Saturday, September 10, 2016


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Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

I used to think of this verse as an invitation to weary Christians: come to Jesus and lay your daily burdens down. And it is probably still that. But it is also much more than that: It is THE GOSPEL. In a nutshell from Jesus Himself. Right there in Matthew 11.  (All quotes in this post from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible.)

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened... (NIV)
All you who labor and are heavy laden... (NKJV)

This is not just being exhausted from the burden of life, but more specifically the burden of SIN, "both the guilt and the power of it."  Jesus is calling to all those "that are really sick of their sins, weary of the service of the world and of the flesh" to come to Him! "This is the gospel call." One must reach the point of acknowledging their sin, being fed up with their sin, and ready to turn from their sin--all on Jesus' terms.

I will give you rest. (NIV)
I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls. (AMPC)

Jesus gives true rest--not rest from our busy schedules or frantic relationships or stressful situations. Jesus gives "rest from the terror of sin, in a well-grounded peace of conscience; rest from the power of sin, in a regular order of the soul; a rest in God, in His love." This is a soul-rest, not a situational-rest. And soul-rest comes from Jesus Alone.

Take My yoke upon you. (NIV)

But wait, Jesus! A yoke is a symbol of servitude and work. Do You really mean for us to pick up another burden? You just said that You were going to give us soul-rest from the burden of sin. But notice how the entire phrase turns on the word MY: whose yoke is it? My yoke. Jesus' yoke. "The rest He promises is a release from the drudgery of sin, not [release] from the service to God--[there is still] an obligation to the duty we owe Him."

My yoke is easy and My burden is light. (NIV)
Useful, good--not harsh, hard, sharp or pressing, but comfortable, gracious and pleasant... (AMPC)

This is where Jesus makes sure to "qualify the hard part of the lesson"--further detail about this coming/soul-resting/yoke-bearing life that the gospel offers.

First, it is an easy yoke. "It is a yoke that is lined with love." Those who walk closely with Jesus know first-hand the joy of carrying Jesus' yoke. They have learned that "it may be a little hard at first, but it is easy afterwards; the love of God and the hope of heaven will make it easy."

Second, it is a light burden. We do not carry alone: "God's presence, Christ's sympathy, and especially the Spirit's aids and comforts make suffering for Christ light and easy. . . . [T]hough we may lose for Christ, we shall not lose by Him." He is forever faithful and present.

Learn from Me (NIV)

Third and final qualifier of this hard lesson is the promise that Jesus is our Teacher. He asks us to take up His yoke and in the very same breath promises that we can learn from Him. Henry observes that "we must so learn of Christ, so as to learn Christ, for He is both Teacher and Lesson, Guide and Way, and All in All."

For I am gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart and you will find rest (relief and ease and refreshment and recreation and blessed quiet) for your souls. (AMPC)

There are two reasons why we must learn from Christ. First, He is the most fit to teach. "Who teaches like Him? . . . The truths that Christ teaches are such as we may venture our souls upon." And second, He will provide rest for our souls. This gospel lesson has come full circle: we come with the burden of sin and He lifts us, gives us the privilege of walking with and learning from Him, and provides us with soul-rest. "The only way, and a sure way to find rest for our souls is to sit at Christ's feet and hear His word. The way of duty is the way of rest."

"This is the sum and substance of the gospel call and offer: 
we are here told, in a few words, 
what the Lord Jesus requires of us . . ."

Saturday, August 27, 2016


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I've been thinking about this little girl lately, and remembering when we first jumped into serving with Safe Families . . .

{REPOST from September 25, 2012}

Imagine two scenarios with me:

A young mother with three children, ages 4, 2 and 6 months. Alone, homeless, scared, and embarrassed to seek out help from family. Needing help but nowhere to turn.

A young missionary family living in Indonesia. Monthly support provides a decent home with plenty of food & necessary provisions. Their aim: to serve the local people and to live a life of love among them, doing what they can to reach out and point to Jesus.

