Aspects, by David Lampel - "From All Sides"


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ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal by David S. Lampel / Issue #94, September, 1998

FROM ALL SIDES

three-dimensional - (duh men'shun ul) adj. 1. a) of or having three dimensions b) appearing to have depth or thickness in addition to height and width 2. having a convincing or lifelike quality.

One can hear reports about the Pathfinder mission to Mars. One can see reports on television or the World Wide Web. One can even see normal photographs from the mission, in stark monochrome, printed in magazines or on the Web. But the 1997 mission, with its unique six-wheeled rover named Sojourner, really comes to life when viewed through the 3-D glasses included in the August 1998 issue of the National Geographic magazine.

Right there on the cover, revealed as soon as the bland brown wrapper is removed, is a dramatic portrait of the little scooter sitting in the ocher dust of the fourth planet from the sun, alongside the off ramp of its mother ship. The coloring of the photograph is odd, with reds and greens separated and curiously shifted. But once the cardboard glasses (inserted right before the Nissan truck advertisement) are cut out and balanced precariously upon one's nose, the image springs to life, and the little vehicle lifts off the page in crisp three-dimensional relief.

Suddenly the idea of an earth-sent vehicle landing on the 'Red Planet,' to be remotely steered via computer from Pasadena, California, to photograph and physically sample various types of Martian rocks and soils--suddenly it all becomes perfectly believable. Seen in three dimensions, the rover and its rock-studded pathway become real, understandable. One can almost reach out and touch the objects portrayed on the printed page.

In Our Image


There seem to be two predominant conceptions of the Almighty, or God the Father. One concept might be termed "God the Pal," or the "God made of Silly Putty." This idea is particularly popular today, in this age of relativism. People feel more comfortable worshipping a God who isn't much better than themselves, so they take the God of the Bible and carefully mold and reshape Him into their own image. When at last He reaches a pleasing, compatible form, they then declare Him right, and hence worthy of their time and, as it were, adoration.

A second popular concept might be termed the "Unapproachable," or "The Silent One." The more spiritual of the two, this idea nevertheless describes a distant God painted in only two dimensions. Like an old Russian Orthodox icon, He stares out unblinkingly, unfocused upon worshippers who know Him as little more than a hand-painted figure: height and width, but no depth.

The first is heresy. The second is a lot like loving a picture of your wife, instead of the real person who shares your bed. Both do a disservice to God. What good is it to worship a false image of the Almighty? One might as well go fishing on the Sabbath as worship something conjured from the imagination. It may be, in America at least, that society has been so dumbed-down and the Presidency so devalued, that we now wish upon ourselves a leader no better than the lowest common denominator, but this will not do for God. He is God precisely because He is eternally, unchangeably who He is. A god who could be refashioned into the twisted image of modern man would be worthless, even less than the sum of its parts.

The God of heaven--the one God, the only God--is a spirit, so He is, admittedly, somewhat mysterious to flesh and blood. Since He is, one can only truly know Him through the work of another spirit: the Holy Spirit. That gentle Friend illumines the word, thus opening for us the portals of understanding into His printed text.

But God is also fully three-dimensional. The God of Scripture is no mere paper cutout stuck on a wall, distant, unfeeling, detached from His creation. He's not made of cold plastic, with a hard surface impervious to weather, erosion, and prayers. We may not know the material of His construct--being spirit, He may have none beyond pure thought--but the Father has revealed Himself to us using words and imagery comfortable to our senses. We need not remake Him into something He is not, something we can more readily understand, for He has already made Himself understandable for us.

AN INTIMATE COMMUNION

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

There can be many regrets between father and son, and one of mine is that it took me so long to really get to know my dad. One of the great inconveniences of life is that a child must pass through stages of arrogance and rebellion when growing up, thus distancing himself from those best equipped to help him mature. Were we to come prepackaged from the womb with the reason and maturity of our adult years, we could then put them to use in those critical formative years, and be the better for it. But no, we are destined to stumble forth, being persistently stupid, learning slowly more from our mistakes, rather than through our infrequent victories.

Some of my best memories of my dad (who went home to the Lord while I was still in my twenties) are from our few times together during his final years. My wife and I would travel from California, Mom and Dad would travel from Iowa, and we would meet to camp together at some midpoint, such as Colorado or Wyoming. There we would see the sights, take pictures of the mountains, eat Dad's pancakes for breakfast, and play games inside the canvas-topped camper when the rain poured down.

