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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. Matthew 11:29

In New Testament Palestine the Ox was the primary piece of equipment for the farmer. Attached to various loads by a yoke the ox would carry the burden of the farmer all day long.

When a young ox was in training it would be teamed up with an experienced ox with a double yoke. The straps on the experienced ox were bound tightly to the animal, while the straps for the younger ox were loose. In this way the bulk of the burden for the load was placed on the more experienced ox.

Jesus uses the picture of a yoke and oxen to teach us a lesson about his expectations of us and our assurance from him that he will walk beside us along the way.

There are times in our lives when we, either vocally or inside ourselves, voice the statement, “This is too much for me to bear. I can’t do this anymore.” Each of us carries a multitude of different burdens. Some of those burdens are ‘self-inflicted’ such as addictive behaviors, the affair we can’t leave, the pornography we can’t stay away from, the anger we can’t let go of, the person we refuse to forgive.

Other burdens we bear have been placed on us from other sources. The wounds of an abusive spouse or parent; the feelings of abandonment we harbor, even as an adult, because of parents who left us or were too busy with their career to tend to their families; the rules and regulations of religious dogma; the limitations due to health or age issues.

Whatever your burden is, whether self-inflicted or otherwise, Jesus’ promise is the same. He walks beside you. You may feel your burden is too great, but he is bearing the brunt of the load and feeling the majority of the pain.

As he walks the path with you remember that he is gentle, not demanding; understanding, not judgmental; grace-full, not critical. Jesus has no desire to make our lives burdensome and harsh. Because of his passionate love for us, Jesus comes alongside us to help us carry the burdens that weigh us down on the journey we call life.

What burden are you bearing today? Worry? Fear? Guilt? Shame? Disappointment? Physical burdens? Jesus wants to come alongside you to help ease your burden as you learn to walk with him and love him. He doesn’t promise to take the burden away, but he will never let you bear it alone. It’s good to have a friend like him to help along the way.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I have many friends and family that love me and encourage me. But none of them understand the weight of this burden I bear. Until now I’ve tried to carry it myself. I ask that you would walk beside me and help ease the load I carry. Amen.


Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT)

Why is it that we say ‘salvation is a free gift of God’ and then go on trying to earn it? Imagine if you gave someone you loved a gift, a very expensive gift that they could never repay. It wasn’t a birthday or Christmas or even a special occasion. You simply loved them and wanted to give them something.

From that point on, they continued to do all sorts of things for you. You would come home and your lawn was mowed. Every morning you were greeted at your car with a hot cup of your favorite coffee.

Would you feel your gift was cheapened? Would you tell your friend to stop trying to do so many things and just enjoy the gift? Of course you would.

Too many times in our lives as Christ-followers we become defeated and discouraged because we try as hard as we can to earn our forgiveness. When we fail we try harder and become even more discouraged. Sometimes we even give up the fight and say ‘what’s the use. I’ll never be a good Christ-follower.’

God didn’t give us the great gift of grace so we could be perfect. God gave us the gift of grace because he knew perfection would never happen in us. So even in times of failure we can live victoriously. Even when we rebel we know we can come back home. When we slip into sin we can always repent and come home to him. He doesn’t expect perfection. He isn’t surprised when you fail. He doesn’t hold a grudge. Your sin and weakness don’t cause him to turn his back on you. He will never, ever give up on you.

Stop trying to be the messiah. That job has been taken. Stop trying to be perfect. Only one person has ever done that and you won’t be the second one. Your past mistakes, no matter how terrible, can’t keep God’s power from working in you. His grace is all you need to live powerfully for him.

PRAYER: Father God, I’ve tried to live this Christian life in my own power for far too long. I can’t get it right. There are some issues I just can’t conquer on my own and I’m tired of trying. Forgive me of my attempts to go it alone. Empower me to rest on the fact that your grace is all I need to experience your power. In Jesus name, Amen.


So be strong and courageous, all you who put your hope in the Lord! Psalm 31:24 (NLT)

Fear is an amazing thing. Its power over us can cripple us or it can motivate us. It can drive us to new heights of accomplishment or destroy our potential and perspective. The difference between success and failure is often dependent on what we do with fear.  

One time I was going through a very difficult and devastating period in my life. I was unemployed, staring bankruptcy in the face and really saw no way out. All my dreams had vanished in a period of six months. I wasn’t ‘suicidal’ but I was close.

I remember walking with a friend of mine one day. She told me she’d heard a radio show that day. The commentator on the show was talking about what one quality we see in other people’s lives that draws us to them. She then told me that when she thought about me, the one enduring quality she saw was courage.

I was shocked. I asked her how on earth she could say that courage was a quality I had. I reminded her of all the bad stuff that had happened. I recounted how my future looked bleak on the good days. Bad days were another story. I felt anything but brave and courageous that day.

Her response stuck with me though. She said “I don’t think I could go through all you are going through without going crazy or blaming God or something. I draw a huge amount of faith and strength by the way you handle the stuff you are going through.”

I’ve thought about that walk many times in the past few years and I’ve come to a couple of conclusions. First, the only way we can learn to be ‘strong and courageous’ is to test our strength. God isn’t in the business of making milk-toast followers. He’s in the business of making warriors and warriors don’t grow strong in times of peace. They get their strength from warfare. Why else would Alexander the Great cry when he realized there were no more worlds to conquer. He had run out of battle.

