Four Dimensional Love

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Ephesians3-18

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”–Ephesians 3:18 (NLT)

How wide.
How long.
How high.
How deep.

It’s the love of God in four dimensions.

Another Bible translation uses language that is more mathematical:  width, length, depth and height. Dimensions are “measurable extents” according to Google’s dictionary.

I’m not a physicist or mathematician, but I know that four dimensions aren’t easily expressed with a pencil and a piece of paper.

If asked to represent the first dimension, I would draw a line. For the second, I might choose a square and for the third a cube. But what about the fourth dimension?

4D

We live in a 3D world, and anything beyond that is hard to visualize.

Maybe plotting points would help. For the first dimension, we can move left or right on a line and designate any point as x. Add another axis and we can move left or right AND up or down to plot (x,y). In 3D, we can still move left, right, up, and down, but we don’t stop there. Now we can also move forward or backward, adding depth to shapes and a third coordinate when we plot the point (x, y, z).

3D plot points

The natural progression of this thinking would be to move to the fourth dimension, adding another axis and another coordinate (x, y, z, ?).

But I can’t fathom that, let alone picture or draw it. I’d venture to say that most people hit a mind block at this point.

Still, Einstein envisioned a fourth dimension and called it time. This is like having an appointment at the corner of Broadway and Main St., on the 4th floor, at 9am. Four pieces of information, or coordinates, are needed to fully describe it (x, y, z, t).

Ephesians 3:18 says that the love of God is the same way. Our minds can easily think and visualize in 3D, because it’s the pattern of the world we see every day. But three dimensions aren’t sufficient to describe God’s love. It’s beyond comprehension, yet the verse itself is Paul’s prayer that we would “have the power to understand” or in the NKJV, “may be able to comprehend” the dimensions of God’s love.

Dr. Math from mathforum.org says that the fourth dimension can represent things other than time, say temperature or pressure. So, I could describe the length, width and height of an object. That’s easy to picture, but how do you “see” the temperature of that same object? Or the amount of pressure it exerts?

The same struggle arises when we try to understand the four dimensional love of God from a 3D perspective. We’re accustomed to believing what we can see and touch–things that can be easily quantified.

We’ve been taught that God loves us, and we believe it. But throw in an extended length of time between our prayer request and the answer, and we start to doubt.

We read that God is love and that His love never fails, but when life’s temperature is turned up we get frantic.

We know that the perfect love of God casts out fear, but as the pressure of circumstances increases, we become afraid.

All of us do this at times, and it’s understandable really, but it’s not God’s intention for how we experience His love. That’s why Paul prayed that we would grasp the reality of God’s kind of love.

To truly know God’s love, we have to look beyond what we’ve always seen to what we can’t see yet but know is there. That requires eyes of faith.

Faith to believe that the God’s love stretches longer than the years we’ve waited for answers and that it doesn’t buckle under pressure or deteriorate as temperatures rise.

Because the love of God is high enough to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.

“Your love, Lord , reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”–Psalm 36:5

It’s longer than the furthest reach of time.

“But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord ’s love is with those who fear him …” Psalm 103:17

The love of God is as wide as the arms of Jesus stretched out on the cross–wide enough to embrace us all.

And His love is deep.

“There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”–Corrie ten Boom (This from a woman who endured the Holocaust.)

So when Romans 8:37-39 says that “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” and that “nothing can ever separate us from God’s love,” it really means NOTHING.

God’s love extends in all directions with no boundary to curb it. It’s unbroken by time, unconditional by nature, and impenetrable to any force that would try to break its power.

That kind of love may be hard to grasp from a 3D vantage point, but it’s real and it’s the reason we can trust our loving God through every situation.

 

When the Bible Deserves a Second Look:  6 Times You Miss out by Giving up too Soon

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So, I read the Bible through in 9 days. Before you go putting me on a religious pedestal or peer down into the pit of pride you may perceive me to have fallen into, let me say this:

While I began the book of Genisis for some reasons that weren’t so great …

  • I had agreed to forgo television and social media for awhile and literally felt like I had nothing else to do but read the Bible.
  • Afraid I would cheat on the aforementioned agreement, I set a personal goal of reading the Bible, knowing that for me, stubborness would trump temptation.
  • I felt guilty for being 27 years old and never having read the Bible in its entirety.

*I don’t recommend any of these motivations for reading God’s Word, and wish I had begun out of a pure heart.

By the time I reached the book of Revelation, God had taken my measly, pride-ridden, guilt-driven offering and turned it into a real hunger for His Word that I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Maybe never. Because I read from beginning to end with very little time gap and hardly anything to divide my attention, I saw the Story in a whole new way. Thank God for His grace!

Since then, I’ve felt the tug of busyness and distraction competing for my attention, and this is why I am writing a post about the six times we give up on the Bible too soon–often just before we would’ve discovered something amazing.

1) When someone does something that seems illogical

Ever read a story from the Old or New Testament and thought, “Huh? Why did they do that?”

