3/25/09

The Dimensions of God's Love

Science tells us that space begins where Earth’s atmosphere ends. How far is that? Some scientists say that begins at 400,000 feet (75.76 miles). It is the point where a rocket begins to experience atmospheric friction when they return to Earth. So how far are the heavens above Earth? That is often debated. Some say the atmosphere is finite; others say it is infinite. Some people say heaven is not a real place, but only a feeling within us. Jesus said it was a place, and He said He is coming back to take His followers there.

A verse that speaks to me when I get upset about the chaos in this world is Psalm 103:11: God’s “unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth” (NLT). Now that’s far! Paul said (Ephesians 3:18) he wanted to be able to comprehend the breadth, length, depth, and height of God’s love. In the words of John Phillips in Exploring Ephesians & Philippians (Kregel Publications, page 95), “If we use length, we create a line. If we add breadth, we create a surface. If we add depth, we create a solid. But how can we add height?” This fourth dimension defies understanding. In some ways, depth is the same as height, Phillips says, “unless it symbolizes a spiritual dimension.”

“John only used three dimensions to describe the celestial city (Revelation 21:16),” Phillips said, “But Paul introduced a spiritual dimension to help us comprehend the love of God.” His love for His children has always existed, from time everlasting past, and it will continue unconditionally into eternity future. I choose to focus on God’s loving care, and that brings me peace (Isaiah 26:3-4).

3/18/09

Incomplete Pictures

I took forever to join Facebook. What lured me in was the desire to see some of my family’s photos. Since I’ve joined, I’ve seen a different side of some of my relatives in funny, quirky, surprising, sweet, and touching photos. The pictures are rounding out my idea of who these people really are! I’ve laughed and laughed. It’s a great adventure, getting to see these other sides.

That’s exactly how I feel about God. Almost every time I dig into the Word of God, I see some new “snapshot” of His character or His ways. Sometimes I’m surprised; sometimes I simply sit in awe. I feel like I understand so little about my Father, even though I’ve been His child for 37 years. I’ve studied theology and apologetics, but that’s not the same as intimate knowledge of the Holy One. I understand the longing of the apostle Paul to simply know the Lord (Philippians 3:8, 10).

I wonder how many incomplete pictures I have of Him. Oh, I know that we can never completely know the Father this side of heaven; but I wonder if there’s something that God has revealed that I’ve missed because I didn’t pay attention. Or maybe, as Oswald Chambers said, in Utmost for His Highest, my vision of God may be distorted because I’ve gazed too long at idols. The idols may be my work, my family, my goals, or even myself. When God’s people were blinded by idols in Isaiah’s day, they could not visualize God clearly. Isaiah invited them to look toward the heavens for a fresh snapshot of God. “Lift up your eyes on high,” Isaiah said, “and see Who has created these things” (Isaiah 40:26). In other words, deliberately focus on God and what He has done, if you want to know Who He is.

I want a more complete picture of God. He gave us His Word so we will get to know Him better, and He will expand our understanding and appreciation of Him. We see His power and majesty in the story of creation. We see Him at work in the stories of Jonah, Daniel, David, Moses, Ruth, and so many others.

My grandma Lillian once said she wanted to get so familiar with God through her studies in the Bible that she’d feel like there were few surprises when she meets Him in heaven. In other words, a more complete picture of God equals the potential for deeper intimacy with Him.

3/11/09

Staying Alive

I ran across this statement today by an unknown author: “Every day, I beat my own previous record for the number of consecutive days I’ve stayed alive.” A little silly; a little profound. I’m at the age where there are more days behind me than will likely be ahead of me. More and more, I’m doing the things that I should have been doing years ago to ensure better health so I can live longer. I want to live to see my granddaughters’ high school graduations and marriages. I want to play with my great-grandchildren. So staying alive is a powerful goal.

