Thursday, May 17, 2018

Why Memes Can Be Dangerous

What is a meme? A meme is defined by Google as “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”[1] When I hear the word meme, I think of a picture with text written on it that someone posts on social media. But the definition of a meme is much broader than that. I’d consider short messages such as taglines, titles of newspaper articles, and short, inspirational quotes as memes. We’ve all seen plenty of memes.

Memes can be extremely beneficial because they are able to convey a message in a summarized, simple, brief, memorable format which can be easily transmitted from person to person. While these inherent qualities of a meme make them extremely beneficial, they also make them very dangerous. Let’s take a closer look.

A Real-Life Example

Have you ever had a disagreement with someone only to later realize that you were actually saying the same thing the whole time? I’ve seen this happen more times than I can count.

Recently, a friend asked me if I thought Jesus came to destroy religion. I responded by saying, “No, I don’t think Jesus came to destroy religion.” He then informed me that a Bible teacher who I greatly respect had made the statement that Jesus came to destroy religion, and then followed it up by saying, “So that means you disagree with so-and-so.” I could’ve responded a few different ways. One way could’ve been to argue my case for why Jesus didn’t come to destroy religion. Another way could’ve been to decide that my friend was right and I needed to rethink my perspective. And another way could’ve been to ask him for more clarification on his definition of “religion.” This turned out to be my response.

As our discussion continued, we discovered that our definitions of religion were different. My definition of religion was “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power.”[2] His definition of religion was an “institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices.”[3] After hearing his definition, I was able to see why he had concluded that Jesus came to destroy religion. While on earth, Jesus combatted the institutionalized Jewish religious system which had created numerous extrabiblical commandments that they imposed on people within the institution. So yes, Jesus did destroy that type of religion. But he certainly didn’t come to destroy the belief in and worship of God. Quite the contrary.

What could’ve happened if I wouldn’t have entered into a deeper discussion with my friend on his meme and simply accepted it at face value? I easily could’ve drawn the conclusion that Jesus came to destroy God-worship.

This is why memes are so dangerous. Although it’s very easy to remember and pass along the simple statement, “Jesus came to destroy religion,” if I don’t understand the intended definitions of the words in this meme, I can easily misinterpret the intended message. The same could be said for any meme we stumble upon. It can become very easy for the intended messages of memes to be misinterpreted.

How Can This Realization Impact the Way We Live?

No matter what we do, we can’t get away from using memes. The title of this article and the subheadings in it are forms of memes. They give you a brief summary of the information contained in this article and are helpful for that reason. But if you simply read the title and subheadings, you may misinterpret what I’m trying to say when I say that memes can be dangerous. You may conclude that I’m totally against memes and want to rid the earth of them. But if you read this entire article, you’ll know that’s far from being my stance on memes.

I’ve developed three suggestions for changes we can make to minimize the danger of memes. First, we can make a sincere attempt to understand what the meme’s author is saying before accepting or rejecting it. I’ve stumbled upon countless memes which are very eye catching, but when I dig deeper into the author’s intent, I’ve discovered that they don’t mean what I thought they meant. For example, if you read the title of a news article, don’t assume you know how the article ends. Journalists are pretty smart. They want you to read their articles, so they’re going make the titles eye catching and not give away the conclusion so that you take the time to read them. I’ll admit it, I do the same thing. Personally, I don’t pass along memes unless I both understand the author’s intent and agree with it. It’s too risky to my credibility.

My second suggestion is that if you share a meme, be prepared to explain it. Those of you who are connected with me on social media probably know that I very rarely make one-liner posts. I’d probably get more engagement if I regularly posted one-liners, but posting one-liners doesn’t give me an opportunity to explain myself. It’d be very easy for someone to get offended by a misinterpretation of a one-liner and lose trust in me. Maybe someday I’ll decide to start posting more memes (without full-fledged articles), but for now, I think it’s too risky.

Lastly, I would encourage you to challenge your friends when they share a meme with you. Instead of firing back with “LMAO, OMG, or WRONG,” respond by entering into a discussion with them about your two interpretations of it. I think you’d find such a discussion to be quite fascinating as you attempt to understand each other’s interpretations of the meme’s simple statement.

What do you think? Do you think memes are beneficial? Do you think they can be dangerous? Can you think of a time when you and another person interpreted the same meme differently?

[1] “Meme,” Google Dictionary, accessed May 16, 2018,
[2] “Religion,” Google Dictionary, accessed May 16, 2018,
[3] “Religion,” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, accessed May 16, 2018,

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why I Stopped Trying to Get to Heaven

Where will you go when you die? Will your spirit take a journey to some sort of afterlife or will your spirit simply cease to exist? The vast majority of people in this country believe that our spirits will continue to exist in an afterlife of some type.[1] The majority of people in this country also believe in the existence of a place of reward and a place of punishment.[2] So it seems reasonable that from time to time, we may ask how we might get to the place of reward, known by many who’ve grown up with some exposure to the church as heaven.

Unfortunately, the concept of “getting to heaven” has become a main staple in the evangelical church. Many evangelical Christians spend their entire lives believing and teaching that the goal of being a Christian is to get to heaven. They invest tons of money, time, and energy into achieving this objective. Is this really the biblical goal of Christianity? Or is the goal actually quite different than this? I invite you to take a look at the Bible with me to discover the intended life goal for the Christian.

Why the Goal Isn’t to Get to Heaven

I’ve heard it said before that heaven is absolutely amazing. When I get there, I’ll be given the keys to a huge mansion. My mansion will be loaded with all sorts of great stuff. The more good things I do in this life, the bigger and better my mansion and the stuff inside of it. Outside, my mansion will be surrounded by the most lusciously green grass I’ve ever seen. And whenever I want to go for an afternoon cruise, I can pull out my Lamborghini and drive it down the streets of gold. This is the reward for the Christian.

