Tag Archives: Ezra 3

Following and Fear

Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.
Ezra 3:3 (NIV)

Last night was family pizza and movie night. Taylor invited her friend Curtis over to join Suzanna, Wendy and me. Wendy made homemade pizza and breadsticks as we all gathered around the island in the kitchen to share in a glass of wine and conversation.

In the midst of the conversation Taylor recounted a significant point in her life as a teenager in which she made a conscious decision that she was going to follow Jesus. Hanging out with a couple of her best friends shortly thereafter, she explained to them her decision. She shared with them that she needed to start making some different life choices. Things that had been  producing spiritual death in her needed to pass away. She needed to choose into things that would be life giving.

As she spoke, it brought back similar memories for me. After I became a follower a Jesus, when I was still a very young man, there was a period of time in which my new found faith created an awkward fear in me. Those who knew me as one thing, were now going to experience me as another. Old things were passing away in me. New things were emerging. And, while I still loved my friends very much, I knew that I needed to change. Whenever Jesus called someone to follow, there was a requisite of leaving things behind and striking out on a path toward new things.

Perhaps it was Taylor’s story and my memories that resonated as I read this morning of the Hebrew exiles returning to their homes. The temple had been in ruins for years, so long that those living near could scarcely remember it being a center of worship. Now, a new thing was happening. Life was returning to a place of death. The worship of God was beginning once more and with it came that awkward fear of how their neighbors would react. And yet, they continued to obediently follow the plan.

I’ve learned along life’s journey that following Jesus sometimes means obediently following where He leads, despite my fears or my nagging concern about what others might think. On a few occasions, it has meant following Jesus down paths He was leading me despite even my fellow believers thinking me cracked and accusing me of going the wrong way.

Choosing Life requires making choices and moving my life in directions where increasing measures of Life will be found. This necessitates leaving behind parts of my life, and even people in my life, who are sucking the Life out of me. I do this not because I judge these other people as bad or evil. In fact, I have tremendous amounts of love for them. I do this because, in the moment, I am called to pursue Life. In doing so I ensure that I may someday have an over flowing abundance of Life; Life I might someday have a chance to share with those same loved ones from whom I needed to distance myself for a time.

photo : redvers via flickr

Chapter-a-Day Ezra 3

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Image by Kurt Christensen via Flickr

All the people boomed out hurrahs, praising God as the foundation of The Temple of God was laid. As many were noisily shouting with joy, many of the older priests, Levites, and family heads who had seen the first Temple, when they saw the foundations of this Temple laid, wept loudly for joy. People couldn’t distinguish the shouting from the weeping. The sound of their voices reverberated for miles around.  Ezra 3:11-13 (MSG)

As I read about the loud, demonstrative worship of the Israelites in today’s chapter, I asked myself when I’d felt such a rush of emotion that I felt I had to scream. Just recently I got the call that my sister’s cancer was in remission and her PET scan came back clear. That created an instant shout of joy from the depths of my soul. Sports probably creates that rush of emotions as much as any other common human experience. I remember the miracle on ice in 1980 and watching the gold medal ice hockey game with my dad. It was perhaps the only hockey game I’ve watched in its entirety in my life, but I remember screaming for joy and jumping up and down when the United States won.

From the intensly personal issues of life and death (a family member with cancer) to the things that are trivial in the grand scheme of life (a hockey game), we can feel things with such intensity that we have to let it out. I wonder why it is that over the centuries we’ve stuffed the most critical and eternal spiritual matters into a box of social propriety.

For much of my faith journey I would describe my weekly public worship experience as exactly what I was taught as a child it should be: proper, cerebral and emotionless. Then, about ten years ago or so, God started a work in me. It started with tears. Each week I found it more and more impossible to stop the tears from pouring out of me during worship. Then came singing. Not just the stand there and mumble along singing, but the “sing it at the top of your lungs with your whole heart because you want God to hear your voice all the way up in the throne room of heaven” kind of singing.

Not every worship experience is intensely emotional, but I’ve learned over time that authentic worship of God requires all of my being. Not just my posterior in the pew and mental engagement, but my entire body, my spirit, my mind, my emotions and my voice. The more I fully engage in worship, the more meaningful it becomes to my daily journey.

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