Throw off the Yokes - Mid Life JOY Challenge #1

Each month this year I will be posting a challenge in our Mid Life Joy series.  February brings our first challenge: Throw off the yokes!  Sisters we are not starting this series off easy!

"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."
~  Jesus Christ to the Galatians in Matthew 11: 29-30

The word yoke has several meanings.  A yoke can be something placed on the neck of cattle used to pull something or work a field.  At the time of Jesus the word yoke was also used to refer to the laws or teachings of a specific rabbi.  When a disciple was chose to follow a rabbi, that disciple would be "taking on the yoke" of his rabbi - he would follow all the extra laws, teachings, and interpretations of that rabbi.   Taking on the yoke of a rabbi was difficult.  Following the Law is hard, really hard, actually it's impossible, now add on top of that the burden of additional laws, and teachings, and interpretations that normally went along with following a rabbi at that time.  It was a very heavy burden.   Yet Jesus calls us to take on His yoke and to learn from Him.  He called his yoke easy.  The comparison was striking.
The rabbis taught
Law + more laws+ personal preferences + personal ways and restrictions = possibly pleasing God. 

Jesus taught
Follow me + nothing = intimacy with God and eternal salvation.  

It's easy to be a bystander to history and desire to shout out to those Galatians - pick Jesus!  Pick Jesus -the rabbis are wrong!  It seems like such a clear choice.  Who would pick the teachings and misery of the yoke of the rabbis?  Who wouldn't pick Jesus?  But fast forward two thousand years and Christian culture today is full of some scary similarities.  In the world of celebrity pastors, best selling authors, and bible study teachers, we are right back in the same position as those Galatians.

Popular Christianity teaches: 
Follow Jesus + Edith Schaeffer + Beth Moore + Jen Hatmaker* = possibly pleasing God and having eternal salvation.

Jesus STILL teaches: 
Follow me + nothing = intimacy with God and eternal salvation.  

Many of us do exactly what the Galatians did - we don't pick Jesus.   We love our media darlings.  They are witty, bright, beautiful, and we want to be just like them, so we pick up their yokes and throw them around our necks.

Jesus + the lastest book + the latest study = ? 

The problem is that those yokes are attached to different agendas that pull and wear on us.  Edith Schaeffer was called to work joyfully at home.  Beth Moore is called to teach the Word.  Jen Hatmaker is called to plant churches, adopt children, and a dizzying list of other wonderful things.  These are the things they have been called to, and they have faithfully shared those personal experiences through books, and classes, and videos.  Christian culture has taken those personal messages and twisted them into modern day rabbi yokes.  Our unprecedented access to information, resources, and people has turned us into a people that take on yoke, after yoke, after yoke.  We mistakenly think the next yoke will bring: happiness, less stress, contentment, holiness, peace...  The list goes on and on, but with each extra set of teachings, each extra set of self imposed expectations, each new list of things we "should do," we get farther and farther from what we are looking for.  We get farther and father from Jesus.

 If you saw an oxen struggling under the weight of multiple heavy yokes you would be outraged at the abuse, wouldn't you?
My dear sisters, can I ask, " how many yokes are you wearing?"  

What burdens have added, and added, and added on to yourself?  Burdens the Lord has never asked you to take on.  Burdens that not only steal your JOY, but are exhausting you, leaving you weary.

This month's challenge is to look at the yokes you have taken on - and throw off all but Christ's. Throw off the yokes that have been wrongly placed on you by people around you, or by you yourself.

How do we do that?

Step 1:  Pray that God would open your eyes to false yokes you have taken on.
Step 2:  In a journal write out all the things that would complete this sentence.

Following Jesus + _______________ = Pleasing God
              For example:  dressing conservatively, leading a bible study, adopting a child, serving at the                                      food bank, homeschooling my kids, going back to work to help us get out of                                          debt,  allowing my mother to move in with us.    Small or large - list it out!                                            Add to your list as you find things coming to mind.  

Step 3:  Study God's word.  I suggest reading slowly through the book of Galatians.  We aren't the first people to deal with some extra yokes.  Study a few verses a day.  Try the SOAP method - journal out the Scripture, your Observations, your Application, and a Prayer.

Step 4:  Pray that God would show you what from your list is not something He has asked of you - but is an extra yoke you have taken on, or the world has given to you.

Step 5: Throw off those yokes! I'll share later this month a tangible way I have done this recently.

This is not an easy challenge, but I believe it is a crucial start to finding JOY in our lives - middle aged or not. :)  Jesus promised His followers something as a result of taking on His yoke (His alone), something I believe we all desire.   We can find it just a little farther up in our passage in verse 28, Jesus says.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."   

I pray His rest on each of you who are weary and burdened.  I will be praying that God speaks clearly to you this month as you take on this challenge.  

* Please note I do not mean to be picking on these particular women, nor I believe it is their set intention to pull woman away from following Christ in any way.  I name them only for their popularity is a variety of segments of Christian culture.