The second thing I realized is that often times the way we handle battles speaks much more loudly to those around us than our words. Warriors are admired simply because they know how to handle the battles before them.

When we go to battle in our own strength we have reason to fear. We are fallible and weak mortals. When we go to battle in the strength of our God we go knowing that even though we may lose a battle along the way, eventually we will become victorious. Strong courageous people are those whose strength comes from enduring the very hardship that they’d rather avoid but makes them stronger. Strong and courageous people gain strength from faith in the God of Genesis. The mighty warrior.

PRAYER: Father, as I look at my life I realize that many of the things I fear are really there to make me stronger. Empower me with your Spirit to fight the battles I face in your strength. Allow me to show your strength by going through life leaning on your grace. In Jesus name, Amen.


But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12:31

Ever noticed how those info-mercials on TV make their particular product so inviting? “If you call now you’ll not only get the original item, they’ll throw in something else. But wait! There’s more. Call within a certain amount of time and they will give you a free give valued at some fantastic amount!”

The company attempts to paint a picture for you. First of all, you NEED this product in order to make life bearable. Secondly, if you purchase this product they will do you a huge favor by giving you much more than what you originally asked for. It’s a deal that simply can’t be passed up!

I’m not trying to cheapen life as a Christ-follower when I say this, but in a sense, living for Christ is like the ultimate info-mercial. Think about it for a moment. Here we are, a bunch of rebellious, self-centered, angry, doubting human beings just looking for things our way. It all started in a garden with a perfect climate, and two people who were physically, spiritually and emotionally naked. They had all God could give them yet they chose to rebel.

God said, I know what I’ll do. I’ll send my only son, my beloved son to die a cruel death on a tree. I’ll watch from heaven as they take my ‘little boy’ and strip him naked, beat him so badly that I won’t even recognize him and finally brutally murder him on a tree. They’ll even have the audacity to say they are doing this horrible thing in my name!

But wait! There’s more. Not only will I let them do this to my son, I’ll forgive their sin. Wipe it out completely. No penalty. No condemnation! Then, I’ll send my very own Spirit to live within them. He’ll guide them, show them the way to salvation, and administer grace and strength in their weakest moment.

Oh, I know they’ll fail. Some will fail over and over again. But if they repent and come back to me, I’ll forgive them and make things right between us once more.

But wait, there’s more! While they are struggling along the path of life, I’ll be preparing a place for them so that once their time on earth is complete they can come to spend all of eternity with me.

Too good to believe? It is to me too. But it’s true. God doesn’t just give us what we need. Our Heavenly Father gives us far more than we ask for. All he asks from each of us it to confess our sin, and invite Christ to be the Lord of our lives.

PRAYER: Father God, I thank and praise you for your wonderful gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. You not only have given me forgiveness. You have given me freedom to be all I can be and a promised hope of eternity with you. Empower me by your Spirit to live daily for you and not myself. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

 


He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

A storm moves through in the middle of the night. The windows shake from the wind. The yard is as light as mid-day from frequent lightning. On one particular crash of thunder small feet are heard running down the hall. As if with one motion she snuggles in securely between her mom and dad. ‘Safe from the storm’ she soon falls back asleep completely oblivious to the raging storm outside.

What was it that drove the little one to the arms of her father and mother? Were they able to save her from the storm? Should a tornado have wiped out the neighborhood would she have been spared because she was in their arms? The storm certainly didn’t let up. It wasn’t any quieter in their room.

What drove her to the arms of her parents was the calm assurance in her mind that safety rested there. In the arms of her father the lightning became a nothing more than a light show. The sounds of the wind, rain and thunder became music to lull her to sleep. The storm could be weathered just fine when she was in the arms of her father.

When we rest in the arms of our Heavenly Father there is calmness in the storm. He is God. He is holy. The word ‘Holy’ is a word that means set a part. One notch above the rest of the world. Unaffected by circumstances.

Because he is a holy God, the things that frighten me have no effect on him. The things that pull me down won’t contain him or change his focus or actions.

When I fail it affects how I view myself. It affects how I react to other people. It changes my outlook on life. Small problems seem bigger. Mole hills become mountains. But when I fail it doesn’t affect how God views me. Not with Jesus by my side.

When I struggle with sin I feel hopeless and defeated. But with God there is no such thing as hopeless. Defeat isn’t in his vocabulary. When life takes different turns for me and I don’t understand how I got in the situation I’m in, I get confused and discouraged. God never gets discouraged, never gets sidetracked, never gets distracted by simple, mortal earthly things. He is on a higher plain which is unaffected by humans.

I can’t control everything that comes my way. I can’t change decisions that I’ve made in the past that haunt me now. I can’t see the future so that my choices today will guarantee my comfort or safety. I can’t control everything that comes my way…but my God can.

PRAYER: Holy Father. As the storms of life swirl around me today there will be times when fear grips me like an iron fist. Times when confusion clouds my ability to choose wisely. Times when I want to lash out rather than listen. Empower me by your Spirit during these times to be still. Even though life may be loud around me, help me to be still in your arms of safety and love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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