The biblical character Ezra is at one point described this way: Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel. As a pastor this is self-evidently a meaningful passage to me but whether you are religiously inclined or not the truth is that every one of us is preparing a heart for something, the question is what and whether or not we are going about this with intention.
There is no neutral ground and we all must make claims to how the world works and our purpose within it. Our actions, if not our words, will exhibit the conclusions we have come to about these tectonic questions.
Ezra had come to his decision and acted accordingly, have you?
Wayne Cordeiro shares the story of teaching some pastors in China, all of whom are risking 3 year prison sentences to learn from him. They must share bibles as he hasn’t brought enough for everyone. One woman gives up her bible when they turn to 1 Peter, as it happens she has that chapter memorized. Wayne is amazed, when did you learn it? In prison she says (it turns out many of these pastors have done one or more 3-year sentences already).
But they must not let you have bibles in prison if they put you in prison for being a christian leader??? Wayne asks.
No, but people bring me a page at a time here and there.
Do they get confiscated?
Of course, that’s why you must memorize them as quickly as possible “they can take away the paper, but they cannot take away what I have already hidden in my heart.”
Imagine what she (and the other leaders in the room that day) had prepared themselves for!
They not only had their eyes opened by the Holy Spirit to the foundational truths of the faith but they had set their eyes upon God in an Ezra-like fashion and they lived with intention, knowing full well the risks.
I find that humbling beyond measure! I am not particularly confident my faith is as vibrant or risk-accepting as theirs! That is part of their journey, and I am on mine and you are one yours.
Would you go to jail for your convictions? Why or why not?
How carefully have you thought about your convictions and do you pursue them as though they matter?
This is not easy. I heard folks on the radio speaking of Twitter and how they would more likely pay to erase their “history” than to pay to archive it. The suggestion is that while people were spending lots of time and attention on Twitter they know full well this is not the best use of their time.
Maybe having friends walking the journey with us is critical, people who can ask us meaningful questions about how we are doing, what we are thinking, the direction our lives are heading. Friends who can recognize what we are preparing our hearts for and try to keep us on track.
We can also engage in small practices, not using our phones the first hour we wake up and exchange them for scripture, journalling, prayer, staring at the landscape, painting, playing music, making love, all of which are more likely aligned with your values than candy-crush.
This is not meant to guilt-trip, but to motivate. What do you believe about the world? About yourself? And how do you go about living with intention, power and purpose?
Ezra did, and so can you.