When a Rock Sunk Slowly-Jon Bloom

Hello everyone !

Yesterday, as I was browsing Desiringgod.org online book library, I came across Jon Bloom’s book whose title “Not by Sight” caught my eye. This book is in fact a series of meditations on the topic of faith, beautifully articulated around a part of the scriptures narrated in the form of a vividly described story. The way it is written actually make you feel as if you were a spectator of the story, which I love. I thought I would share one of these meditations with you.

Like lots of other books on Desiring God, you can find it for free online.

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“The day had been another mind-blower for the disciples.

As they rowed toward Capernaum it was hard to stop talking about what they had seen. Five thousand men, plus women and children, and Jesus had fed them all ! With one boy’s lunch! The power Jesus commanded both thrilled and unnerved them.

And they had felt the heady momentum of surging public support when the massive picnic turned into a “Jesus for king” rally. The people had begun to understand! The Messiah had arrived! The kingdom was beginning to emerge right before their eyes.

And then it had all ended so strangely. Surprisingly, Jesus was visibly disturbed by the crowd’s enthusiasm and he moved quickly to douse it with hard, confusing words. The people’s support soured to disillusionment.

Jesus could be so hard to figure out.

And why had he been in such a hurry for them to get to Capernaum that he had them row by night? And why were they to leave without him? They had taken the last boat on the shore. If Jesus intended to join them in Capernaum by morning, it was going to be one whale of a walk.

Then the wind picked up and the waves grew stronger, pushing against every pull of the oars. This was going to add hours to the trip. Adrenaline-fueled discussion was replaced by fatigue-fueled irritability. One of them commented that at this speed, Jesus would probably beat them there on foot.

Just then another shouted, “What’s that?” All eyes strained sternward. A form was approaching in the murky dark. Peter stood up on the small rear deck and looked hard. It could not possibly be what it looked like. But soon it was unmistakable. Someone — or something — was walking toward them across the water! An unearthly fear seized the men. One spoke in a hushed panic: “It is a ghost!” The rowers found new energy.

But a familiar voice called to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Jesus? It sounded like Jesus. But he was walking on top the water! Maybe a spirit could do that, but not a human! Peter motioned to the rowers to stop. It was Jesus. Mouths hung open but no one had words.

Except Peter. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” Every astonished face turned to Peter. No one else had even thought of that yet. Jesus responded, “Come.”

So Peter sat on the gunwale, swung his legs over the side, and carefully put his weight on what should have engulfed him. Then stood up. There was a collective gasp from the boat. One degree of surreal to another. Then he began to take tentative steps toward Jesus. The others held their breath.

Suddenly Peter froze. He looked down at the waves drenching his legs. There was panic in his eyes. Then he began to sink, as if into mud. He reached out toward Jesus and cried, “Lord, save me!” Jesus stepped forward, reached out, grabbed his arm, and pulled him up. Peter, looking intensely at Jesus, was breathing hard.

Jesus said to him with affectionate firmness said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”


Peter showed remarkable faith in asking to follow Jesus out on to the water. No one else did.

But when he began walking, what held him up? We might quickly assume it was his faith. But that’s not accurate. Peter’s faith wasn’t keeping him afloat. Jesus was. Peter knew that. That’s why he didn’t just leap out of the boat on his own. He asked Jesus to command him to come. What Jesus did was honor Peter’s faith by commanding the water to bear his weight.

Lesson #1: faith is not faith in our faith in Jesus, it’s faith in the power of Jesus’ word.

But once Peter was outside the safety of the boat, on uncharted waters, everything started feeling precarious. Why? Well, because people don’t actually walk on water. We may be so familiar to the story that the ridiculousness of walking on water doesn’t strike us. But it struck Peter at that moment.

And he started to sink.

But have you ever noticed that Peter the Rock didn’t sink like a rock? The last time you jumped into a pool, how gradually did you sink? There’s something profound going on here.

Peter began to sink when his faith shifted from the firmness of Jesus’ word to the instability of his circumstance. And when he did, it was Jesus letting him sink — slowly. And for Peter that was a grace.

Why? Because Peter’s sinking produced his cry to Jesus. It quickly got Peter to stop looking to the world or himself as the source of truth and salvation and got his focus back on his Savior. When he did that Jesus pulled him back up.

Lesson #2: Jesus’ word is truer and stronger than what we see or feel, and when we doubt that, sometimes he graciously lets us sink to help us refocus.

Trusting in Jesus and his word over our perceptions is difficult to learn. That’s why the Lord takes us through so many different faith-testing, faith-building experiences.

And when he does, it is never for just our own benefit. He’s displaying his power so others’ faith will be strengthened too. And, like the rest of the disciples, once Jesus and Peter were back in the boat, we end up saying to the Lord, “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).”

 

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“Satan’s defeat is sure”- John Piper

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1 John 3:8: “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil.”

