Jan 092012
 

A Short Story for Engineers

And you don’t have to be an engineer to appreciate this….Toothpaste

This was sent to me by my dad on 1/6/2012, and it’s not mine. But it illustrates a really terrific point, so I’m sharing it with you. If anyone knows the original author, please let me know so I can give proper credit.

A toothpaste factory had a problem: they sometimes shipped empty boxes, without the tube inside. This was due to the way the production line was set up, and people with experience in designing production lines will tell you how difficult it is to have everything happen with timing so precise that every single unit coming out of it is perfect 100% of the time.  Small variations in the environment (which can’t be controlled in a cost-effective fashion) mean you must have quality assurance checks smartly distributed across the line so that customers all the way down to the supermarket don’t get upset and buy another product instead.

Understanding how important that was, the CEO of the toothpaste factory got the top people in the company together and they decided to start a new project in which they would hire an external engineering company to solve their empty boxes problem (as their engineering department was already too stretched to take on any extra projects).

The undertaking followed the usual process: budget and project sponsor allocated, RFP, third-parties selected, and six months (and $8 million) later they had a fantastic solution — on time, on budget, high quality, and everyone in the project was imminently satisfied.  They solved the problem by using high-tech precision scales that would sound a bell and flash lights whenever a toothpaste box would weigh less than it should.  The line would stop, and someone would walk over and yank out the defective box, then press another button when done to re-start the line.

A while later, the CEO decides to have a look at the ROI of the project: amazing results!  No empty boxes ever shipped out of the factory after the scales were put in place. Very few customer complaints, and they were gaining market share.  “That’s some money well spent!” he says, before looking closely at the other statistics in the report.

It turns out the number of defects picked up by the scales was zero after three weeks of production use.  It should’ve been picking up at least a dozen a day, so maybe there was something wrong with the report. He filed a bug against it, and after some investigation, the engineers come back saying the report was actually correct. The scales really weren’t picking up any defects because all boxes that got to that point in the conveyor belt were good.

Puzzled, the CEO travels down to the factory, and walks up to the part of the line where the precision scales were installed. A few feet before the scale, there was a $20 desk fan, blowing the empty boxes out of the belt and into a bin.

“Oh, that,” says one of the workers. “One of the guys put it there ’cause he was tired of walking over every time the bell rang.”

Nov 052011
 

toothbrushWhen I asked my lovely wife whether she would buy a used toothbrush, I got the totally expected response, “Eeew! Gross…” And I’ll bet most folks would chime in with a similar opinion. We certainly wouldn’t want a stranger’s dirty past making its way into our mouths.

But I ask you, isn’t that sometimes what we as Christians do? When we accepted Jesus as our lord and savior we became a new person (John 3:3) and the old person is passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17). If this is the case, why would we let the old words from our own strange and dirty past invade our mouths?

The Power of our Words

Follow me for a moment if you would…

Our words have power. After all, the world and all that is in it and surrounds it was created by the power of God’s words (Genesis 1:3-26), and He created us in His own image (Genesis 1:27).

His image isn’t His physical likeness, obviously, since He is the invisible God – a spirit with no physical form. But He breathed into us His very essence and that includes the desire and the ability to create. And it includes using the power of our own words for good or for evil. Life and death are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21) and both Solomon and Jesus pointed this fact out to us very emphatically.

Solomon said that where the word of a king is, there is power (Ecclesiastes 8:4), and has not Jesus Christ Himself made us kings (Revelation 1:6) as well as priests?

Jesus said that we can speak without doubt to a mountain and it will move (Mark 11:23), being cast into the sea if we command it and believe without doubting.

That certainly sounds like power to me.

Let’s couple this with some other scriptures starting with Romans 4:17. Note the phrase, “calls those things which do not exist as though they did”. Yes, this passage refers to God. But remember His essence of creativity was placed within us, so we too can call into being those things which are not. Consider “The 4th Symphony” did not exist until Tchaikovsky called it forth. America did not exist until Thomas Jefferson and the founding fathers declared we were independent. Black civil rights did not make tremendous strides in our country until a southern Baptist preacher proclaimed that he “had a dream”. The world is indeed changed by the power of our words.

If you are married, you did not gain your husband or wife until you said, “I do…” And if that is not proof of the power of our words to bring forth monumental changes to our lives, I can offer no greater evidence.

The True Source of Power

But be careful here and do not mistake the meaning of this. Do not think this power is from within us. Instead, it is a gift from God that He has given to us – a minuscule measure of His infinite authority. And without Him we can do nothing. Without Him we ARE nothing. We are divinely created, but we are not divine. We are creative, but we are not the creator. We wield power, but we are not the source of it.

Psalm 37:4 explains that when we delight in the Lord, He gives us the desires of our hearts and therein lies the source of this power. It is God Himself blessing us and caring for us and empowering us to fulfill His command that we subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28), to use all of its vast resources in the service of God and man.

