vivid memory of watching The Today Show, as a child growing up in the first decade of my life, is of the huge picture window that revealed to the TV audience the street outside the NBC studio--and the people of New York walking by and, occasionally, stopping to peer into the window and into the camera that stood on the other side.

This was the Fifties, remember, and television was still relatively new. The people on the street would stand there, silently gazing through the window, almost embarrassed that they were looking, and, at the same time, being seen. I remember feeling even a little embarrassed myself, at watching them from my living room in Iowa--half a country away.

The attitude of the bystanders there on the sidewalk seemed to be that they should be quiet, and respectful of what was transpiring on the other side of the glass--as if they were seated in rows at the theatre, and should be quiet so as to avoid bothering the actors on the stage. Oh, they might lean over and whisper to each other, maybe smile when Mr. Garroway would address them directly from inside. But the mood overall was subdued and courteous.


Now fast-forward to 1996. The Today Show has returned (after a long absence) to the format of the picture window opening out onto the New York street. Only now the scene is remarkably different.

Through the glass directly behind the hosts we see the crowd of onlookers rubbernecking at the camera, waving their arms and bodies about, lifting small children over their heads, and shouting for attention. When Al Roker, the weatherman, steps outside for his segment, and approaches the crowd, they must be held back by a cordon and a staff of people there just to manage the crowd.

The people come dressed in outrageous costumes, climbing all over each other, clamoring for the camera to attend to them. They scream and shout and bellow their names and their messages. Businesses send emissaries to elbow their way forward, shoving outlandish gifts out to the sometimes nonplused Mr. Roker, in an effort to garner some free publicity.

In fact publicity seems to be the purpose behind the entire distasteful exercise. From the young couple on their honeymoon, or the family on vacation, to the bizarrely-costumed attention seekers, everyone in attendance seems bent on pushing their face into the camera at any cost. And no one seems to be bothered by the fact that while they are screaming and waving their arms in front of the camera, poor Al Roker is just trying to be heard delivering the weather.

The extent to which people will go was demonstrated in a most obnoxious manner during a recent show. For the beginning of the holiday season, the Radio City Rockettes were there to perform a routine as wooden soldiers. A large wooden floor had been set up outside, and the dancers were intently going through their paces to the sound of amplified music.

But for the most part the music could not be heard for all the bellowing and screaming of the crowd that encircled the floor. As the dancers valiantly performed, the attention of the TV audience was repeatedly stolen by people lifting placards over their heads, waving their arms and shouting at the camera. It didn't matter to them at all that just inches away from them were performers trying to do their job. All they cared about was themselves.

 

Ambition and Conceit

A cancer of arrogance and self-promotion is spreading throughout society --obvious enough through the media, but also weaving its diseased tendrils into the relative sanctity of families and churches. An entire industry has even sprung up to service and promote this sickness, as television talk shows parade one person after another to disgorge the bile from their lives before the camera--all for the sake of the attention.

The outward products of this scourge are an absence of civility, of even a rudimentary courtesy displayed toward others, and a gross pleading for attention. But the root of the disease is a loss of basic humility. Humble people would not behave in this manner.


The apostle Paul capsulizes the preferred alternate behavior for us in his epistle to the Philippians.

Jesus described Himself using similar words, suggesting that we become like Him.

Regrettably, what one sees in the behavior of those outside the NBC studios each morning is more "selfish ambition" and "vain conceit" than evidence that they are "gentle and humble in heart."

But, to be fair, their behavior is no more egregious than

The world's system teaches in direct opposition to the ways of Christ. Instead of humility and gentleness, it teaches

The Christian is not to gain his or her insight from the self-promoting wisdom of the world, but rather from the righteous precepts of God. This world holds no counsel for the child of God wishing to live a life according to the pattern and example of Christ.

Not I, but Christ, be honored, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action;
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.

Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee;
Oh, that it may be no more I,
But Christ that lives in me.

Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow;
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden!
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.

Not I, but Christ, in lowly, silent labor;
Not I, but Christ, in humble, earnest toil;
Christ, only Christ! no show, no ostentation!
Christ, none but Christ, the gatherer of the spoil.

Christ, only Christ, ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling, soon, full soon, I'll see _
Christ, only Christ, my every wish fulfilling _
Christ, only Christ, my All in all to be.

           Mrs. A.A. Whiddington

 

RANK DEBATE


Jesus had just dropped a bomb. It was the occasion of Passover, and His last supper with the disciples, and in the same breath with offering the bread and the cup to His disciples, He had finished with

Suddenly the table began to buzz. What is He talking about? Who is He talking about? Betrayal? Who would do such a thing? It certainly isn't me! Is it you? Are you the one?

