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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 77
April 1997

LOVEST THOU ME?


It had been a long night. Their muscles ached, tempers were short, nerves frazzled, and their stomachs were growling from hunger. They had spent the entire night on the Sea of Tiberias[1], but to no avail. It was as if the large lake had strangely been drained of every fish it ever held, and the experienced fishermen were hauling up empty nets.

Out of the remaining eleven, most were there. Peter was, as usual, in charge; it had been his idea to go fishing in the first place. He was joined by six more of his brethren, including Thomas and Nathanael, John and James.

Dawn was just breaking when suddenly a lone figure appeared on the shore. Where had he come from? And who would be sightseeing so early on a damp, chilly morning.

"Children," the stranger called out to them, "you haven't caught anything, have you."

Peter bristled at the impertinence. He was in no mood to be referred to as a child by some stranger who also seemLove expresseded to be poking fun at their empty nets.

"Listen," the man called out again, "cast your net on the right-hand side of the boat. That's where the fish are."

"Who is this telling us how to fish?" Peter said angrily. "Let him come out here and do it himself."

"Why not try what he says?" Nathanael said, heaving his section of net. "It's not like we've been so successful on our own."

So they cast it over starboard, and suddenly the boat pitched to that side as the net was overwhelmed by thrashing fish. And the lot of them were unable to haul it in.

Straining together against the weight of the catch, John leaned over to Peter and, motioning toward the shore said, "It is the Lord."

Later that morning, as they reclined around a fading fire with stomachs now filled with roasted fish, Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Simon bar Jonas[2], do you love me more than these?" Peter's reply was quick. "You know that I do, Lord."

Twice more Jesus asked, and twice more Peter assured his Lord that he did indeed love Him. Each time Jesus told Peter that He expected him to then demonstrate that love:

 

The Expression of Our Love

Love expressed but poorly demonstrated is a hollow affection. I recall years ago working for a man who professed undying love for his wife and children, yet who, nonetheless, each week kept an appointment with his mistress. The words came easily, but the truth dwelling in this man's heart was betrayed by his actions.

It's easy for us to proclaim our love for the Lord.

There is a name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
It sounds like music in mine ear,
The sweetest name on earth.
Oh, how I love Jesus, oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus, because He first loved me!

          Frederick Whitfield

True love, however, is demonstrated.

Take my life and let it be consecrated,
Lord to Thee;
Take my hands, and let them move
at the impulse of Thy love.

          Frances R. Havergal


From the earliest days of my own, I've been told that a good marriage requires work--some people even went so far as to declare that it takes arduous, backbreaking work. While I've not found this to be true in my own experience (at least as regards the institution of wedded bliss) the principle has proven to be more than valid in the relationship I and others have with their Maker.

We are not naturally drawn to God and His ways, so any relationship with Him--and especially a healthy, profitable one--will be something outside of our inclination. It will be, for us, an unnatural act. Regularly I receive correspondence from people expressing their frustration over their inability to sustain a positive, ongoing relationship with Christ. The plea is common, and worded variously as

" . . . I struggle with my Christian walk with God . . . " " . . . become impatient with God and do not trust Him to . . . " " . . . struggle with my growth in Christ . . . " " . . . I wish I would spend more time with Him."

Implicit in their remarks is the belief that this somehow reflects a deficiency in their character--or at least in their Spiritual capabilities. They think something is wrong, since they find no consistent desire for God being played out in their life.

But the truth is that the relationship, though desired, does not come naturally to any human being, because it is not how our race is made.

Love for Christ means that we have a relationship with Him. Since He is ever unchanging, the quality of that relationship will depend on the quality and expression of our Love for Him.

 

UNREQUITED LOVE


The mistake many people make is that they think a passion for Christ and the things of God comes automatically with salvation. Without being told, they believe in the notion that there is a logical sequence to the Christian life: walk the aisle; experience a warm, satisfying glow; spend the rest of one's life living a holy life and being desperately, passionately in love with Jesus Christ.

But that's not how we're made.

Since Adam's fall, mankind has lived in opposition to God, and that essential contrary nature does not magically vanish at the moment of our salvation. What does vanish is our involuntary servitude to sin--we now have a choice. But it still remains for us to make that choice.