Revelation 12:10 says, “I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.’” Satan’s defeat is sure. But his accusations haven’t ceased.

It is the same with us as it was with Job. Satan says to God about us, They don’t really love you; they love your benefits. “Stretch out your hand and touch all that [they have], and [they] will curse you to your face” (Job 1:11). Their faith isn’t real. Satan accuses us before God, as he did Job. But it is a glorious thing that followers of Jesus have an advocate who “always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

John Piper, Satan’s Ten Strategies Against You

Daily diary

After two weeks of “vacations” at my parents home- I’m back in my appartment, ready for another week of school !

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Vacations with quotations marks since of course, I’ve been studying a lot and right after I post this short entry, I’ll be back at my desk. Though difficult and filled with tons of concepts and tons of “actors”, i.e cells and the way the interact with each other, overall, immunology is enjoyable. And while I’m talking about school, I have to mention that I’m really excited  for this week ! My older brother will defend his doctoral dissertation and, God willing, will become a Pharmacist ! I’m a proud sister, and my parents are overwhelmed. My parents called a friend who owns a restaurant and booked a table for the evening, are getting everything ready, from the camera to the chocolates for the professors, they are just so involved in the process, and getting all emotional about it ! It’s really a huge transition for my brother: right after his final internship in a pharmaceutical company, they hired him so he had the luck to find a job right after his studies, which he is really happy about, yet I think he is going to miss university. So will I. I have one month of school yet and then, I’m off to a 6 months internship.

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In the kitchen ! Lately, I was reading a culinary blog in which the author gave advice about finding your style in the kitchen and one of them was that it is better to stick to one type of cuisine rather than have all the ingredients, exotic and not so exotic, not use them a lot and , in the end, waste food. As basic as this sound, it definitely makes a difference when you’re learning to cook and to stock items in your pantry. So I decided that from now on, being Lebanese and Syrian, I would stick to traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine. Not that I refuse to cook something different every once in a while but it feels so much better, especially when you are trying to live with less and incorporate minimalism in your life, to have just the basic ingredients and fresh items and stick to a few dishes. Pictured above is Mujaddara, a dish of rice and lentils. It is traditionally served with fried onions and a tzatziki.

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Yesterday, I started reading a God-Entranced Vision of All things: The Legacy of Jonathan Edwards, by John Piper and Justin Taylor. You can find it for free on PDF, by the way, something that Desiring God Ministries do with most books they publish. Jonathan Edwards is one of my favorite authors and I think I will post a few of his quotes online throughout the week. His words are stirring my affections for Christ, which, lately, at times, I have to confess, have been growing cold. I have been mourning over my sin-I realized that at times, I have desired the approval of men more than the approval of the Lord Jesus and I’m not as disciplined when it comes to the reading of the Scriptures and putting God first in everything than I used to be- a lack of discipline which has caused me a lot of grief. I told my mother this morning, that I did not want to be so anymore. Sin makes false promises. It’s alluring, it’s tempting, and then, it kills you. I was reading something in that book that caught my attention:

“Many Christians think stoicism is a good antidote to sensuality. It isn’t. It is hopelessly weak and ineffective. And the reason it fails is that the power of sin comes from its promise of pleasure and is meant to be defeated by the superior promise of pleasure in God, not by the power of the human will. Willpower religion, when it succeeds, gets glory for the will. It produces legalists, not lovers.”-John Piper

And

Self-denial will also be reckoned amongst the troubles of the godly. . . . But whoever has tried self-denial can give in his testimony that they never experience greater pleasure and joys than after great acts of self-denial. Selfdenial destroys the very root and foundation of sorrow, and is nothing else but the lancing of a grievous and painful sore that effects a cure and brings abundance of health as a recompense for the pain of the operation.-Jonathan Edwards

So this week, I’ll be fighting for true joy. True Joy that is found only in Christ. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalms 16:11). I will fight for it, and I know that the Lord will be my help in this fight, that I won’t be alone.

The tragedy of a starved imagination

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Desiring God

“The irony of our time is that, though we have more powerful image-making technologies than ever, we continue to be caught in what the poet Paul Claudel called ‘the tragedy of a starved imagination.’”

“Llosa observes that, in the past, the purpose of culture was edification: building society by civilizing one person at a time, teaching them character and values of good citizenship. In contrast, a culture of spectacle serves mainly to cure boredom: to distract and entertain. The problem with cultures of spectacle is that they fall prey to the law of diminishing returns. One has to find an ever-faster, steeper rollercoaster to keep the thrill alive. The dinosaurs have to be bigger; the destruction has to be on a grander scale. Eventually the spectacular special effects dull our senses to the marvels of the everyday. In addition, all these special effects make the ministry of the word — speaking into air — appear weak and uninteresting.” – Dr. Vanhoozer

My reading today was this article from Desiring God: A refreshing interview where Kevin Vanhoozer explains how our hyper social media culture and all that entertainment diminishes our ability to enjoy God, others and beauty. It was so convicting that I had to send it to my younger cousins…

Killing sin

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This very encouraging article on the topic of fighting sin was published on Desiring God.

