Emptiness

woman on bench

We all know the old saying that “money can’t buy happiness.” Although a few may find some happiness through money, no amount of money in the world can buy or bring anyone complete satisfaction. Ask King Solomon—in his time he was (and would still be considered) the richest person in the world. Some have calculated that he was worth over two trillion U.S. dollars in today’s money. And he was not only the richest, but also the wisest person who ever lived.

“…God appear[ed] unto Solomon, and said unto him, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said unto God, Thou hast shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead. Now, O Lord God, let thy promise unto David my father be established: for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can judge this thy people, that is so great? And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (2 Chronicles 2:7-12).

Did all of this wisdom, riches, wealth, and honor that he received make Solomon happy and satisfied? God recorded his conclusion for us to read: “…vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Solomon was saying that all this world has to offer is actually emptiness. Throughout the book of Ecclesiastes, the Holy Spirit records Solomon’s woes regarding this earthly life. Little by little, he tried everything, and each time he came to the same conclusion—all is vanity or emptiness. Picture a loaf of bread filled with an excessive amount of yeast. It looks full and satisfying—until it is squeezed or sliced. Then it collapses into just a small lump of lifeless, baked dough. It will not satisfy.

Solomon had all the wisdom needed to solve almost any problem. People from all over the known world came just to hear his wisdom. He had untold riches. He lacked nothing—except true happiness and satisfaction. With so much in his favor and at his disposal, why didn’t he have real peace in his heart? Why wasn’t he satisfied? Because he did not keep God first in his life. He therefore tried to find happiness strictly on a human level, living his life on a parallel plane with the animal world.

God created man as a three part being: body, soul, and spirit. When we eliminate God from our lives, then all we are trying to satisfy is the body and soul.

As a result, our spirit remains dissatisfied. So we resort to additional efforts to try to satisfy the body and soul in an attempt to fill that deep longing that is actually from our spirit. Yet, the more we try to quench that longing by feeding and pleasing our body and soul, the worse we feel. As a result, we go through all kinds of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, since one third of our self is constantly being denied or deprived.

God never designed us to live our lives without Him. We accepted the lie somewhere in our life that God is not necessary, or even that He is nonexistent. As a result, we have ended up out of balance. Compare this to trying to ride a tricycle missing one rear wheel. No matter how much effort we put into keeping those two remaining wheels rolling, we will never be riding in a satisfactory way. Lacking a third wheel will keep holding us back. We can try to make our own third wheel, but it will never be the same as the original one.

broken chained tricycle

Many try to solve this imbalance, this emptiness and its byproducts, by going for professional help. We see doctors, therapists, counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists, and so on, and then attempt to follow their advice and solutions. We try following multi-step programs. We take prescription drugs. We may gamble or take in pornography. We may resort to smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking illegal drugs to try to satisfy the void in our life, or to cover up the pain that comes from ignoring that longing. We may seek all kinds of earthly pleasure. Yet none of these things, however beneficial they might seem to us, will ever relieve—much less fill—that emptiness deep inside of us. Just as Solomon plainly declared so long ago, it is all vanity. We can never permanently escape the emptiness this way. Sadly, all of our attempts to cover or fill this void within us only create new imbalances in our life. These result in even more efforts to solve the problems that we created in trying to remedy the original problems. We then end up in a cycle we can never free ourselves from.

The only solution to all of this heartache, pain, and madness is to acknowledge that God exists, that He is real. God loves us move than we ever can comprehend. The primary, essential example and evidence of His love is His willing sacrifice of His only Son. Jesus died on the cross so that we could be freed from this constant turmoil in our lives. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever should believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Have you ever heard of a doctor or psychologist or even a close neighbor offering to take all of your problems, as well as all the rest of their patient’s or client’s problems or even the all problems of those in the neighborhood, upon themselves, permanently?