Whoa, whoa…time out. Let me ask a question here. Who is the central focus of this picture? Me. That’s who. It’s all about me. Who’s going to take care of my mansion? I hate cleaning, I hate painting, and I hate doing laundry. So if I have to do those things, then heaven really isn’t going to be as great as I imagined. Therefore, someone else must do those things for me. Who is it? Is it someone who absolutely loves to do those things? That person sounds like a servant. Why does that person have to spend eternity serving me rather than getting to enjoy a mansion of his own? Or how about my Lamborghini? Who’s going to fill it up with gas, wash it, and wax it so that it stays super shiny? I’m certainly not going to do those things. Or who’s going to go grocery shopping for me? I absolutely hate going to the grocery store. Do you see the practical problem with this picture? The entire focus is on me and my satisfaction. And in order for me to be satisfied, others have to be at my beck and call, meaning that they will be dissatisfied.

If you’ve read the Bible, then you know full well that this picture of heaven isn’t even remotely close to the Bible’s description of it. The only part that even resembles the biblical picture of heaven is that the streets will be made of gold. Even the mansion part, which was the way a few translators translated one verse of the Bible, probably isn’t accurate.

Actually, when we read the Bible, we don’t see much of a description of heaven at all. But one thing that is very clear to us about heaven is that God, seated on his throne, is the central focus of heaven and everyone in heaven is doing nothing but worshiping him day and night.[3] The reason this part is so well defined for us is because it’s the absolute most important aspect of being in heaven.

But most of us don’t like this description of heaven because it doesn’t make sense to us. Instead, most of us still dream that all our earthly stuff is going to satisfy our parched souls. Maybe if our houses are just a little bigger and our paycheck a bit fatter, then we might finally be satisfied. How long is it going to take for us to realize that a bigger house, fatter paycheck, more luxurious vehicle, and sexier spouse can’t satisfy our longing souls? Yet, we dream of heaven being nothing more than a better version of what we have on earth. If getting to this picture of heaven is the end of the road for us, then we’re screwed.

In the same way, there’s absolutely no way heaven, by itself, can satisfy us. Certainly being in a place called paradise would be satisfying for a while, but the “awe” factor would eventually end and we’d no longer be satisfied by it. It’d be like moving to an ocean-front property. At first, it would feel so satisfying to live next to the ocean. But over time, we’d get so used to it that we’d find ourselves feeling dissatisfied again.

If getting to heaven isn’t the goal, then what is the goal of the Christian’s earthly life? Let’s take a look.

What is the Goal of the Christian’s Earthly Life?

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul shared about his former life where he was focused on trying to get to heaven.[4] If a super-Christian was to write a similar letter today, it might read something like this:
I was born the son of a pastor, repented of my sins, accepted Jesus into my heart, was baptized into the church, read my Bible every day, attended church every Sunday, gave 10 percent of my income to my church, served as a ministry team leader, attended a weekly small group, served needy people in my city, went on a few mission trips to third-world countries, went to seminary, and became a missionary to an unreached people group in the 10/40 window.[5]
But immediately after sharing all his credentials, which by the way would’ve made him a great candidate to receive a huge mansion full of gold plated dinnerware, Paul made the following confession:
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.[6]
Did you catch what Paul said in these verses? He realized none of his credentials would earn him a one-way ticket on the next train to heaven. Furthermore, he recognized the objective of the Christian was to gain Jesus. Let me say it again. Paul realized the objective of the Christian wasn’t to get to heaven, but rather, to gain Jesus. Jesus isn’t a means to an end; he is the end.

What Does It Mean to “Gain Jesus?”

According to the biblical writers, God doesn’t sit around watching everything unfold on earth. Instead, he is very invested and involved in his creation. He is a personal God, meaning that he has a personal relationship with his people. This is very different from the gods of many of the other religions throughout history which view their deities as being far from personal.

God is so invested in the relationship with his people that he is currently in the process of uniting all his people, the invisible church, to one another as one unit which will be wed to Jesus as his bride.[7] According to the Bible, when a man and a woman get married, they are no longer two but become one.[8] Therefore, God is going to unite his people to him.[9] This is absolutely amazing!

God is wholly and eternally satisfied. If we are going to be united to him for all of eternity, then we too will be completely satisfied. Our satisfaction won’t come from things he creates, but will come from him. He will be our source of eternal satisfaction![10]

How Do We Gain Jesus?

Gaining Jesus isn’t a one-time thing nor is it something we can fully accomplish here on earth. Nonetheless, it’s something we, as disciples of Jesus, strive towards every single day.

In the Bible, God said, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”[11] If we want to gain Jesus, then we need to embark on a journey of seeking him with all of our hearts.

One component of whole-heartedly seeking Jesus is to read the Bible every day because the Bible is God’s written Word to us. He communicates who he is and what he does. The more we read it, the more opportunity we have to learn about him. For further explanation on this topic, I’d encourage you to read my article entitled, “Why I Read the Bible Everyday.”

Another component of whole-heartedly seeking Jesus is to spend time in prayer. I’m not just talking about praying for other people; I’m also talking about quite a few other things like pouring out your heart to Jesus, meditating on the ways in which you see his presence and handiwork around you such as in nature and in the way he’s working in your life and in the lives of the people around you, requesting his strength to make it through the day, and requesting that he transform your heart to be more like his heart. Basically, spend time with God the same way you would spend time with a mentor you greatly respect. Talk to him as someone you trust completely, yet for whom you have the utmost level of respect. Since God is infinite and outside of time, you can talk with him all day every day and never be a burden.

How Do You Know You’re Gaining More of Jesus?

You’ll know by the fruit. What do I mean by that? The fruit I’m talking about isn’t evangelical fruit, but the fruit of the Spirit. Do you notice that you love God and others more? Do you experience more joy today than you did five years ago? Is your patience growing? Do you see more of God working in and around you than you did a few years ago? These are some of the signs that you’re gaining more of Jesus. You’re never going to gain all of him in this life, so don’t expect to attain that lofty goal. Nonetheless, strive to continue gaining more of him each and every day.[12]

If you’re struggling with feeling like you don’t want to worship Jesus, I have great news for you. As you continue gaining more of Jesus, you will want to worship him. It’s pretty similar to the way you cheer for your favorite athletic team. Do you want to cheer for your team? Of course you do. No one has to command you to cheer for them. That’s because you love your team. In the same way, as you continue to love Jesus more, you will want to cheer for (worship) him with everything that you are. The desire to freely worship Jesus is another sign that you are gaining more of him.

