I can’t hear you!

Meet Jacob. He is my favorite little three-year old. Jacob just started going to preschool three days a week. His mom, Jenni, took him earlier this week and let’s just say it did not go so well…

After being at the school for about 10 minutes while Jacob played, Jenni told him that she needed to go. He thought that he was in control at this point and started to explain to her how he was not staying there. When he realized he was not going to win, he stood against the wall, pouted his bottom lip, and began to cry, wail, and scream. “Mommy, don’t leave me here!…I will go to work with you!…Please take me with you!…” Needless to say, this ripped his mother’s heart out. She gave Jacob one last hug, handed him over to the teacher, and left, as he continued to scream, cry, and shout at the top of his lungs.

I couldn’t help but think about Jacob’s story when I read Joshua 6: the battle of Jericho. The Lord instructed Joshua and the Israelites to walk around the city once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times and then the priests would sound the trumpets. When the people heard the trumpets, they were to shout with a “great shout” and then the wall of the city would fall down flat. (Joshua 6:2-5)

The nation obeyed the Lord’s Word through Joshua regarding all of the marches around the city. After the seventh march on the seventh day, the priests blew the trumpets and Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city!” Verse 20 says, “As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat.

As I studied this passage, I was drawn to the word shout. I thought about my little Jacob screaming. When is the last time you heard someone screaming their head off? When is the last time you shouted until your voice was gone? I honestly can’t remember. The Holy Spirit convicted me with this thought: when was the last time I screamed, shouted, or cried like my victory over sin and my enemy hung in the balance? That’s exactly what the Israelites did–they shouted because they knew the collapse of the walls of Jericho depended on it! Three-year old Jacob believed his mother was the only one who could save him so he screamed like his entire life depended on it. Do we do that with our Heavenly Father? How desperate are we for victory and salvation? I believe there is a biblical precedent to shout out to God.

The Hebrew word for “shout” is ruwa (“roo-ah”). It is typically used for three different types of shouting: 1. war cry 2. alarm 3. joy, triumph, praise, applause.

An example of a war cry shout is of course in Joshua 6, but also in 1 Samuel 17:52, “And the men of Israel and Judah rose with a shout and pursued the Philistines as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron.” This is written after David defeated Goliath. We are in a battle every day against spiritual forces of evil. I know I am not shouting a war cry, like I could be. What if we screamed a declaration of war on our enemy every day before we got out of bed? What would that do for our daily walks with Christ and victory over sin?

An example of a shout of alarm is Hosea 5:8, “Blow the horn in Gibeah, the trumpet in Ramah. Sound the alarm at Beth-aven; we follow you, O Benjamin!” Both the horn and the trumpet were used to alert the community to danger. “Sound the alarm” is the translation of ruwa in this passage. We know when the Holy Spirit has given warning signals to our hearts about certain situations. What would happen if when we received those divine alerts, we shouted the name of Jesus and prayed Scripture verses loudly to arm ourselves for the pending attack?

An example of a ruwa of joy, praise, triumph, applause is Psalm 47:1, “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” Ladies, picture yourself seeing a close girlfriend you haven’t seen in way too long. The squeals, the shrieks, the tears. Men, you know that scene too. I’m sure you have seen it–and heard it–many times before. For you, men, this shout is the final score of a close ball game coming out in your team’s favor–jumping to your feet, screaming, arms fully extended to the sky, giving high fives and chest bumps.

As I continued to dwell on that question: “do I shout out to God like my life, victory, and joy depended on it,” the Lord showed me the coolest thing. Zechariah 9:9 says, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Yup, same word: ruwa. Man, I love Scripture.

We know this is a fulfilled prophecy of Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Since He is our King and He is coming again, I believe the mandate to shout applies to us. Why don’t you have a good scream-fest with the Lord? Whether it’s a battle cry for walls to come down, a shout for victory over sin, or a shriek of unspeakable joy, I believe Your Heavenly Father will be glorified. RUWA!!

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snakes, heights, and men…

A friend of mine is terrified of snakes. She has had this phobia since before I met her. She cannot look at one, let alone touch one! She doesn’t even like to talk about snakes. If she does come in contact in any way with the creature, her whole body instinctively reacts with a huge jerk, and turns away. Secondly, her body temperature immediately rises and she invariably complains, “I’m so hot…I’m so hot…” as everyone around her has a good laugh at her expense. It’s all very dramatic, believe me. I really wish you could see it. I have to admit, this has made her a pretty easy target. Once, a friend of ours managed to get into her Facebook account and change her profile picture to a snake. The one prank that was especially cruel? Her boss gave her a live snake that she opened during their Christmas gift-exchange. It makes me laugh to picture it in my mind, as I write.