It was only then, as adult son and adult father, that we could talk about important things: feelings, past joys and yesterday's regrets, life experience and memories of growing up. It was only then that he could speak to me, not as an equal, but as someone old enough to understand. Only then could we walk side by side, eye to eye, sharing the lessons of life that every father hopes to share with his sons. Only then was I ready to receive what he had to give.

In the Garden

I imagine God may have been looking for His children, to spend time with them as He had so many times before.

In those days, God revealed Himself to man, enjoying--in the days before The Fall--a more intimate communion with all of His creation. He didn't just declare that things be done, but actually participated in their execution.

Here was a God who subscribed to the hands-on approach to management. He didn't just send the animals in the general direction of Adam, but actually "brought them" to him. Then, when the beasts of the field proved to be insufficient companionship for the man, God personally did surgery, to create a true companion for the first man.

Again God came near to the lives of these two, but Adam and Eve ultimately rejected that sweet communion. Over quiet intimacy with their Maker they chose the brightly painted promises of the serpent. And, as a result of their choice, God never again enjoyed such close familiarity with His creation.

Peace, Perfect Peace

The first garden, nestled in the beginnings of four rivers, becomes for us the symbol for any place of serenity in which we can most easily find and commune with God. And in that garden, He waits for us, indeed, moves about looking for us.

It's too easy to say "Well, He's an angry God looking to punish and hurt people, so I won't have anything to do with Him." How convenient that is; how easy then to excuse the absence of a relationship.

Or we say that God--if there is a God--is irrelevant. A Des Moines teenager claiming to be Unitarian, when interviewed said that

Another teenager, raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, said

Indeed.

We need not wonder about God's personality. And we need not wonder whether He is paying attention to our lives.

God the Father welcomes us into His garden to spend quality time with Him. In His wisdom, He's made it easy for us, revealing His nature through all members of the Godhead. The Spirit fulfills His role; Christ Jesus His. And together they describe a tender, compassionate God who seeks us for our own good, who invites us to dwell with Him in peace and comfortable dependency.

He wants to be our Father. He wants us to walk with Him in His garden, to bring Him our sorrows and joys, our anger and questions. And, as a loving dad who can now speak openly with an adult son or daughter, He eagerly takes the opportunity to share from His own life, and the immense wealth of His wisdom.

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses;
And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,
The Son of God discloses.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me,
Within my heart is ringing.

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

C. Austin Miles

THE GREAT STONE FACE

The classic 1968 science fiction movie, 2001: A Space Odyssey, has as its central image (aside from HAL, the talking computer) an immense, black, rectangular monolith. It is first seen on earth, taking a mysteriously pivotal role during the time when apes learned aggression and (according to the movie) turned the evolutionary corner on their way to becoming mankind. The monolith is next seen freshly excavated on the moon during the time of that satellite's colonization by earth. Then, near the end of the film, the monolith is discovered floating free in space near the planet Jupiter.

The entire movie is a bit strange, but the black, featureless monolith is a compelling image. It's just there, and it's not uncommon for people to reach the end of the movie thoroughly befuddled as to its purpose and meaning. It just stands there, silent except for periodically emitting a shrieking, high-pitched tone that drives men mad. There are no marks on its surface, no identification. It seems to have come from nowhere, but to have been in existence for an eternity. The monolith is enigmatic, and indestructible.


I think many people imagine God is like that black monolith. He's just there, standing mute and unresponsive, emotionless, and grim, an enigma filled with dark mysteries and eternal truth locked up within His walls.

There are those who somehow take comfort in this conception of God. They really don't want a personal, feeling God around to meddle in their affairs. It's much more economical--and requires far less risk on their part--to imagine a God who is just there, like some great unblinking monolith.

But that's not the God Scripture describes.

Delight Expressed

The true personality of God the Father can be seen in those nearest to His heart. When they obey Him, they reveal His nature, and those behaviors with which He chooses to be associated.

The Ark of God (Ark of the Covenant) had been moved about several times after being recovered from the Philistines, who had captured it at the battle at Ebenezer. King David was determined to bring it back to Jerusalem.

Here is the behavior of someone in tune with their God. King David is thoroughly outside of himself, bubbling over with joy and praise to God, shouting and singing, trumpets blaring. Everyone has turned out for this wonderful event. And the king is so filled with adoration for his Lord that he can no longer contain his joy, and begins dancing about as hard as he can. Well, then his lovely wife, Michal, caught the display...

