Yoke

“Take my yoke upon you…”

The yoke is offered instead of labor with a heavy load. But how is the yoke rest-giving? Hard labor was the result of the curse on the ground. The man was not cursed nor is work a curse.

The Lord offers his answer to the hardness of labor. He offers a type of rest. But this is not a rest from labor. This shows that God was not interested in punishing men with hard labor. He put a condition in place to lead men back to God.

Men have tried to minimize the difficulty of labor over the millennia. Mostly by making others do it. Now we are turning to robots for menial tasks.

But Jesus addresses the issue directly. Being heavy laden sounds like an animal with all that can be placed on its back. How is a yoke better?

The yoke is designed for the individual animal. An ill-fitting yoke is useless. The yoke was made to lessen the effort or maybe enhance the ability of the animal. In either case, the hardness of the labor is reduced. The animal moves in a normal way doing useful work.

Jesus embraced life. He did his work without excessive labor. His ‘yoke’ is his method. He advises us to “learn of me”. He wants us to take on his method of working. He describes himself as “meek and lowly in heart”. What does he mean?

First, he is not proud. He has nothing to prove. Jesus has really no ego. He is always matching God’s will to people’s needs. He is careful not to fall into the traps that ensnare men. He follows a wisdom unknown or at least unused by men. His simple heartfelt response to human need with God’s power makes faith and love a continuous reality in his method of working.

How does the ‘yoke’ cure “being heavy laden”? Carrying a heavy load is a different kind of work. ‘This stuff must be moved to there as quickly and cheaply as possible.’ Jesus is not interested in this type of work. He is not interested in ‘stuff’. He criticizes the accumulation of wealth as a waste of time and effort.

He implies that carrying a heavy load is voluntary. What kind of load-carrying are we doing voluntarily?

Guilt. God does not make us feel guilty. Sin does. Accumulated sin creates heavy guilt. Jesus offers real forgiveness as relief for that very real guilt. He recommends reconciliation between people to fix broken relationship guilt.

Responsibility. Heaviness comes from shouldering too much responsibility. Some things are beyond your control. Many live with guilt for what happened to those under their care. Or maybe they didn’t take enough responsibility when the should have. This, too, can create a heavy burden.

Happenstance. “If only I had left earlier. I meant to.” “Why was I there at that time?” Vague guilt over uncontrollable events plague some of us.

Wasted time. A realization of time ill-spent can add weight to your burden.

Rash actions. Ill-considered or panic reactions can leave a heaviness behind. “I knew it was wrong (stupid/dangerous/wasteful), yet I did it without thinking.”

All of the resulting heaviness, Jesus offers to remove and replace with “his yoke”. The yoke allows the responsibility of the immediate. Under a yoke, there is no consideration of the past. The heaviness of past actions or non-actions is gone. Only the activity of the moment is important.

“Learn of me.” See how Jesus lives. Does he carry burdens of the past? How does he handle responsibility? He works as a son to a good and wise father. His work is therefore valuable and his time is never wasted. His efforts are maximized by God. He recommends “his yoke” and claims it will give soul-rest.

How can it give this? The burden is mostly on God. Jesus takes only the human responsibility of the moment. He is also aware of all external forces. They are under the control of God so he doesn’t worry about them. This is how he can say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Jesus wants to return us to the work as it was at first. Think of Adam naming the animals. Did he think: ‘Oh, there are so many. Will my names be right? How long will this take?’ No, he had none of these thoughts. As each animal came under his consideration, he named it. His work was valuable and a pleasure to do. God approved and the names stuck. God made them; man named them. God had given the man wisdom and he let him use it.

So we see that work is not a punishment. The yoke is the cure for heaviness of heart. The yoke is designed individually for each one. The yoke enables effective and valuable work. God wishes to remove all the heavy burdens we have accumulated leaving our burden ‘light’. Remember that God takes all responsibility for you. The burden of ‘you’ is on him as well. Let us continually follow his words: “Learn of me…”

“Come unto me, all you that labor 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 you will find rest for you souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

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Cool

“Is that cool?”

