Monday, March 24, 2008


"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled."
-Matthew 5:6

Empty. It's not a comfortable word, is it? Emptiness is a feeling and a state of being that all of us try to avoid. Emptiness also creates a desire in us to do something about be be filled. Hunger is an emptiness in our stomach that creates a desire to satisfy ourselves with food, but emptiness goes beyond the physical.

If emptiness occurs in one's career, it results in a desire to do something different. Maybe I'll go back to school, start my own business, or rethink how I approach work so that it's not just a J-O-B. If there is an emptiness in family life, then there's a desire for things to change. Maybe I'll use family time more wisely on the weekends, begin family devotions at least once a week, coach one of my children's teams, or simply keep my promise to leave the office when I say I will. Emptiness in marriage results in a desire for more satisfaction...maybe from turning off the TV and actually talking to my wife, going away on vacation (just the two of us) to retreat and regroup, or just taking small, intentional steps to be more sensitive to her needs on a daily and weekly basis. Embracing our emptiness seems to be the first step toward satisfaction.

It sounds backwards...who are we kidding? It is backwards, but isn't that what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5? Those who are void of righteousness and embrace that by being hungry and thirsty for it...those are the ones who will be satisfied. The problem with embracing emptiness, though, is it means admitting weakness. It means I'm not the only person I need, and that flies in the face of our culture's view of man. We have become extremely individualistic in our society. In fact, the very idea that my satisfaction is based on something outside me is offensive because it takes me out of the center of my universe.

However, whether we like it or not, we all start life empty, and too many of us live our whole lives empty. To paraphrase something that French philosopher Blaise Pascal said, there is an emptiness in the lives of all men and women. How we choose to try and fill that emptiness will determine the course of our lives and the course of our eternity. People try to fill this emptiness with money, cars, houses, having another child, having another mistress, education, drugs, casual sex, going to church, giving to the Salvation Army, and lots of other things. Ultimately, these things...even sinful things...may give temporary satisfaction, but they won't last. If God graces you with conviction, you will lie in your bed, stare at the ceiling, and say something like this: "What am I doing with my life? Where am I headed? Is this really all there is? I feel so empty."

It is at this point, with the ceiling offering no answers, that you are best prepared to have your soul satisfied. Denying your emptiness would be a denial of reality, but embracing your emptiness will send you on a journey to find your satisfaction. In order for that journey to be successful, it must end at another empty empty tomb. You see, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is the source and substance of our soul's satisfaction. When we embrace the emptiness of the tomb of Jesus, we find satisfaction for our souls and our life. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead [the emptiness of the tomb], you will be saved" (Rom. 10:9).

So, Pascal was right on...there is an emptiness in every life. And he was right when he said the's an emptiness that only God can fill. Don't look for the satisfaction of your soul anywhere other than in the person of Jesus Christ. Embrace your emptiness...embrace the fact that every effort to try and fill it apart from Jesus is empty...embrace the emptiness of Christ's satisfied with Jesus.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Insert Name [HERE]

Thoughts on Luke 14:25-26.

I am so thankful for the love of God. I am so thankful that as spiritually wretched, poor, blind, and naked I was, the love of God sent Christ to die while I was still a sinner (Romans 5:8). The third verse of the old hymn, The Love of God, is incredibly true...

"Could we with ink the ocean fill and were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill and every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole, though stretched from sky to sky"

That song was written in 1917 by Frederick Lehman, and it still rings true today. In fact, Mercy Me did it on their album called Spoken For, and it's great.

We could swim in the deep, deep waters of the love of God and never find its end. We could sweat and toil to hike every square inch of the mountainous love of God and never find its peak. The love of God for us in Christ is so precious. I remember, as a teenager, hearing an evangelist quote John 3:16 and afterward, he said, "Now, put your name in there...let's say it out loud." The whole congregation began "For God so loved the world...", and at the appropriate times, we entered our names. It was a reminder of God's love for individuals.

Now, none of what I have written seems to remotely correspond with Luke 14:25-26. In fact, it seems quite the opposite. Don't we get into the habit of talking about "the positives" of following Jesus...and then "the negatives". You know, the benefits are peace, joy, forgiveness, eternal life, etc., etc. The cost is holiness, picking up your cross, forsaking everything else, etc., etc.

Now, I agree that there is a cost to discipleship, but I think we dismiss it too easily, and we think of it wrongly. First, we cannot dismiss the cost...I'll insert my name in Luke 14:26, and I dare you to do the same - "If [Toby] comes to Me, and does not hate [Harold, his dad] and [Stephanie, his mom] and [Susan] and [Caleb, Austin, Emilie Grace, and Georgia] and [Andy and Jeremy] and [Christie], yes, and even [Toby's] own life, [Toby] cannot be My disciple." We could have kept talk about taking up [Toby's] cross (v. 27) or giving up all of [Toby's] possessions (v. 33). However, you get the picture. Maybe you're thinking, "That's personal...lighten up...can we get back to the love theme?"

Don't you see? This is the very essence of love. Hating father, mother, brother, sister, wife, and children...taking up our up all our is the very death of the old me. The old me considered nothing more important than family, a good salary, a nice 401k, a comfortable lifestyle, and my health. The love of God cries out to that incomplete, superficial, selfish, idolatrous person and says, "Come to me, all who are weary...and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28-30). "Unless you likewise repent, you will perish" (Luke 13:3).

The greatest treasure in the universe is Jesus Christ, and unless we repent of treasuring family, possessions, and even our own lives over Christ, we will not be saved. But the love of God has invaded the time-space continuum that we might be saved. Somehow, for the one who knows Christ, he can love his wife as Christ loved the church (Eph. 5) and hate her in comparison to treasuring Christ. A child can honor father and mother (Ex. 20:12) and hate father and mother in comparison to treasuring Christ.

It seems paradoxical, but the Christian life is just your life, and you'll lose it. Lose your life for My sake, Jesus said, and you'll save it. The man who hates his wife when compared to the way he loves His Lord is the greatest lover his wife. The child who hates father and mother when compared to the way she loves the Lord gives the greatest honor to father and mother. That may need to roll around in your mind for just a does mine.

The first verse of that hymn begins..."The love of God is greater far than tongue or pen can ever tell." My friend, leave every other love, and with reckless abandon, live in the love of God.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Livin' La Vida Liberia #2

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I do have things swirling around in my brain that I'd love to share with you. However, I have not made the time to do it yet. So, again...sorry.

This may be an "easy out", but I recently posted a new sermon on my church website. It's the first one I preached after coming back from Liberia, and it contains more personal information than I normally include. However, part of the sermon is a testimony to God's grace in answering my prayer for Georgia's visa to come through. I hope that it encourages you as you walk with the Lord.

Go to, and click on "Sermons Online" on the left side of the page. Have a great week, and keep your eyes on Jesus!