Suddenly the furtive glances, whispered suspicions. Suddenly twelve men who had eaten, slept and ministered together for three years were wondering aloud and in the privacy of their imaginations just which one of them could be the one who would betray Jesus.

Perhaps it was only natural--it's a short step from considering the worst to a similar consideration of the best--that their conversation would then move to a dispute over who among them would have top billing. Perhaps in defending themselves against accusations of treachery, some of them began itemizing their personal accomplishments, and value to the kingdom.

The disciples had short memories. This issue had been dealt with before when, earlier in their ministry, Salome--the wife of Zebedee, mother of the disciples James and John, and sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus _ had come to Jesus with a singularly presumptuous request:

One day I mustered every bit of my courage and requested an audience with Jesus. You know, it's hard to explain, but ... He always seemed to know beforehand what you were going to say.

Human nature being what it is, the disciples were at it again, comparing notes on which one of them should be considered the greatest.

 

Small Minds, Poor Hearing

It is easy for us, with well-practiced hindsight, to be critical of these small-minded men. With the advantage of the printed chronicle, we can take them to task for behaving so selfishly when Jesus' arrest and crucifixion were in sight. Because Jesus is a more distant Savior to us --because we have been spared the privilege of being with Him when He ate, when He slept, when He grew weary from the rigors of traveling the paths of His ministry--we can stand aghast at the temerity of these men to think themselves somehow worthy of such honor in the presence of the very Son of God.

So in our humility we can confess that under similar circumstances we may have behaved as foolishly as the twelve. They didn't know that in just a few short hours Jesus would be tried, scourged, then nailed to a tree; they didn't yet know the significance of this last supper with their Master; and they didn't know He would very soon be returning to His heavenly home.

But if holy Scripture is here for our enlightenment, then we should not quickly pass over the lesson from this scene.

The disciples demonstrated profound arrogance in their pursuit of such honor--as well as proof that they had not been learning the lessons of Jesus' life. To them, Jesus had said

In their presence, He had

Yet the disciples--even if they had understood the lessons from His life--had not applied those lessons to their own. If they had, they would not have been arguing over rank.

 

Standing in the Shadow

Perhaps not every disciple of Jesus was guilty of a self-centered devotion to their own accomplishments. Andrew, the younger brother of Simon Peter had a reputation for bringing people to Christ.[2] Beginning as a disciple of John the Baptist,[3] Andrew felt led to follow Jesus instead, and throughout His ministry he is seen bringing others to his Master.

Filling in the blanks of his life, we can imagine how a conversation might go between Andrew and his sister, as he demonstrates for her that he, at least, is grasping the lessons taught by Jesus.


The Time: Near the end of Jesus' Ministry
The Place: Capernaum

[Enter Andrew and his sister Rebekah. Rebekah is a few years younger than Andrew and both are younger than their brother, Simon Peter. Andrew is a calm, friendly person who enjoys bringing people to his master, Jesus. Rebekah is an easily excitable young woman who is having a difficult time understanding the ways of her brother.]

REBEKAH
(as they enter)


So tell me more of what happened!

ANDREW


It wasn't that big a thing--

REBEKAH


That's what you say. Because of you more than five thousand people were fed from a boy's lunch? And you say it's no big thing.

ANDREW
(stopping)


You're getting it all wrong. (matter-of-factly) I brought the boy to Jesus; the boy gave his lunch to Jesus; Jesus is the one who fed five thousand from the little boy's lunch. I had nothing to do with it.

REBEKAH


But you brought him.

ANDREW
(shrugging his shoulders)

Could have been anyone else.

REBEKAH
(shaking her head in disgust)


Andrew, you are never going to make anything of yourself in this world. You've got to have more self-respect, more ... pride.

ANDREW


You don't know--

REBEKAH


Why must you always be standing in the shadow of someone else? You are important, too.

ANDREW


But Rebekah, you don't understand--

REBEKAH
(oblivious to his protests)


You're always talking about our brother, Simon--

ANDREW
(suddenly brightening)


Oh, did I tell you? Jesus gave him a new name! He is now called Simon Peter, (proud of his older brother) the Rock!

REBEKAH


You see, there you go again! Always Simon this, and Simon that. I love our brother as much as you, but you seem to care nothing for yourself. Always bringing others to Jesus--always giving someone else first place.

ANDREW


Rebekah, I don't think you've really been listening to the teachings of Jesus. None of us is more important than the others.

REBEKAH


Even when you were a disciple of the baptist you--

ANDREW
(excitedly)


There, you see! John was the perfect example of a servant. Everything he did pointed others to the Lord, not himself. (pause; seriously) Maybe I learned more from John than I thought.

REBEKAH
(solemnly)


Yes, and we all know what happened to him.

