Our Authors

View All
Kenneth Petersen

Kenneth Petersen

A graduate of Wheaton College, Ken Petersen is a veteran of Christian publishing, starting his career with Tyndale House Publishers as editor, eventually becoming managing editor and executive director. In 2007, Ken moved to WaterBrook, the Random House evangelical imprint, and headed up the editorial team there for eight years. In 2015, Ken became publisher and VP at Our Daily Bread Ministries in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Ken is also an author, having written more than a dozen books, including devotional works and memoir collaborations with notable athletes, Tamika Catchings and Benjamin Watson.

In December 2020, Ken decided to pursue writing full-time and is now working on his first novel.

Articles by Kenneth Petersen

Who Are You, Lord?

At age sixteen, Luis Rodriguez had already been in jail for selling crack. But now, arrested for attempted murder, he was in prison once again—looking at a life sentence. But God spoke into his guilty circumstances. Behind bars, young Luis remembered his early years when his mother had faithfully taken him to church. He now felt God tugging at his heart. Luis, moved by Him, repented of his sins and came to Jesus.

In his early years, the apostle Paul’s “street name” was Saul. He was guilty of aggravated assault on believers in Jesus and had murder in his heart (Acts 9:1). There’s evidence he was a kind of gang leader, and part of the mob at the execution of Stephen (Acts 7:58). But God spoke into Saul’s guilty circumstances—literally. On the street leading into Damascus, Saul was blinded by a light, and Jesus spoke to him, “Why do you persecute me?” (v. 9:4). Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” (v. 5), and that was the beginning of his new life. He came to Jesus.

Luis Rodriguez served time but eventually was granted parole. Since then, he’s served God, devoting his life to prison ministry in the US and Central America.

God specializes in redeeming the worst of us. He tugs at our hearts and speaks into our guilt-drenched lives. Maybe it’s time we repented of our sins. Maybe it’s time to come to Jesus.

The Meaning of Life

A short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges tells of a Roman soldier, Marcus Rufus, who drinks from a “secret river that purifies men of death.” In time, though, Marcus realizes immortality wasn’t what it was cracked up to be: life without limits was life without significance. In fact, it’s death itself that gives meaning to life. Marcus finds an antidote—a spring of clear water. After drinking from it, he scratches his hand on a thorn, and a drop of blood forms, signifying his restored mortality.

Like Marcus, we too sometimes despair over the decline of life and the prospect of death (Psalm 88:3). We agree that death gives significance to life. But this is where the stories diverge. Unlike Marcus, we know it’s in Christ’s death that we find the true meaning of our lives. With the shedding of His blood on the cross, Christ conquered death, swallowing it up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). For us, the antidote is in the “living water of Jesus Christ (John 4:13). Because we drink that, all the rules of life, death, and life immortal have changed (1 Corinthians 15:52).

It’s true, we won’t escape physical death, but that isn’t the point. Jesus upends all our despair about life and death (Hebrews 2:11–15). In Christ, we’re reassured with the hope of heaven—not just a future of endless existence but of meaningful joy in eternal life with Him.

The Love of God

In 1917, Frederick Lehman, a California businessman beset by financial setbacks, wrote the lyrics to the hymn, “The Love of God.” His inspiration led him quickly to pen the first two stanzas, but he got stuck on the third. He recalled a poem that had been discovered years earlier, written on the walls of a prison. No one knows the prisoner who scratched it there into the stone, but it expressed a deep awareness of God’s love. The poem happened to be in the same meter as Lehman’s hymn. He made it his third stanza.  

There are times when we face difficult setbacks as did Lehman and the unknown poet in the prison cell. In times of despair, we do well to echo the psalmist David’s words and “take refuge in the shadow of [God’s] wings” (Psalm 57:1). It’s okay to “cry out to God” with our troubles, to speak to Him of our current ordeal and the fears we have when “in the midst of lions” (v. 4). We’re soon reminded of the reality of God’s provision in times past, and join David who says, “I will sing and make music. . . . I will awaken the dawn” (vv. 7–8).

“The love of God is greater far,” this hymn proclaims, adding “it goes beyond the highest star.” It’s precisely in our time of greatest need when we’re to embrace how great God’s love really is—indeed “reaching to the heavens” (v. 10).

Life Expectancy

In 1990, French researchers had a computer problem: a data error when processing the age of Jeanne Calment. She was 115 years old, an age outside the parameters of the software program. The programmers had assumed no one could possibly live that long! In fact, Jeanne lived until the age of 122.

The psalmist writes “our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures” (Psalm 90:10), a figurative way of saying whatever age we live to, even to the age of Jeanne Calment, our lives on earth are indeed limited. Our lifetimes are in the sovereign hands of a loving God (v. 5). In the spiritual realm, however, we’re reminded of what “God time” really is: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by” (v. 4).