Michal accused her husband of showing off for the servant girls. Vulgar exhibitionism. But that wasn't what had taken place at all.

King David's dancing was for the Lord. He was simply demonstrating his love for the Lord in a tangible, physical way. He wasn't showing off for the servant girls at all, but showing his thanksgiving and love for his God.

Much like God shows His love for us.

The word translated "rejoice" in this verse is a joy that expresses itself in the gestures of the body.[2] It means, literally, to spin around. In other words, God dances over us with singing! His love for us is so full that, at times, it must be expressed physically.

Our God is no blank-faced monolith, unfeeling, cold and hard. Nor is he some stodgy curmudgeon, always frowning at our exhibitions of joy. He loves us and cares about us--and sometimes even He leaps about with joy over us.

We're usually the stodgy curmudgeons. We're the ones too inhibited, too proud, to demonstrate our adoration of the Lord. But He is never inhibited; God is never too proud to dance joyfully for us.


O past and gone!
How great is God! how small am I!
A mote in the illimitable sky,
Amidst the glory deep, and wide, and high
Of heaven's unclouded sun.
There to forget myself for evermore;
Lost, swallowed up in Love's immensity,
The sea that knows no sounding and no shore,
God only there, not I.

Gerhard Tersteegen

ON HOLY GROUND

In His grace, God the Father sent us the Son as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. He also sent His Son, Jesus, to be an earthly representation of the Godhead. As their creator, God knew that people-- even people many centuries later--would be drawn more to a flesh-and-blood Savior than a mystical Spirit.

Since that was God's intention, it's all right for us to focus our attention upon Christ Jesus as Brother and Lord. There is no petty jealousy in heaven; God the Father does not have His feelings hurt when we spend more time with the Son or the Spirit.

Yet it's easy to forget that God the Son is a faithful representation of God the Father. Everything Jesus was and is--His personality, behavior, thought process, language--comes not from thin air, but directly from the Father.

Yet, in other ways, God the Father is, indeed, different--and that difference is one of the ways that He is a fully-realized, three-dimensional Being.

The apostle John had quite a different reaction to God the Father than he did Jesus. At the last supper, during that troubling, melancholy moment while the Savior was unburdening His heart to His closest associates, it was John who reclined next to Him--so close that the disciple was actually leaned against Him.

This was John, and his love for the Lord was deep, personal, and affectionate. Now contrast this tender moment with the Savior with John's experience many years later when, in a vision, he is transported into the throne room of God the Father. Though John doesn't write of his feelings or personal response, there is nevertheless a sense of hushed awe in the words he uses with which to describe the holy setting.

The scene being played out before the elderly disciple is one of powerful, unceasing worship of a most holy, righteous God.

Though he doesn't tell us what was in his heart, it's not hard to imagine the speechless awe with which the apostle John witnessed this scene. And we certainly wouldn't expect him to recline next to the throne of God and lean his head against the Almighty's breast!

Woe to those who forget that God is most holy and righteous. His condescension to earth through Christ and the Holy Spirit in no way diminishes His utter holiness. His willingness to interact with impure earthly beings in no way diminishes His own purity.

God did not send His Son as an easier way to righteousness because He had lowered His standards, but because He has insisted upon them. Holiness is still required to enter God's presence; it's just that the requisite holiness is now obtained through Christ, rather than the wobbly stepladder of the Law.

OPEN ARMS, FORGIVING HEART

Sandwiched between the God of pristine holiness in the account of Moses and the burning bush, and the high and mighty recipient of worship in John's revelation, is the loving Father of Christ's parable about the prodigal son. All three describe the same God--not the obsolete God of the Exodus, the mysterious God of the future, or the human-like God of a fanciful story, but three aspects of the same eternal "I AM": The God of grace through Jesus Christ.

Sidetracked

The grade school I attended, Franklin School, was located on Main Street, just through the block on which I lived. The normal way for me to get to school each day was to go out the back door, across our back yard, "cut through" the Wigand's back yard, down their drive, and cross Main Street to the school yard. The return trip was the same, but reversed, and never took more than two minutes for the entire journey. Mom could always expect me home just a few minutes after the school bell rang.