ANDREW
(affectionately; placing his hands on her shoulders)


Dear sister, listen to me, and profit from the words of Jesus. One day while we were on the road, Jesus spoke to us of this very thing. He said, "Whoever among you wishes to be great, he must be your servant; and whoever wishes to be the first must be your slave."

REBEKAH
(shaking her head)


That doesn't make any sense!

ANDREW


Ah, but He went on to say, "This is just as the Son of Man"--He was speaking of Himself, you see--"did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

REBEKAH


His words are meaningless to me.

ANDREW


Well, you're not alone. I'm just beginning to grasp it myself. Earlier that day, Jesus was talking about what was going to happen to Him--as He had before. "The Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes and they will condemn Him to death, and will deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up." It's hard for us to imagine such a thing. Our master ... to die? And He already knows of it? Sometimes He tells us stories, and some think this is just another of His parables. But I'm not sure. I think this is more than a story.
But whatever happens, I'm beginning to understand what He's saying. There will be some purpose in His death. Somehow, others will profit by His sacrifice. I know it makes no sense to us. But you should see into His eyes when He speaks of it ... Then you would believe.

REBEKAH
(defiantly)


The words of your master are not proven by history.

ANDREW


He doesn't speak of the past. He speaks of the future.

REBEKAH
(almost mocking)


And what of all these servants? Where is their reward?

ANDREW


He said it a long time ago: "Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth."

REBEKAH


And that's why?

ANDREW


I'm not the way I am because of some future inheritance. You know very well I have always deferred to others. I was always happy in the shadow of Simon. But I know that now--and in the future--Jesus will need followers who are simply ordinary people. People who place the welfare of others before their own.
[Andrew smiles reassuringly at Rebekah, placing his arm around his sister as they exit.]

ANDREW
(continuing)


And if there is some inheritance for that, it will be the reward of having lived a life for Him.[4]

All for Jesus, all for Jesus!
All my being's ransomed pow'rs:
All my tho'ts and words and doings,
All my days and all my hours.
All for Jesus! all for Jesus!
All my days and all my hours.

Let my hands perform His bidding,
Let my feet run in His ways;
Let my eyes see Jesus only,
Let my lips speak forth His praise.
All for Jesus! all for Jesus!
Let my lips speak forth His praise.

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,
I've lost sight of all beside;
So enchained my spirit's vision,
Looking at the Crucified.
All for Jesus! all for Jesus!
Looking at the crucified.

Oh, what wonder! how amazing!
Jesus, glorious King of kings,
Deigns to call me His beloved,
Lets me rest beneath His wings.
All for Jesus! all for Jesus!
Resting now beneath His wings.

           Mary D. James

 

SERVANTHOOD


 

Balance

It's hard for mere mortals to live a balanced life--and there is possibly no profession in which this is more difficult than the ministry. Pastors, especially, seem to always be struggling to balance the different responsibilities of their calling. And many, try as they might, never achieve that balance.

Some ministers are spellbinding speakers, but not very effective counselors; some teach and explain the Scriptures with a profound clarity, yet have a hard time consoling someone in the hospital; others are wonderful friends, one on one, but their preaching is lackluster, rarely able to put into words what they feel in their heart.

One pastor in my youth had a powerful personality and delivery behind the pulpit, but when he would step down from the platform, I always felt like he was angry with me. Another pastor of my youth was a terrific guy --someone to play ball with--but could rarely hold my attention with his sermon.

I've known pastors who were like CEOs, pastors who were like janitors, pastors like professors; I've met preachers who could stop my heart from beating with their eloquence, yet could not reach me in any other way; and I've known shepherds for whom I would walk through fire, but whose sermons put me to sleep.

One pastor of a church I belonged to was only a fair speaker, but I marveled at his willingness to pitch in and get his hands dirty. Every Wednesday night you could find him helping out in the kitchen with the church supper--and if he wasn't there, he'd be out setting the tables or unfolding chairs. One time I helped him take a load of newspapers to a collection point. We opened the storage bin only to discover that ants were swarming all over the stacks. Without hesitating, the pastor set to the task, doing what was necessary to move the newspapers into the truck. He had a true servant's heart, yet his expositions of Scripture often left me with more questions than answers.


Master, no offering, costly and sweet,
May we, like Magdalene, lay at Thy feet;
Yet may love's incense rise,
Sweeter than sacrifice,
Dear Lord, to Thee,
Dear Lord, to Thee.

           Edwin P. Parker

As I Do

Jesus didn't have a problem with balance. He was just as effective speaking and teaching, as he was serving. And no one could illustrate his point better than Jesus.

With the disciples' words of contention, arrogance, and pride still swirling about His head, Jesus silently rose from His place around the table. He rolled up His sleeves and, one by one, washed their dirty feet.

