Tag Archives: Matthew 11:28

Invited to the celebration


Having enjoyed a relaxing picnic on the deck, we find such simple joy in listening to the birds pronounce their greetings on the day. What a privilege it is to be invited into the celebration of God’s goodness among his creation at Thayerapy Gardens, or any place you can get away from the daily grind. The simple joy of being quiet in this too busy world easily evades us. So many other demands beckon us to “get something done.” What if what needs getting done is the restoring of your noisy soul? Such joy and contentment comes only by intentional invitation, only by sacrificing some lesser thing on the altar of living in order to enjoy another more fully.

Would you think it strange to experience such beauty and peace in the battle cries of cancer? Or any other great burden that presses against your own life? It needn’t be strange. But it seldom comes by accident. Whether it is 60 seconds of relaxation breathing at your desk, a five-minute walk outside, a mini adventure of a back roads day trip, or an all out getaway vacation, the decision to introduce peace and quiet into an otherwise noisy day is yours – and mine – for the choosing.

It comes at the cost of so little and offers to you the treasures of the world to be still and wonder at the goodness of the life God has given you – this life, the new beginning this day offers, this moment, this very breath that satisfies your lungs and speaks such peace to your mind.

I wonder when we think ourselves too busy to rest, that we put ourselves in danger of being too busy to live. In my masters studies I discovered the difference between “wreckreation” and recreation. The former is the often exhausting outpouring of energies into pursuits that leave us wanting a real vacation when we’re done. Recreation, as God designed it, offers the opportunity to re-create, rebuild, restore, and recharge ourselves. It turns our inner focus to an outward view that expands our perspective. Maybe you’ve discovered this when you decided to “walk away” from a problem only to find the solution that evaded you now readily revealed.

It’s in such quietness of the mind that God invites us to draw near to him, to sit awhile on his deck and share in the goodness that he freely offers you. Jesus himself invites us: “Come to me all of you who are burdened and I will give you rest.”

There’s so much to do and to be accomplished in this short life. Perhaps one of the most important is to accept the invitation to the celebration of God’s goodness in you, and around you in others.



Not alone


One thing that always threatens us is the false perception that we are all alone; that “nobody knows the struggle I’ve seen; nobody knows my sorrow.” Such thinking always puts us in a very dark place that isolates us from the very help and solace we need. It leads us to despair and then to hopelessness. Feeling forever defeated, we give up on dreams, on loved ones, even on life itself.

One thing that always comforts us and brings us hope is that even in times of struggle – especially in such difficult times – that we are not alone at all. God cares about your struggles and so do others, even if they find it hard to express or you find it hard to receive their helpful gestures. Even in times that seem like a dry desert, a wilderness that lacks clear direction, in times of dire distress when you can’t find comfort, when you’re so weary and have no words to express your pain and sorrow and disappointment – even in these times you are not alone. You may feel God has abandoned you or that he ignores your requests. It may seem like he has forgotten you or is angry with you.

The psalmist felt this way too. His response? He cried out loud to God. He turned from his present and past problems to the one who knows his future. He meditated and remembered that God is God, even in the midst of his troubles.  He appealed to God, remembering his history of faithfulness to his people, his wondrous and miraculous works. After acknowledging his very real pains it seems the turning point for him is recognizing:

“Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?” Psalm 77:13

How true is that for us also! Acknowledging in the middle of our troubles and challenges that our God is a sovereign and caring God. Where else would we turn for help? Our money, our abilities, our health, our friends and family – all are temporary. Only God has the lasting answers to our woes. Even the worst of earthly storms answer to him.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” (v 19)

Even when we cannot see the footprints of God or fathom the moving of his hand among us, even when it seems his ways might not be better than ours, our God is our God. Everything we have ever faced, what we face now, and everything we will ever encounter, is subject to him.

Take a moment to remember how God has specifically moved in the past to protect and provide for you. Ponder the names of people he has put in your path to help and comfort you. Recall how he has helped you to endure and persevere and overcome your past challenges. Write these down and imagine how this same mighty and faithful God will carry out his promises to protect and provide for you in the future, even as he comforts you now.

We are not alone.  Remember God and remember his faithful promises. God – our God – has adopted us into his family and will never leave us. He sees us where we are and leads us through even the valley of the shadow of death. He understands our worries, doubts, and fears. He is calling right now:

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The question for each of us is, “How will I respond to his call right now?”