Let’s look at another way our words have power from above – our words are the method of our salvation. Romans 10:9 explains that we are saved by confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord and believing in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead. That is the most awesome use of the power of words any human will ever wield.

Continuing our exploration, let us remember that Jesus has promised that when we abide in Him, and His words abide in us, that whatsoever we ask will be done for us (John 15:7). He further tells us that whatsoever we desire when we pray, believe that we have received it, and it is ours (Mark 11:24).

Aha, that word “desire” shows up again. Remember Psalm 37:4? The promise that God gives us the desires of our hearts? Shall we now join that with Matthew 12:34 that tells us that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks? Not quite, but we’ll come back to this point in a moment.

With Power Comes Responsibility

Matthew 12:22-36 recounts the story of Jesus healing a demon-possessed man who was blind and could not speak and how the Pharisees accused Him of being able to do so because He received His power from Satan, the prince of demons. Jesus has much to say about words in this passage.

First, note that it was through the power of words that the Pharisees sought to condemn Jesus, but He instead turned it into an opportunity to teach a valuable lesson. It is here that we learn there is an eternally unforgivable sin. While one may make speak even against Jesus himself (such as did Paul while he was still Saul before his conversion) and yet be forgiven, to speak against the Holy Spirit is forever unpardonable (Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29). Thankfully, this sin can never be committed by a Christian (that’s a topic for a different teaching on a different day), but it demonstrates the terrible consequences of evil words.

Second, note that Jesus further warned that we will give an account of every careless word we speak on the day of judgement (Matthew 12:36) and that by our words we will be either justified or condemned (Matthew 12:37). Doesn’t justified or condemned sound remarkably like the life and death mentioned earlier?

Third, Jesus said that a good man, out of the good treasure of his heart, brings forth good things, while an evil man, out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (Matthew 12:35). How do these men bring forth good and evil? Why, by the very thing the whole passage is about – by their words.

And where is their treasure? Jesus told us. It’s in their hearts. Also, let us consider another similar thing Jesus said in Matthew 6:21. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. What is our treasure? It is those things we prize most. It is our values, those things we place above all others, our greatest desires, those things that we believe most. This is the treasure that fills our hearts.

Now let’s go back to the passage in Matthew 12:34 that teaches us out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Putting this all together, we learn that we speak with the God-given power to create those things we value and believe in most. What we value and what we believe is what we speak, and those things we speak have the power to justify or to condemn. So really, it’s the value of what we truly believe that will bring us life or death – and we will talk about those things.

What’s in Your Mouth?

What things do you talk about? For that, my dear brother or sister, will reveal the treasure in your heart, and therefore your future. My hope and prayer is that you are speaking positive, encouraging, edifying, and uplifting things based upon the promises of God in your life, and that you see them manifested with thankfulness and wonder in the most miraculous of ways.

Or are you perhaps speaking words of doubt, anxiety, worry, and negativity?

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay the bills. The economy is just getting worse all the time. I’ll never find the right husband (or wife). I hate my job. My kid’s always getting into trouble. The doctor gave me bad news and says I’m not going to get better. I know God has done great things for others, but I don’t know if He’ll do it for me.”

If you are, this is the old person talking. So get the dirty toothbrush out of your mouth and get a new one.

“But it’s hard, Brother Rick,” you may be saying. “I’m just being realistic. It’s natural to worry about things.”

You are so right. It’s perfectly natural. And 1 Corinthians 2:14 says the natural man does not accept Godly things since they are foolish to him and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

So stop being natural, and be – as my daughter is so fond of saying – SUPERNATURAL!

It will take practice, but it will produce tremendous rewards both in this life and in the next. On many occasions I’ve said kiddingly (with all seriousness) that the church doesn’t always offer truth in advertising. We proclaim how easy it is to be saved, yet we fail to warn how hard the process of renewing the mind can be. And that’s what this is all about. We must renew our mind and think differently than we did in the past.

In addition to salvation and eternal life in heaven, Jesus wants us to see the kingdom of heaven here on earth (Matthew 6:10-11) and in John 3:3-6 He teaches us that we cannot enter that kingdom unless we are born again. This is the renewal process.

To be renewed we must hear the word (Romans 10:17), study the word (2 Timothy 2:15), and speak the word (Jeremiah 23:28) over and over until it penetrates to our very core and becomes so real in us that we automatically recognize and overcome the old voices that would speak as strongholds in our mind (2 Corinthians 10:5). When we truly believe, the possibilities are limitless (Mark 9:23).

Once we think differently and line up our thoughts and beliefs with what God promises for our lives, we change the treasure and the abundance in our heart. When that happens, our words, which have such awesome power to create, will bring forth wondrous blessings in our own lives and in the lives of others.

Since you’ve been speaking like that you look marvelously beautiful! That new toothbrush is giving you a radiantly dazzling smile.

Or is that simply God’s glory emanating from your mouth?

woman smile