Peterson and a Relationship with God

In an interview with Dennis Prager, renowned professor Jordan Peterson responded to the question if he believes in God:

“In the same interview, Peterson also explains his oft-given answer to the oft-asked question of whether he believes in God, “I act as if God exists.” He echoes what he also said in his forthcoming conversation with Bishop Barron: The reason he answers the question that way is that he is existentially terrified of what it would mean to say “Yes.” He becomes emotional as he asks rhetorically, “Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God if they examined the way they lived? Who would dare say that? … To have the audacity to claim that means that you live it out fully. And that’s an unbearable task, in some sense.”

But what if you truly believed? “God only knows what you’d be.” He repeats it a second time: “God only knows what you’d be if you believed.” And so, he concludes, “I try to act like I believe.”

This is stunning, and at the same time, a profound statement! If you’re not familiar with Jordan Peterson, he is a bestselling author (his book 12 Rules for Life came out in 2018 and was a major hit), a clinical psychologist, and a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. But more than that, he has become a social media darling with millions of followers, literally filling stadiums to hear his debates with other noted intellectuals, and he has raised important questions about how to manage the “chaos” in our lives.

As you can surmise from the above statement, he doesn’t claim to be a “traditional” Christian, but I believe from his writings and lectures, he’s at least a theist. And, as for now, without speaking more about his beliefs and his bestselling book (I did read 12 Rules for Life last year and maybe I’ll post about that soon.), I want to focus on the above quote. He doesn’t consider himself a believer, but “I act as if God exists” because “Who would have the audacity to claim that they believed in God if they examined the way they lived?”

I have to admit upon first reading “I act as if God exists,” that sounds a bit hypocritical or maybe half-hearted, as if one can’t or won’t make a decision, but when I read the subsequent sentence, then I could better understand his declaration.

Did you catch it? Valiantly he is declaring two truths about so-called believers, and specifically Christianity. The first is that if we claim to believe in God, then our lives should be revolutionary, transcendent, and unlike any one’s life who claims not to believe in God! Secondly, then he reminds everyone who claims to be a believer that a comment like that must be lived out “fully.”

As I see it, those are two of the biggest challenges in the church today. First, we have many good people seeking to live the Christian life, but in all honesty, for some reason, their lives aren’t much different than their neighbors; and second, let me phrase it like this – how many of you know someone who is fully committed to Christ, without regards to the consequences, and it shows in everything they do?

I hope I’m that latter person today, and I know you do too. Let’s go today and live not “as if” God exists, but brazenly declare that he does by what we say and do!

RA

Here’s the post I originally got this quote from:

Jordan Peterson and the Unbearable Task

If you’re interested, here’s the full interview with Peterson:

Jordan Peterson Interview with Prager

 

The Rich Young Ruler and Me!

I came across a great post from Christianity Today by the Rev. Dr. Sam Kim regarding the church today and some of its struggles and challenges. But as Dr. Kim shares his remedy, he referenced a famous encounter in the life of Jesus that gripped me:

“The tragic story of the infamous rich young ruler found in the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel is a prophetic reminder to a church in profound cultural captivity. The narrative teaches us that the ultimate test of our discipleship is not sacrifice, but obedience. The former addresses the degree of our own sovereignty, while the latter addresses God’s claim on us. . . . It isn’t that he didn’t value the things of God; he just valued his possessions more.”

That is a striking assessment and analysis of the Rich Young Ruler, yet what does it say about us? Interestingly, I went back and read Mark 10, and the key verse to me is V. 22:

[After Jesus has told him what he needed to do . . . sell all you have, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow me, and then you’ll have treasure in heaven] . . . “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (NASB, NLT)

“The man’s face fell” is variously translated as “disheartened” (ESV),  and “he was sad” (NKJV), but the original word stresses more than just a feeling of sadness. The original stresses “gloomy” as when storm clouds roll in during the day, and tinged with a sense of surprise and shock! In other words, as I believe Dr. Kim correctly highlights, Jesus has helped this man realize that he treasured his stuff more than his Savior!

As powerful as that is, one last thing I noticed in this passage is that it began with a question – “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (V. 17). Well, this young man should’ve been ecstatic because Jesus answered his question. The problem – he didn’t like the answer!