“It’s cool with me.”

“Well, stay cool, man.”

“That’s not cool.”

“You’re right. I lost my cool.”

Can you define ‘cool’? Maybe it means acceptable behavior but with a sense of being modern or up-to-date. You use the most recent expressions. You are not old-school. Your hairstyle, your clothes and your sensibilities are all very current.

And you have to keep up. Things may change and you need to keep cool. It’s like fashion. It changes.

“That is so last year!”

You need to know what is ‘in’ and what is ‘out’. You need to know what is ‘hot’.

“Here’s what’s hot right now.”

Have you got it? Get it.

Who makes the rules on what is cool? And how do you stay informed?

Do you know that the crowd is usually wrong? What is cool is nearly always just an opinion. It is how you signal others that you are ready to change and conform to the most current opinions of what is good.

We all have a sense of good and evil, right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. Being cool uses that to a greater degree. It makes this right and that wrong by a new exacting method.

But isn’t there a more solid place where you don’t have to change all the time? There is. It is a place beyond good and evil. It is well past cool and not cool.

What about life and death? I mean this in terms of how we are living. Our condition from birth is a disconnect from God. We are left with the ability to tell good from evil. But there is another way to live and that is Life. The very definition of Life is Jesus. He said, “I am The Life.”

He was saying ‘live like me’ if you want the best way to live. What? Yes, Jesus demonstrated the best human living and offers it to you and me. Now we might dismiss a man who says he is ‘The Life’ as crazy except that he made wrong things right. He restored eyes, arms, legs to working order and cured people even of leprosy. These were his credentials.

But he offered eternal life to everyone. He lived in close relationship to God and he called him Father. If we live like Jesus did, we will live forever. This is more that imitation but to embrace him as our method of living.

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Friendship is Forever

Friendship goes well beyond the grave. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus. Lazarus had many friends and was well known in the community. His two sisters were mad at Jesus because he allowed him die of sickness. His sisters knew that Jesus could have healed him if he had only arrived in time.

But Jesus chose to wait until Lazarus had died before he arrived. He then tried to convince the sisters, Mary and Martha, that Lazarus was fine and that Jesus could bring him back from the dead. Of course, he would return, they said, in the future resurrection of the dead. But we miss him now!

Jesus went to the gravesite where Lazarus was buried and was moved by the sight of sadness and mourning. Maybe it was the hopelessness people felt that a beloved friend was gone. But Jesus stopped and felt as a man feels at a gravesite of a close friend.

Jesus knew Lazarus was not gone forever. He even knew that Lazarus was going to join them shortly. But he was filled with emotion. Now he speaks: Lazarus, come forth. Lazarus comes out of the grave in his wrappings and Jesus tells the shocked people to help him out of them.

This incredible event reveals that friendship goes beyond the grave. Lazarus was a friend of Jesus and all of Jesus’s friends will live forever. But Jesus was asking his two friends, Mary and Martha, to trust him in this moment. They had faith in him but it was thin. They could believe Jesus could heal their brother but raise him from the dead?

Do you have a friend who is far away? Does that matter? Distance does not diminish friendship. They can be on the other side of the world and they remain your friend. Jesus showed us that even when someone dies, they are still a friend and they are not forever lost to you.

Trust is the foundation of friendship. You trust a friend because they love you and care about you. It is the same with God. He loves and cares for you and me. More than we know. Is he far away? No, not really. We can be friends with him in a very practical way. As our trust grows, we can rely on him for many things. Maybe everything.

Remember that friendship is voluntary. You choose your friends. God has chosen you to be his friend. And he doesn’t care how much you ask of him. In fact, he wants you to impose on your friendship with him. He wants you to have an expectation of a great friendship that will be for your entire lifetime and beyond that.

