Jordan Peterson

“Young men our age are, honestly, lost. Peterson’s book is about what makes you happy through responsibility, meaningfulness, and finding something you truly enjoy.” That sentiment explains the popularity of clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and his 2018 book, 12 Rules for Life.

Peterson draws attention because he challenges current cultural ideologies as foolish. He’s a secular prophet, calling out for a restoration of truth, common sense, and mutual respect. He makes no claim to religious faith, but that does not stop him from issuing a friendly charge to those who do.  “The Christian Church is there to remind people,” he says in a video, “young men included, and perhaps even first and foremost, that they have a woman to find, a garden to walk in, a family to nurture, an ark to build, a land to conquer, a ladder to heaven to build, and the utter terrible catastrophe of life to face stalwartly in truth, devoted to love, and without fear.”

Peterson appeals to Christians to connect young men to meaning and purpose. I like his reference to the narratives of Hebrew Scripture. But he may misunderstand building “a ladder to heaven.” That is built by God Himself, not by you. Jesus, God the Son, is the ladder, built by His sacrifice on the cross for your sin. Your response to that sacrifice is repentance and faith.

Life as a Christian is appealing as an antidote to the “catastrophe of life.” To begin with, everybody needs love and a loving community. “Love one another,” Jesus said, “even as I have loved you.” It is also freedom from confusion and deception. You can “know the truth and the truth will make you free.”

It’s a new way to experience life. You sacrifice your old ways to find a new cause to live or die for. “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it,” Jesus said. In Christ, you are re-created as “a new self” and join in God’s creativity by offering other people reasons to embrace and believe truth.

Jesus’ call is, “Follow me.” That is a mystery and an adventure as we walk into the unknown. The Christian life takes courage to stand for what matters. Jesus warned that doing so could attract persecution. Finally, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. The King we worship “is not of this world,” but He’s still at work in it.

So, allow me to deploy Peterson’s turn of phrase in summary. In Christ you have a love to share, a freedom to celebrate, a reason to sacrifice, an opportunity to create, an adventure to experience, a call to courage, and a King to worship. That is how you (young men included) face life as a stalwart follower of Jesus.

(John 8:32, 10:27, 13:34, 15:20, 18:36, Matt. 16:25, Eph. 4:24)

Awesome God

Scientists recently launched the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). Humans can now see deep space like never before. The images are at once beautiful, mysterious, and comforting.

The JWST orbits the sun, unobstructed by earth’s atmosphere. The infrared telescope is 21 feet wide and is protected by a tennis court-sized sunshield. “If you held a grain of sand on the tip of your finger at arm’s length,” Bill Nelson of NASA said about one image, “that is the part of the universe you are seeing.”

The JWST will confirm what scientists have known since the 1920s. The universe is expanding, which means it had a beginning. Before that discovery, scientists believed the universe was eternal. “Then there was no need to explain,” Simon Singh writes, “how it was created, when it was created, why it was created, or Who created it. Scientists were particularly proud that they had developed a theory of the universe that no longer relied on invoking God.” But it didn’t hold. It was a futile quest that continues today.

I appreciate the talents of the JWST scientists and engineers. When I see the images, I’m awestruck. God spoke those stars and galaxies into existence in the vast reaches of space. “The worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that which is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Heb. 11:3). That puts humanity into perspective.

In “The Brook,” Tennyson reminds us how finite we are. “I murmur under moon and stars in brambly wildernesses. I linger by my shingly bars, I loiter round my cresses. And out again I curve and flow to join the brimming river. For men may come and men may go, but I go on forever.” It’s amazing how nature and the night sky bring ultimate questions to mind. “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him?” (Psa. 8:3-4).

Within this vast universe, God fine-tuned earth to sustain life. He revealed Himself as Jesus, God the Son, by whom “all things were created in the heavens and on earth” (Col. 2:16). He coded your DNA so you can have a mind to know Him and a conscience to mind Him. In time, He “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Not content to leave you separated from Him by sin, He suffered death “in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Col. 1:22). The invitation is, “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16). By faith, you are reconciled to the Eternal God.

The JWST images reveal the handiwork of the Creator who loves you enough to be your Savior. He is an awesome God!

Wiping Tears

I was visiting with a Samaritan’s Purse chaplain the other day.  He asked me how I would answer the question they hear so often when they are helping people suffering disaster and loss. “Why did God let this happen?”

Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian service organization, named after Jesus’ parable about the Samaritan man who helped a victim of robbery along the road. Their mission is to help hurting people. Think war (Ukraine), poverty (Haiti), mass casualty (Uvalde), and disease (COVID). No wonder they are challenged with that question so often.