What is your biggest fear? Spiders? Big dogs? Heights? Being alone in your house at night? Discovering your spouse’s infidelity? Being abandoned? Losing your best friend, spouse, or parent? Burying your child? Not hearing “well done” when you meet Jesus?

When I was reading John 12 the other day, I came face-to-face with my biggest fear again, thanks to the Holy Spirit of God.

42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. (ESV)

The preceding context of this passage is that many people did not believe in Jesus, even though He had done many signs and wonders. John further explains that this was to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecies about the unbelief of the people. Even though many did not believe, verse 42 says that many did believe in Jesus. Scripture explicitly says that many of these were authorities, rulers, leaders, etc. However, they were afraid that the Pharisees would excommunicate them and completely exclude them from the sacred practices of the Israelites. So the new believers didn’t confess their new belief because they loved the glory they received from man more than the glory that comes from God.

The Greek word for believe means “to place confidence in, to entrust something to someone, to think to be true, to be persuaded of.” These people chose to put their confidence in Jesus, to entrust their eternity with Him. They were persuaded about His divine identity by His authenticity. To confess in the Greek means “to agree with, to profess one’s self as a worshiper of one, to declare openly.” These men were too fearful to agree publicly with Jesus that He is Lord. They were too afraid of what the Pharisees would do, to profess themselves as worshipers of the Christ. The Greek word for glory means “approval; most exalted state; the good opinion of someone, resulting in honor, praise, and glory.” These new believers were still seeking to get honor and praise from the Pharisees’ good opinion of them. They wanted the approval of mortal men rather than the approval of the Immortal, Invisible.

Don’t miss this irony: these men decided to trust Jesus with their lives, their eternity. They believed that He was the only one who could save them from eternal punishment. They were persuaded to think He was truly the Christ, YET they did not trust Him enough to satisfy their human desire of approval, praise, and honor. You have to get this–they didn’t believe that Jesus would or could meet their needs. They still wanted their “most exalted state” to come from the Pharisees.

I see my biggest fear in these two verses: the fear of man. I know it is rooted in my legalistic background, trying to always look the part of a “good” Christian. I have always attempted to gain the approval of the people in my life, whether it be my parents, sisters, pastors, teachers, ministry leaders, mentors, employers, friends, students, the list goes on and on. Now I don’t think it’s wrong to seek human approval. It becomes idolatry though, when I begin to sacrifice my relationship with Jesus on the altar of this approval. That is when I transition to worshiping creation rather than Creator. That is what those new believers did in John 12.

We see this played out in several ways. This is not taking advantage of every opportunity to share our faith because friends might think we are “one of those Christians.” This is not raising our hands in worship, when the Holy Spirit wants us to, because we’re afraid people will think we are “trying to be over-spiritual.” This is not being honest with our closest friends about that sin because it may change the way they see us. This is living beyond our means financially and racking up consumer debt to “keep up with the Jones’.” This is staying in an unhealthy relationship because we don’t want to hurt the other person. It’s not telling our group of friends about a desire to go deeper with the Lord, because they may not invite us to do things anymore. It is not going to marriage counseling because then people will know that we don’t have a perfect marriage. It is being dishonest (even in the slightest way), in order to control our reputation and what people think of us. It is not humbling ourselves and apologizing to that person because we know they will just hurt us again in the future. It is not saying anything during a gossip-fest, because the people will be offended by the “confrontation.” This list is certainly not exhaustive. Is the Holy Spirit revealing the fear of man in your life?

Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Read that again, let it sink in. This is one of my life verses. It is the first thing that the Lord brought to my mind when I read John 12:42-43. Now, track with me here. This is the kind of thing that makes God’s Word come alive! The Hebrew word for snare means “snare, bait, lure” and a simple definition of the word is “anything serving to entrap or ensnare unaware, a trap.” Trust in the Hebrew means “to trust in, to feel secure, to feel safe, to have confidence in.” Remember what the Greek word for believe meant? “To put confidence in!” The Hebrew word for safe means “to be set securely on high, to be too high for capture, to be exalted.” Another version of Prov. 29:25 says, “but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” Follow me here. Remember the Greek word for glory that we discussed? One definition was “most exalted state!” Those new believers in John 12 wanted that glory, exaltation, praise, and honor–they would have gotten it if they had just put their ENTIRE confidence in Christ to meet all their needs and desires! Proverbs 29:25 says so! God’s Word is so intricately woven!