 

Waiting

Mothers know. Mothers know all about unrequited love. They know what it's like to sit by a silent phone, to check an empty mailbox, to watch out the window for sign of a loved one. Mothers know all about unbalanced relationships.

Jesus, too, knows all about waiting. He waits for our affection, our love. But he never grows impatient, He never delivers a lecture when we, at last, show up. But He waits. Many, declaring their love for Him, say they long for a closer relationship with Jesus. But the longing isn't enough.

Our responsibilities to Christ are the same as in our human relationships. We may `long' to be with a friend, but if we are never the one to pick up the phone, or write a letter, or pay them a visit-- what kind of friendship is that? We may desire the relationship, but if we do nothing to satisfy the longing, then we are only being dishonest-- both to our friends and ourselves.

Perhaps you are the one being waited for, or perhaps you are the one doing the waiting. Do you enjoy having relationships with people who never reciprocate your friendship? What do you think of people who refer to you as their friend, but never have you over for dinner, never ring you up just to see how you're doing, never have a kind word for you in the company of others?

Jesus waits. He waits to receive our affection. He waits to enjoy the relationship, the friendship. And while He waits, so many of us just 'long.'

This woman in Bethany did something more than just long for Jesus. She did something about it. She went to Him--she went directly to where He was. She didn't even ask for Him to pay her a visit: She went to Him.

When the woman got there she wasted no time in expressing her adoration. In her own way--and in the manner of the times--she anointed him with very expensive perfume. It was an extravagant gift; imagine, whatever is your annual salary, that's how much the woman spent to demonstrate her adoration of Christ.


 

REMEMBERING

No matter whether the period of absence has been a week, a year, or a decade, my first response to longing for a friend is typically to remember something about the person, to paint a mental mural of the object of my longing that will pass before my eyes. It is a remembrance, and a most pleasant pastime.

Whenever I remember a friend, one of the first things recalled is what this person did for me. Maybe this friend performed some distinctive kindness, maybe he or she brought laughter and joy into my life; maybe the person possessed a strong personality that had a great impact on my life, or maybe my friend was just fun to be around; maybe I can thank this person for contributing to my Spiritual upbringing, or maybe he was a profound physical help when it was really needed.

Whatever the point of remembrance may be, it's only human nature that what pushes forward to the front of our memories of this friend would be the event that had the greatest impact on our own life. Jesus told us to do the same when we think of Him.

When we think of Jesus, our first thought should be about what He did for us. Our remembrance of His life should begin with the event that had the greatest impact on our own: Calvary.


Selah

On this morning Golgotha seemed the most depressingly imposing site on earth. There was nothing grand about the execution field. It was little more than a sad, trampled expanse of rock and thin soil just outside the city wall, upon which people died in hideous torment--and with alarming regularity.

The place called "The Skull" was littered with the fragmented sticks and poles of past deaths. The used and reused wood was coated with old blood reduced to many shades of ochre by the burning Judean sun. Below the old upright poles were heavy stones jammed into the soil for support; they, too, were splattered the same ugly shades.

We hung back, Peter and I, still fearful for our sorry lives, but we saw everything. We saw too much. We saw things that are now burned permanently into our brains--images and memories that will be our companions until we die.

The soldiers pushed Jesus down and laid Him out over the ground. While several held Him there, one brute with practiced strokes drove thick rusted spikes through each of His wrists and into the crosspiece timber. Jesus was silent throughout. I would have cried out, pleading for mercy, saying anything that might help me avoid such an awful death. But Jesus, though experiencing every bit of the pain, accepted it silently. He would not revile those who reviled Him.

Several picked Him up, pinned now to the beam, and attached the crosspiece to the top of the upright pole. It dropped into place with a sickening thump. While two soldiers braced against the backside of the cross, a third shoved Jesus' lower legs up until both knees were bent and pushed out to one side. Then the executioner drove one last spike that passed through both his ankles.

The sight of His tortured body hanging before us stabbed into my heart like a slowly twisting knife. I wanted to be anywhere else but there-- but I was compelled to remain, as if this silent vigil would somehow relieve me of my complicity in His death.


We begin at the point of our meeting, for our friendship with Jesus began at the cross. Then we face the first point of decision: How does a friend respond to such an unselfish act of sacrifice? This one who taught

actually did lay down His life. These weren't just words; He actually did it. What are we to do with this memory? Every day we must ask ourselves, when we recall what our Friend did for us, What am I to do for Him?