Why did I stop trying to get to heaven? Because I realized that it isn’t the goal of being Jesus’s disciple. The goal of being Jesus’s disciples is to gain Jesus. Getting to dwell in heaven is merely a byproduct of being Jesus’s disciple, not the central aim. Being a disciple of Jesus is about becoming his whole-hearted follower, not about getting a get-out-of-hell-free card. I encourage you to dig deeper into this topic in Philippians 3 and then spend some time in prayer asking God to allow you to gain more of Jesus.

[1] According to a survey conducted by Lifeway Research Group, 82 percent of young adults believe a person’s spirit will continue to exist in an afterlife. See Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason Hayes, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and the Churches that Reach Them (Nashville: B&H, 2009), 41.
[2] According to the same survey, 77 percent of young adults believe in a place of reward and 60 percent believe in a place of punishment.
[3] See Revelation 4, 21, and 22.
[4] “Circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” – Philippians 3:5-6.
[5] The 10/40 window is a region between 10 and 40 degrees latitude stretching from western Africa to eastern Asia. This region is home to some of the largest non-Christian populations in the world.
[6] Philippians 3:7-9 (emphasis mine).
[7] See Ephesians 5:22-33.
[8] “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” – Genesis 2:24.
[9] See John 17, especially 17:20-23.
[10] In the Gospel of John, Jesus said he was the living water and the bread of life (John 4 and 6) and if we wanted to have eternal life, we must eat his body and drink his blood. He wasn’t speaking of literally eating his body and drinking his blood, nor was he talking about partaking in communion once a week, but instead, he was talking about being satisfied in him.
[11] Jeremiah 29:13.
[12] “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” – Philippians 3:12.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Curing Boredom

When I was in middle school, I became addicted to a video game called Age of Empires. For those of you who have played this game, you know how awesome it is! For those of you who haven’t played it, the game allows up to 8 players who all represent different medieval empires to duke it out on a random map. Your job is to gather resources, build a town, create an army, and conquer the opposing players. The best part is that it has a multi-player feature which allows you and your friends to play together either as allies or as enemies. If you like strategy games, then you’d probably love this one.

As both a male (we males seem to love competition) and civil engineer, this game was perfect for me as it incorporated two of my favorite things: building things and competing against opposing players. Instead of paying attention in class, I would spend my school days daydreaming about this game. When I got home from school (before my parents got home), I would sit down at the computer and play a game before tackling my homework. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that I was obsessed with and addicted to this game.

But there was one problem. I wasn’t very good at first. So I found some cheat codes online and regularly used them to give myself an unlimited number of resources. The best one was a code that created corvettes with missile launchers which I used to obliterate anyone and anything which stood in my way. After using these cheat codes all the time, I got kind of bored with the game. It wasn’t nearly as much fun anymore. It wasn’t until a couple years later that one of my friends unknowingly pinpointed the reason why I was bored with the game and helped me overcome my boredom. My addiction, which had been slowly dying, came right back as my excitement for the game was rejuvenated.

Curing My Boredom

Are you bored like I was? Maybe you’re not bored with a video game, but instead maybe you’re bored with something that seems to matter much more than a video game ever will. Maybe you’re bored with your classes. Maybe you’re bored with your job. Maybe you’re bored with your relationships and/or your marriage.

Have you ever paused to ask yourself why you’re bored? What conclusion did you draw?

As you’re developing an answer to that question, I think it would be helpful for me to define what I mean when I use the word “bored.” I think we commonly think of boredom as times when we aren’t busy. Non busy times are actually some of my best thinking times. I find that some of my best ideas come during times when I’m not busy and have the ability to truly focus on deep meditation rather than on my seemingly trivial laundry lists of tasks.

But that’s not the way I’m defining boredom in this article. When I say I was bored playing Age of Empires, I didn’t mean that I wasn’t busy. Certainly I was busy. The boredom I experienced was brought on by a lack of mental stimulation. The challenge and competitiveness of the game was totally lost. When I would start losing, I would whip out the corvettes and obliterate my opponents. They didn’t even stand a chance at defending against my heavy onslaught.

Early into high school, I found out that one of my friends also liked to play Age of Empires. So when we’d hang out, we’d spend the majority of our time playing that game. When he observed that I always wanted to play on Easy, he challenged me to crank up the difficulty level and stop using cheat codes. Do you know how hard this was for me? I had always been so focused on winning that I really didn’t care how I won or who I trampled over in the process of getting there; all I cared about was that I won. How was I supposed to win all the time if I was playing on Hard?

Nonetheless, I took his advice and turned up the difficulty level one notch. I forced myself to avoid using cheat codes and found that I lost a lot of games. But in the midst of being defeated, I began learning more and better strategies to win. I became what I’ll call “a student” of the game. As time went on, I got better and better to the point where I could defeat opponents on the hardest difficulty level almost every single time. And all the while, even in the midst of losing many games, I was being cured of my boredom.

The Life Lesson

What does playing a video game have to do with our lives? After all, a video game is nothing but a fantasy world we escape to for a little while before we have to reenter reality. Actually, I’m very thankful to my friend for encouraging me to crank up the difficulty level because of the life lesson I learned through those experiences.

As I shared in an article I published a few weeks ago titled, “5 Places We Search for Security,” it seems that security is the greatest longing of humanity. To be secure is to be comfortable. Who doesn’t want that?

I’m no different than anyone else; I long to reach a place where I feel super comfortable and therefore have no reason to be concerned about anything. My whole life I’ve been trying to reach this place of comfort. However, it’s fascinating that when I reached this place of comfort playing Age of Empires, a place where I didn’t ever have to worry about losing, I got bored. Was this experience isolated to merely playing a video game or was it a more wide-spread problem I was experiencing?

As I began evaluating other situations in my life, I realized I had similar experiences which went well beyond a simple video game; I was doing the exact same thing with everything in my life. I was regularly setting easy, attainable goals so that I was sure to accomplish them. I was hesitant to try new things like food, jobs, and sports because I wasn’t confident in my ability to succeed at them. My approach made my life pretty comfortable, but I was continuously bored. When I finally decided to force myself out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, I found life to be so much more enjoyable.