Stop holding on and just be held


One of the misunderstandings of the Christian life is that we are always strong. We say, “In Christ I can do all things” as if it means we can jump tall buildings and stop speeding locomotives at our whim. Really, it speaks about learning the secret of being content and practicing the discipline of endurance. The heart of its message is depending on and being fully satisfied with God. When we are weak we need to hold on to God because he is our only real strength, the one who is faithful to us through all circumstances, however unbearable they seem.


But the premise is that we have enough strength to even hold on. If we could always hold on until things got better, would we need a great God to help us? In fact, many of you know by experience, there are times when you have no strength even to hold on. Life beats you up to the point you feel like you’re at the end of your rope and you are so weak, you can’t even hold on to the rope. You feel your faith is not enough and you want to give up, and let go. I’ve been there myself many times.


The good news is it’s not up to us to cling to God in our own strength. In fact, his strength is made perfect in our weakness. It’s his Spirit who empowers us (Acts 1:8) when we cooperate with him. It’s not all up to your effort. Instead of always holding on, there are sometimes you just need to let go and be held in his arms. Jesus says, “Come to me all of you who are tired and I will give you rest.”


Sometimes we’re called to be strong. But when you aren’t, stop holding on and just be held by your mighty and ever loving Father – the one who knows you, who sees you where you are, and longs to draw you close to him.  Let go and let yourself be held in his loving arms. Let him show you “your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place,” as you let him hold onto you.


Reflect on the lyrics of “Just Be Held” by Casting Crowns:

Hold it all together, everybody needs you strong
But life hits you out of nowhere and barely leaves you holding on

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held
Just be held

If your eyes are on the storm you’ll wonder if I love you still
But if your eyes are on the cross you’ll know I always have and I always will

And not a tear is wasted
In time, you’ll understand
I’m painting beauty with the ashes
Your life is in My hands

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held
Just be held

Lift your hands, lift your eyes
In the storm is where you’ll find Me
And where you are, I’ll hold your heart
I’ll hold your heart
Come to Me, find your rest
In the arms of the God who won’t let go

So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held (stop holding on)
Just be held
Just be held



Beyond disappointment


I was between chemo treatments and before my stem cell transplant. With a quite unsure future ahead of us, we purchased a prepaid vacation to make some memories while we had time together. Little did we know I wouldn’t be well enough to use it for two more years. But at last, the time came and we packed the car for the transcontinental journey. Unfortunately, as has happened with each attempt to get away, I became sick again mid-trip. It seems the spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is too weak.


Disappointment doesn’t begin to describe our emotions. Marcia had to drive much more than she is comfortable doing, making frequent stops for me. The pristine white sands and emerald-green waters of the Florida beaches would have to wait. Our time of fellowship and encouragement with our good friends from New Orleans was interrupted. Preparations were made for a possible out-of-state hospital admission (that thankfully was averted).


You’ve been there, right? Maybe not the same situation, but you can empathize with the frustration and disappointment, the sense of wasted opportunity and resources. Maybe you poured everything you had into preserving a relationship that didn’t work out. Maybe you prayed and prayed for a specific outcome that never arrived. Maybe you worked ever so diligently toward a lifetime goal only to have your efforts thwarted by some opposing force. You thought you had an appointment with fulfillment but it seems the road sign looming ahead of you reads, “Welcome to Disappointment Valley.” What now?


Maybe we should look at that road sign again. What’s that it says at the bottom?


“Don’t stay long!”


We can’t avoid disappointment. We elevate our hopes and expectations in anticipation of a coming reward. But what do we do when the storms of life wash away our dreams? It’s a natural response to be sad, frustrated, disappointed, maybe even angry. But don’t stay long in that place. It only adds to the disappointment. Instead of bemoaning the loss, look for what you have been given.


Even while seemingly trapped in the middle of Disappointment Valley there is a place to go. It isn’t filled with giddy laughter or outrageous joy. But it’s a lot better place than frustration will take us. This place is called rest.


Our weapons of anger, bitterness, or regret, only infuriate the battle of disappointment. Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) What do we find in that place of rest? We find the peace that knows the battle is not up to us to win. We find assurance resting in the arms of a mighty and faithful God that our battles are not the only ones, not even the most important ones. We find thankfulness in realizing that it could be worse, much worse. There is also thankfulness in the caring of others. In rest you will discover perseverance, perspective, solace, and hope.


When you’re in the Valley of Disappointment, don’t let your heart stay long. Find a place of rest.



Awake or asleep?



We never know exactly when we fall asleep at night. At some point we close our eyes to the world. Our heart rate slows down and our body temperature decreases. Reality fades away as we enter a world of dreams. In a deep sleep we may even get out of bed and not be aware of our activities.