And in the person of Jesus Christ “life expectancy” has been given a whole new meaning: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). “Has” is in the present tense: right now, in our current physical moment of trouble and tears, our future is blessed, and our lifespan is limitless.

In this we rejoice and with the psalmist pray, “Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14).

Seeds of Time

In 1879, people watching William Beal would likely think he was loony. They’d see him filling bottles with seeds, then burying them in deep soil. What they didn’t know was that Beal was conducting an experiment that would span centuries. Every twenty years a bottle would be dug up, its seeds would be planted, and researchers could see which seeds would germinate.

Jesus talked a lot about seed-planting, often likening the sowing of seed to the spreading of “the word” (Mark 4:15). He taught that some seeds are snatched by Satan, others have no foundation and don’t take root, and yet others are hampered by the life around them and are choked out (vv. 15–18). As we spread the Good News, it’s not up to us which seeds will survive. Our job is simply to sow the gospel—that is, tell others about Jesus: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation (16:15 esv).

In the year 2021, another of Beal’s bottles was dug up by researchers. Beal’s seeds from 1879 were planted—and some sprouted, having survived more than 140 years. As God works through to share our faith with others, we never know if our testimony will take root, or when. But we’re to be encouraged that our sowing of the Good News might, even after many years, be engaged by someone who will “accept it, and produce a crop” (4:20).

Traveling Mercies

You might start your journey in the southwest United States in a dusty town called Why, Arizona. Heading cross-country would take you through Uncertain, Texas. Bearing northeast, you’d make a rest stop in Dismal, Tennessee. Ultimately, you’d reach your destination—Panic, Pennsylvania. These are real places across the landscape of America, though not likely a trip you’d ever choose to take.

Sometimes this is exactly what the journey of life feels like. We easily identify with the Israelites’ tough life in the wilderness (Deuteronomy 2:7)—life can be hard. But do we see the other parallels? We create our own itinerary, turning from God’s way (1:42). Like the Israelites, we often grumble about getting our needs met (Numbers 14:2). In our daily fretting, we likewise doubt God’s purposes (v. 11). The story of the Israelites is repeated over and over in our own.

God assures us that if we follow His path, He’ll deliver us into a far better place than Dismal. He’ll provide and we’ll lack nothing we really need (2:7; Philippians 4:19). Yet much as we already know this, we often fail to do it. We need to follow God’s roadmap.

It’s a bit more of a drive, but another six hours by car would take you from the town of Panic to the place known as Assurance, West Virginia. If we let God direct our paths (Psalm 119:35), we’ll journey in joy with Him at the wheel—blessed assurance indeed!

A Good Work

As a teenager, Charles Spurgeon wrestled with God. He'd grown up going to church, but what was preached seemed bland and meaningless. God was a struggle for him, and Charles, in his own words “rebelled and revolted.” One night a fierce snowstorm forced the sixteen-year-old Spurgeon to seek shelter in a tiny Methodist church. The pastor's sermon seemed directed at him personally. In that moment, God won the wrestling match, and Charles gave his heart to Jesus.

Spurgeon later wrote, “long before I began with Christ, He began with me.” In fact, our life with God doesn’t begin with the moment of salvation. The Psalmist notes that God “created our inmost being, having been knit together in our mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). The apostle Paul writes, “Even before I was born, God chose me and called me by his marvelous grace” (Galatians 1:15, NLT). And God doesn’t stop working with us when we’re saved: “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). 

We’re all works-in-progress in the hands of a loving God. He leads us through our rebellious wrestling and into His warm embrace. But His purpose with us then is only beginning. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him” (Philippians 2:13, NLT). Rest assured, we are His good work regardless of how old we are or what stage of life we’re in.

Built Together to Serve

In rural Amish culture, the building of a barn is a social event. It would take months for a single farmer and his family to construct a barn, but the Amish, doing it together, make quick work of it. Lumber is stocked ahead of time; tools are prepped. On the designated day, the entire Amish community gathers early morning, divvies up tasks, and together pitches in to raise a barn. In some cases, a barn is built in a single day.

This is a good picture of God’s vision for the church and our role in it. The Bible says, “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT). God has equipped each of us differently and divvied up tasks in which we each do our “own special work” as part of a body “fit together perfectly” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT).  In community, we’re encouraged to “share one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).

Yet too often we go it alone. We keep our needs to ourselves, wanting control of our circumstance. Or we fail to reach out and help shoulder the weight of someone else’s need. But God longs for us to connect with others. He knows beautiful things happen when we ask for others’ help and pray for other’s needs.

Only by depending on one another can we experience what God has for us and accomplish His amazing plan for our lives—like building a barn in a day.