Posts Tagged ‘yoke’

Are You Tired?

wearyI’m tired all the time. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. I also know I’m tired because I keep carrying more of the load than I’m supposed to be carrying. I’ve done it all my life. No change there.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. [Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.] Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” [Matthew 11:28-30, The Message]

One day I will get it, I mean, really get it long term. For now, I still have great big heavy days until I remember again to set some of the stuff down and often, the next day is better. Vicious cycle of sorts, but it’s all I can manage these days.

One of sentences from the devotion today (by Cindy Lowcock) is so true: “When we take on Christ we become like Him: demanding our own control seems unimportant, aligning ourselves with Him becomes as easy as if we were professional dance partners.” This would be the best scenario of all, dancing with the Christ, knowing which way to turn just by a simple touch, a minute pressure. That takes lots of practice.

Painting by Alfred Gockel

Painting by Alfred Gockel

When I was younger, I used to tell my friends that I could dance all night. I never grew tired of the movement and the music. I was fully engaged. This is a great metaphor for being a follower of Jesus. There is freedom and even abandonment, but there is also structure and cadence. It’s one reason that many jazz dancers learn ballet first, to learn the precision and the control, before breaking out.

Being tired comes from misuse of my body, my mind, and my spirit. Unfocused and scattered.

It’s why I need the yoke of Christ really. For, like the young oxen that must learn how to work together in the field, I need to learn how to be in communion with God. I keep pulling away from that yoke. Sorry.

Thanks be to God, it’s never too late to start again. It’s time to suit up.

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Sometimes, I don’t know how to pray, not for myself or for anyone else. But there is this promise that the Spirit within knows exactly how to intercede. That is a great comfort to me.

Romans 8:26b
. . . We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.

I did not realize until I meditated on these verses (Romans 8:26-28) that the Spirit within is not just praying or interceding on my behalf, but praying in a particular way: according to God’s will.

Mike and I used to joke around a lot about a teaching we once heard by a Jamaican/English minister from Florida, Peter Lord, long since off the scene. This particular teaching was called “How to … ‘ah’ … hear … ‘ah’ … God’s voice.” The message was good, but his delivery always cracked us up. This was all the rage back then: trying to ‘ah’ hear God’s voice.

But now I understand that I don’t have to struggle to hear God’s voice in order to be led in the right direction. The Holy Spirit, always with me, is already lined up with God’s will and praying for me. I may not understand the words. I may not understand the sounds, the whispers, the groaning, but I can be confident in the intent.

I think the harsh voice of condemnation has tried to bend my Christian journey into something far more grueling than necessary. I keep forgetting the promised “lighter yoke” [Matthew 11:30].

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Our culture recoils at the word “slave.” Our corporate guilt over the many peoples we have enslaved compels us to resist. As a result, we overlook our own “state of enslavement.”

Romans 6:16
Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I am still a slave to the wrong voice in my heart. I listen more often than I should to the voice that says, “Oh, what the heck! Why not?” or “Might as well… ” or “Who will know?” This voice gives me permission to indulge myself by eating too much or wasting time in front of the television or daydreaming myself into discontentment about my life. This voice would encourage me to have an affair or get a divorce. This voice is sarcastic and mocking. This voice is relentless.

The slavery begins when I listen. The slavery intensifies when I act. The slavery becomes a yoke around my neck over time.

But the Spirit carries the sword of truth and can slash through that yoke. The Spirit of Christ is my champion. There is only one hitch: the Spirit is also a Master, a benevolent Master, if I choose to follow, believe and confess.

“Obedience” is really a form of confession. To be a slave to confession is a powerful and transformative process. I am not very good at obeying because I keep making mistakes. But anyone can be good at confessing and as the breath of forgiveness and grace blows over me, I grow strong enough to step away from sin, to close my inner ear to that other voice, to turn toward the light.

I can be a slave to confession.

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The Rabbi’s yoke is the set of interpretations of the law that a rabbi has and passes to his students. Paul was zealous because his teacher taught him to be. How many of us are still operating out of ingrained lessons and prejudices?

Acts 22:3b
“…Under Gamaliel I [Paul] was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you [the crowd in Jerusalem] are today.”

