What Does It Look Like to Step Out in Faith? [Peter and Faith, part 4]

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“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Peter’s faith leads him to risk stepping out of the boat. He actually steps out in faith to follow Jesus onto the waters in the midst of the waves and wind. Peter shows us what faith looks like. He hasn’t waited for someday. He’s looked and listened for Jesus. And he steps out.

Philippe Petit, a French acrobat and high-wire artist, knows what it means to risk stepping out. In the early 1970s, he heard about the construction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. When he saw a picture of their design, it was like he heard a voice calling him to do something startling and risky.

The 2008 documentary, Man on Wire, tells the story of how, after six years of planning, on August 7th, 1974, Petit and his friends secretly rode a freight elevator 104 stories up into the newly constructed twin towers of the World Trade Center. After stretching a ¾” metal cable across the 200 foot span between the towers, Petit illegally stepped out for a high wire act like no other. With the winds blowing, Philippe Petit was 110 stories—a quarter of a mile—above the sidewalks of Manhattan. 

Man on Wire

He walked the wire for 45 minutes, making eight crossings between the towers. He sat on the wire, gave knee salutes and, while lying on the wire, spoke with a gull circling above his head. After this spell-binding display, Petit was arrested, taken for psychological evaluation, and brought to jail before he was finally released.

Risky faith looks a bit like that. We hear a voice calling us to action. We respond. And then we step out. It may seem startling and risky, but we will do whatever Jesus says.

How Do We Hear Jesus? [Peter and Faith, part 3]

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“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat. (Matthew 14:28-29)

If faith sees Jesus and desires Jesus, how do we really hear from Jesus?

We see that Peters walk of faith comes after he hears Jesus’ invitation to join Him upon the waves. Now that is wondrous to read about but what does that mean for our own lives?

The first aspect of hearing from Jesus is that we ask and wait. Peter does not jump out of the boat before talking with Jesus. Yes, he is bold enough to take the initiative to ask Jesus but Peter is not so foolish to try and walk out there without first hearing Jesus’ invitation. Faith responds to God. Faith hears because God first speaks. Our framework for understanding the dynamics of a living interactive relationship with the Living God through Jesus Christ must always be shaped around the deep truth that God speaks first and our lives are always a response to Him. I had a friend in college who jokingly said that in prayer he told God what to do. Of course, prayer is not really like that, anymore than any important relationship in our life is like that. Prayer is an interaction with God based in a loving relationship of trust by which we hear Him first and respond.

Out of that place, we begin to develop a living relationship with God. Now, many will say that our life with Christ is not like Peter’s interaction here in Matthew 14. This is true in the sense that Peter is talking with the incarnate Jesus upon earth. But it is no less true that we, by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, can interact with the Living God through Jesus Christ. So, let me invite us to once again renew a living relationship of faith that listens for God. How do we do that? Well, the primary ways are through first and most importantly paying attention to the guidance of Holy Scripture. After that we also hear from God by attuning ourselves to the inward promptings of the Holy Spirit, listening to godly counsel, and paying attention to how God speaks through our circumstances. You may want to read more about this in my earlier post “How Do We Hear from God Today?”

Consider some questions with me about what this episode in Peter’s life means for us today:

  • What is God inviting you into these days? What steps of faith is God calling you into?
  • Are you listening for the inward promptings of the Holy Spirit?
  • Are you measuring those inward promptings against the Word of God – the Bible – which keeps us trustworthy and true?

May we be the sort of faith-filled disciples who not only fix our eyes on Jesus, but also open our ears to hear Jesus. As He said, “My sheep listen to my voice” (John 10:27).

What Does It Mean to Long for Jesus with Faith? [Peter and Faith, part 2]

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When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said. (Matthew 14:26-29a)

If we recognize that the wind and waves is a normal part of life in which faith grows, what does it mean to see and desire Jesus amidst the waves?

