He Spoke Up

(Image Copyright Pacific Press)

Paul gets caught in the thick of things, Jewish rioters against Truth rallying against him, and a hand goes up. “I’m going to tell you a story.” Suddenly, the rioters are all ears as Paul tells the story of how Jesus showed Himself to the persecutor of all persecutors. The crowd is enraptured. Paul goes on to explain the vision in which God commanded him to preach to the Gentiles. Then the rioters become enraged. “Away with such a fellow from the earth, for he should not be allowed to live!” They bind him and send him to the tribunal.

Paul stands before his persecutors, and then the amazing thing happens. The tribunal asks him why he has been such a troublemaker…and he reminds them of his identity – that he is a Jew but also a Roman citizen, and they have no legal right to have him bound. This frightens the tribunal, and they convene in a special session to decide what to do with this sharer of visions and bold lover of the Gentiles. They call him in, and this man “on trial for the hope and resurrection of the dead” sees their deceptions and divisions and calls them out. Needless to say, they become furious with him. They send him away.

Through transfer after transfer, tribunal after tribunal, God gives Paul opportunities to unabashedly proclaim the Gospel to leaders of both the Jewish people and the Roman empire. And I’m not just talking mayors here – I mean the big wigs.

What if Paul had never unveiled the subversive Gospel of hope to the Gentiles? What if Paul hadn’t asserted his identity as a Roman citizen? Who might not have had the chance to hear about the death and resurrection of Christ and the salvation offered therein? Despite chains, despite constant instability, despite standing before rulers with demands on his life, Paul spoke. Paul obeyed. And now, 2,000 years later, we get to hear about that same hope because, at least in part, one man knew to whom he was called, who he was, and Whose he was and wasn’t ashamed to tell about it.



(You can read the whole story in the book of Acts, starting with chapter 22.)


The Climb


We started out innocently enough. Just three friends eating sandwiches and bathing in sunscreen before a hike near a waterfall. The sky was radiant and clear, and we had mountains and wild berries and mosquitoes all around us. This was going to be a great day.

We arrived at the base of the mountain and began our trek, one foot in front of the other, the hope of water and beautiful views pulling us onward. She knew the way; he thought he knew the way. We got lost. We retraced our steps. We found another way.

And this girl who overcalculates every single thing in life, who is cautious and well-planned and overthought in even the smallest things, who has traveled the world yet prefers the safe way down a mountain – this girl found herself literally climbing – not hiking – down an entire mountain. The two friends led the way; she blazed the trail ahead of us as she always does, and he followed behind his love. I reminded them both often that I calculate every move. She laughed and told me to keep moving – that there was no other way out. He pointed out the next step, and the step after that, and the step after that. We three held the rope and trudged onward, sometimes on our rear ends, sometimes on our knees, sometimes on our feet, never stopping, always moving.

“Do you hear that? Water. We’re almost there.”

Water. I can do this. After all, the only other way out is back up. Water.

And finally, after scraping up knees and ruining clothes and nearly running out of breath, water.

photo 3


I kicked off my shoes, shed my socks, and went into the pool at the base of the waterfall. How refreshing it was to cleanse sore and dirty feet, to feel the cool water after such a hot and challenging climb. The water roared down the rocks, unafraid and unabashed as though it knew it was meant to do this, meant to be there, meant to display the glory of God just by being.

My friends stayed behind on a rock (taking selfies on my phone, I might add). I walked to the base.


I thought I’d arrived. I’d overcome my fear of heights and dying on a cliff and finally made it to the waterfall. Once I’d accomplished that, I could do anything; the hike back to the car would be a piece of cake.

Little did I know…

After a few minutes of strenuous, but not difficult rock climbing,  we came to the next challenge – the one my friends omitted from their description of our adventure. The rock wall.

Source: scjack.blogspot.com

She and her love nimbly maneuvered the 25-foot climb up the mountain in no time and stood above me, waiting for me to follow. Waiting. Waiting. Still waiting.

I stood frozen, paralyzed by fear, dizzy, unable to look up or down or around me. Three feet behind me was a cliff. Just ahead of me was the wall, mocking my every instinct and fear and sense of stability.

They climbed back down. “You can totally do this. It’s easier to climb up than down.”

Except that when I was in high school, I had to literally be lowered down the stable rappel tower to the solid ground beneath me, even though I was harnessed in and held by capable belays. Even the solid ground beneath me and the harness I’d made around me did not ebb the terror I felt. And this day, standing at the base of this giant, things felt no different.

“The sun is starting to set. It’s either climb this wall or go back the way we came. But we need to move. You need to move.”

He climbed back up to cheer me on from above. She stayed below to push me up.

Tears. Panic. Dizziness.

I joked that at least I’d meet Jesus that day. She told me it was time to move.

“Stay close to the rock so you don’t sway and swing and fall off. Only look for your next step. Don’t look up. Just look at the rock.”

Maybe I didn’t want to die today. Maybe I wanted to finish so I could live to tell about it. I had the waterfall behind me and a vacation with friends days ahead of me.

I grabbed the rope.

One foot up. She grabbed my other foot and moved it to my next step. Every muscle in my body cramped.

“I can’t do this. I’m coming back down.”

I climbed back down. Deep breaths. Reminders of the joys ahead – if only I can just get over this {insert colorful metaphor here} rock.

I grabbed the rope again. One foot up. Then the other. Oh, God. Oh, God. I’m not cursing; I’m talking to You. Oh, God.

She said, “It’s in these moments when you get your heart pumping that you know you’re alive.”

I stayed close to the rock, her voice behind me telling me the next step and the next. He called from above, “You can do it! You’re almost there!”

I told him to shut up.

I climbed, one foot and the next, every muscle cramping and screaming that this was wrong. Close to the rock. Close to the rock. Onward. Come on. You’ll have a story to tell when you finish.

Last step. Last foothold. I hoisted myself up as far as I could over the ledge. He grabbed my arms and almost missed. We tried again; this time, I’d made it. She climbed behind me.

We stopped to breathe. I texted a friend; I just had to tell the story. Can I give you a call this evening? I have an awesome story to tell.

And the rest of the way was a piece of cake compared to what I’d done.


In our walk of faith, we have no choice but to move step by step, forward, again and again, because there’s no turning back – staying close to the rock so we don’t swing out of control. The only other way is back down, back the ways we’ve already walked, missing out on the joys set before us. No. Let’s choose the adrenaline-pumping, sweat-inducing, heart-pounding, panic-erasing, dangerous-but-the-only-safe-way up. Let’s move. Let’s walk in faith, even if we don’t exactly know what we’re believing for. Because He is good. He will guide our steps. He will cheer us on from the other end of the climb. And once we’ve made it, we’ll look back with a story to tell and spiritual muscles to begin the next climb that awaits us.

Today, let’s look to Jesus, the Rock. Let’s take the first step. Let’s ignore the cliffs behind us and look ahead and say, “Bring it on”. Because, as Ann Voskamp says, we don’t follow a safe God. But we do follow a good God.

Let’s climb.

 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’sthere, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1-3, The Message)