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.

O Jesus, Lord and Saviour,
I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonement,
Didst give Thyself for me;
I own no other Master,
My heart shall be Thy throne;
My life I give, henceforth to live,
O Christ, for Thee alone.

Living for Jesus who died in my place,
Bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace;
Such love constrains me to answer His call,
Follow His leading and give Him my all.

Living for Jesus wherever I am,
Doing each duty in His holy name;
Willing to suffer affliction and loss,
Deeming each trial a part of my cross.

Living for Jesus through earth's little while,
My dearest treasure, the light of His smile;
Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem,
Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.

           Thomas O. Chisholm


 

REACH OUT AND TOUCH

Whenever I get to thinking about how much I miss someone, my second inclination (after filling my mind with their memories) is to make contact with that person. Maybe I'll write them a note or call them on the telephone, or actually pay them a visit, but in one way or another I'll do something to extend myself in their direction.

Where does Christ dwell? Where must we go to make contact with Him? And how do we establish that contact?

 

In Residence

Because Jesus is all of God, He is never in only one place or time at one moment.

Physically--literally in physical form--Jesus Christ is in heaven.


Selah


The person of Jesus that ascended into heaven before the disciples was one that could be touched and held, one that could eat fish and bread. Standing at the right hand of Father God is a physical person.

And what is He doing?

Jesus is our high priest, our advocate before the throne. As a human attorney will plead his client's case before the high judge, Jesus pleads our case before the Father. So when we need Him, when we need a strong advocate, we know where we can find Him: at the Father's right hand.

 

God Here


Selah

In a more mystical, less physical sense, Jesus is our constant companion even while we are on this earth. His spirit envelops and indwells us; He is the one to whom we turn seeking immediate solace against the trials and frustrations of living. For He has been there; He is the one member of the Godhead who has lived through what we live through.

Even the name He was given at the announcement of His birth signified the role He would play.

Jesus is God here, and that role did not cease at the ascension, but just changed in character. No longer here in flesh, His spirit nevertheless dwells with us. He is a friend, a brother we can depend on, always within arm's reach.

The Word

The disciples had the physical Jesus who walked the dusty roads with them, slept and ate with them. They heard the sound of His voice, saw His mannerisms, His gestures. They watched Him minister to others as well as themselves, and they gazed upon the gentle beauty of His face.

Today we no longer have His person, but we move through our lives with His attending presence, and the memory of who He was.

In holy Scripture, however, we have a form, as it were, of the two combined.


Selah

We may no longer enjoy His literal presence, but we do have a faithful record of His life from the gospels. More than that, in the gospels as well as the rest of the New Testament, we have a record and explanation of His teachings. Finally, we have Jesus Christ's and the Spirit's stamp of witness and completion.

So whatever our situation--whatever our personality or disposition--we have a way to reach out and make contact with our Lord and Savior. We need not settle for the `longing', but can act on that plea for communion.

O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend:
I shall not fear the battle,
If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If Thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel Thee near me;
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear:
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.

O Jesus, Thou hast promised
To all who follow Thee,
That where Thou art in glory,
There shall Thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend.

           John E. Bode


 

CHOICES

Whether or not we are satisfied with our relationship with Jesus, it still all boils down to the choices we make. We live in an alien land; our natural bent is away from God and His Son, Jesus Christ; so if we are to enjoy a full, rich relationship with the Lord, we must go out of our way (for our natural way is in the opposite direction) to make the proper choice.

There's nothing new under the sun. His followers have had to make the same choice from the very beginning. And we hold no monopoly on obstacles to His righteousness; the world was just as depraved, just as sinful in the first century as it is now.

If we are to love Him, we must make the decision. We must make the effort.

 

A Greater Love

The Time: 2 days after the Crucifixion of Jesus
The Place: Home of Thaddaeus

Thaddaeus, the apostle, and his wife, Keren-Happuch, are at home. Thaddaeus is a quiet, thoughtful man who chooses his words deliberately. He is saddened by the latest turn of events--almost dejected. He is trying to understand what Jesus and His teachings meant in light of His recent death on the cross. What will be his (Thaddaeus') role now?

Keren-Happuch is a woman of abrasive opinion and thoroughly opposed to the teachings of Jesus. From the beginning she hated Jesus and the easy way His work seemed to preoccupy her husband. Now with the death of Jesus--and His work seemingly over--Keren sees a perfect opportunity to pry her husband loose from what she has seen as a most foolish occupation.

