Nuclear Waste, Altruism, Pleasure, and the Brain

In Switzerland, the government wanted to use nuclear plants to power the country, but they needed a place to dump all the waste. A study was done in the little town which was being considered. When asked, 50.8% of the people agreed to put themselves at risk for the common good of the nation. To see if they could shrink the number of those against the proposal, they offered $2,175 per person per year to the townspeople. Surprisingly, this had the opposite affect. This time only 24.6% agreed. When the deal was sweetened to $6,525 per person per year, only one person changed his answer. What??? This doesn’t make sense.

Will you do this for free? Sure. We can do that.

How ’bout if I give you lots of cash? No, I don’t think so. Would more $ help persuade you? Nope.

So what happened?

Ultimately, it goes back to the brain. (There is physiological evidence for what I’m about to say. Check Chapter 7 of Sway” by Ori and Rom Brafman) When only the altruistic part of the brain was stimulated, people were agreeable. But when $$ is offered, the pleasure part of the brain is also stimulated. Because of it’s power and the amount it is exercised, (how often we use it) it takes more to stimulate the pleasure center of the brain. It needs more powerful drugs to make it excited than the altruistic part.

In the experiment, somehow $6,525 didn’t seem like enough compensation to truly stimulate the pleasure part of the brain, but the altruistic part was satisfied with doing it for the common good of the people. Although normal reasoning might lead one to offer financial incentives as motivation, it appears that this might not always be the best option. One might be better off evaluating the offer for how much it might stimulate the pleasure center as opposed to the altruistic part of our brains to make a better decision about whether to offer the incentive or not.

I’m not sure if this says more about our physiology (the way God made our brains) or about the parts of the brain that we choose to exercise. If she had been tested, would Mother Theresa’s “pleasure center” beat her “altruism center?” Could the “altruism center” be exercised enough to outperform the “pleasure center?”

Risky Writing

adventureI think writing/blogging is a bit risky. Exposing your thoughts and commenting on the world around you opens yourself up to all kinds of criticism and other ideas. It’s like driving through uncharted territory with your friends/readers as backseat drivers trying to tell you which way to go or what to think or how you should react or. . . whatever. And yet. . .as the driver of your own thoughts and actions, you still get to drive. You’re the one in charge. You’re the one who is breaking new ground and going places – venturing off into new territories. Anyway, it’s a bit adventurous to charge the hill of opinion with nothing but another opinion and a dream that yours will somehow make a difference.

rabbisI’ve been reading the book “Meet the Rabbis” by Brad H. Young lately, and I’m learning a lot, but I just had to share one of the thoughts I had today as I read. He quotes Elie Wiesel as saying,

“To comment is to reclaim from exile a word or notion that has been patiently waiting outside the realm of time and inside the gates of memory. When you pray, said the late Louis Finkelstein, you speak to God; when you study, God speaks to you. If study is discovery, commentary is adventure.”

I had to read it a couple of times but I love it! Commentary is adventure!!!! I love the idea that study is discovery and as we comment or respond, we step into adventure! With blogging and the web, there have become more and more commentators – more and more critics – more and more voices – more and more words just to wade through in order to discover the things that move us and call us into deeper ways of living. But I’m one of those people who needs someone to bounce things off of – I need a sounding board. Blogging and writing helps me to work through the things I believe myself. It helps me to understand my own thoughts – to make sense out of life. It’s my way of venturing out into uncharted territory and exploring the ideas before making the mistakes that come to people who act without assessing the situation.

Louis Finkelstein agrees. My blogging/commenting on life is an adventure. Maybe that’s why I love doing it so much. There is a bit of that explorer in me. I really think it’s the adventurer entrepreneurial risk-taking voice inside of me that really enjoys writing. It allows me to stake my claim on an idea – to stand up and say “Here’s where I draw the line and I will defend it.” It also allows me to test the waters of those ideas that I’m a bit sketchy on.

Anyway, I guess these were just some random thoughts today. I probably haven’t organized them very well, but . . .well, I’ve stepped into the adventure.