To see Jesus means we have to be looking for Him. When the waves whip up around the disciples they are overwhelmed by their circumstances. It is no surprise that they are terrified when they see Jesus walking upon the waves. It is, of course, because they do not expect Him to be capable of such a thing, but it is secondarily because they were not looking for Him at this moment. We all have had those moments when we are startled by someone or something because we did not expect them and were not looking for them. The eyes of faith, however, are constantly on the lookout for Jesus. We have our eyes open to find Him at all times. Like Daniel’s three friends thrown into the fiery furnace (see Daniel 3), we find that even the most pressing and distressing circumstances are still those in which the Living God shows up in our midst. The eyes of faith look for and expect that Jesus will stand in unexpected places, even in the midst of the waves of our lives.

Now it is one thing to see Jesus, but another entirely to desire Jesus with fervency and boldness. I always find it surprising that people criticize Peter for faltering in this story. I find this surprising because Peter is the only bold enough to try and join Jesus outside the boat. Why do we not criticize the other disciples? Because they were doing what is deemed as normal. Peter first of all takes Jesus at His word, that it is truly Jesus—and not a ghost—upon the waves. Seeing that it is Jesus, He is risky enough to ask to join Jesus amidst this wild walk of faith.

Living faith desires Jesus so strongly that it is willing to ask boldly of Jesus and step out wildly with Jesus amidst the waves and wind. What about us? Are we looking for Jesus amidst the wind and the waves, expecting Him to show up in our lives? And when He does show up, do we desire Him so greatly that faith rises up over fear to lead us into the walk of faith?

How Do We Face the Waves that Surround Us? [Peter and Faith, part 1]

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“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:28-30)

When this brief episode out of the life of Jesus and the life of Peter takes place, it is surrounded by waves of challenge.

There are the waves of people (Matthew 14:20-22), who are pressing in around Jesus and those who wanted to make Him king. There are the waves of emotions (14:22-23) brought about by various pressures. The disciples felt the pressure of an extensive day of ministry, all while not fully understanding Jesus and His ministry. There are the pressures on Jesus to become king and to follow a human pathway to Messiah-ship. This is so strong that Jesus draws away with the Father in prayer. There are the real, natural waves of the natural world (14:24) embodied by the physical wind and waves that beat the boat, creating a threatening the situation.

In the midst of all these waves, it is vitally important to keep one thing in focus:  the waves – the challenges we face – are a normal part of life. 

So many of us are waiting for a magical “someday” when there will be no waves. We all can do this. We all have the tendency to wait for a day when everything is calm, everything is peaceful, or at least when everything feels “normal,” whatever that means. When that normal day comes, many of us say, we will do what is necessary to follow Christ or take a step of faith.

However, the very setting of the story tells us that waves are normal. The various challenges that Jesus and the disciples faced—of people and relationships, of emotions and pressures, of the natural things that happen in the physical order—these waves are the normal setting in which real faith rises up.

So, too, in our lives we need to recognize the normal waves of our life as the place where true faith is birthed and nurtured. We should not wait for some magical “someday” where suddenly all will be suddenly peaceful to grow in our faith.  Someday will not come because it does not exist. We need to allow the waves to be the setting in which we take our steps of faith.

The Weekend Wanderer: 18 April 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Screen Shot 2020-04-16 at 2.55.43 PM“When Christ conquered Caesar” – In my message this coming weekend at Eastbrook at the beginning of our new series, “The Final Word: Knowing Christ through Hebrews,” I make reference to this article by historian Tom Howard. I think you will enjoy this contrast between the ways of Nero and the ways of the first Christians, including Howard’s description of why Christianity ultimately overcame the crumbling empire of Rome.


1162785971222092.yp1ayqnqcvsmboslolrp_height640_custom-175c2aac0b32e71fa8949771537068a468c369c3-s1500-c85“Alternative Mourning Rituals Offer Comfort And Closure During An Outbreak” – One of our ministry partners in Congo, Congo Initiative, is shaping culture in many ways, including helping people deal with grief during this challenging time. “With a team of four counselors, psychologist Noé Kasali — who heads Bethesda’s counseling program in Beni, an Ebola-affected city in the northeast of DRC — has helped ease mourning for those who have lost a loved one to Ebola. They have done this by creating new interpretations of the traditional funeral ceremonies that are a critical part of the Nande culture — the largest ethnic group in Beni — but without the body of the deceased present.”


