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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
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"And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow" (Philippians 4:3).
Brooksyne and I are blessed to have many friends from all over the world, part of the still growing network of people we’ve met through the years whom we now consider to be our friends. We have now lived in Lancaster County for ten years and due to the nature of our ministry meet many people in a variety of contexts.
The other day I got a small package in the mail from a friend in Missouri. I anxiously tore open the package and found a small lapel pin in the shape of a yoke. Al, who often encourages me, included a brief note that identified me as a "fellow yokefellow", an allusion to the daily Scripture portion. Since I happen to be one of those preachers who still wears a suit when I preach on Sunday mornings I now have a yoke lapel pin to place on it!
The yoke is a universal symbol of Christian ministry. If we heed Christ's command to take His yoke upon us (Matthew 11:29) we discover the rich blessing that comes with full participation in the cause of Christ. He offers His yoke to all who will deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him. In one sense we are yoked with Christ but in another sense we are yoked with all those who are committed to Christ and His cause. We become true yokefellows as we journey here below.
In the Bible times and in our own day, the yoke is still used in many parts of the world. A yoke is a wooden beam which is used between a pair of oxen to allow them to pull a load (oxen almost always work in pairs). They must work in equal cooperation to be effective. Unequal yoking is disastrous in farming, marriage, business partnerships and in ministry. (See 2 Corinthians 6:14-15)
In our daily text Paul refers to a "true yokefellow", whose identity is not specifically known, although the word could have also been a proper name. The word in the Greek means "yoked together".
Paul apparently knew that this yokefellow would be one of the primary recipients of the letter to the Philippians and that he was being addressed. He was asked to mediate a dispute between two quarreling women who are identified by name for all in the church age to read about! "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord" (v.2). How would you like people throughout the generations and from all over the world to read about an ongoing dispute you’re hashing out with your fellow Christian worker.
The descriptive title Paul uses tells us so much about the man who was to be the mediator for these two women. The adjective, "true" can also be translated "loyal, legitimate, or genuine". As stated above, yokefellow may have been a proper name, "Syzygus", but it also has the meaning of being joined or co-yoked together. What a beautiful term for a close, long-lasting ministry relationship perhaps prompted by our Lord's words in Matthew 11:29!
In my observation this character quality of being a yokefellow is greatly diminishing in our fickle age. Beginning with the family we see in all levels of society a breakdown in loyalty. I am thankful first of all for the loyalty of God, although we usually don't use this term as an attribute of God but rather His faithfulness.
But I am also thankful for the loyalty expressed by the people in my life and I myself want to be known for my loyalty. I, along with many of you, have been stung by disloyalty. We can identify with David when he wrote, "Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me" (Psalm 41:9). Jesus and the apostle Paul both knew the bitter and lingering sting of disloyalty.
I’m sure you have some very close loyal friends and consider them to be a great blessing in your life. I pause for a moment as I type and consider so many that quickly come to mind. In fact many of them are recipients of these daily encouragement messages. I have loyal friends from my childhood, college years and from each location our ministry has taken us. This long and growing trail of loyal friends is one of the richest blessings of getting older!
May the Lord bless each reader today with loyal friends and prompt each of us to be loyal to one another and of course to Him!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Jesus, You have shown us the greatest example of loyalty when Peter denied You at the critical hour prior to Your crucifixion. It is so encouraging to know that Peter was forgiven, reinstated, and empowered to be a great messenger of the Gospel. As we follow Your example we will be forgiving, loyal, and dependable. We’ll also recognize that there are times when our friends will fail us. When they do, remind us that we have disappointed our friends at times as well. Help us to be loyal yokefellows lending companionship, support, strength, and direction to our brother or sister in Christ. It is in Your name that we pray. Amen.
The Greek word for yokefellow is "Syzygus" The Greek word for yoke is "zugos"
Our true yokefellow pets!
Our pets really get along very well and often lay beside each other near our coal stove in their beds on a cold day. Dottie, our cat, is a bit selfish in taking over the larger pillow but Roxie is nevertheless satisfied in stuffing herself into Roxie's empty bed.
However their peaceful coexistence as the only pets in our home may soon be interrupted as we are considering getting a puppy for Ester on her birthday from the local dog pound! We'll see!!
We're enjoying slices of this Colby cheese as we prepare our message today. Anna Ruth, our Amish friend loaded me (Brooksyne) with goodies yesterday after we spent an afternoon shopping together. For the past month she has trying her hand at making homemade cheese and she wanted us to try it. It passes with flying colors. For a chunk about three times this size it takes four gallons of milk. No wonder cheese is so expensive! This would have been made with raw milk since her husband is a dairy farmer.
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"My Yoke Is Easy" Video Dennis Jernigan
"They'll Know We Are Christians" Video This was a song we sang when we were young Christians in the seventies along with outstanding contextual images. This is a version by "Jars Of Clay".
"Bind Us Together Lord" Video Another old chorus we frequently sang in the earlier days of our ministry promoting unity and cooperation. The singers are not specified. This includes some verses I don't recall ever singing with the song.
"We Will Stand" Video A song with a powerful call to unity. This version is sung by a group called "Avalon" but I am most familiar with the Russ Taff version from the eighties, then and now.
"Yokefellow" also happens to be the name of the prison ministry our friends in North Carolina work with seeking to mentor young men for Christ.
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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.
Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and I make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and to prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."
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