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.

More on Friendship

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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.

Can Doing Good go bad?

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Light

In the beginning, darkness covered the face of the deep and the Spirit of God brooded over that darkness.

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And God said, “Let there be light”.

And we, too, found ourselves in spiritual darkness and chaos. We didn’t know God and we didn’t really know ourselves. Yet, that same Spirit of God brooded over you and me. He anticipated a great work in us. God saw us as ones who would reveal his great glory in the world.

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Have you received light? It is because God has enlightened you. He sent his best, his own son, to reveal his nature to us. “…in him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

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How God illuminates us today is as mysterious as in the beginning. The light of the beginning continues to light the earth. God has never forsaken the earth or those who live on it. He continually shines his light on men who so often love darkness rather than light.

The Lord saw the light …

Does God just shine his light on mankind in general as from a lighthouse with its light going back and forth? No. He has shone his light on you in particular. God sees you as you, not just part of mankind. And God has waited for you. He has called you by name. He wants your friendship. He wants to wake you up to his reality.

Some see the light as a blinding light that makes them painfully aware of their shortcomings.

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How do you react to the light of God? Are you afraid like Adam and Eve? Do you run and hide? Are you like Paul who was shocked to his core that Jesus was speaking to him as he fought against this change to his venerable religion. Maybe you are you like Peter who fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”

“And did Jesus go away? Or did he rather say to Peter, the fisherman, “Fear not; from now on, you will catch men.” What is this! Jesus wants Peter to work by his side as a fellow in his own divine work.

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God saw that the light was good…

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There was no beauty in the earth but God saw the light was good. What the light illuminates may not be good, but the light is good. Does the light reveal your bad condition? Look at the light and enjoy its goodness. It means God wants to remake you into something really good. It is new beginning of his good work in you.

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It was the first day of creation. It was the beginning of the work of God. God saw that the light was good. It says that the earth was without form and void. But God saw the light, not the earth in chaos. And so he sees the light, his light, shining on you. He wants to make you into a fruitful tree that benefits those nearby. The fact is: he has all good in mind for you.

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Every one of us was in darkness, without hope, until the light shone on us. Without the light of God, we had no orientation and no direction. We were lost.

No matter how you see yourself, the Lord sees you differently. Maybe Jesus saw Peter years later when hundreds were caught by the net of his inspired words. The same light that exposed Peter went on to fill him with the lifegiving Spirit. ‘Fear not’ is said to you, too. No matter how you feel as the light shines on you, the light is good. And God shines his light on you for your good.

Is the purpose of God’s light to expose and condemn you? It may reveal that which was hidden, but did God say, “Look how terrible the earth looks. This is hopeless.” He did not. He saw the light that it was good. His purpose for the earth was good. He continued to work until the earth was the showpiece of the universe. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.

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God sees you as good. Can you believe it? He sees you as doing good. He has equipped you to do good. He has gone beyond all expectations. He has given us much. But let us think of his greatest gift.

He has shared his own divine nature with you. That is right. He wants many children. I know. This is really beyond our comprehension, yet it is true.

As God breathed into Adam and so gave him life, “…he breathed on them, and said to them, Receive the Holy Spirit …” Now let this idea sink down into your being. If you are not convinced, ask God to fill you with his Spirit. Adam had no choice about becoming a man. But after that, he did have a choice to make. A big one. And so do you and I.

Jesus said to”… wait for the promise of the Father … you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit … you shall receive power, after the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me … unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

God made a promise a long time ago. He said he would pour out his Spirit on all people: young, old, men, women, all.

Yes, like Adam, we have a choice to make. Will we continue to live by our own ideas or will we choose “Life”? Choosing the Tree of Life is now choosing a man to follow. That man is the One God sent to reveal what he is really like. You know, any other choice will eventually end in futility and despair. Every other path in life cannot deliver what you hope it will. And sadly, it takes us so long to realize this.

Jesus called him “The Father”. But then he said to call him “Our Father”. This is the meaning of light. That God wants to recreate you in the image of Jesus. Remember, Peter said, “I am not like you, Jesus. You and I are very different.”

But it is as if Jesus said, “Really, Peter? Are we so different? I think we are much alike. You and I can be together and do Gods will. We will, together, change how the people see God. And you will become more and more like me in that effort.”

We are made in the image and likeness of God. We have the potential to live as his children and show that family likeness to others. But he will not use force to make this happen. He invites; he does not compel. He offers choice, as he always has, to come closer. Yes, to overcome your fear and follow him. He says to you, right now, “Come, follow me.”

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Love Believes More

Love believes all things, yet is not deceived.

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We have believed lies in the past. We have been lied to by people. How do we go forward? Do we hate the liar? Do we shun the liar? Or do we love the liar? Love your enemies. A liar is an enemy.

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God hates lying because he is Truth Itself. Yet, he loves the person who lies. He can rescue the liar and bring them to truth. He has mercy on the liar and loves them. We, too, can forgive those who lie and want good for them. Love believes people can be changed. Yes, they can join the truth. Why? Because love believes all things.

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Love believes there are many lies in this world. The worst are lies about God. “God wants to judge you. God wants to condemn you.” These are two great lies. He is full of mercy. He wants to give you eternal life. That is the truth. God wants to bless you. God wants to give you all good things. This is the truth. But all the good of God is wrapped up in his son, Jesus. This is also true. Truth is a person.

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God counters the lies told and believed about him with Jesus. His son is his response. Doing good to people is how he answers wrongness in the world. Jesus was always doing good. He was not deceived about things because he believed all things.

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He knew people had gone wrong. He knew some people wanted to kill him. Yet, he gave those very people opportunity to be changed into something so much better. He reasoned with them. He tried to convince them of the truth.

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His great act was to convince all people of how bad sin was and how good God was. Sin had brought men to a place where they condemned the one sent to rescue them. Others were indifferent to the terrible death of a good man. The badness of men met the goodness of God when the Christ was brutally killed by a torturous, humiliating method of execution.

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Jesus knew how people had gone wrong. He knew how corrupted they had become. He knew sin and evil would destroy the very humanity of a person. And he put himself in the hands of those very people. He did not resist when his betrayal led to his arrest. He did not defend himself at his trial. When asked if he was the Christ, the sent one, he gave the truth knowing it would lead to his death.

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He returned from that death. The first one to come back. He was different now. He said all power had been given to him. Wow! And what did he want to do with all power. Get revenge? Humiliate his enemies? No. None of that.

He wanted his disciples to spread this message to all people. That God was willing to forgive and forget their past wrong. That he was able to restore them to real humanity. That God wanted to reclaim them as his own children.

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Love believes all things. Yet, it is not deceived. Are people selfish? Of course they are. Are they working toward their own corruption? Yes. Are their methods to improve themselves going to work? Not a chance.

He reaches out to each one, in mercy, to help them. But he wants to cure them not just make them feel better. He is the Great Doctor who prescribes Following Jesus as the method of cure. He is the example of a good person in a bad world. He is the very method of recovery. He is the Savior. And he shows us what God is really like: Our Good and Loving Father.

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Love believes all things, yet is not deceived.

I Corinthians 13

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