Understanding God

As a Christian who sought to reach a place of comfort, a tough challenge I faced was that I was worshiping a God who I didn’t fully understand. His character and actions didn’t fully make sense to me. I couldn’t explain everything in the Bible. Why does God choose to offer grace and forgiveness to some people but not others? Does it make God selfish if his intent is to bring glory to his name? Furthermore, I couldn’t predict God’s next move. Since these realizations made me feel uncomfortable, I decided to embark on a journey to comb the depths of the Bible in an effort to fully understand him.

As I encountered truth after truth about God that I couldn’t explain, I began to realize something: there’s no way I was ever going to understand him fully. I was never going to reach a spot where I would know everything I could possibly know about him. For obvious reasons, this realization was very discouraging and uncomfortable. But after I began to realize that if I ever reached this point with God then I would probably get bored with him, I found joy in not being able to fully wrap my arms around him. If the excitement I experience is found in the process of seeking, then I can certainly count on many years of amazing mind stimulation as I continue getting to know God. I’ll never get bored with him!

Final Thoughts

I hope you’re not bored, but if you are, I want you to know that there is hope of seeing a change, most of the time without changing your circumstances as much as changing your perspective on your circumstances. I share my introspection on this topic with you in hopes that it will encourage and challenge you to embark on a similar journey.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you think you might experience a similar connection between being comfortable and being bored?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Making the Most of Your Amusement Park Trip

Since I was tall enough to ride roller coasters, I have absolutely loved the thrill of pure adrenaline rush going up, down, and upside down on some of the best roller coasters in the world. Growing up south of Dayton, Ohio, we used to make regular trips to Kings Island. Now living in Findlay, I’m about equal distant from both Kinds Island and Cedar Point, giving me access to two of the best roller coaster parks in the world.

A couple years ago, I decided to relive my childhood experiences and invest in a season pass so that I could take full advantage of these great parks during the summer months. If you’re looking to go to an amusement park this summer and want to avoid the crowds, not overpay for food, and get in all your favorite rides, then this article is for you!

Where to Buy Tickets

Don’t ever pay full price for your ticket! The gate prices are way too high and unaffordable for a family. There’s no need to shell out $70 at the gate when you can take advantage of other great deals.

The best price I’ve found is at AAA. If you’re a AAA member, then call your local AAA office to see what prices they’re offering on tickets. I bought some tickets through AAA last year for a group of us that were going to Kings Island and they were $40 each. Much better than the $70 gate price.

Another place you can buy cheaper tickets is online. Cedar Point is selling tickets online for $49 each.

If you’d rather have a ticket in your hand, you may try the big box grocery stores such as Kroger or Meijer. The Meijer in Findlay sells Cedar Point tickets for $55. You can also purchase a ticket that comes with an all-day drink band for a few bucks more. Based on the prices of drinks in the park, it’s more than likely going to pay off to spend the extra couple bucks to get the drink band.

If you have a friend who owns a season pass, your friend can get you a ticket at Cedar Point for $43 and Kings Island for $42 at the gate. I will warn you though that there are restrictions on the number of tickets your friend can purchase on a given day. Cedar Point only allows a season pass holder to purchase one bring-a-friend ticket per day and Kings Island allows four.

Lastly, if you are planning to visit both Cedar Point and Kings Island this year, you can purchase a combo pack which gets you tickets to both parks for $65.

For a family of four at $50 a ticket, you’d be spending $200 on tickets which really isn’t that bad considering attending any type of professional sporting event costs about the same amount for only about three hours of entertainment.


Not only do you get charged to enter the park, you also get charged to park in their designated lots. Cedar Point and Kings Island both charge $20 per vehicle to park. Ouch! Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to get around it, but there are a few cost saving measures you can take.

Most of the Cedar Fair amusement parks offer the ability to purchase parking tickets online at a reduced rate. For both Cedar Point and Kings Island, they can be purchased for $15 each. It’s only a $5 savings, but hey, $5 is better than nothing.

Since parking is charged per vehicle rather than per person, if you have a group of people going, pack as many people as you can fit into one car. This may save you a few bucks.

Lastly, if you have a friend who is a gold or platinum season pass holder, they get to park for free. So if you’re planning on going, invite one of your season-pass-holding friends and offer to drive.


If you think everything else about amusement parks is overpriced, then you haven’t seen the food. A slice of pizza costs around $6 or $7! How are you supposed to feed a family at those prices?

Being pretty cheap, I tried to go an entire day at the parks without eating. But I quickly discovered that not eating was very detrimental to my body. One day while at Cedar Point, I developed a severe migraine and could hardly eat when I finally got food in front of me. Not a good situation. So I developed a new strategy for staying well-nourished while also not spending money on overpriced food.

Most amusement parks are within 10 minutes of a restaurant, so I’ve started leaving the park to grab a bite to eat for lunch and then again for dinner. It’s so much cheaper, gets me away from the crowd for a little while, and gets me into air conditioning on hot summer days, all things which I’ve found to be necessary in order to have a great amusement park experience.

When to Go to Amusement Parks

How fun is it when you go to an amusement park from open to close and only get to ride five rides? It doesn’t exactly make for a fun experience. So here are some tips on the best times to go.

If possible, avoid weekends and holidays! Do not…let me repeat…DO NOT go on Saturdays. You’ll spend your entire day waiting in long lines with thousands of other sweaty, stinky people and only get to ride a few rides. Sundays are typically better than Saturdays, but if you can avoid weekends and holidays, do it. If you absolutely can’t avoid them, then make a priority list of rides you want to ride so that you make sure to get those in. Or if your visit is a once in a lifetime thing, then invest in a fast pass so that you can get on every ride.

I’ve found that the best times to go are during the middle of the week before school lets out and after school is back in session. Over the summer, Tuesdays are typically the least-busy days, but there are a lot of other factors involved which can impact the crowds. If you’re willing to take the risk, then go on a day when the forecast shows it to be cloudy with scattered showers throughout the day. Definitely don’t plan to go on days when it’s supposed to rain all day.