No person on this earth can ever solve the problems that denying God has caused in our life due to sin. This is why we absolutely need Jesus in our life. He was never trapped in these cycles of emptiness that we struggle with continually. He was sinless. Yet He took upon Himself all of our sins, struggles, and problems. He paid the penalty for sin that He didn’t owe so that we won’t have to. Jesus wants to fill that spiritual void in our life. He said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

But He can only work in us if we let Him. As long as we continue to go about in our own way and deny Him, or try to replace Him in our life, we will never have real peace and satisfaction. All of our own efforts will not bring true fulfillment in our life—only more emptiness. We may cover it up or try to escape from it, but the emptiness will always be there. The worst part is that this emptiness will not end when we die, but will continue throughout eternity. We are only deceiving ourselves if we think death will be the end of it all.

man sitting on ledge

We only have a very small portion compared to what King Solomon possessed. Yet, in spite of his immense wisdom and grandeur, he discovered that all is vanity or emptiness without God. Why settle for a life that is ultimately empty forever, when we can have eternal satisfaction instead? The point must come in our life when we acknowledge the existence of God. What happens to us in eternity rests on our choice now. Right this moment, Jesus can take away our pain and emptiness, if we will allow Him to. We don’t have to have all of the riches and wisdom in the world to find out that God is the answer. He is here right now. Give your heart over to Him and be free from pursuing vanity.

For more about knowing God please click here.

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“Fear Ye Not!”

Moses and the crossing of the Red Sea

“…Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever” (Ex. 14:13).

“Fear ye not”, Moses ordered the people of God. Yet here they were, with no weapons, facing the mightiest army on Earth at that time. But their lack of weapons really did not matter, because they had no courage to stand against the Egyptian army anyway.

“Stand still”, Moses then ordered them. They were not to even try to fight, or to help God out in delivering them. What they did need to do was to just stand quietly, reining in their fear, panic, and confusion. That was how they could ‘help’ God!

“See the salvation of the Lord”, Moses told them next. But how could Moses be so sure himself that God would deliver them? He knew there was good reason for hope that God would intervene. His courage and confidence came from seeing the supernatural cloud that had come with them. He also knew that God always positions Himself in between His people and their strong enemies. “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them…” (Exodus 14:19).

The Lord frequently leads His children into very difficult situations from which they are unable to see any way of escape. And they would not have judged this to be a good idea if God had asked their opinion in advance. But God’s cloud always guides them in the direction He deems best.

You may also be in a difficult situation right now, from which you can see no way of escape. Do not worry, do not fear—if God leads you into the situation, then it is appropriate for you, and it will prove to be justified in due time. God will use it later as a way to show His grace and power to you and to others.

Most people tend to place situations between themselves and God. But the man of God places God in between himself and the difficult situation. Has God said “Go forward!” to you? Then watch Him clear the way and lead you, along with other men and women of God, the way a shepherd guides and cares for his flock. His way will be a way unknown to you. But if He chooses to put you in dire straits, He will also be the one to lead you out again.

Where else could Israel go but up? And that is just where their deliverance came from. You may be doing what you should to follow God and make your way to Heaven, and still find yourself troubled every direction you turn. Some of the Israelites cried out against Moses, because they were so afraid. They acted like the same God who had performed miracles to get them this far could no longer perform more miracles on their behalf. Others who were afraid cried unto God in prayer. But this was good for them, because they needed to learn to cry unto God, and no longer rely on Moses or themselves.

kneeling in prayer

Why does God still bring His people today into trying and difficult situations? so that we will go on our knees at once, seeking Him for answers and deliverance. When we cannot find a way to get out of the trouble we find ourselves in, we need to rise above our fear, and use it instead to spur us into prayer. We should never permit our fear to stifle our hope and faith in God.

“Stand still,” instead of trying to fight or flee in order to save yourself. Be a good soldier of God and wait to receive further orders from Him. Then carry out His orders once He gives them to you. Settle yourself to put all confidence in God no matter what situation He has led you into. Then you will see what a great deliverance He is going to accomplish on your behalf!

