Monday, November 22, 2010

Nuts and Bolts Check

Part of ‘winterizing’ camp is doing our ‘Nuts and Bolts’ check on the high ropes courses. Basically that means we tighten all the clamps and check for wear and tear or anything that could be unsafe or needs maintenance so when the guy in the picture jumps, we know he'll have something to land on. My job in the process was to take a crescent wrench and check any bolts that I could for tightness. Sounds easy, but when you’re only 5’3”, standing 15 feet off the ground the cable is 3 feet above your head it can be pretty tricky! I did my best but it seemed like everything was as tight as could be. Then Ben came along with a torque wrench. I’m not mechanical so I can’t really tell you how it works, but you can follow the link to Wikipedia if you so desire. As he went to the bolts I’d just announced as tight as could be, he was able to get between 5-8 turns on each one because of the power of his tool. It’s not that Ben was doing more than I was; it’s that his instrument was more effective than mine.
How many times do I try to do things in my power instead of letting God do it in his? On my own with my little crescent wrench, I wasn’t able to tighten those clamps at all. I pulled and strained and climbed, but try as I might I just wasn’t capable. But with that torque wrench, big movement was possible and the ropes course is now safe because of it. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Sometimes I think I have to have it all together and that I can do anything I put my mind to. I want to rearrange my thinking to God can do anything when I put my mind to him. If I can do this, it’d be like replacing my ineffective crescent wrench with a torque wrench and result in a more secure life overall. Are you living on God’s power or your own today?

Monday, November 15, 2010


No I am not writing about the singing group; Yes I am old enough to remember when they first made it big. KISS is an acronym from the business world for "Keep It Simple Stupid." Most of the time we make things to complicated. Amazon has the idea when they let you order something with one click. The government rarely ever considers how to keep it simple. The last two weeks of my life have been extremely busy and it gets me wondering how to make things simple (might have been a better thought to have before five kids). As I am sure many of you are thinking; I wonder where to start. It all seems like good stuff to be doing. What do you cut out? We even have eliminated one of the more challenging time sponges, TV. The reality is that I am doing all good things. Now it comes down to choosing the best over the good. I do not know how it will all turn out. But these are questions I am asking myself:
  • Do I want a better relationship with my wife? Requires more time!
  • Would I be happy to have my children come to me to talk about what is on their minds? Requires more time!
  • How many friends do I really invest in (facebook doesn't count)? Requires more time!
  • Can my family really enjoy doing things together? Requires more time!
  • Are there any problems in my community I can help solve? Requires more time!
  • Can God really meet all my needs? Requires more time!

I like how Joe Gibbs used to coach the Washington Redskins. Each week he would encourage the players and the team to get 10% better. Maybe I can cut out 10% of the things I am now doing to better answer the previous questions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Making God Smile

Last week, I almost stole from Meijer. It was my day off and I decided to drive down to Grand Valley State University (my alma mater) to visit friends and go to a book reading of “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist. On the way back, I stopped at Meijer in Muskegon to pick up some groceries. I was tired, it was late, and I knew I still had a long drive ahead of me. After I checked out, I rolled my little cart out to my little car and began to put my bags in my trunk. As I lifted the last bag I noticed a box of popcans on the bottom rack. I lifted it into my trunk and shut the lid. I put my cart away and as I walked back to Lola the Corolla (that’s my car’s name) I started thinking about that case of pop. My internal conversation went something like this,
“I paid for that, right? Yeah, I paid for that…
Did I really pay for that or did it just sit on the bottom rack the whole time? I don’t think I paid for it.”
But I was tired and just wanted to go home so I convinced myself that I had indeed paid for the case and started my engine. I put my car in reverse and backed out of my parking space… directly into another space on the other side of the aisle. I hadn’t paid for those cans. I knew I hadn’t. I walked those cans back into Meijer and looked for someone to return them to. The only person I could see was a high school boy working the self check-out. I walked up to him, handed him the cans and said, “I accidentally walked out with these cans. I’m sorry and I wanted to return them.” To be honest, I wanted there to be confetti and balloons. I thought for sure someone would give me a pat on the back, a smile, or perhaps heavenly music would begin playing as my halo glowed brighter than ever. But instead, the boy just gave me a weird look and said, “Ok, cool.” I was a little disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for my good deed. But then my mind traveled back to something I'd heard from the author only hours before, “Stop waiting for life to pass you by. Think about the things you do really well, the things that God make smile. Then go do it.”
In that moment I realized that I didn’t need a confetti party in Meijer. It was enough to know that God was smiling. These days I’m trying to identify the things I do that make God smile and do them more. Actually, I don’t want to just make God smile, I’d like it if he’d chuckle or maybe even guffaw. Have you thought about how you can make God smile today? If you like to sing, then belt one out in the car. Maybe it’s art, cooking, listening, building, talking, loving, or forgiving. Whatever it is that you do, do it well and make God smile.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Everybody cheats, so it's not wrong