Very often this scene is reenacted today in churches, where, for example, the pastor might wash the feet of the deacons. When I've seen this, the moment is treated almost ceremonially, with the pastor dribbling the water over the deacons' feet, then dabbing a little with a white towel--never actually coming into contact with the object of the cleansing.

Jesus, the only one truly worthy to place Himself above everyone else, stooped with one knee to the dirty floor, and scrubbed the feet of these men. This was no ceremony--no Jewish rite instituted at Mount Sinai, no delicate dabbing at feet already clean--but an everyday, practical way of keeping the dirt of the street out of the interior of the house. The feet were filthy, and in those days the way to clean them was for a real live person to bend to the task and do the job with his bare hands.

Any of the disciples in that room who were paying attention had to be cut to the quick by their Master's simple, yet profoundly eloquent illustration in answer to their foolish behavior. In this instance, His actions spoke volumes that mere words may not have addressed.

Jesus wanted every one of them to know that the pathway to the heights is traveled on one's knees--that true greatness can only be found in abject humility.

A Submissive Spirit

Bob was a friend, a colleague, almost a business partner. We would often work together at my studio in downtown San Diego. I was a fashion photographer, shooting (mostly) beautiful women all day, and he was a journeyman photographer who would shoot just about anything else. We shared joys, discoveries, mischief, and sometimes sorrow. We knew each other better than some brothers. We would consult with each other--not only professionally, but about life's rich panoply of crises, both little and large. We had much in common: photography, Iowa heritage, and stints in the Navy.

One day Bob spied a stack of cassettes in my living room. They were sermon tapes of Pastor Bowser that Mom had sent from home. Each tape's label boldly announced "Tapes for Christian Living" and was accompanied by an image of the cross. As he was going out the front door, Bob said, offhandedly, "Oh, are you a Christian?"

That remark cut into me deeper than any knife. For years I had worked and played with Bob, shared intimacies, confided my deepest aspirations --and he hadn't an inkling that I had, at an early age, given my life to Christ; he hadn't a clue, from my actions and words and desires, that I was a Christian. For quite a few years I had been away from the church, and for some of that time I had been away from God. I had turned off the sound of His voice, the nudging of His Spirit; I had become insensitive to my daily sins and had quickly lost all of my Christian distinctives. Over time, I had conveniently blended into the culture until Bob could say, with surprise, "Oh, are you a Christian?"


Does the person sitting at the next desk know you are a Christian? Do the people who work with you every day know that you know Christ?

If so, do they see in your behavior a servant's heart--or do they see someone who always wants to be in the limelight, someone who demands that they receive the credit, who wants to always be first?

If my friend Bob had known I was a Christian, what kind of believer would I have been? Would I have demonstrated to him that Christians were arrogant and self-serving, always insisting on having their own way, always pushing to the front of the line--or would he have known that Christians were really servers, who didn't mind at all letting someone else receive the attention?

Here is how Chuck Swindoll describes the world in which we live:

The Christian, however, need not take his or her cue from this society, for we have the person of Christ standing before us, leading the way. In the life of Jesus we have our supreme example for living a life of humble service--not only humility before our God, but before our fellow man as well.

Where are your hands?

Are they lifted up high for attention, saying, "Me! Me! Pick me!"? Or are they maybe stretched out in selfish expectation, wanting to be filled with the world's goods? Are they held up in defiance, or out against those vying for the same attention as you? Or are they busy pointing fingers of accusation at those around you?

The example of Jesus teaches that our hands should be stretched out to help others. If held open, they should be empty of possessions, and offering instead the grace and love of Christ; if clenched, they should he held in defiance against sin and corruption, and the self-serving philosophies of the age.

Jesus Christ has shown us how to have humility--not just from an object lesson used to make a point, but from the entirety of His life.

From His unselfish act of coming to earth to be born into flesh, to His unselfish, sacrificial death upon the cross, Jesus demonstrated humility and a true servant's heart.

Who's on first?


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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Issue No. 74
January 1997

NOTES

[1.] Taken from You Will Drink of the Cup, (Copyright 1985-1996 David S. Lampel), order #MON6 in the His Company Catalogue. (return to footnote 1)

[2.] John 1:41; John 6:5-9; John 12:20-22. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] John 1:35-40. (return to footnote 3)

[4.] Standing in the Shadow, (Copyright 1985-1996 David S. Lampel), order #SK8 in the His Company Catalogue. (return to footnote 4)

[5. Charles R. Swindoll, Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living (WORD, 1981), p163f. (return to footnote 5)

[6.] Ibid, p.210. (return to footnote 6)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1997 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) 1997 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.

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