Hold your peace. Don’t raise your hand to the enemy. Don’t even shout against him. God will do the work needed without any help from you. It is wise when times are hard to keep your spirit calm and quiet. This puts you in the right frame of mind to do the work you are supposed to do and to consider God’s work.

If you can’t figure out what to do, don’t do anything. Stand still until God tells you your next move. It is His concern to defend those who believe in Him and to direct them. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

“Fear ye not!”

Bribing the Enemy for Peace?

money passed in handshake

“Then Menahem smote [attacked] Tiphsah, and all that were therein, and the coasts thereof from Tirzah: because they opened not to him…and all the women therein that were with child he ripped up. In the nine and thirtieth year of Azariah king of Judah began Menahem the son of Gadi to reign over Israel, and reigned ten years in Samaria. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord: he departed not all his days from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin. And Pul the king of Assyria came against the land: and Menahem gave Pul a thousand talents of silver, that his hand might be with him to confirm the kingdom in his hand. And Menahem exacted [demanded] the money of Israel, even of all the mighty men of wealth, of each man fifty shekels of silver, to give to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria turned back, and stayed not there in the land.” (2 Kings 15:16-20).

The nation of Israel was at one of the low points in its history, both morally and spiritually. Many years earlier it had split into two kingdoms, with Judah comprising the southern half. Menahem, the current king, did not want to lose his standing as leader of the people and the land. Sadly, though, he had not even been chosen by the people. He had simply killed the previous king, who had only ruled a month, and took his place! The people’s objection to his rule was further established in verse 16, when he readily attacked the city of Tiphsah and all of its inhabitants (including child-bearing women, in a most vicious way) just because they refused to allow him into their city.

Instead of seeking and trusting God, Menahem took matters into his own hands—he leaned to the wisdom of man instead of God.

When the king of Assyria came against the land of Israel, Menahem chose to bribe the king rather than attempting to fight Him. Then he ordered all the wealthy individuals of the land to pay the bribe, whether they liked it or not. It is sad to note that this was all that the Holy Spirit chose to make known of his life to future readers of God’s Word, like many other leaders of the land.

How many believers in Christ today try something similar when our enemy, the devil, attacks us? We may not actually kill a leader, or attack a city and its people, but we still attempt to bribe or pay off our enemy. We even try to force other believers to pay the bribe for us! How many pastors and ministry leaders are guilty of trying to bribe the enemy with the funds from their church or ministry?

Throughout the Old Testament, the history of the children of Israel has demonstrated for us what happens when our faith is not totally in God. Over and over, the Israelites turned their eyes off of God, and onto themselves and their problems instead. They allowed their problems to reach the point where they became blinded to the fact that God actually could, and wanted to, deliver them from these problems and situations. They became so caught up with deception from the devil that their leaders started bribing the enemy to bring peace. As long as they kept averting the tests that God was bringing on them via the devil, the more the tests continued.

We cannot bribe or placate our enemy, the devil, to gain peace, whether we are ministry leaders or not.

The devil is the master of chaos, but Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Our only hope is to give our situations and circumstances over to Him. Giving even as little as a fraction of an inch to the devil results in him taking control of much of our lives. There is nothing that we could ever give to the devil that would satisfy him to leave us alone. It is foolishness to think that we could ever have peace with, much less overcome, the devil in our own strength.

When the ‘king of Assyria’ or any other ‘king’ comes against us spiritually, our solution is to turn to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Jesus Christ. He has already paid the price and won our victory through His sacrifice on the cross. The price He paid was not a bribe or tribute. It was a final sacrifice and a finished work. There is nothing more we can ever do to improve or build upon His sacrifice for us. Jesus has already defeated the ‘king of Assyria’; all we have to do is trust in faith in that victory for ourselves. “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” (Exodus 14:14).