Can you relate to that? Truthfully, I can.

Take a moment and reassess your relationship with God today, whether something is competing and vying for the love you have for God, or, have you gotten an answer from God that honestly wasn’t what you expected, or wanted.

Whatever you do, don’t just let your “face fall” and walk away sad as the Rich Young Ruler did, but seek to hear and understand what God is saying to you.

Frankly, it could be exactly what you need to hear.

RA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiring Quotes on Prayer

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Often, I like to pass on useful posts that have encouraged me. This is one of them:

Great Quotes to Inspire Your Prayer Life

When speaking about prayer, I’m always humbled and cautious simply because of the nature of prayer, and the numerous questions surrounding it (how should we pray, what makes an effective prayer, why answers don’t come soon/as we had hoped, etc.)

And, the topic of prayer always brings me back to James 5:16. Undoubtedly, it’s one of my favorite passages in the Bible because it’s such a challenging verse to translate from the original language, but in its essence, the last part of the verse states (my translation):

“. . . Much is achieved by the energetic and effective prayers/urgent requests of a righteous person.”

Consequently, as you read the above post, enjoy and be encouraged. Here are a few of the quotes that challenged me:

  • “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”                                                                   Martin Luther
  • “Prayer should not be regarded as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty.”                                                                                                E.M. Bounds
  • “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes, and the business of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray!”   Martin Luther

Hopefully, in the weeks ahead, we’ll examine in detail James 5:16. Until then, enjoy this link, and may you be inspired to pray!

RA

Hebrews 12:1: How To Run Your Race Well

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Olympians, especially from swimming and track and field, have known to win at their races, it’s not enough to just train and discipline yourself in the typical ways athletes are accustomed too, but even to scrutinize what you wear, what kind of shoes you have, and even the kind of laces used in those shoes! All of this can shave precious seconds and half-seconds off of a race.

How are you running your race today? Did you know you were even in a race? Hebrews 12:1 reminds us that not only are we in a race, but this passage also provides valuable coaching on how to run this race well:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (NASB)

As I look at Hebrews 12:1, I see three things worth pondering to help us run our race in a more effective manner.

  • The Christian life is a “race,” and so in other words, it’s not a stroll, or a long endless party where nothing ever goes wrong, or even what seems the prevailing view with many today, a mere hobby! The original word used here for “race” is agon stressing a contest, a struggle, and from which we get our English word “agony.” And as with all races, whether a 100-yard dash or a marathon, it has a goal – the finish line we are racing towards.
  • How should we run this race? According to this verse, with “endurance” or as the translation above states, “perseverance.” Regardless of the translation, the original word suggests running this race while “remaining under,” or in other words, “patiently” staying the course, moving every minute towards the finish line, no matter what challenges we may encounter. So think of it this way, we should be getting stronger and more determined as the race continues.
  • Lastly, to run in such a manner, and to reach the finish line, we are to  “toss aside” or a more forceful way to express the Greek word is really to intentionally “throw off” two things (and based on the grammatical construction, only we can to do this!): any “weight” that would slow us down, and “the sin which easily entangles us.”

That last point is so pivotal, we’ll cover it in another blog. But for now, ponder these questions:

  • How’s your race going? Are you picking up speed, keeping your eyes ‘locked-in’ on the finish line, or, have you fallen, either by being “tripped” or stumbling over your own two feet?
  • In preparation for our next discussion on this passage, begin thinking about what is “weighing” you down, and “the sin” which you just can’t seem to shake off.

I’ll close with this encouragement from noted author Paul David Tripp for those who may have forgotten why we’re even in this race:

“We forget that God’s primary goal is not changing our situations or relationships so that we can be happy, but changing us through our situations and relationships so that we will be holy.”

Until next time, stay strong, and keep running!

RA

Book Review: When Faith Fails

 

 

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I recently read the new book When Faith Fails by Dominic Done, and it is a fantastic book on a controversial subject.

His main thesis is doubt in a believer’s life is usually demonized, or idolized, but in reality, doubt can be a stepping stone to a greater faith as it propels us to trust God more. As Done explains it:

“I wrote this book because you need to know that your doubts aren’t a sign of spiritual collapse but of a faith that is screaming out for substance and truth.” (p. xxi)

He proceeds to divide the book into three sections: When we’ve doubted and it seems as if faith has failed, how can we get back, and finally coming home.