But even more than physical life, I want to be sure that I’m truly living all the days of my life. I’ve stopped playing it safe. In the words of Gary Haugen (Just Courage), “One of the biggest regrets of life, I think, is a sense of having gone on the trip but missed the adventure.” I don’t want to miss the adventure.

I may have arthritis and bad knees and headaches, but I am still alive, and as long as I’m on earth, I want to live with passion and purpose. I want to walk worthy of God—pleasing Him, serving Him, and searching out His heart (Col. 1:10). “For I am God’s masterpiece. He created me anew in Christ Jesus, so I can do the good things he planned for me long ago.” (Eph. 2:10, NLT, personalized). What choices will enable me to follow Him today?

3/4/09

A Modesty Meddler

I didn’t know, at first, whether to say anything. As I walked up the stairway to the balcony of the church, I rounded a corner and nearly fell over a teenage girl, sitting on the steps with her girlfriend. Beyond the rudeness of sitting there—people had to carefully maneuver past the girls—their clothing was a real problem. One girl wore a blouse that was so low, her entire bra was visible as she sat, leaning forward.

I noticed, but quickly edged my way past them. As I continued up the stairs, I imagined how many men ahead of me and behind me had to divert their eyes. I wondered whether they would. I wondered why these girls didn’t “get” what they were doing—how they were causing men to struggle and possibly stumble into sin. And if they did get it, why didn’t they care? For a minute at the top of the stairs, I argued with God’s Spirit, and then headed back down.

“Sweetie,” I said to the girl with the blouse issue, “I wish you wouldn’t sit there.” I gave her the benefit of the doubt: “I don’t think you realize that you are showing off a lot more than you probably want to show.” As she stared at me blankly, I explained, “I can see all the way down your blouse, and so can every man and boy who walks up here.” She yanked at her blouse, and then folded her arms and looked away. I glanced at the other girl. Again, a blank stare. Neither girl moved, obviously waiting for me to leave.

I’m not the confrontational type, but my heart grieved for what the men in our church faced that morning, for what they face every week. To quote Jim Harmon (“Modesty: Virtue Ignored. Contending for Modesty in the Church”), “To speak of modesty or standards of modesty today is to risk branding oneself as na├»ve, impractical, out-of-date, and a prude — and even worse — a meddler.” OK then. I was a Modesty Meddler. Though a thorny issue for the church, modesty is nevertheless clearly woven throughout scripture, linked to God’s holiness in us (I Peter 1:16). There is no excuse for immodest dress; there are always pure alternatives in fashion. [Note: Pure Fashion has some great modesty guidelines for young girls wanting to be modest and fashionable! For a downloadable PDF version, go to purefashion.com/modesty.]

In these days of moral confusion, I’m praying that God will show His church how to reach women of all ages with a motivating message of modesty (I Corinthians 6:19-20; I Timothy 2:9a; 2 Timothy 2:22; I Peter 2:9, 11-12; 3:2; Titus 2:3-5). I know that modesty is a choice that springs from a pure heart (Matthew 5:8). Oh, Lord, give us pure, modest hearts.


Update: In a wonderful new development, the fashion industry is considering more modest clothing as part of its trend away from “bling” and into more “plain” and mixable pieces. Jayne O’Donnell wrote, in USA Today, “”Modesty in young women’s clothing is getting a boost from the dismal economy.” But Jeanne Grunert thinks there is more than economics at play. In Suite 101.com, Grunert wrote that the modern modesty movement “is a return to dressing like a lady and dressing conservatively.” This would be a wonderful time for churches and women’s ministries to consider a Mother/Daughter Tea with a modest-yet-fashionable Fashion Show!

In the News: Although the press covered the controversy concerning same sex-marriage after Miss California, Carrie Prejean, courageously stood up for her beliefs, a considerable amount of discussion concerning modesty in regard to Miss Prejean also cropped up on the Internet.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss, founder of Revive Our Hearts, offered a powerful, pertinent response on the True Woman blog.

For another voice concerning modesty, see Does God really care what Miss California and you and I wear?