Falling asleep spiritually follows a similar pattern. We become tired of living with purpose and close our eyes to our true calling. Apathy sets in and compromising situations start to take on more appeal. We think to ourselves, “It can’t be bad if it makes me so happy.” If we don’t wake up to our senses we will find our spiritual temperature lowering. What used to be a burning passion for God’s ways cools to a lukewarm condition. And this dangerous coolness allows us to slip into a deeper trance-like sleep where reality blurs into a foggy road where we easily lose our way. Like Samson of old, we allow the Delilah’s of our age to lull us to sleep.  From an outsider’s perspective we may look the same, but inside we find ourselves drifting further and further from our purposed path.


The good news is that just as living in compromise makes us drowsy to God’s calling, so does His Spirit consistently urge us to wake up. There are numerous practical ways to stay spiritually ‘awake.’

  • Examine yourself as David did. “Search me O God. Know my heart.”
  • Be accountable to someone in whom you can trust to be honest about your struggles.
  • Stay grounded in God’s Word. Beyond rote memorization, earnestly seek to apply wisdom practically to your life.
  • Rest! Really rest. An effective method of not falling asleep at inappropriate times is to rest when you need to. Jesus is calling you: “Come to me all of you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  Cease striving. Be still. Know that He is God. (Psalm 46:10) Remain intently in Jesus. Your accomplishments mean nothing without Him.  (John 15:4)


“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41



Resting and wrestling



John Piper writes: “There is a restful side to the Christian life. “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. “Be anxious for nothing . . . let your requests be made known to God . . . and the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). There is rest and peace in the Christian soul.


But there is also wrestling. Jesus said in Luke 13:24, “Strive <wrestle/struggle> to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” At the end of his life, Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.” Keeping the faith is a fight to be fought and a race to be run.”


We’ve written quite a bit about the resting side of the Christian life. Unless you are facing mighty challenges yourself, who wants to pursue the kind of suffering that comes from a wrestling life? But the two are interrelated. We wrestle with our response to life challenges with the goal of finding rest. And, as we’ve commented before, we find rest in these trials because Christ-in-us has already won the battle and assured our victory, IF (and this is a very strong IF):


IF you are willing to believe God at His Word, even when it flies in the face of your present circumstances.


IF you believe that God is sovereign and He has a provident plan for your life.


IF you believe that you are an alien and foreigner in this land we call earth; that your real home is heaven.


IF you believe that you are a spiritual being with a temporary earthly shell, not merely a physical being with some small spiritual component.


IF you believe that God’s loving discipline is even better for us than the parental discipline of our childhood.


We wrestle with each of these tenets when we face difficulties and temptations. God knows that our wrestling makes us tired and can lead us to lose heart. He knows our wrestling can lead to a dangerous sense of despair. And so he reminds us:
“Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” (Hebrews 12:3-4)


If you are wrestling with pain, suffering, sorrow, unpleasant work or home life, there is good news. There comes from wrestling a sense of rest IF we believe what God has in store for us as His children.


“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” ( v 7,11)


Maybe you need to wrestle harder. If so, rest in the confidence that Jesus-in-you has already secured the victory. Believe it.



Let it go


 Someone said, “you will find that it is necessary to let things go, simply for the reason that they are heavy.”

“Let It Go,” from the hit cartoon movie Frozen: you either love it or hate it (because you’ve heard it so many times)! Regardless of how you feel about the song, the title carries a powerful message for life.

Have you ever carried a burden a very long time? So long that it has weighed on your ability to cope and get on with life? Some burdens we have to bear – and ask others to help carry our load. But some burdens can be set down at our choosing. It might be a hurt caused by someone else. Or it could be a hurt you caused yourself. It might be a grudge you’ve kept against someone…or against God. It might be a concern that has weighed you down but you’re afraid that confronting someone will make matters worse. There is a time for biblical confrontation and with a biblical motive of love. God wants us to be reconcilers and peacemakers. But there are other times when it is best to simply, “let it go.” Write it on a piece of paper, burn it and resolve to move on. Get over it. Why?


Carrying grudges or the burden of bad memories about someone is like a cancer that eats away at your soul; it creates bitterness, wrath and anger and impedes the path to healthier relationships.  (See Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger be put away from you.”)

Constantly focusing on past hurts robs us of seeing new life right now. Dwelling on past hurts creates a wilderness barrier that keeps us from seeing  a clear path out. (See Isaiah 43:18-19, “Remember not the former things. I am doing a new thing. I will make a way in the wilderness.”)