We are commanded to constantly kill the sin that remains in our lives. This is not optional. This is mortal combat: Sin dies or we die. Not that we ever become perfect in this age, but we go on killing sins as they attack us daily. How do we kill sin? Here are thirteen tactical steps in the battle (…) – John Piper

A letter an eleven-year-old whose family doesn’t have enough food

How would you explain God’s love to an eleven-year-old whose family doesn’t have enough food?

Piper: “God wants us to trust him and want him more than we want food or parents or clothing or even life. He knows what we need most in order to become the kind of people he wants us to be. And even if you die, he will take care of you.”- Desiring God

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This article from Desiring God, a letter from John Piper to a 11 years-old child broke my heart. It really did. Not that the answer of Piper was heartbreaking in the sense that it was disappointing, it was on the contrary written, I see, with a lot of love and tact. What I mean is, what “Tommy” is going through breaks my heart.

I was reading the comments people posted in reaction to Piper’s answer, and a lot of them sounded like “But why do you preach and don’t feed the boy”, or “Feed him first”. First, I would like to say that as we can see in his reply, John Piper was ready to help in a practical, concrete manner. And who knows if he did not actually help the family without shouting it from the rooftops, out of humility ? This remark aside, I wanted to share a few thoughts I had on my mind after I read this article- here they are, not necessarily in order of importance:

  • First, I hope that I will never be so sophisticated, so unapproachable as to make people too shy or embarrassed to ask me to help them.
  • Second, I’m thinking about the fact that some people will never ask for help. I remember, when I was a bit younger, that I was so proud and so independant that even if I was to starve, to take the example of the article- I don’t think I would have had been able to tell anyone. People often look so impressive. So above us. So cool. Always having serious conversations about the latest Iphone or some sophisticated gadget. They take food for granted. What embarrassement it would be, for me, and for them as well, if I was going to reveal that I struggle to eat. 
  • I am thinking of what we should teach our children. I’ve seen so many kids making fun of others, at school, because their clothes were not cool enough, because  from year to year they would keep the same backpack, the same pencil-case, etc. I think it is really, really important to teach the kids to not make fun of their classmates because you NEVER know what he or she might be going through: in high school, I had friends who were orphans; whose parents were poor; I’ve witnessed people taking secretarial courses and breaking down in tears because they could not afford “regular” food, and they had to depend on foodbanks. I’ve seen girls being so excited, in highschool, to get, for their birthday, a cheap lipgloss and eyeshadow box because it was something they never dreamed of having; I could write tons of example, but my goodness- in spite of all the ambiant coolness of our age, poverty is still there. And likewise, it’s easy to hold prejudices against apparently rich people- but again, I’d have countless examples on store that would prove that their lives are not easy as they seem to be
  • Spontaneous acts of kindness and hospitality, no matter how small, can be the beginning of a frienship and/or of a trustworthy relationship. Since often, people will never dare to ask- a plate of cookie and a note can go a long way. I am not saying this so people will say “how nice and thoughtful she is”. The point of giving, I believe, is not to bring attention to us or to try to sound or act kind, generous and benevolent. Some people are alone and suffering and small acts of kindness can really make a difference in their lives.
  • Teaching our children and kids in general to be thankful for what they have and not taking what they own -whether it be toys, food, clothes, anything- is crucial. I want one day to teach my kids that we ought to give thanks for what we have in our plates, and not be complaining. Someone once posted a video on Facebook and you could see Syrian children being asked what they wanted for Christmas- among their answers, one children said “Fresh bread”. Fresh bread. I get my bread every time at the local bakery – how many times I don’t think about the privilege being able to have fresh bread whenever I want ?
  • What good does it do, my brothers, if someone claims to have faith but does not prove it with actions? This kind of faith cannot save him, can it? Suppose a brother or sister does not have any clothes or daily food and one of you tells them, “Go in peace! Stay warm and eat heartily.” If you do not provide for their bodily needs, what good does it do?In the same way, faith by itself, if it does not prove itself with actions, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
  • I was also deeply touched by one of the things John Piper mentionned in his letter. This boy struggles with a lack of food, and in a way or another, we will all come to struggle with an apparent lack of something in our lives. Looking back at my past, I lacked that something; I now realize that God perfectly used that lack to prepare me for something greater than the said lack- during that time, He shaped me and molded me so I could be fit for the next season of my life, and it reminds me, today, as I was complaining in my heart about something- that everything is under His control and that I can trust Him for the next season of my life, and that all I will be going through, ” God works all things together for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28)

God is good,

Stéphanie