 

SCENE 1
[Thaddaeus and Keren-happuch enter, briskly, already in conversation.]

THADDAEUS
(patiently, but just beginning to have his patience tested)

You don't know. You weren't there.

KEREN-HAPPUCH
(bristling with eagerness; can't wait to release what has been bottled up for a long time)

What's to know? The Romans finally caught up with your heretic teacher. I say we're better off.

THADDAEUS

It wasn't that simple.

KEREN
(almost happily)

Look, it's over. You had your fun for awhile. Now back to the real world.

THADDAEUS
(wistfully)

He spoke of love, compassion ... of a God who is a forgiving Father.(more direct; to Keren) For that He dies?

KEREN
(snapping)

He didn't fit in.

THADDAEUS
(with gentle sarcasm that does not hide the fact that he means it)

Neither do you, my dear.

KEREN
(patiently, as if explaining to an older child)

Thaddaeus, it's time you came down off your cloud. Time to stop roaming about the countryside with a bunch of unwashed fishermen . . . trailing after some modern-day prophet.

THADDAEUS
(not hearing her; back into his memories)

He told us many things that last night. (working through it) Jesus said that He and God were the same. He said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."

KEREN
(exploding; resting her case)

There's proof! The man was living, breathing blasphemy! Oh, I wish I had been there. I wouldn't have been taken in.

THADDAEUS
(finally visibly angry at his wife's attitude and remarks)

Keren! It's you who blasphemes!

KEREN

Everyone in all the Roman Empire knew this Jesus was only a troublemaker. Everyone, that is, but my husband. (with contempt) You were born stupid and simple. (gleefully) Everyone around you knows the truth, yet you persist.

THADDAEUS
(firmly

I loved Him, Keren. You won't change that. His death won't change that.

KEREN
(shaking her head)

Stupid and simple!

THADDAEUS
(in his own world again)

He spoke of His death. He knew it would happen. (the light bulb is beginning to glow) He spoke also of coming back to life--of finding a way out of the grave.

KEREN
(mockingly)

Oh, sure. And did He? Did this ... magician raise Himself out of His tomb? (pause; drilling into Thaddaeus) Well, did He?

THADDAEUS
(innocently)

You know, we all scattered so fast, I really don't know.

KEREN
(sarcastically)

What a coincidence! Oh, He was a smoothie, all right. (contemptuously) He had you all fooled.

THADDAEUS
(firmly; as much to himself as to Keren)

I know He was the Son of God. I know it in my heart. (the light bulb is glowing brighter) Even before I admitted the truth to myself, I knew it in my heart. (pause; turning to go) I have to go back.

KEREN
(stopping him by grabbing his arms; frantically; for the first time Keren sees that she may have lost the argument)

Give it up! It was a strange faith. (heavily) And now it's dead.

THADDAEUS
(tenderly)

The faith will live on. (sadly) It's you who are dead. (pause) No one but the Son of God could have given health to the sick, sight to the blind ... raised the dead. (still in the process of convincing himself) He did it for others why not for Himself.

KEREN
(pleading, with tears in her eyes; almost a whisper)

No.

THADDAEUS
(more solid now; he has resolved any lingering questions in his mind)

For three years I stood by Him. I won't let Him down now. What good was my time with Him if I fail to believe now? What good was His teaching if there's no resurrection?

KEREN
(trying a more conciliatory tack)

All right. He was a good teacher ... and you served Him well. But you have a family. You must serve them now.

THADDAEUS
(in his mind he has already left)

We were only the first. There are many more to become disciples of Jesus. And He's given us the task of reaching them. (moving toward exit) The rest will be expecting me.

KEREN
(spitting her desperate anger; stopping him with this remark; darkly)

You mean he taught you to abandon your families?

THADDAEUS
(turning back; with quiet confidence in marked contrast to his wife's desperation)

He said our love for Him must be greater than the love we have for our family. (pause; with just a glimmer of suppressed resentment) He also said a man's enemies will be those who live in his own house.

KEREN
(with final, venomous desperation; darkly)

But He's dead.

THADDAEUS
(smiling)

No, He's alive. I expect to see Him when I get back to Jerusalem. And when I do, Keren, I'll fall on my knees and beg His forgiveness for doubting--doubting even for a moment.

