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a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 143
Oct. 2002


O God, there is too little of You down here.
So very few seem to know You well;
so very few wish to know You well.
But there is within me a desire
to be filled to overflowing with You,
to let my soil-bound life become enveloped in Yours.
I want to look up into Your sanctuary
and let Your majesty and strength wash over me,
cleansing that part bound to the earth,
and elevating that part bound to You.

To Him who rides upon the highest heavens,
which are from ancient times;
Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice.
Ascribe strength to God;
His majesty is over Israel
And His strength is in the skies.
O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary.
The God of Israel Himself gives strength
and power to the people.
Blessed be God!

                              Psalm 68:33-35



There are few benefits to rising before dawn. Comforting slumber must be beaten away as it clings tenaciously to the reposed form like a warm downy quilt. The eyes are glued shut, and behave like an old wooden cellar door soaked from a late-summer rain: swollen in its frame, unwilling to swing free. The floor is hard against legs that have atrophied from their lateral rest, and, overnight, heavy furniture has moved into the path to the bathroom, barking shins and stubbing toes. But then, once the eyelids have been pried open, and at least a measure of the senses have returned, there is one benefit in store for the poor fool so rudely rung from bed.

The eastern sky, so long dark and anonymous, stirs at first with a grayish tinge barely perceptible against the thick night so reluctant to leave. But then it glows brighter, announcing the inevitable birth of a new day. Yet there is still little about the dawn to invite the chilled early-riser's embrace; gray and distant, it seems only to remind the sleepy of the warm comfort just left.

But then the scattered clouds that reach toward the eastern horizon begin to glow with the candied pinks and purples of the dawn--at first only faintly at the edges, but then gradually shifting from gray to white, to the rainbow colors of an awakening sun. And soon, as the gray dawn is replaced by the Technicolor spectacle of a new sky, the somnambulant riser is wide awake, exulting in the splendor of that which he, surely, is the sole spectator: a private showing of God's early rising.

They say a good breakfast is a healthy way to begin a day. They say a glass of orange juice is just the ticket to jump-start a lethargic mind and body. Some may opt, instead, for a bracing cup of hot, strong coffee and the morning news.

But nothing throws off tenacious slumber quite like the glory of the Lord. Nothing braces the mind and heart for a new day quite like an early-morning audience with His splendor. It is to fill the heart with unbounded joy; it is to begin the day parting the blinds of the earth's sky, to peer into the brilliance of heaven. It is to begin the day being filled to overflowing with the Lord's goodness, and majesty, and empowering strength.



We have just finished the month that marked the one-year anniversary of the radical-Muslim attack on the United States. In September 2001 four domestic airliners, filled with passengers and fuel, were com mandeered and flown into the towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and, through the bravery of those aboard, a field in Pennsylvania.

In keeping with American tradition our airwaves have been filled with television and radio programs revisiting this heinous event from every conceivable angle. Repeated throughout the month, the Public Broadcast Service (PBS) presented a two-hour Frontline program entitled "Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero," in which representatives from just about every religious tradition but evangelical Christianity philosophized over the impact the events of September 11 had had on their faith in God.

While the program did indeed portray a variety of responses--from a renewed dependency on God, to a renewed cynicism, to outright rejection of His very existence--one recurring theme was evident. Because God does not meet people's expectations of a god, they declare Him to be unfeeling, unsympathetic, too distant to care. As a result, they reject Him, or, at best, become smirkingly cynical about Him and His effectiveness in their lives.

But when man failed to meet God's expectations of what he should be, instead of turning away from them--as they turn against Him today--He loved them, and sent His very Son to die for them.

When people do not know God, thus believing what they think He should be, rather than who He really is, they ultimately define Him in human terms, expecting Him to be someone as grossly fallible as themselves. In good times and tragedy people expend great quantities of time and energy wondering who God really is--or whether He is even real.

But God has never hidden Himself from man. There is no reason to agonize over wondering who He is, or why He acts as He does. There is no reason to doubt that He exists. He has presented Himself in print, in flesh, and in supernatural visitations. Indeed, all of creation shouts His glory.

God understands grief--even man's anger. But because He has offered the Way, He cannot excuse disbelief.



Most every morning, as part of the devotional way in which I begin the day, I read a psalm, taking them numerically, as they are ordered in Scripture. Since I believe in the providence of God, it was no coincidence that on one morning--the morning of September 11, I turned the page to discover that the next psalm in order was number 11, which reads:



We live in a world that is big on filters. The practice goes by many high-sounding names--the more common of which would be "post-modernism" or "relativism." Different from healthy discernment, this is the practice of rejecting absolute truth in favor of a self-defined truth--and self-defined "truth" tends to filter out anything unpleasant, to reject anything that challenges the individual's personal comfort zone.

In San Diego we used to live near a "soup and salad" restaurant. Here one paid a flat fee, then helped oneself to a bounty of salad fixings and a selection of homemade soups. The salad bar in this restaurant was probably fifty feet long, double-sided, and replete with every imaginable companion to the chilled plate.

I would begin with the basics of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, onions and grated cheese--passing by the pickled beets and cucumbers. Moving further down the line, I would grab a large spoonful of the crab salad, but give a wide berth to the three-bean salad. The potato and macaroni salads were favorites, but not the grated carrot. The creamy Jell-O and pineapple salad would be added to my plate, but never the one containing raisins.

From the salad bar, I would move on to the simmering pots of soup, passing up the vegetable or chili to help myself to a bowl of hearty turkey noodle. Across from the soups were the breads--fresh baked and still warm from the oven. The muffins were a favorite, usually choosing the apple-nut over the cornbread--unless, of course I was having chili, in which case the cornbread would be the perfect companion. Later I would waddle back to sample the slices of cheese pizza or sweet almond cakes, but never, ever, anything that contained coconut.

This is the kind of pick-and-choose relationship some Christians have with God. They move down the line, pushing their tray before them, selecting only those parts of Him they think they'll like. "Let's see, I'll have some of that grace and forgiveness--but I think I'll pass on the correction. How about just a little light Sunday School--but none of that heavy Bible study. And give me plenty of that 'old-time religion'--but go easy on the conviction and wrath. For dessert, I believe I'll have a large helping of that love and compassion--hold the holiness."

To be truly filled with God we must take everything that He is. We cannot pick and choose what we want of God. He is not broken down into compartments, bins filled with His various character attributes, bins from which we may either select or reject. He is of a piece, unified, inseparable. He is to be taken as a whole.

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Issue No. 143
October 2002


Aspects is Copyright © 2002 David S. Lampel.

Permission is hereby granted for this original material to be reprinted in newsletters, journals, etc., or to be used in spoken form. When used, please include the following line: "From Aspects, by David S. Lampel. Used by permission." Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture is from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (Updated Edition), Copyright © The Lockman Foundation 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995. Used by permission. Where indicated, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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