How much of a friend is God? As much as you and I can love him. His love is great; ours is little. But our love for him can become greater. God will grow bigger in the relationship. He is good and very generous. And he will teach us the value of friendship and love during his process of making us more human. And we will come to know what is truly valuable in life and even beyond.

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Friends Forever

Think of your best friend. How long have you been friends? How did you meet? Maybe you don’t remember. Maybe you have ‘always been friends’. What if they are far away? Are you still friends? Of course, you are. What this means is that friendship takes place and lives in another plane, another sphere . The connection between friends lives in another space.

If love is the ultimate relationship, then all kinds of love are important. Friendship is a common relationship but friends are more important than we think. Family is important, too, but friendships are a different matter entirely. You choose your friends or maybe your friends choose you.

Friendship is beyond us. It is beyond our understanding although it is not beyond our appreciation. Like all love, it is invisible yet powerful like gravity. You feel it but you don’t know what it is exactly.

Why is this important? Because it shows us that humans are different: they can love. They have the possibility to love much. This mysterious ability takes place in another dimension. We are more than we appear to be. How is it we can love? It is because we are made for more. We are like royalty who lost their country and can’t go back. Their country changed and royal people are no longer needed there.

We are of royal blood, too. Our first parents were king and queen of the earth. But they gave up their thrones and became common folk. How? They fired their wise advisor and benefactor. “We can take it from here, sir.”

Their advisor had some parting words, “It won’t be like it was.” And it wasn’t. And it isn’t. But all is not lost. We must go forward rather than backward. There is a friendship that is higher. It is a friendship with God. We lost that relationship with God, that friendship. But it wasn’t God who de-friended us. He wants us back in a friendly relationship with him. “I don’t call you servants any longer. I call you my friends. A servants doesn’t know his master’s business. But you do. I’ve explained everything to you.” These are the words of Jesus.

He wanted a relationship of co-operation and friendship with people. He wanted to take fear out of the relationship. Don’t worry about the future; he said they all had places secured by God his Father. It is kind of funny. The one we call Lord never lorded it over his friends. He only accepted them as willing associates with him in his work. Then he calls them friends. He expected them to continue his good work.

There is another aspect of friendship. I hope you can follow this. Your friends may die before you do. This is sad, I know. But you will see them again as they are. If fact, when you die, they will be saying to God, “Oh, we must have this person here with us.” They mean you. If they are friends with God, they speak up on your behalf. Now you also need to be a friend of Jesus, sure, but imagine their happiness and yours when you meet again.

Friendships need never end. They can go on forever.

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Weakness

There are two kinds of weakness that are important. The first is a weakness toward sin. This is easy. You just do whatever you feel like. Just do it. It doesn’t matter. But eventually you are in a habit of doing wrong. You justify it to yourself. I have to do this because … This is not really that bad because … Who cares if do this? I’m not hurting anyone.

Well, you are hurting someone. Yourself. You know it. I know it. I mean I know I am hurting myself by this habit. We have to stop.  But how do you do that? Do something else. Something good.

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What would that be? Something Jesus said to do. Let’s take an example: be generous. If you have money, be generous with it. If you have time, be generous with that. Be kind to someone. Does this sound dumb?

It sounds stupid to do this if you are looking at your own resources. If I give, I will have less. If I spend my time on others, I will have less time for myself. All this is true. But what if … What if we had a rich father? What if he was always looking out for you. He approves of your generosity wholeheartedly. If you run short, he will help you out. He may do it in an ordinary way. Yet, you never find yourself without help at the time you need it.

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The second weakness is a little hard to explain. It is weakness toward God. You think you are weak. But toward God, you find yourself strong. I won’t do that. You can’t make me do that. Actually, he can but he won’t. He won’t coerce you. God won’t force you to do anything.

Weakness toward God is this: yes, I will do that and see how it goes. It makes little sense to do that but I will do it. Not – try to do it. Not – think that if everyone did that what a better world this would be. Not – mean to do it at some point in the future. No. At the next opportunity, I will act generous. I will act kind.