Christian Parenting Statistics

stetzerCheck out this article from Ed Stetzer’s blog. It describes some pretty interesting research on the state of affairs for most Christian parents today. What does it mean when less than 10% of Christian parents think that “being Godly” or “having faith” is one of the marks of parental success? That means that over 90% of “Christians” believe they can be successful parents without passing on their faith to their own children – those whom they love more than anyone else. Huh?

The research also shows that 83% of parents believe that they are the main spiritual influences on their children, but 48% (almost half) of them don’t consider their own faith as an important influence in their parenting. This means they recognize their influence, but don’t see their faith as a priority in parenting.

All this stuff got me to thinking. I’m gonna sit down with Miranda see if together we can write up a “basic” list of the things we want to instill in our children – I’m sure there will be more, but if we want to be successful, and we want to be intentional about what we consider to be the marks of a good parent, then writing it down certainly can’t hurt. Even if it’s an incomplete list, it’ll be better than nothing.

Anyway, what do you guys think?

Small Group Exchange

Smallgroupexchange
I just wanted to let everybody know about a new resource for small groups. Smallgroupexchange.com launched earlier this month and has tons of helpful materials. If you’re not too sure about something, they’ve got articles to help. There are also plenty of ideas and materials you can purchase (with reviews) to guide your study. They even have free training videos for small group leaders.

The smallgroupexchange folks have also asked me to do some writing/reviewing for their site. Wow! What an honor. You can check out my small group exchange bio here or one of my articles (What should we Study? & Leadership is Service). While you’re there, you should check out Heather Zempel’s articles. She’s a great writer and small group guru who has been a family friend to Miranda for her whole life. She’s quickly become my friend too. She also has a great blog called Wineskins for Discipleship.

A “B”

I love my school! It has been a huge change for me over the past year to get into all these new habits of studying for school in addition to all my normal studies for my job and teaching and all, but it’s been good. I feel like I’m learning how to think again. I’ve really been challenged both in my thinking/theology and in my scheduling/priorities.

This week for example has been really crazy. I just left La Porte FUMC this morning at 6am so I could come to class today. I normally attend the evening class, but this week is UM ARMY week and so I’ve got other commitments (I’m leading worship and doing programs) tonight and decided to come to the morning class. Anyway, this is also the last week of class this time around (Acts and Paul’s Epistles), which means that all our homework and stuff is due next week. Up until this summer, I had straight “A’s” for all my classes, but I took my first “B” last time ’cause I just didn’t have time (because of my summer schedule) to finish all the work.

It appears that this class is gonna be the same. I could probably really push forward and get the “A”, but I also have a life outside of school (Remember, Miranda is pregnant) and so I’m just gonna have to settle for the “B” again this time. I love all this stuff, and it’s really good for me, but my bride and having some time with her has simply got to be my first priority – besides, a “B” is still a good grade. I’m really hoping that once the summer is over, I can get into a more regular routine again and get back to the “A’s” I used to get.

John Commentary

Gospelofjohn Well, I’ve finally finished this process. We have been through the entire book of John with our students and I have typed up my notes. I have attached them here for anyone who would like to have my thoughts on these verses. I’m sure that over time I could add or change quite a bit of this, but this is where I am for now in it all.

Download John Commentary.pdf

It has been a fun process to study this book (My favorite part of my job.) Our students have grown quite a bit during this time together and I know that the fruit of this time will be incredible. For many of our students/branches, just as John 15 describes, God has lifted them up from the dirt, washed them off, and now they are able to grow and be fruitful for His Kingdom. I pray that’s true for me too. Lord, let me abide in You. Remain in Your hands. Labor for You and be fruitful for Your Kingdom. AMEN.

Song of Solomon

Songofsolomon The Song of Solomon series by Tommy Nelson, has been and will continue to have an incredible impact on my life.

I first discovered this series and Tommy Nelson at Metro Bible Study many years ago. I’d guess around 2001 or so. Anyway, he was speaking there during one of the summers that I worked at Tomball UMC. I used to drive an hour up there each week to hear him teach and somewhere during that time I heard about this series. Around the same time, my sister was attending a church in the Dallas area where they had Tommy joining them too. Anyway, I went through the series with Tommy Nelson that summer and it really made me rethink how I had been doing the “dating” thing. I learned how I should treat women and also how I should be using the time I was single to prepare myself for meeting someone. My sister and I had a few conversations about it all back then.