09brooks_Sub-superJumbo-v8“The Pandemic of Fear and Agony” – David Brooks invited readers of his New York Times opinion column to send their feedback to him about how the pandemic is affecting their mental health. Reading his catalogue of selections from the 5,000+ replies he received is humbling, painful, and insightful. I would encourage you to read this just to know that you’re not alone and also to help us all become more aware of how others are struggling during these times. A pastor friend of mine commented a week ago that he thinks mental health is one of the fronts of ministry that will become front and center in the days ahead. I cannot help but agree.


cs-lewis_at_desk“C. S. Lewis’ Advice To Students During A Pandemic Will Do All Our Souls Good Right Now” – Perhaps in light of Brooks’ chronicle of our mental health challenges, we could use a good word. C. S. Lewis, although often over-quoted, provides rich wisdom and insight, which is probably why is often over-quoted. He is just so good in these times. Thanks to Joseph Griffith for his reflections on Lewis’ 1939 message “Learning in War-Time.”


dancing_skeletons-_-dance_of_death-_wellcome_l0006816-440a8388671527f09dfe71029e5941ca31dd978d-s1500-c85“When Pandemics Arise, Composers Carry On” – Or maybe we just need some good music to help us cope with the pandemic. Over the centuries, art has been of great help during times of suffering, and that is no less true in times of a pandemic. Tom Huizenga offers examples of musicians who did just that, including John Cooke, Johann Sebastian Bach, and, more recently, John Corigliano and Lisa Bielawa. You may have your own selections of music that soothe your soul in troubling times, but here are some who composed music like that for themselves and us.


20200414_CovidweeklydeathsUSv2“Not Like the Flu, Not Like Car Crashes, Not Like… “ – Ari Schulman, Brendan Foht, Samuel Matlack at The New Atlantis: “Any serious attempt to put coronavirus deaths in context by comparing it to some other cause of death in a previous year must acknowledge the marked differences in the Covid-19 trend — most notably, the rapid spike in deaths that is still underway, and the wide range of uncertainty about when it will peak, how high it will peak, and whether it will peak only once. As long as the pandemic is rapidly spreading, these comparisons will be fraught. Perhaps a better way to state the danger posed by the coronavirus is just that we cannot easily compare it to any precedent in recent history. Nor do we need to dispute projections about future deaths to recognize what has happened already. Amid the statistical noise is a powerful signal. The question is whether we choose to see it.”


Church-online-marketing-featured-imageMissional vs. Attractional in the Age of COVID-19? – There was a little bit of a kerfuffle online between church leaders who could be grouped within the attractional church camp (see Carey Nieuwhof’s “Half of All Churches Are Instantly Growing. Here’s Why and Here’s What to Do“) and the missional church camp (see Mike Frost’s “Coronavirus could set the church back 25 years“). Because of online church necessitated by this moment, some are advocating more and more of this while others are wringing their hands over it. I think we all just need to admit at this point that we’re all figuring out what it means to live as the church in this new moment. The old arguments about attractional vs. missional are growing tired, in my opinion, and need to be updated into a time where we see growing opportunities and hunger for deep human connection.


Dave Dummitt family“Willow Creek names Michigan pastor David Dummitt as new leader” – Speaking of attractional versus missional debates, it was easy to miss this news in the midst of everything COVID-19. Dave Dummitt, formerly of 2|42 Community Church in Ann Arbor, was named the new Senior Pastor of Willow Creek. For those who followed the Willow Creek search process, you know that it started with scandal, was criticized from the start, stalled at least once, and finally has come to a conclusion. Regardless of how you feel about everything that has gone on, let me encourage us to pray for Dave, his family, and Willow Creek as they embark on a new chapter as a church.


Music: Wilco, “Impossible Germany,” from Sky Blue Sky

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]