The Devil is my Taskmaster?

ancient slave driver

“The devil is my taskmaster; I will always be in lack. I aimlessly wander in dry, barren meadows; he drives me through raging rivers of unrest, he wearies my life. In accordance with his nature, he deceptively sends me down the wrong way deeper into sin. Though I travel on the sides of the mountains of life, peace, and happiness, I am filled with anxiety and dread from the evil that still lies all around me: for the devil is always near me; his club and his dagger they distress me. God has abandoned me with no sustenance or help in the presence of my enemies; He cares nothing about my health and well-being; my cup is empty. Surely iniquity and ruthlessness shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will never be able to live in the house of the Lord for even a day, much less forever.”

If an anti-Bible was ever written, it would probably render Psalm 23 like this. Sounds depressing and rather dreadful, doesn’t it? Yet, for millions around the world, this is close to being the narrative of what their life seems like to them every day and night. They hope for a better tomorrow and it never seems to come. Or it does come, but with a hefty price—leading to more regret and disappointment.

The devil plays for keeps. Jesus said, “The thief [the devil] cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). One of the devil’s greatest attributes is deception. He never acts fairly. Once he has a person deceived, his efforts to keep him from having eternal life with God become easier. In fact, the devil is so enamored with deception that he has deceived himself into believing that he can overthrow the Lord God! Throughout the Bible, his attempts to destroy, oppose, or corrupt the works of God are recorded. Yet he thinks God is not aware of how he operates, as if He is powerless to stop his nefarious efforts—the very Lord God who is the Creator of the universe!

The devil believes that, by corrupting as many of God’s creation (the human race) as he can, he will be able to coerce God into compromising and allowing sin to continue to exist.

If this could be, it would nullify God’s very existence and open the door for the devil to take the place of God in return. The devil does not care about anyone or anything on this earth. He loves to exploit the human race for his own gain. He likes to keep people content and distracted with both the cares and the pleasures of this physical life. Entertainment is one easy means of diversion, which keeps us from knowing the devil’s ultimate motives. At the same time, sin, which the devil heavily encourages, also takes its toll in the form of pain, disease, corruption, and ultimately, destruction. So, by living in his fold (or world), we are both satisfied and dissatisfied, happy and miserable, strong and weak, and so on, until we die. We are never complete, and there is always emptiness in our hearts.

The devil would have us believe that we are living in the gray area between good and evil, and that we decide which side we will ultimately end up living on. But the truth is that we are already living on the evil or dark side by default. We are living on his pasture and the lush green grass that we see is only a facade; underneath all of this is dry and barren ground, full of unsatisfying weeds. We are subject to his terms and demands. His burdens are hard and his yoke is heavy. We are slaves to his system.

shepherd-biegun-wschodni-8636(https-:unsplash.com:@biegunwschodni)-compressed

Yet God never intended for us to be under the devil’s care. Let’s look at the real Psalm 23 as God inspired David to write it:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

God wants to be our Shepherd and, in return for our obedience and submission to Him, we will not lack, because He will provide. He won’t let His sheep (those who have surrendered to Him) become sickly and starve. He will bring them to the land of plenty and lead them to the still waters of rest. He will restore them and keep them in a path of wholesomeness because that is His nature. He is their defense, and evil will not be a concern as long as they love Him with all of their heart. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). He will bring them to a plateau and shelter them from those who are against them. He will cleanse them of pestilence and protect them from irritation. As a result, truth and compassion will spring forth from them and be with them continually. God will not turn them away from abiding in His presence forever. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The devil wants us to think that his way is best. He doesn’t care whether or not man trusts him, or loves him, or hates his very existence, since man is already stuck on his side.

The only way out is to stop trying to make it on our own, and to give our heart and life to Jesus instead. When we surrender our ‘self’ to Him and repent (give up completely and turn the other way) of our sinful ways, then Jesus will reach down and pull us out of the devil’s pasture and place us into His own. He will care for us as a true shepherd cares for his sheep. Of course, the devil will still come like a wolf to try to steal us away and destroy us, but now we can call out to The Shepherd, who will come to our rescue (unlike the devil). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (John 11:28-30). Do you want to follow a cruel, selfish, and heartless taskmaster, or a loving and compassionate Shepherd, who has even given His life for all of His sheep?

