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Today would have been my dad’s eighty-ninth birthday.  I am missing him today.  I miss him every day.  I miss him more than I can say.

After he died, my mom kindly sent me some of his books.  Included was a Bible dad bought as a college student in 1944.  One day I noticed something he had scribbled in the margin next to Isaiah 45:2-3.  You can just see it there.  Here is what he wrote:

“The Lord gave this on 5/31/53 after a hard day of preaching — feeling empty and powerless.”

I can picture my dad sitting up in bed that Sunday night, feeling depleted, needing a word from God.  So he pulled open his Bible and came across Isaiah 45:2-3.  I am aware of the exegesis of those verses — Cyrus, etc.  But God used these verses as a personal promise to my dad, a promise of illumination and insight to a young preacher who had given his all that day and still needed more.

Far beyond any other preacher I have ever heard, my dad had a capacity for insight into the ways of God, according to Scripture, that helped people.  God made my dad a promise that night so long ago, and he kept it – many times.

“Empty and powerless.”  Perfect.

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14 thoughts on “Empty and powerless”

  1. Wow. What a gift. Thank you for sharing such a personal treasure with us Ray.

  2. jeremiah says:

    thank you.

  3. Steve Fuller says:

    Powerful. Thank you.

  4. Tricia says:

    Having never met your Dad Dr. Ortlund, I rejoice and praise God for the Godly legacy he left behind, and his testimony lived out in Gods sustaining power and grace,thank you for sharing this today.
    Matthew 6v19-21.

  5. KS says:

    Today is my dad’s eighty-fifth birthday. Thank you for this reminder to appreciate him.

  6. Matt says:

    Thanks Ray. My dad is 76. Still preaching. So many emotions about him when I read this.

  7. Bill says:

    Thanks for this. My dad died at 64 almost 8 years ago. I miss him very much. It amazes me how much a Godly father can impact his children. I hope I do half as much good for my children.

  8. Steve Martin says:

    I miss my Dad, too.

    It won’t be long until we see them again.The One who is full of power and grace has promised it.

    We’ll see them soon.

  9. David says:

    “Empty and Powerless.” Then. But not anymore. PTL.

    Well done. I have both my dad’s and father-in-law’s well-marked up Bibles to keep and then to hand on to my nine-year old son at the right time. For all the right reasons you describe today.

  10. Beau Weber says:

    Ironically, verses 4-13 were my devotions this morning. Now reading this (specifically verses 2 and 3) illuminates more the power that will most certainly be needed in order to accomplish the prayer following my morning devotions. I too was feeling powerless. It is comforting to more fully know that the True power for the change that those we love, lies outside of us and outside of them; But IN the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you for the post!

    The Lord gave this on 07/10/12 after an early morning of prayer – feeling anxious and powerless.

  11. Patrick says:

    Hi Ray
    I was 11 days old when your dad wrote this in the margin of his Bible and I’m involved in ministry today with some of your fathers disciples. I’m blessed beyond what you know by your encouragement in these blogs. I too have my fathers Bible and in it’s margins are many notes, but one stands out: “Jesus is not God” placed there by my grandmother and it saddens me to compare this to your dad’s entry, but it proves God’s grace to me that Jesus Christ is now my Savior and God!

    1. Ray Ortlund says:

      Thanks, Patrick. So glad my dad’s life has flowed into yours.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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