My mother, an immigrant, was fervent about equal rights. When we first arrived in this country (1951), we lived in North Carolina. My father, already over 60, was forced to carry heavy railroad ties alone because the supervisor assumed he wouldn’t want to work with a negro [that’s the polite term]. We moved to Indianapolis within the year. There we lived in the inner city where we experienced a different form of prejudice against us because we were “foreigners.” In the end, although our family was poor and fiscally conservative, we remained socially liberal.

But others are taught from an early age to distrust, fear and even hate. Children are brainwashed to believe the worst and they quickly mouth the name-calling and rants they hear in the home. This learned hatred is particularly vitriolic in the case of skin color, sexuality, and religious practices. In some middle eastern countries, this yoke (set of beliefs) has escalated to the point of sacrificial suicide to kill and destroy “infidels.”

In order to take on a new yoke, one must take off the old one. “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” [Matthew 6:24a]

It is so difficult to let go of something we have believed our whole lives. Instead, the old yoke is perpetuated from one generation to another. We teach our children what we were taught, either directly or indirectly.

But Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. [Matthew 11:30] And yet, some people still try to make the yoke of Jesus heavy and burdensome. They manipulate His yoke to be more like the yoke they have known before.

Jesus’s yoke is like no other yoke. There is freedom. There is love. There is a lightness of being. There is trust. There is hope. There is Spirit.

Paul was thrown to the ground and blinded in order to get his attention. What about us? What must God do to reveal the yoke of Jesus to us? I think I am still trying to wear more than one yoke. Show me, O God, the yokes of my past that weigh me down.

I only want to carry one yoke: the yoke of Christ Jesus.

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John 7:28
Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him,…”

In the past I have worried a great deal about false teaching. I knew there was a lot of it and I was afraid I would get sucked into the wrong way if the teacher appeared to be really smart and spoke with sincerity, authority, and used the Bible to substantiate the teaching. Jesus said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” [Matthew 7:15] I was afraid I would be fooled by the sheep’s clothing.

Today, I had a simple epiphany: false teaching can be recognized if one knows the Source.

If I know what God has taught me, if I understand what I have read, if I spend time in prayer and meditation, if I remember how God has touched my life in the past, then I will recognize God’s hand upon a teacher.

It’s similar to knowing a friend or family member. If someone would tell a bad story about a friend, but I know that friend well, I can determine whether it’s true or false. If I know that person’s character, I know that some things are simply outside the realm of possibility. Oh sure, people can act differently than their normal character, but those actions would have to be provoked by a profound change or external pressures.

The really sad part is that we don’t always know people very well. Sometimes it’s because people are not transparent; they don’t want to be known. And so, by all appearances, their behavior is unpredictable; their character is unformed in the eyes of the world. But sometimes, it’s our fault: we don’t take the time to know the very people we care about in our lives. We don’t listen. We don’t look. We make assumptions. If we treat God the same way as we treat our acquaintances, we will make false assumptions about God as well.

God’s character does not change. We are encouraged to know Him. He shows Himself every day. He shows Himself in scripture. He shows himself in nature. He shows himself in the light. He shows himself in love.

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:29-30]

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Matthew 11:28-30
“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.”

I am reading a fascinating book called Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith by Rob Bell. I have always been interested in language and the meaning/interpretation of words. So often, we take the most common words for granted. This kind of questioning started back in my theatre days when we were challenged to investigate, “what does this phrase or word really mean?” The Bible is full of words that are loaded: love, grace, sin, hope, faith, truth… that’s just a few for starters!

Anyway, Rob Bell speaks of this meaning and interpretation of words as one of the responsibilities of a Rabbi. And those disciples who studied under a rabbi understood that he was the one, after much study and prayer, who would make the final determination/interpretation. For instance, if the law said that no work could be done on the Sabbath, it was the Rabbi who interpreted what “work” might mean. Different Rabbis had different interpretations. One might say that walking 3 miles was permissible but walking more was work. While another might say 2 miles, etc. As a result, people would choose or align themselves with a rabbi whose set of interpretations they would follow. This set of interpretations was called the Rabbi’s Yoke!

Of course, you can see where I’m going here: Jesus, the Rabbi, brought a new yoke to the people. He even announced it and invited others to follow because His yoke was easy! This is the way of Jesus even today.

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