How to Ride the Most Rides

When I go to amusement parks with my friends, they typically have some idea of the order in which they want to ride certain rides. For example, sometimes they want to ease in to riding the big roller coasters by riding the small ones first. If you want to maximize the number of rides, then I’d suggest a different strategy.

The best rides are going to have the longest lines throughout the day. That’s a given. So the best time to ride them is typically at the beginning and the end of the day. When the park first opens, go to the best rides first so that you don’t have to wait in a long line. Then you can ride all the other ones throughout the day while everyone else is waiting in line for the rides you’ve already ridden. The time you have at the beginning of the day before the crowds hit is about an hour, so don’t squander it.

Once the crowds start flooding into the park, then you can get in line for all the non-roller coaster rides. Those lines are typically much shorter throughout the day. If you’re not a coaster enthusiast at all, then I’d suggest going to a coaster enthusiast park because most of the people want to ride the coasters, which means you won’t have to wait long in the lines for all the other rides.

Each park is different, but some only have one primary entry gate. People tend to work their way from the front of the park to the back of the park. If you get there during the morning hours, skip the front of the park and head straight to the back. The lines will be shorter early in the day, but longer later in the day. Once the crowds have moved to the back of the park by the early afternoon, the rides at the front of the park tend to have shorter wait times.  

A great tool which is available at many amusement parks is a free phone app which gives the ride wait times. Depending on the day and park, sometimes they aren’t very accurate, but other days they are spot on. You may have to run from one side of the park to the other throughout the day, but if it helps you get on more rides, then it’s probably worth it.

If you have a season-pass-holder friend, then once again, I’d suggest inviting your friend to go with you. Some amusement parks open early for season pass holders. Cedar Point opens an hour early and Kings Island opens a half hour early. Not all the rides are open at this time, but some of the best rides will be, and you’ll only have to wait up to 15 minutes to ride them! I regularly get three to four rides in during the first hour at Cedar Point.

Fast Passes

Many amusement parks have recently introduced the fast pass system which allows guests to buy a pass that allows them to skip quite a few of the lines.

Don’t you hate it when you’ve been standing in line for two hours for a roller coaster and watch someone with a fast pass walk right up to the gate and get on? Not fair! But if you were shelling out that kind of money for a fast pass, you’d want the same treatment. They can cost over a $100 in addition to your ticket. But I think there are strategic times to invest in them.

If the only time you can go to an amusement park is on the weekends, you’re only planning to go once every few years, and you want to make sure you get to ride every ride in the park, then buy a fast pass. Otherwise, I don’t think they’re worth the cost.

Season Passes

If you plan to go to an amusement park more than two or three times in a given year, then I’d encourage you to check out the season pass options.

In the Cedar Fair park system, the gold and platinum passes get you free admission to the park and free parking (at least a $60 value). The platinum passes get you free admission and parking not only to one park, but to every Cedar Fair park. For Ohioans, this means you can get into Cedar Point, the Cedar Point Water Park (requires separate admission for regular guests), Kings Island, and Michigan’s Adventure with a platinum pass. A few other options which are a day’s drive away are Canada’s Wonderland in Toronto, Kings Dominion in Virginia, Carowinds in the Carolinas, and Dorney Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. With a gold or platinum pass, you also get access to early ride times, a huge benefit if you like to ride big coasters.

Roller Coaster Suggestions

What would this article be without offering some suggestions on which roller coasters to ride? I’ll admit that for being such a coaster enthusiast, I’ve only been to a handful of amusement parks. But of those parks, I’ll share a little about ten of my favorite coasters.

My favorite coaster is Millennium Force at Cedar Point. It’s definitely not the most sexy coaster in the world, but its simple elements make it one of the best. It takes you to a height of 310 feet, accelerates to a speed of 93 mph, takes you through some wide, banked turns accompanied by a couple small hills, and has no inversions. I absolutely love the speed, wide banked turns, air time, and the fact that there are no brakes until the end. If you have the chance, wait the extra 20 minutes to ride in the front seat. You won’t regret it.

My second favorite coaster is the Fury 325 at Carowinds in Charlotte, North Carolina. It takes you to a height of 325 feet (hence the number in the name), accelerates down the first hill to a speed of 95 mph, and takes you through a series of banked turns and small hills where you get some air time similar to Millennium Force.

My third favorite coaster is Diamondback at Kings Island. The entire ride is virtually nothing but going up and down hills at a high enough speed to give you some air time at the peak of every hill. I’ve ridden another coaster, Intimidator 2, which is very similar, but has brakes on every hill. I hate brakes! Diamondback only has brakes on one hill, giving it a very smooth and exhilarating ride experience. If you like speed, air time, and no inversions, these three coasters are for you. If you can’t tell, these are the elements I prefer the most.

The next three coasters aren’t necessarily my next three favorite, but have some similar elements, so I wanted to group them together. If you like lots of inversions, then coasters like the Maverick at Cedar Point, Intimidator 305 at Kings Dominion, and Banshee at Kings Island are for you. Maverick only takes you up 105 feet, but it then drops you at a 95 degree angle and takes you through a series of quick turns and inversions. Just when you think you’re done, it speeds up again to 70 mph and takes you through a few more twists and turns before arriving back at the station. The Intimidator 305 is like a combination of Millennium Force and Maverick. It’s got the speed of Millennium Force and the quick turns of Maverick. It’s definitely an excellent choice if you’re ever in Virginia. Lastly, the Banshee at Kings Island is the longest inverted roller coaster in the world. It takes you through a series of seven inversions which include two loops, three half loops/half corkscrews, and two inline twists. It’s literally one inversion followed by another. If you love inversions, then you should definitely check this one out.

If you have a need for speed, then you should definitely ride the Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. It accelerates you from 0 to 120 in 3.8 seconds, sends you up a huge hill, and then back down on the other side for the biggest 17 second adrenaline rush of your life. The only downside is that the ride is nothing more than this 17 second thrill.

If you want a unique roller coaster experience, check out Kings Island’s Firehawk. You lay on your back as you go up the first hill, but then turn over once you reach the top to give you the feeling of flying. At first it’s kind of scary because you’re being suspended above the ground without track or the floor of a car under you, but once you get over that fear, it’s an awesome ride. Carowinds has a comparable coaster in Nighthawk, but Firehawk is definitely better.