Have you seen any of the startling statistics about academic dishonesty?
  • 80% of "high-achieving" high school students admit to cheating.
  • 51% of high school students did not believe cheating was wrong.
  • 95% of cheating high school students said that they had not been detected.
  • 75% of college students admitted cheating, and 90% of college students didn't believe cheaters would be caught.
  • Almost 85% of college students said cheating was necessary to get ahead.
  • 72% of college students reported one or more instances of serious cheating on written work

from The Center for Academic Integrity ( McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1996). "What we know about cheating in college: Longitudinal trends and recent developments." Change, 28(1), 28-33. (EJ 520 088)

Many of these are almost 10 years old. At the University of Central Florida over 200 students in a 600 student business class were caught cheating. The story is here. What is enlightening is one students response,

But student Konstantin Ravvin expressed a different opinion, accusing the university of "making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if they want to teach us some kind of moral lesson." "This is college. Everyone cheats, everyone cheats in life in general," Ravvin said. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn't cheated on an exam."

Here we find a classic example of a post-modern worldview, and the results of the deterioration of values in our society. Postmodern defines social norms as what personally discovered. Right and wrong are dependant upon what a person believes. There fore there is no absolute truth or right and wrong, merely what one person thinks is okay for them. The outcome of this is there are no true norms for behavior. Culture then defines right and wrong. If it's culturally acceptable or politically correct it's okay. If it helps to get me ahead, and I feel like "cheating" is worth it in the end, then that is "right" for me. Combine this with a sin nature, and we have a recipe for rampant dishonesty.

How can a student say 200 classmates who got caught with an elicit version of the exam which requires espionage, coercion, and dissemination, "is making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing?" Because to him, cheating isn't wrong. It fits inside his social norms, not only does it fit inside his world view of nothing is truly wrong, but it's culturally rampant, so it is also socially acceptable.

There's something else at play as well though. Behavior is driven by values. Values are driven by worldview. Think of an iceberg. If you only see the tip, there's 90% more underwater. The same concept applies. Under the surface are the values, and under that are the world view of a person. For example, the Christian worldview says God created humans. There fore they value life. Therefore the behavior is choosing not to support abortion. The humanist worldview says we're all here from random chance. There fore they value science and which tells them life is random and short. There fore the behavior is that abortion is okay.

As a nation their has been a progressive deterioration of world view, values, and behavior. We see the World War 1 and 2 generations had a largely Biblical world view. However they only passed on their values of hard work, honesty, integrity to the baby boomers. With out the worldview to support these values the behavior started to slide away from a Biblical worldview. The boomers only passed on the behavior they wanted to their children. The boomers didn't have the world view, their children didn't have the values to support the behavior. Therefore as soon as the next generation was out of sight from their parents they engaged in whatever behavior they wanted. They did not have the internal iceberg underwater to steer their behavior.

Except that they did. We all have a world view and values. When we don't help our children discover and define a Biblical world view and values, they will have their own. Culture will define this. This is why there is little difference in cheating stats amongst Christians and non-Christians.