No matter how lame your attempt is, God will have your back. Have fun with it. How can I bless this person without it being a big deal where I get the credit for it? Give money secretly. Do something good without making sure everyone knows it.

You will be paid back sometimes. Someone may smile. Someone may even thank you. Or not. Maybe they will misunderstand your actions. Maybe they will react badly. Maybe you will feel rejection. You did good. They treated you bad.

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This is the second part. How do we act then? This is actually the most important part. This shows our real motive. Are you doing good because Jesus told you to? Or are you in it for yourself? If we quit now, we know the answer.

We are still acting for our own benefit. But if you and I are following Christ, we go on. Yes, we speak to the Master: they reacted badly to my good act! He says, “I know, I had the same thing happen to me.” That is the test. If you go on doing good as well as you can, you find God at your side. Why? He is all about doing good in a bad world.

If you quit, then you lose your purpose because your purpose is to do God’s kind of good in a bad world. We get general direction from the words of Jesus. Let’s be clear about this: not the Bible in general, but specifically the words of Jesus. He is the focus of everything. And we get more specific help from the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes this help is quite clear. Sometimes it is just a friendly push in a direction. You understand more as you go along. What I am saying is this: if you are trying to do the will of God as spoken by Jesus, God will not let you work alone. He will be right there beside you. Sometimes you will feel it. Other times, not so much. But he will direct you and he will redirect you if you go wrong.

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What? I could go wrong? Of course, you could go wrong. Or something goes wrong and you don’t understand it. In fact, something will go wrong. Then what? Quit? Okay, but again this is not faith. Faith goes on even when you don’t understand it. There will be opposition against the good you do. You will be tempted. You will get discouraged. You will have a setback.

But rely on your weakness! Be weak toward God. I don’t understand this. I don’t know why this is happening. You told me to go in this direction and it has gone wrong. Guess what? It was always going wrong for Jesus. Read the gospels closely. Things were always going wrong. He was criticized for doing good. A lot. But be of good cheer, Jesus kept going. He never stopped.

If he couldn’t do good in this town, he went to the next one and did good there. He fixed things that didn’t work right. Like arms. Or eyes. Or legs. He gave us the clearest words of God ever spoken by a man on earth. That is why we can trust him always. He loved people. And some people loved him. Is that you? Is that me?

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Heinrich Von Wier 2

Thoughts of a man who learned wisdom.

Whose Fault

Did you know that it’s all your fault? Everything bad is your fault. Your greatest granddad and grandma went wrong. You were there. That’s right. You were him. You were her. You are Adam. You are Eve. Why? Because if you could have been a better chooser, God would have used you. But you or I would have done exactly the same as they did. We would have eaten the fruit just like they did. We were them. They were us. So all the bad that came from that decision is your fault, and my fault.

The Optimism of God

God knows the first two humans will make a terrible choice. But He also knows that the story will not end there. He knows that some people will find out what he is really like: good, kind and ready to help. Yes, some of us will learn his true nature. And will begin to love him.

Love Believes All Things

Love believes all things. Do bad things happen? Yes. Are some people trying to take advantage of us? Sure. We can believe those things but love believes all things. Love believes God overrides all that. He is working things out for us beyond all that. He is working all things together for our good. We believe all things and are not deceived because we also believe that God is our Father: a powerful caring father who has us in his hand at all times.

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Heinrich Von Wier

Thoughts of a man who learned wisdom.

Love God

The first commandment is to love God. Why would he command love? It is because he knows no other relationship.

Son of Man

Some say that Jesus was God and became a man. But it says that the Word became flesh and lived among us. That is quite different.

Corruption of Sin

Jesus showed us what sin had done to us when he handed himself over for men to do their worst to him. Men destroyed him in a method meant to cause as much humiliation and suffering as possible. This terrible deed shows us how sin had corrupted men so that they could do all this to the good man. And sin will eventually corrupt each of us completely.

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