One day after school a classmate, one of the Nelson boys, invited me to, instead of going right home, join him catching crawdads down at Linn Creek. The creek (or "crick," as we called them in those days) ran east and west along the backside of the football field and track that was behind Franklin School, then angled north to define the boundaries of the park that was our summer playground. The creek was a tiny tributary, shallow, muddy, and smelled not unlike the sewer that crossed its path _ but the Mississippi never held more fascination for Tom Sawyer than did Linn Creek for us.

I knew it was wrong. I knew I'd get into trouble for it. And I did it anyway. Instead of going right home after school that day, I went down to the creek with the Nelson boy. We caught crawdads, looked for garter snakes and frogs, and generally got wet and muddy and had a wonderful time.

The Nelson boys had parents who didn't really care where they were or when they got home from school, so, when we decided to leave the creek, they probably headed off to some other adventure.

I went home to my sure execution.

I was one half-hour--all of thirty minutes--late getting home from school that day, and my mom was beside herself. Where had I been? What had happened to me? Was I hurt? Boy, did I get a lickin' that day. And I learned the rather painful lesson that no matter how much the creek beckoned, I was to always come right home after school.

As young as I was, however, I learned another, even more valuable lesson that day. Even though I experienced a burning sensation in my posterior for the next few hours, I learned that of the two sets of parents--the Nelsons and the Lampels--mine loved me more. Even then I understood that though it was sometimes expressed with worry, fear, anger and eventual punishment, my parents loved me enough to care. Beneath my mom's anger that day was a more powerful relief that I was finally home safe and sound.


That is the picture of our heavenly Father. Though we may be a "long way off," He stands watching and waiting, hoping for our safe return. How sad it must be for those who think God to be more like the Nelsons: distant and disinterested, leaving us on our own to stumble unaided through life, not caring whether--or even if--we ever come home.

And how lonely it must be to live thinking of the Father as only an angry, short-tempered God who loves nothing better than to box a sinner about the ears. The truth is much more reassuring. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

BEYOND ALL MEASURE

In speaking of the holiness of God, Tozer points out that

Just so the entirety of God's personality. The qualities of God that make Him dear to His people--those intimate qualities that describe Him, for example, more as our heavenly Father than the all-powerful Lord of creation--are not just the same as ours raised to the highest power. The physical universe cannot contain the extravagant riches of His personality. It is wildly more than our small minds can comprehend.

To consider the grief He experiences, for one example, it would be inadequate to think of the most empathetic person one knows, then imagine that quality ten times, one hundred times greater, and apply it to God; the grief God experiences on our behalf would make even that seem like a muddy pothole when compared to the Pacific Ocean.

Or consider His love for us. We could imagine the most pleasing composite of every real and fictional mother we've ever met who, for us, embodied the very quintessential quality of tender love. We could even add into that the more pragmatic, sometimes gruff, uniquely male brand of love demonstrated by the finest fathers we've ever known. Then, to round out the package, we could mix in some of that warm, knowing, yet sometimes contentious love of a brother or sister. We could then take that exquisite example of the very finest human love there is, expand its qualities one hundred, one thousand, times--and against the love God feels and demonstrates for us, it would seem like a gentle breeze washed over and absorbed into a hurricane.

To truly know God is to be surrendered to Him. It is a rare soul that is repelled by the truth of God; most are repelled by a lie--a twisted, distorted image of His real personality. To know the truth about our great and compassionate Father is to be drawn into Him, swept up into His strong, protecting arms.

Jesus knew, of course. Being of the Father, He knew the full extent of His personality, and love for us.

O worship the king, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing, His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

O tell of His might, O sing of His grace,
Whose robe is the light, whose canopy space.
His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm.

Thy bountiful care what tongue can recite?
It breathes in the air, it shines in the light,
It streams from the hills, it descends to the plain,
And sweetly distills in the dew and the rain.

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
In Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail;
Thy mercies how tender! how firm to the end!
Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer and Friend. Amen.

Robert Grant


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

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NOTES

1. Both interviews are from an article on teenagers' perceptions of sin, published in the Des Moines Register, October 9, 1991.

2. giyl, gheel, Hebrew Stg 1523; or (by permutation) guwl, gool; a primitive root; properly to spin round (under the influence of any violent emotion), i.e. usually rejoice, or (as cringing) fear :- be glad, joy, be joyful, rejoice.

3. The Knowledge of the Holy (HarperCollins, 1992), p167.

4. Ibid, p163.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1998 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) 1998 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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