Have you taught your children a biblical world view? Have you merely tried to impart your values with out explaining to them where they come from? Have you only focused on their behavior so that they'll "act right". With out a solid world view the behavior can never be sustainable.

We as a nation are so far removed from a Biblical world view, that we see the results in statistics and stories like this cheating story. There's no reason for them not to cheat according to how they were raised. Couple that with their parents modeled it buy cheating on taxes with under the table money, by cheating on how much they claimed on a car purchase so they don't have to pay taxes, or whose listed as a primary driver for insurance, or fudging their age so they can go on a trail ride at the horse stable because it's a minimum of 9.

The result is we have a huge worldview problem. Which is what Grace is committed to changing in the students we work with.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are you a field or a temple?

Are you a do'er or a be'er? No not a "beer". In your relationship to God do you focus on what you do for Him, or do you focused on abiding in Him, or being in Him? As I studied 1 Corinthians 3 this morning I think the answer should be both, but it was a healthy reminder that I need to focus on being in Him more. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul is talking to the Corinthian church. He is chastising them for taking sides on who they say they follow, Paul or Apollos. It is likely that Paul founded the church and then Apollos furthered the ministry here after Paul. This is speculation, but since their doctrine was the same, it is likely that Apollos war more eloquent in speech or delivery. We know that Paul was probably not the most articulate or eloquent (1 Cor 2:1), and that he had a physical ailment which may have left him partly crippled or blind. All of this leads me to believe that people were following Apollos for his smooth speech and strong appearance. Paul places himself and Apollos in the same category as field workers for the Lord. Paul planted and Apollos watered. They are both toiling in the same soil, with the same purpose.

1 Cor 3:9

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

The "we" refers to Paul and Apollos. "You" refers to the Corinthians, but could easily be applied to current Christians as well. God compares us to a field. This is an expected analogy. We are God's workmanship. We also have a purpose and he uses other Christians to nurture us, cultivate us, but we also must bear fruit. This plant analogy is common through out the new testament. What really set me back is we are God's "field" but we are also his "building". Many translations say "dwelling". You see God has created a dwelling place for Himself in ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor 3:16-17

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

So the work of the apostle Paul was not just to cultivate the field, but to build God's temple in other people.

1 Cor 3:10-11

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

God would not allow anybody to build His temple. This is something carefully over sought and directed. Skilled hands would be recruited for such a special task. I often look at myself as a tool of the Lord, a field for use for His purposes. I often forget that God also desires to dwell in me and with me. That He has created me and continues to build in me the new man that reflects His holiness. Do you consider yourself Holy? Do your behaviors and thoughts reflect the Holy temple of the Lord? Have you focused on what your doing for the Lord and not focused on how to be in the Lord?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does facebook know when you'll break up?

Are you concerned about if or when you might break up with your significant other? There is a new graph floating around from independent researchers who did a search for "breakup" and "broken up". And here are the amazing results;
The top two days for a break up to occur are right after Valentines Day and two weeks before Christmas. Then comes April fool's day, and Mondays. The best times of year are Christmas day, and spring and fall. I have a couple thoughts on why these days are popular. We have a terrible view of romance and intimacy. Holidays like Valentines Day high light this. The whole focus of the day for many people is to create an emotionally intense experience. This is okay at times in a relationship; however there must be a foundation of maturity and commitment that can counter the emotional low times. Second emotional intensity is almost always coexistent with sexual intensity. Outside the confines of marriage, and especially with young people who lack the maturity to process the feelings this creates, this is a recipe for disaster. So let's create a holiday that sets all of these variables on a tee for a couple to abuse. When expectations are meant, emotions don't connect, and things go poorly, we have a recipe for a breakup. The Christmas thing is much easier to explain. People are cheap! Two weeks before Christmas, that's present buying time. Why by a present for someone you don't know if you want to be in a relationship with? The April fool's thing is just rude, but a little funny in a sick sort of way. Have you ever broken up with someone because of the time of year, or a holiday?