The last two coasters I’ll mention are Gatekeeper at Cedar Point and the Beast at Kings Island. Gatekeeper is unique because it suspends you either to the right or left of the track (rather than on top of it of below it) and takes you through a series of turns and inversions, one of which is right over top of the main entrance to the park. The Beast is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world with over a mile of track and two hills. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of growing up riding this coaster, but it will forever by my favorite wooden coaster. Hands down, the best part of the ride is the double helix after the second hill. It’ll rattle you up, but man is it exciting.

Roller Coaster Suggestions for Non-Coaster Enthusiasts

I fully understand that not everyone loves roller coasters. But that doesn’t stop me from wanting you to have the same experience! If you’re not a coaster enthusiast, but are considering trying a coaster or two, here are a few of my suggestions.

It all starts with what you like or don’t like about coasters. Are you afraid of heights? Do you get sick with lots of tight turns and inversions? Does your body hurt after begin jerked around for the whole ride? I’ll offer a few suggestions for the rider who falls in each of these three categories.

If you don’t like heights, especially not going straight down a hill, then I’d suggest riding something like the Adventure Express (Kings Island), Backlot Stunt Coaster (Kings Island), Cedar Creek Mine Ride (Cedar Point), or Corkscrew (Cedar Point). Honestly though, if you can conquer your fear of heights, I think you’re going to have a lot more fun riding the biggest coasters than continuing to ride the ones I named above.

If you don’t do well with tight turns and inversions, then I’d suggest riding Millennium Force (Cedar Point), Fury 325 (Carowinds), Diamondback (Kings Island), Intimidator 2 (Carowinds), The Beast (Kings Island), or Mystic Timbers (Kings Island).

If you feel sore after getting off rough roller coasters, then stay away from all wooden and old steel coasters. Instead, I’d suggest riding any of the ones in the previous paragraph except The Beast and Mystic Timbers and I’d add Valravn (Cedar Point) and Banshee (Kings Island) to that list. If all your friends pressure you into riding a jerky coaster, I’ve found that sitting in the middle of a car (a car may have three sets of seats in it, so sit in the middle one) and sitting closer to the front makes it much less jerky.

Now What?

Stop sitting around thinking about going to an amusement park and just do it! Pack up your vehicle and make a road trip. If you’d like a personal tour guide/riding buddy, I come free of charge. Hit me up if you want to take a trip to Cedar Point or Kings Island this summer and I’d be happy to join you.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why People Manipulate Each Other

Remember the day you realized that someone you trust, or rather, someone you trusted, had been manipulating you for years? It was like a veil was removed from over your eyes. You wondered how on earth you could have possibly been blind to it. Now that you saw it clearly, you labeled the person as a manipulator and distanced yourself from him (or her) so that you could escape the spell he had cast over you for all those years.

Having recognized the pain you experienced, you decided not to let it happen again. But then you found yourself being manipulated by another person. And another person. And yet another person. Why do all the manipulators seem to seek you out and attempt to take advantage of you? What did you ever do to deserve this treatment?

All of us have been manipulated. And whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve all manipulated someone else at some point in time. Why is manipulation so prevalent in our world? In this article, I share the primary reason why I think we, as humans, manipulate other people. Personally, I find this discussion helpful because by recognizing the root of my manipulative tendencies, I can better avoid the temptation to manipulate the people around me.

Let’s Define Manipulation

I’ll start this discussion by defining the word manipulation. In a previous article I wrote entitled, “How to Spot Manipulation”, I defined manipulation as “to gain control over another person’s behaviors.”[1] As I shared in my previous article, some forms of manipulation are more aggressive in nature while other forms are more passive. In his book Practicing Greatness, Reggie McNeal explained the difference between these two forms of manipulation:
Aggressive controllers bull their way in where they shouldn’t and feel they have a right to be there…They tell people how to think and how to live, and even see others’ money as something they are entitled to.
Passive controllers achieve their goals indirectly through guilt and manipulation, deceiving their followers into doing their bidding while letting them think it’s their own choice. They are experts at hooking people at their point of vulnerability.[2]
The point I want to get across is that manipulation comes in lots of variations and looks, at a minimum, slightly different from person to person. But the link that ties all forms of manipulation together is that it’s an attempt to gain control over another person’s behaviors.

The Necessity of Control

In an article I posted last week entitled “5 Places We Search for Security,” I shared about the role that security plays in our lives. As theologian John Oswalt once wrote, “security is perhaps the greatest of all human longings.”[3] If security is our greatest longing, then it would naturally make sense that the achievement of it would be our ultimate goal in this life. I’ll further explain this concept with a simple illustration.

Let’s say I make a goal to become a millionaire. If I actually want to achieve this goal, then I may need to change the way I live. I’ll need to modify my habits so that I spend less and save more. Instead of buying a soda every time I eat out, I may decide to get water. Instead of buying brand new clothes, I may buy used clothes at Goodwill or Salvation Army. Instead of shopping for groceries at Meijer, I may decide to shop at Aldi’s. I’d do all these things because I’d realize that I’m not randomly going to become a millionaire. Instead, I’d have to take control of my spending and saving habits in order to get there.

In the same way, if our goal is to achieve security, then we’re going to develop a game plan to get us there. When people believe they’re going to achieve security with lots of money, then naturally they’re going to set financial goals. When people believe they’re going to achieve security with material possessions, then naturally they’re going to set goals for how much stuff they hope to gather. And I could go on and on.

We’ve been taught that if we want to achieve our objective(s), then we have to take control of our lives. But it’s never as simple as merely taking control of our lives. There are certain parts of our objective which may appear to be within our control and there are other parts of it which appear to be outside of our control. This is where the problem lies. If we want to achieve our objective, then we must somehow find a way to control the things which are outside of our control. Here’s an example.