Letting past hurts control us keeps us from enjoying the good future God has planned for us. You can’t set off on a new journey with one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. Holding back keeps us from God’s intended best for us. (See Philippians 3: 12-14, ” I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”)


Ask God about the burdens you’re carrying today. Is it a relationship He wants you to try to reconcile? Or is it something you need to let go so you can move on?  Maybe it is time to put that heavy burden down and rest.


“Come to me all of you who are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus, in Matthew 11:28




Who’s your daddy?



In the movie, Master of Disguise, Dana Carvey plays a wimpy guy who becomes amazingly strong and talented when he assumes roles using various disguises. In one scene he successfully intimidates a larger, stronger opponent by repeating the line, “Who’s your daddy?!” Carvey’s character’s success comes from knowing who he is in relationship to his daddy. Do you remember this taunt as a kid: “MY dad can beat YOUR dad!” Our courage was based on whose kid we were – on the basis of our dad’s ability.


Have you ever thought about how things might have gone differently in the garden with Adam and Eve with the whole scene with the serpent’s lies? WHAT IF Adam had intervened, as he well should have, and said to the lying beast, “Wait just a minute! Let me check with my Dad about this.” That solitary act could have saved everyone a lot of grief because Adam’s Dad would have set things straight. There wouldn’t have been any conniving, confusion, or convoluting of the truth. Adam would have been victor of the day!


And so, let me respectfully ask, “Who’s your Daddy?”  Is He the King of Kings, the Creator of all you see and know? Is He the strong tower in whom you find safe refuge? Is He the firm foundation on which you build your life, one that cannot be shaken? Is He the always faithful one?


I ask this, because if He is, then that tells me who you are:


Holy and righteous in His sight (Ephesians 1:4)


Redeemed and forgiven (Ephesians 1:7)


Able to find rest at any time (Matthew 11:28)


Filled with hope (Jeremiah 29:11-13)


Filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and so much more (Galatians 5:22-25)


Guided by wisdom (Psalm 48:14)


Secure forever (1 John 5:11-13)


You don’t need to be a master of disguise. Knowing who you are and who your Daddy is – that’s all you need to have power over the day before you.


“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12




Are you tired and weary?



We live in a busy world. In fact, by the way we fill up our lives with so much activity, you would think our goal is a tombstone that reads, “Sure kept busy!” Of course, that is not our goal in life, but it is often our pursuit. All this activity, albeit sometimes necessary in some seasons of life, is tiring, isn’t it? It robs us of energy for contemplation, meditation, prayer – for drawing close to God…and each other.


Being a rather ‘Type A’ personality with a high metabolism, much of my life has been driven by goals and activities. “Idle hands are the devil’s playground,” I was taught. While there is some truth to that, the constant weariness of Leukemia has taught me that only idle hands can be offered to God when seeking His presence. “Stop striving. Be still and know that I am God,” He calls to us (Psalm 46:10). “Come to me all you who are weary, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  The world tells us “no pain, no gain – push to the limit.” But Isaiah counsels us, “The Lord gives strength to the weary. Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)


Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Give it a rest. Stop striving. Stop worrying. Give it up to God – again and again. Practice resting in His presence. Find His grace and rediscover your light.


The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.  Numbers 6:25-26



Wandering leads to anxiety



I was probably 3 or 4 years old at the time. We lived in a suburb of Chicago and my mother had taken me to the Marshall Fields department store. I loved that store. At Christmas time they would have the most elaborate motorized displays in the store windows. And inside there were so very many things to catch my eye. And therein was my downfall. I’m sure it was something shiny that caught my eye and led me to wander away from my mom. (How quickly that happens.) And when you are very small, you only have to wander a short distance to find your self hidden from view and quite alone. I remember looking up and not seeing my mother. Quite upset, I wondered why she had abandoned me and left me all alone in this huge store! Of course, in reality, it was I who strayed away from her, not the other way around. But when we are feeling upset and alone our perspective is easily twisted to see things differently. I’m sure I became quite anxious and started to cry, which brought everyone’s attention to me and reunited my mother and me.


Isn’t that how it is in our relationship with God? In times of despair, we ask, “God where are you? Why have you abandoned me in my time of need?” But of course, it is not God who abandons us, but our own desires which drag us away from Him. Feeling alone and separated from God leads to anxiety. In fact, whenever we feel anxious and find ourselves worrying, it is a good sign to show us how we have wandered from God in our thinking and behaving and into the lonely anxiety of our own ways.

The way to find calm and peace that restores us is through putting ourselves back into His presence. The good news is that we don’t have to call a store detective or put ourselves in the lost and found department to wait for someone to discover us again. We simply need to turn around and find Our loving God right there ready to comfort and guide us.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28