This was my reaction every time I’ve ever heard or read the story of Jacob and Esau from Genesis 25. Twins born to a Jewish patriarch, the boys were raised knowing that the birthright–a double portion of the inheritance, not to mention the blessing passed down through God’s covenant with Abraham–was firmly and rightfully placed in firstborn Esau’s hands. And Esau sold it for soup? Seriously? My older-sibling, type-A, ambitious personality can hardly fathom the ludicracy of it all. Issac might’ve laughed had he not favored Esau so much. (Issac. Laughed. See what I did there? Ha!)

But don’t we do much the same thing? We are heirs to the same promise, grafted into Abraham’s family tree and endowed with every spiritual blessing because of Christ (Gal. 3:30; Eph. 1:3), yet we often squander it all away to gratify the “hunger pains” that cry out for what is pleasing in the moment.

There is the picture of the depth of our human weakness and the degree to which we need Jesus. I didn’t see it until I really gave that bowl of soup a hard look.

2) When your first thought is, “I’ve read that before”

John 3:16 anyone? It’s synonymous with Christianity and is perhaps the most well known Scripture in the Bible–so much so that I almost skip over it at times, speed reading on to the next verses and chapter. But the passage is familiar and beloved for a reason. In only 25 words, it shouts the best news the world has ever heard, clearly relaying the character of a God so often misunderstood.

God loved, and so He gave His best that we might live.

It’s worth reading again.

3) When you can’t find the answer you are looking for

Where should I go to college? Why does God seem to condemn those to Hell who have died never having heard the name of Jesus? How can I get my 2-year-old to eat more than just yogurt and chicken nuggets?

We may not find the detailed answers in black and white among the Bible’s pages, but consider this:  Is there a better place to search than the venue chosen by the Creator of the universe to reveal Himself, through His Son, by the illumination of His Spirit?

It is in Scripture that we find context for decision making, insight into hard questions, peace for what must–for now–be left unanswered, and wisdom (coupled with patience) to handle everyday life.

4) When it seems irrelevant or over your head, and it would be easier to pick up a self-help book

Ever tried reading through Psalms when you are feeling particularly happy or sad? Sometimes it seems like the psalmist’s emotional roller coaster is on a collision course with my own. Then there are the times when my brain hurts trying to decipher the meaning of something the Apostle Paul wrote. Or, I feel so out of touch with historical people and places that I consider whether I could more easily find what I’m looking for in something by David Platt or Beth Moore (two authors who have often helped me uncover Biblical truth but whose books should never substitute for the Bible itself).

We’re talking about growing pains, and stopping there is like tripping over the first hurdle only to swear off track and field for good. It’s throwing out a frappachino from Starbucks because you’ve only tasted whipped cream so far. Or being Thomas Edison and quitting right before you invent the lightbulb.

No, this is the time to pray, “Holy Spirit show me the truth in this Book and how You would have me apply it today.”

5) When you don’t like what it says

Early in my 9-day Bible marathon, I came across Leviticus 27, which talks about dedicating people to the Lord by giving an offering equal to the “value of that person.” The chapter goes on to list the “value” of men, women, and children at various ages, and I immediately began to think of my 2-year-old daughter. Under the law, and taking into account the tendency of that culture to shun and devalue anyone with a disease, my daughter would not have come out on top. In fact, as a young female with a visible disorder, she would’ve been considered the lowest of the low.

My daughter is beyond precious to me, and I would give my life for her, so you can see how my sensibilities were riled by what I read in Leviticus. For a moment, I was tempted to close the Book right then and there.

I’m glad I kept reading, because I eventually came to the part where Jesus demands that the little children–even the girls–be allowed to come to Him because “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14).

Then Jesus did something that gave my daughter (and all of us) undeniable and irrevocable worth:  He died in our place.

This, I knew, but it gained more meaning after Leviticus showed me just how great a deficit Jesus purchased all of us from. How very highly He must think of us!

6) When you read something that doesn’t jive with your current world view

As a woman, it’s really easy to read about husbands laying down their lives for wives. Because I have a husband who does this beautifully and I’ve learned to trust Christ in him, I welcome the idea of Biblical submission too. But women being silent in church, wearing headcoverings, and avoiding braided hair and costly jewelry–they don’t always sit well with my more “progressive” way of looking at the world. Google any of these issues, and you’ll encounter a lively debate about what the Bible is or isn’t saying.

The temptation is to scroll through the search results until we find a point of view that we like or that matches with what we’ve previously been taught.

But since there is more than plenty in the Bible that I don’t have “all figured out,” my challenge to myself and to you is this:

Let’s let every question that lingers, every idea that brings on a feeling of imbalance–drive us to our knees so that we can come to the One who wrote every Word, and in all humility ask, “Father, show me YOUR way.”

The reality is that we often shortchange our own experience with the Bible by not giving the Holy Spirit enough time to guide us to Biblical treasure. Our short attention spans and lack of perceverance are such that He can hardly get the shovel into our hands, let alone help us dig for truth. So, we end up sifting from the surface only a fraction of what could’ve been unearthed, and this does little to fuel an enduring desire for the Word of God. My prayer is not that I would read the Bible in 9 days again, but rather this:

“Oh, that I would meditate on Your Word and find truth that will spur my soul to search again and again.”

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