Let’s say, again, that my objective is to become a millionaire. In order to do that, let’s say I decide to create a tangible product which I hope to sell for a profit. Creating the product is within my control. But selling the product is outside of my control. In order to attempt to bring it within my control, I may do some research to figure out what product people want and how much money they’re willing to spend on it. If I listen to the research and create a product people want to buy and price it according to what they want to pay for it, then chances are that I’m going to successfully sell my new product. To a degree, this approach would allow me to bring something which was outside of my control within my control.

The Role of Manipulation

Let’s take a look at how manipulation fits into this discussion.

Think with me for minute: What do you need in order to achieve your sense of security? Do you need a certain amount of money? Do you need a certain size house? Do you need to drive a certain vehicle? Do you need a certain person as your spouse? What is that thing (or things) you believe you need in order to achieve the highest level of security?

Now answer this question: Who has control over that thing you need? Does your boss have control over it? Does your spouse or significant other have control over it? Does Donald Trump have control over it? Does God have control over it? Who are the people who have the ability to provide you with the thing(s) you want?

What would be the best way to get what you want from that person? One way to get what you want may be to kill that person. However, unless that person is the ruler of a kingdom and killing him would allow you to take his place (and pardon your crime), then this idea is probably going to be counterproductive. A more productive alternative may be to offer to help him get what he wants. In return, he may be willing to give you what you want. Yet another alternative may be to suck up to the person. If you can earn his favor, then maybe he’ll offer to give you what you want.

I’ve read stories of people all throughout history who’ve employed these three methods of attempting to get what they want, along with plenty more. Whether we want to admit it or not, these are all forms of manipulation. Therefore, we can now draw our conclusion about why people manipulate each other. We attempt to manipulate other people because they have control over something we want. And by bringing them within our control, we guarantee our ability to get what we want.

As a side note, the only reason people are going to try to manipulate you is if they believe you have control over something they want. If you don’t appear to have control over something they want, then they’re not going to try to manipulate you.

Responding to My Conclusion

If you’re like me, then hearing this conclusion may be very discouraging. If my conclusion is correct, then manipulation is done completely out of selfishness. We resort to manipulation when we elevate our own goals above the goals of other people. This isn’t exactly something which gives us warm fuzzies.

It doesn’t make it easier for me to digest, but another conclusion I’ve drawn on this topic is that for the most part, manipulation isn’t intentional. I don’t think people wake up every morning scheming ways to make the world a nastier place. Instead, I think people wake up every morning thinking about how to achieve a sense of security. For the most part, I think people spend little to no time considering the impact of their actions on the people around them. Therefore, their attempts at manipulation aren’t born out of a desire to tear you or me down as much as they’re born out of a desire to lift themselves up. Unfortunately, this is part of our intrinsic, sinful human nature.

The more logical person who may be chasing lofty goals may wonder how he’s going to be able to accomplish his goals if he’s supposed to be elevating other peoples’ goals above his goals. This is a great predicament in which we find ourselves. My answer is that if we are chasing our own goals, then we’re probably not going to achieve those goals unless we manipulate the people around us. However, I believe there’s another way to live.

According to the Bible, God is sovereign, meaning that he reigns supreme over everything in the universe and is ultimately in control of it all. God needs nothing from us, meaning that we can’t barter with him in order to get what we want. Nor can we suck up to him in order to earn his favor. God can’t be manipulated into giving us what we want.

Instead, God has a goal he wants to accomplish: to bring glory to his name by raising every single one of his chosen people to life to be his disciples who are transformed into his image so that they will spend eternity united in marriage to him, their one and only king.[4] And since God is sovereign, he will accomplish his goal. As he once declared, “I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”[5]

In light of this realization, I’m learning to stop chasing after my own plans and instead get on board with God’s plans. As I shared in an article a couple weeks ago,[6] following God’s plans instead of my plans has completely changed the course of my life. It hasn’t turned out to look much of anything like what I wanted it to or thought it would look. Yet, the freedom I’m experiencing from not trying to control everything in my life is absolutely amazing. I’ve never experienced this amount of peace. And since I don’t have to try to control my life, I no longer need to use manipulation to get what I want.

I realize some of you may be skeptical about all this God-stuff and for good reason. People always seem to be coming along trying to get you to believe this or that or the other. I’m not trying to sell you anything nor am I trying to gain some sense of security from talking about this stuff. This stuff is the real deal. The change God has made in my life is so amazing that I can’t help but share about it.

If you’re skeptical because you think God doesn’t exist or that the Bible isn’t legitimate, I encourage you to check out Lee Strobel’s book titled The Case for Christ which was recently made into a movie. Strobel was an intellectual, devout atheist who was frustrated with his wife’s conversion to Christianity, so he set out to disprove the legitimacy of God, Jesus, and the Bible. But after his extensive research, he drew the conclusion that God and Jesus really do exist and that the Bible really is the Word of God. Another great resource is C. S. Lewis’s book titled Mere Christianity. Like Strobel, he was another devout atheist who set out to undermine Christianity, but couldn’t do it, and converted to Christianity.

What do you think? Do you think this is why people manipulate each other? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

[1] Matthew Pierce, “How to Spot Manipulation,” July 12, 2017, accessed April 18, 2018,
[2] Reggie McNeal, Practicing Greatness: 7 Disciplines of Extraordinary Spiritual Leaders (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2006), location 530-37, Kindle.
[3] John N. Oswalt, The Bible among the Myths (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), location 676, Kindle eBook.
[4] This is a compilation of the following passages (and many more): Isaiah 43:7, 1 Corinthians 10:31, 1 Peter 4:11, Ephesians 1:11, Colossians 1:20, 2 Corinthians 5:19, Ephesians 2:1-9, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29, John 17:9-11, and Revelation 19:6-10.
[5] Isaiah 46:11.
[6] Matthew Pierce, “This Wasn’t My Plan,” April 4, 2018,

Thursday, April 12, 2018

5 Places We Search for Security

I once heard it said that “security is perhaps the greatest of all human longings.”[1] At first, I balked at this statement thinking that love was the greatest of all human longings. But having contemplated this topic more in depth, I’ve concluded that being loved brings us security, meaning that security is the underlying longing. Not only do I believe it is the underlying longing behind love, but I believe it is the underlying longing behind most, if not all, of what we do.