Sometime after that, one of the adult Sunday School classes in Tomball decided to go through the video series. I heard about how some of the women who were active in the church really struggled through the series because their husbands just weren’t in the same place they were spiritually. I decided then, that I would not be one of those husbands. I also decided that I should be teaching that material to the students I was working with. At that time, they didn’t offer a “student” version, so we just carefully went through the adult series and the students just ate it up. They loved it! Tommy spoke of and explained things that no other adult in their lives would even come close to talking about. The students were also shocked to realize that the Bible really speaks about some of those things. It was an incredible time in the youth ministry as I watched students begin to make better decisions about their dating lives.

Sometime later, I began dating Miranda and we really tried to live out our dating life in the way that God would want us to. We prayed together and decided that after we got engaged, we would go through the Song of Solomon series together. We had each been through it on our own, but felt like doing it together would bring up specific issues that we could talk about and make sure we were together on before our marraige. It did, and it was a good thing for us to do together.

Another time I taught this series to my sister and her fiancee. They didn’t really have any marriage counseling, and were asking me to lead the wedding service. (My father-in-law actually officiated the wedding.) I insisted that they go through Tommy’s material first and Miranda and I traveled up to Ft Worth to lead them through it. I must admit that it was a little strange talking about some of those subjects with my sister, but still a really good thing.

My most recent experience (besides this school one) was teaching it to the students in my new church. It was my first experience with the student version, and it went well for our group, but when we finished, they still wanted to know the rest of the story. (The student version doesn’t cover the marriage portions.) I taught that portion to them on my own.

Now, I’ve talked alot about my different experiences with the Song of Solomon, but probably haven’t said much about how it specifically has impacted my life. The picture that the Song of Solomon paints of how to do a love relationship is the most impressive I have ever seen. Solomon’s character is strong and yet sensitive to His bride. He is truly a man’s man and yet knows how to approach her with gentleness. Their love for each other is evident and they freely express it to one another with their words, their actions, and in their intimate moments. It is also evident that there are times to restrain and to focus on the Lord. I pray that I can be a man like Solomon (with the exception of all the extra wives) and that my bride will love me the way that this book describes her love for him. Also in this book, we are able to watch them fight and argue and then make up with each other – how comforting it is to know that these are normal things that couples go through, and that love is a commitment to continue in spite of those things. I don’t believe that I would ever have been the kind of man who would have attracted my bride, if it weren’t for the things I learned from the Lord through Solomon and Tommy Nelson. I would still be a single, and probably miserable man – so all this is to say – I love this stuff! God has used it greatly in my life and I will continue to teach it to the best of my ability to anyone who will listen.

Living by the Book

Livingby_1 Howard Hendricks wrote this book and we’re studying it in my Hermeneutics class. There is also a video series that goes along with it that we’re going to be watching throughout the 5 weeks of class. It’s a 19 part series and we’re gonna have to go to the library at the school to watch them. It’s an hour and a half drive for me to go to the school so I got on-line and was looking for a place I could buy the videos or rent them or something. Anyway, it looks like they have reworked the series into a 7 session video instead of the 19 sessions. It doesn’t look like there’s any place to buy the old version which is what my homework is written from, so I’m gonna be trying to find a way in the next few weeks to get up to the school – I hate spending $$ on gas right now – it’s about $2.80 gallon. (I’ll probably read this 20 years from now and think that’s cheap, but it’s not – at least not right now.)

Anyway, the video part is Howard sitting in front of about 8 other folks who are supposed to be students. It’s pretty funny to watch though ’cause they are definitely not actors. It’s clear that Howard has instructed them on what questions to ask and such. Anyway, I guess the content of the videos is pretty good – it’s all about the basics of studying the Bible. He divides it into three main sections. (1) Observation, (2) Interpretation, and (3) Application. It sets up a pretty good basic structure for how we should study the Scriptures. I hope that as we go further into it, I’ll have more to share. We’ll see.