Fearing man and seeking man’s approval will constantly trap us and will never satisfy. However, the people who put their whole confidence in God to meet their needs and seek His approval of their daily lives will be exalted.

Is the fear of man “laying a snare” in your life? Do you believe that Jesus Christ Himself is the only One who can and will meet your human need to be honored? Are you striving after the approval of men rather than the approval of God Almighty?  If so, confess it and repent in the power of the Holy Spirit. Put your confidence in Him and trust that HIS glory is like nothing this world can offer.

sittin’ in a tree…S-E-E-K-I-N-G

When I attended Passion Twenty-Ten about a month ago, I served as an usher on the floor, at the stage. Besides Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, and Christy Nockels leading worship at each session, there were two Hillsong United concerts that week, each on different evenings with NO ticketed seating (i.e. a free-for-all for crazy college students). Even though every student was going to get into the building and have the opportunity to attend the concert, hundreds of students lined up outside in 30 degree weather. Why? To get the best seats. To get seats up front.

Once the doors opened, students poured into the arena, sprinting down the stairs, darting through aisles of chairs, letting go of girlfriends’ hands because they slowed them down…Doing everything they could to get as close as possible. They wanted to see it up close. They wanted to experience it firsthand, not through a gigantic screen.

I can’t fully explain the look of satisfaction on the faces of those students whose efforts were rewarded, those who found themselves sitting in the first five rows of the entire arena. All of them had cold, red noses but their huge smiles silently implied, “It was worth it.”

When was the last time you did everything you could to get the best seats at an event? Have you ever stood out in the freezing cold for way too long because you knew that for which you were waiting was totally worth it? Then maybe you can relate to the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.

1He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. 2And there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small of stature. 4So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

I adore this story. How many of you know the song? “Zacchaeus was a wee little man and a wee little man was he…” I think that kids’ song gave me a pretty incomplete view of this Bible story. I have always thought Zacchaeus was some sweet, young teenager who climbed up in a tree to see Jesus. After studying the text, however, I find that scenario is certainly not the case.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and a “chief” tax collector at that! He would have been an extremely hated man among the Jewish people. Essentially, tax collectors were Jewish people who were employees of the Roman government, collecting taxes for Rome. They made a healthy commission by over-taxing their own people, and were typically the wealthiest in town. They were greedy, dishonest cheaters! Tax collectors were not allowed to attend the synagogue and were considered unclean by Jewish law.

Now even though all of that was true, verse 3 tells us something so much more important: “He was seeking to see who Jesus was.” My God is so gracious–He allows anyone to see Him, regardless of who we are or what we’ve done. The Greek word for seeking means, “to seek, to aim for, to strive after, to crave.” Also, the word translated to see means, “to see with the eyes, to see with the mind, to know, to become acquainted with by experience.” This tax collector was craving to know Jesus! He didn’t just want to wave at the Savior of the world as He passed by. That wasn’t the point. He was striving to become acquainted with Jesus by experience! I pray that this describes your life. Strive to know him. Oh Jesus, help me crave to know You!

There was a problem: Zacchaeus could not see over the crowd of people because he was short. BUT that little guy didn’t let that stop him! He ran ahead and climbed up a tree to see Jesus. What obstacles are standing in the way of your intimacy with Jesus? Time, a relationship, simple daily distractions, guilt from past sins, pride, bondage to sin, feelings of inadequacy, fear? I promise you: there is a solution to any obstacle you may face in your aim to know Jesus. Second Peter 1:3 says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” Pray for wisdom. He will give it. Then, climb that tree.

Be prepared: intimacy with the Father through Christ Jesus in the power of the Spirit will require everything of you. Zacchaeus gladly gave half of all he owned to the poor and he pledged to pay back everyone he cheated fourfold. This act did not earn his salvation, it proved it. You know what He’s asking of you. I know what He’s asking of me. Do we want to know Him more? It will cost us.

Looking at the last verse of this story, Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” The word seek is the same Greek word used in verse 3 about Zacchaeus seeking to see Jesus. Jesus sought Zacchaeus first, and long before he climbed up that tree in Jericho. Jesus has always been seeking mankind, striving after us, craving relationship with us, before we ever thought about seeking Him. He sought us two-thousand years ago. He sought us before the foundation of the world. Seek to know Him.

Just like Zacchaeus climbed up a tree to seek Jesus, Jesus climbed up a tree to seek us. It was called the Cross of Calvary.