The question assumes that God exists, which is an important starting point. It also assumes that God is knowledgeable and powerful enough to affect what happens in this world. That implies He is also capable of having reasons for allowing evil to continue for now, reasons that are beyond human understanding.

But He has already done something about it. “If God has willingly suffered death on the cross,” Vince Vitale writes, “He has made such an extravagant display of His love for us that it is rational to trust Him, even when we lack full understanding.” God identifies with our suffering and meets us in the midst of it. He is the God who is for us even when life makes no sense, and loss seems so random and pointless.

Jesus could have prevented his friend Lazarus from dying. But he didn’t, and he wept over it. He explained to Lazarus’ sister Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies” (John 11:25). Then he proved it by raising Lazarus from the dead. Tears are part of the journey for now, but by faith in Christ Jesus you will arrive in the place where “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Rev. 21:4).

So with that explanation, here is a short answer to the question. “I cannot say anything that will take away your pain in this moment, nor can I explain why this happened. But you need to know that God loves you and knows what has happened to you. This is the same God that came to earth to endure human suffering just like you. He did that to take away your sin and offer you a home with Him in eternity where there is no suffering. Until then, He will be with you. And He has sent me here to make sure you know that.”

Samaritan’s Purse chaplains are wiping tears from the eyes of people whom God loves. Shall we do the same?

The Good Fight

“I don’t have any idea how I did it,” Woody Williams said. PTSD must have something to do with his lack of memory about the day he was in the fight of his life.

It happened in 1945 in the black sands of Iwo Jima. The Marines had trained him as a weapons specialist. When tanks failed to open a lane for the infantry to advance, he volunteered to eliminate a network of concrete pillboxes and mines. Carrying special weapons meant he could not carry a rifle, so four Marines accompanied him.

For four hours, he attacked and returned to replenish his weapons. He faced small arms fire and a bayonet surge. His courage and success allowed his company to reach its objective. Two of his protectors died that day, the same day the Marines raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi. Later that year, President Truman presented Williams the Medal of Honor. He was 21.

Williams was a tormented hero. What he had done in battle and the loss of those two men left him with a burden of guilt. He suffered recurring, fiery nightmares. He had suicidal thoughts. Yet he wanted to remain self-sufficient. “I didn’t need God in my life,” he said. He was in a new fight – to survive his memories.

When he was 38, Williams reluctantly attended an Easter service with his family. When the preacher mentioned the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus who takes away sin and guilt, Williams remembered the Marines who sacrificed their lives. He realized his own need. That day he placed his faith in Jesus, the God who sacrificed His life. “That day, my life changed,” he said. The nightmares stopped.

Williams had a long career serving his fellow veterans. He served as chaplain of the Medal of Honor Society for 35 years, and was not ashamed of his Christian faith. He could say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

What is the good fight? For Williams it was the fight against the guilt of what he had done, of surviving when others didn’t. It was confronting selfish pride, which would limit his service to others. Ultimately it is a fight to trust not yourself, but the God who loves and forgives, the God who grants righteousness to those who believe. “I am not ashamed of the gospel…for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith” (Rom. 1:16-17).

Woody Williams, the last living WWII Medal of Honor recipient, left the land of the dying for the land of the living in 2022. He was 98.


Find the Anchor

“We Make Marines,” the sign shouted as I drove beneath it. It was a steel version of a Parris Island drill instructor making sure I got the message.

I was out of my element, and a bit unnerved. The gate sentry made me park within eyesight so he could run a background check. “I’m supposed to be on the access list,” I explained. He chuckled. I complied.

Upon my release, I drove through the base to the homes along the waterfront. I was visiting my Auburn roommate from long ago. Captain Terry Gordon, USN, was set to retire after 30 years as a chaplain to Marines and Sailors.

The next day, it took three Marine generals, a letter from George W. Bush, a video message from Charles Barkley, and a Marine band to celebrate Gordon’s final bosun’s whistle. They also celebrated his family for their support. He traveled the world to advance the Navy’s mission. As a chaplain, he advanced the Kingdom of God.

The same day, newly minted U.S. Marines were graduating from 13 weeks of basic training. They had endured separation from their families, physical and mental endurance training, and The Crucible – the final transformation from recruit to Marine.

One was looking back over his career. Others were looking forward to theirs. All were transitioning. As are we. Life comes at us in seasons, doesn’t it?  You are always transitioning, adapting to changes, even while you wish things would stay the same.

Life transitions can be a steady current or a lashing typhoon. Either way, you need something to steady you. By faith in the Lord Jesus Christ you find God’s unchangeable purpose, to offer a hope that makes sense of life. We “have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Heb. 6:18-19).

Some young recruits did find the anchor of their souls that previous weekend. At a Parris Island chapel service, over 100 of them indicated they wanted a personal faith in Christ. Amen.