If you’ve read some of my articles, then you know that I’ve made the claim that the motivation behind everything we do is the achievement of happiness. You may be wondering how this claim meshes with my new claim that the longing for security is the underlying motivator behind everything we do. Here’s my answer: The drive for security and happiness are one in the same drive. When we feel secure, we feel happy; when we feel happy, we feel secure.

In a previous article titled The Biggest Hindrance to Your Happiness, I claimed that the greatest barrier to our happiness is settling for something temporary when we’ve been offered something eternal. One of the ways in which we settle for something temporary is when we put our trust in things which aren’t bulletproof. In other words, we settle for finding security in people and things which, given a certain set of circumstances, may come through for us, but given a different set of circumstances, they will fail us.

In this article, I’ll be sharing five of the places where Americans attempt to find security and then I’ll share the place where I’ve been attempting to find security based upon my successes and failures chasing these other five things.

1. Money

Since money is the biggest form of currency in this country, many Americans attempt to find security in stockpiling lots of money. Having lots of money can give us a feeling of security because we have hope that its purchasing power will enable us to meet our needs.

How much security does money really offer us? When the government is stable and the economy is going well, money offers us a pretty good amount of security. But what would happen if the government collapsed? Our pieces of paper that say $10 and $20 on them would be absolutely worthless. Even if all our currency was distributed in gold and silver coins, those coins are only worth something because someone ascribed valued to them. Think about it…gold, silver, bronze, copper, and platinum are nothing more than rocks someone pulled out the ground. They only have value because they are in high demand. If people no longer cared to obtain those rocks, then they’d no longer be valuable.

If money’s not the answer, then what is the answer? Is it to buy a bunch of stuff with all the money we have? Let’s take a look.

2. Material Possessions

A great way to diversify your portfolio is to trade some of your money, which is all one currency, for material possessions which are a diversity of currencies. If the government collapses and your money becomes worthless, then maybe some of your stuff might be worth something. Maybe it would bring you more security than your money.

The level of security your material possessions bring depends on its usefulness to you and other people. For example, if you have a vehicle which is powered by gasoline, but you can’t buy gasoline to run it, then it’s going to be completely useless. Or if you have a house with a leaky roof, then it’s going to be pretty useless. Once again, the only reason your stuff has any value is because you and other people have ascribed value to it. Things aren’t ascribed value simply because they’re valuable; they’re ascribed value because someone is willing to trade a certain amount of currency for them.

Under certain circumstances, material possessions can provide us with security. But when faced with a different set of circumstances, they will inevitably fail us.

3. Jobs

Another place many Americans find security is in their jobs. They wake up every morning with no concerns about whether they’re going to be able to work that day. And as a result, they continue to see and expect a consistent paycheck to hit their bank accounts every two weeks.

But what happens when we have a JC Penny or Sears episode on our hands? How secure do you think employees of these two retail stores are feeling right now? As long as everything is going well for the company you work for, you’ll find security in your job. But when the circumstances change and it appears you may not have a job tomorrow, you’re going to find much less security in your job.

4. Other People

I don’t know anyone who doesn’t care what other people think about them, at least to some degree. When our relationships are going well, we can find a lot of security in what other people think about us.

But what happens when even just one person out of your entire social network says something hurtful to you. Don’t you feel like everyone hates you? You may receive 1,000 compliments from other people, but those compliments only provide you security as long as you don’t receive any criticism. Even just one piece of criticism or one bad relationship can completely rock your world.[2]

Once again, this place of finding security is going to fail us because all humans are sinful and therefore will hurt us from time to time.

5. Personal Skill Sets

Many people, especially guys, are guilty of finding security in their abilities. It’s not always as overt as finding security in how much weight they can bench press, but that’s a great example of a place where people may find security. Some people find it in how much weight they can lift while others find it in their carpentry skills, project management skills, athletic skills, or knowledge retention skills.

Our skills don’t fail us as long as we remain young and healthy. But what happens as we get older and lose the ability to bench press hundreds of pounds? Or what happens if we get hurt? All of a sudden we lose the security we found in our skills because we either no longer have them or we can no longer utilize them in the same capacity.

Our skills may be working for us now, but inevitably, we’re going to lose the ability to do all the things we do. If we live long enough, we’re probably going to be pretty useless when it comes to doing much of anything.

Where I’m Learning to Find My Security

The problem we face with attempting to find security in all these things, as well as a host of other things in this world, is that they’re all going to fail us at one point or another. There’s no silver bullet answer for us…or is there?

I’ve been down the path of trying to find security in all five of the areas I mentioned above. As long as I had those things, I felt secure. But there have been times when I’ve lost those things. Where was I to put my trust at that point? Was I to put it in more of the same stuff?

Personally, I have found so much more security in God than I’ve found in any of the things he’s created. According to the Bible, which I believe to be God’s means of communicating with us, he reminds us that birds don’t sow, reap, or stockpile any food, yet he meets their needs every single day. After giving us this reminder, he then proceeds to ask: Are you not more valuable to him than them?[3]

Finding security in God is different than finding security in any of the stuff he has created because he will never fail us. Certainly there will be times where we don’t get what we want. We may lose all our money. We may lose all our stuff. We may lose our jobs. We may be rejected by other people. And we will get old one day. But that doesn’t mean God is failing us. Maybe in the midst of all the pain we experience in losing those things, God is trying to show us that those things can’t give us the security for which we long. But instead, when we place our trust in him, our longing, hungry souls will be satisfied.

I recognize it takes a lot of faith to put our trust in God, especially since we can’t even see him and don’t have sufficient evidence to claim with 100 percent confidence he exists. However, I’d argue that it takes just as much, if not more, faith to put our trust in all of his created stuff, since we know it will fail us, than it does to put our trust in him. I’d encourage you to stew on that thought for a little while.

Do you attempt to find security in any of the five things I’ve presented in this article? What other things do you or the people around you look to in an attempt to find security? Have you found any other bulletproof answers?

[1] John N. Oswalt, The Bible among the Myths (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), location 676, Kindle eBook.
[2] For a lengthier discussion on this topic, see Jon Acuff, Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Do Work That Matters (Brentwood, TN: Lampo Press, 2013), 153.
[3] See Matthew 6:25-34.