[Thaddaeus exits with joyful determination. Keren watches him leave, then dejectedly turns and exits opposite.]

SCENE 2

The Time: Later that same day
The Place: On the road toward Jerusalem

[Thaddaeus enters briskly. He is traveling the road back to Jerusalem. Keren enters with agitation, searching for him. She sees Thaddaeus and calls out to him.]

KEREN
(desperately)

Thaddaeus! Wait!

[Thaddaeus turns slowly. His reaction is bland: not angry, but not encouraging, waiting for Keren to make her own decision. He faces her.]

KEREN
(rushing up to him; trying to soften her uncharacteristic humility with a little humor)

I didn't think you'd actually leave.

[Thaddaeus remains passive, trying to be good-natured without dissuading Keren from any decision she has made or needs to make.]

KEREN
(more seriously; haltingly)

The moment you left ... (into his eyes) I can't take the emptiness.

THADDAEUS
(simply, but not dispassionate)

My leaving didn't cause that.

KEREN
(turning away; confused--and a little ashamed)

It's all so confusing. All this time I've lived off of my hatred for the things of your Jesus. It's consumed me--sustained me when you'd be gone for so long. (turning back to Thaddaeus) Now it's gone--the hatred is gone--but nothing has come to replace the void. It's bad enough, but if you leave, I won't be able to live this way.

THADDAEUS
(going to her; wanting her to believe)

Your living--or dying--doesn't depend on me. It depends on you.

[Keren looks up at him with increasing respect.]

THADDAEUS
(continuing; with reasoned compassion)

You're right. You won't be able to live--in fact, you're already dying--unless you see Jesus as I have. (making his point firmly) He's not a fraud; He's not a magician. He's not just a good teacher. Jesus is the Son of God--and without Him you'll not be able to live. You can die for eternity or you can live for eternity. It's your choice.

KEREN
(ashamed)

The things I said--

THADDAEUS
(reassuringly)

--are in most peoples' hearts.

KEREN

He won't be able to forgive me.

THADDAEUS
(smiling)

He already has. (pause) Come with me, and see for yourself.

[They exit together.[6]]


Every morning we rise to the new day. Every morning we begin a day filled with choices and the decisions we will make.

For every Christian there was one day when we made the most fateful decision of our life--the day we chose Jesus Christ as our Savior. On that day we decided that we loved Jesus more than the world.

But in many less-fateful ways we make that decision over and over again. Every Christian rises to each new day faced with choices, and many times over in each day the Christian must decide whether he or she loves Jesus more than the things of this world.

Each day brings with it moments in which we must decide whether or not we wish to speak with Jesus, read His words, listen to His counsel; each day the world holds out its arms to us, enticing us into its embrace.

Jesus, too, holds out His arms, saying "Come unto me . . ." His love for us is unconditional, perfect, complete. The expression of His love for us never involves a choice--He never needs to decide whether or not to demonstrate His love: it is always there. Always.

But for us there is a choice. We can demonstrate our love for Jesus, or we can pass Him by. It is our decision to make.

The truth of the matter is, however, that the choice we make will have a direct and immediate impact on the quality of our continuing relationship with Jesus Christ.

What is it like being friends with someone who never calls, never writes? What is it like being friends with someone who never puts forth any effort toward the relationship?

Jesus waits, always available to us. The perfect friend, saying only, "Lovest thou Me?"


More love to Thee, O Christ,
More love to Thee!
Hear Thou the prayer I make
On bended knee;
This is my earnest plea:
More love, O Christ, to Thee,
More love to Thee,
More love to Thee!

            Elizabeth P. Prentiss


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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Issue No. 77
April 1997

NOTES

[1.] Or, Sea of Galilee. (return to footnote 1)

[2.] 2. Or, Simon, son of John. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] The Vision of God (E.P. Dutton & Co., 1928), taken from The Pursuit of God (Christian Publications), by A.W. Tozer. (return to footnote 3)

[4.] My Utmost for His Highest (Discovery House, 1992).(return to footnote 4)

[5. The Knowledge of the Holy (HarperCollins, 1992), p117f (return to footnote 5)

[6.] A Greater Love (from The Twelve) by David S. Lampel; His Company Catalogue order #sk06. (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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