For more about making Jesus as your Shepherd, click here.

Vengeance is Mine

There was a time early in my life when I believed I was treated very unjustly by my boss. I had not had a personal relationship with Jesus for very long at that point. I was trying to adjust to my new situation with Him and to practice responding to problems in a way that might be pleasing to Him. I felt that my boss should be held accountable for her actions and I poured my grievances out to the Lord. I wasn’t in a position where I could call this person to account on my own if I wanted to keep my job.

It wasn’t long before He directed me in my Bible reading to Romans 12, verse 19: “…it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”

I did not recall seeing this verse before, but I knew He was using it to speak to me. Then I gave some serious thought to what it meant. I took it to mean, “I am the One who decides when revenge is called for, and when it is, I will be the one to deal with it.” Then I realized that I needed to take my hands and thoughts off of this matter and pass it on to Him, whose judgment is perfect, and let Him handle it. So that is what I did. I continued to have some resentment, but took no further action on my own.

Time passed and I did not see where God was doing anything about my grievance. But I remembered the verse and continued to leave the situation alone. A year or two later, my boss had to leave the company and return to her home state hundreds of miles away. I never spoke to her about the situation, but I knew in my heart God had taken care of it. He does not take it lightly when someone unjustly accuses or uses one of His children. But I have also learned over time that He does not usually act at once.

He gives the offender time to address the situation in a way that He can permit, and if the offender does nothing, he or she will accumulate transgressions until the Lord is forced to deal with it. It is always His desire that people will do His will so He will not need to punish them.

As I now write this, I can no longer recall what the grievance was about anymore! God not only dealt with it, He also made me to forget it. I no longer have resentment toward my former boss. I spoke to my girlfriend one day back then (who had also not know the Lord very long) about how God deals with people when they come against His children. She agreed and added, “And when He deals with them, it’s usually worse than what I would have done if I had handled it my way!” We laughed, but there is some truth to that. I would have liked an apology and some consideration of my point of view from my boss. I would not have made her leave the company and move back home! But the Lord knew the whole situation and how best to handle it. Perhaps she had done the same to others. Perhaps there were many grievances besides mine. I did not need to know about these things. I only needed to turn it all over to the Lord and be about my own business. Even though I don’t remember what I was upset about, I do remember that verse and it has come back to help me many times when I wanted to take matters into my own hands.

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

On the Ledge


flickr photo shared by TrailVoice under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I can still remember a particularly beautiful Spring day when I was eight years old. The flowers had just begun to bloom around Sugarloaf Mountain, not far from Frederick, Maryland, near the Virginia state line. I remember sitting there high up on a mountain ledge. It reminded me of granite shepherds silently watching over the lowlands and local communities in the valley way below me.

I can also remember sensing the divine presence of the Lord God there. While I sat high on the ledge, observing the scene below in all its beauty from the height of the mountain, His sweet, still voice spoke to my heart, saying, “My son, what do you see?”

I responded to Him through my thoughts as I prayed. When I opened my eyes I said, “My heavenly Father, I can see that in the distance the area around Sugarloaf Mountain is still just as beautiful as it ever was.

I loved looking out at all the vast farmland below, divided only by jagged rows of wooden fences. I can still remember small clover blossoms of purple growing throughout all the green grassland where the farm animals grazed. The still waters of many small grassland ponds glistened. Little babbling brooks also branched off in many directions as they flowed through the farmland, restoring life wherever they went.

Then, once again, I sensed that same sweet voice from God saying to me, “My son, what do you really see around you?”

I responded, “My heavenly Father, I see my own fears: how rough and dangerous the jagged rocks seem to be, and how sheer the cliffs appear. The precipitous trails that lead down this mountain seem unstable. I can also see the fresh, trickling spring water flowing between the uneven ridges to the base of the mountain.”

Again the same sweet, still voice spoke to me and said, “My son, you observed well.”

Then I realized what He wanted me to recall to my mind while I sat on the mountain ledge:

 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).

[This was my mother’s favorite psalm.]