Done tells the reader that the English word doubt derives from the Latin word   dubitare, meaning “two,” so in a sense when one doubts, they are literally “in two minds.” (p. 23) But as he guides the reader through these three sections of his book, Done stresses that doubt is not the same as unbelief – they are not synonymous terms, as some would claim.

Honestly, I’d like to say one section is stronger than the other, but all three sections are solid! He has an engaging writing style, combined with a great education from Oxford University, as can be seen in his vast array of illustrations, ranging from obscure pieces of literature, to giants of philosophy like Nietzsche. And all of this is woven together by his personal testimony of his own struggles with doubt, and yes, even to the point when he thought faith had failed him. Yet, as he powerfully and gracefully details in this book, he came through it with a stronger faith, trusting God even more, yet still without all the answers.

Here are just a few of his notable quotes:

“I began to see that faith was less about having everything explained and more about the fragile beauty of trust.” (p. 61)

“[The Bible} But what if its primary objective isn’t intellectual certainty but to lead us into a flourishing relationship with God?” (p. 90)

“Like a tree, the roots of your soul are most deepened in seasons of thirst.” (p. 141)

“Jacob had wrestled with God and overcome. Not because God was defeated, but because Jacob was. Given a new name, Israel walked slowly away, hurting, limping, humbled, and renewed. He was never the same.” (p. 152)

“Faith refuses to reduce your dreams to the size of your fears.” (p. 153).

I hope these quotes stir an interest in this book for you. While I may have one or two interpretative issues with Done, I have read numerous books concerning doubt and faith, and easily, this is one I can enthusiastically endorse – it is worth your time.

Enjoy, and grow!

RA

The Light of the World

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I love this quote from John Ortberg in his excellent and timely new book Eternity Is Now In Session:

Jesus says, “Let your light shine.” Jesus doesn’t say, “Try harder to make your light shine.” Lamps don’t have to try hard. They just glow based on what’s going on inside them.” (p. 91)

That comment unnerved me, but first, a few remarks about the verse Ortberg is referencing:

  • This is the beginning of Jesus’ most famous sermon, The Sermon on the Mount;
  • This comment is in reference to Matthew 5:14-16 in which Jesus says:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (NASB)

  • Notice what is often forgotten . . . the reasons we are to let our light shine: so people will see our good works, and then glorify and praise God.

Now, Ortberg’s comment got my attention for one reason – his last sentence: “They [lamps] just glow based on what’s going on inside of them.”

I know as a Christian leader, good works should permeate my existence, and hopefully that elicits praise to the Father in Heaven, but let’s be honest, at times that can seem like a lot of hard work. On top of that, at any given moment, what’s really going on inside of me is often things like the stress of meeting deadlines, the tension of keeping relationships good and proper, and dare I say, just the worries and struggles of life in general!

What I appreciate about Ortberg’s comment is its simple reminder to daily reflect the light that has been ignited in me by my faith in Jesus. And the good news is that I don’t have to work at that, but simply let it be revealed in everything I do.

That is truly Good News!

RA

Jeff Bezos’s Daily Reminder

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Recently I read an article about Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon and presently the richest person on the planet, which claimed he has the following quote taped to his refrigerator at home:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, since it’s a popular excerpt attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. But several points about this were very intriguing to me, causing some good introspection:

First, if Bezos truly believes this, then the richest man on the planet rejects our traditional cultural definition of success: having an abundance of money and things!

Second, there is a fierce undercurrent within this quote to focus your life on others, as opposed to satisfying your own pleasures, especially if you have all the money to do whatever you desire!

Lastly, it is future-oriented. It demands that you evaluate now if your life is making a difference in the world, or are you just pursuing selfish ends.

I’m not sure of Bezos’ religious background, but for those of us who are Christians, this is a great reminder to make sure we aren’t falling for the cultural definition of success, that we are loving our neighbors and seeking to make life better for them, and lastly, daily evaluating how we’re making a difference here on earth.

James 4:13-14 is also a great reminder for us today:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

While this life is temporary and fleeting, it can still be successful and meaningful. May God bless you today as you endeavor to succeed!

RA