If we were that Indonesian family and Jesus brought that young mother to our door and she needed us to watch the 2-year-old for a few weeks while she could start a new job and get back up on her feet and we had the resources to help her, we would say "Yes! That's what we're here for!"

In truth, I expect the Indonesian missionaries to open their home in such a way and in that situation. And then I ask myself: why is it any different here in Indiana? Do I have the resources, space, time, love, concern, and mission in life? Why do I expect such "sacrifice" and action from the Indonesian missionaries?

This comparison has been burning in my mind and heart over the past few weeks. 

And then Jesus said, "You're not off the hook, Jana. I'm bringing 'mission' right to your door right here in Indiana."

Enter C, a real-life mother here in our city, homeless and with three children. Enter G, her super cute 2-year-old daughter. Enter us, a typical midwest family with busy lives. Enter Safe Families, a ministry that connects the local Church with local hurting families with nowhere to turn.

G came to live with us for a week. My first little girl. 

Justus and G playing together on the kitchen floor.

I was quite suddenly thrown into the busy life of a mother with two children needing constant care and attention. She was so precious--lots of little conversations, potty-training, fish crackers, trying to figure out what she liked to eat, needing comfort when she missed her mommy. Suddenly she was with us (found out Sunday, picked her up on Monday) and suddenly she was taken away (expected her to be with us for at least a month, but she was unexpectedly able to return to her mother after only a week). Such a small "inconvenience" and such an immense blessing to our family.

Justus loved having G. They would snuggle and play together.
Such a priviledge to be her surrogate mother and to love on her for a week.
Such a pleasure to serve her mother in this way.
Such a time of strengthing for our marriage to serve together (an unexpected & wonderful side effect).
Such a small and simple way to express Jesus' love to a hurting family.

Safe Families. It's not for the "super families" among us. We're just trying to live the Jesus-life in our city, loving the poor, the fatherless, the needy. Perhaps a ministry like this is your door to service, or maybe Jesus is starting to nudge your heart toward another aspect of the sacrifical/inconvenient/serving "missionary" life. 

If you ask me about it, I just might be living vicariously as an Indonesian missionary these days. My second little boy arrives in just a few hours.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


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It is hard and (related) I wasn't exactly made for it

There's this odd tension between believing that I was created with special gifting to do what He calls me to do versus simply accepting that He, the Creator and Almighty God, is able to empower me (super gifted or not!) to do whatever it is He asks me to do. I didn't grow up with aspirations to be a foster mom. If you would have talked to me eight years ago, it wouldn't even have been on my radar. And yet, here I am, an ordinary woman, wholeheartedly living this crazy life--by the Spirit's power and enabling.

How many people do we read about in the Bible who were nothing "special" and yet God amazingly equipped them for exactly the task He called them to do? I can think of David, Paul, Peter, Moses, and Jonah, to name a few. And isn't this when God gets the most glory? When we live out of His strength and not our own.

Thank You that You are not looking for ideal people with imposing lists of human qualifications, but that You use people whom the world calls foolish and weak, poor and insignificant. . . . Thank You that I, a common earthenware jug, contain the priceless treasure of Your life and glory, and so my every victory and accomplishment obviously comes from Your all-prevailing power, 
and not from me. Ruth Myers

So, please don't be tempted to think: "oh, she's just made for that" or "I could never do what you do." Those kind of perspectives don't exactly apply when the Spirit of God is involved in a human life. When we are weak and incapable and scared on our own, then He is faithful to show up strong and effective and courageous! When we are weak, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:10)!

Could it be possible we have it wrong? Maybe success isn't in believing I can do anything but in knowing I can do nothing. My limits--those things I wish were different about myself--are perhaps not holding me back but are pointing me forward to pay attention to my small, eight-foot assignment. It seems to me when I finally recognize my inability is when Christ shows up as able within me. But he doesn't equip me to do every job possible, he equips me to do the job meant for me. Emily P. Freeman "Simply Tuesday" (visit her blog here)