The Pepsodent Tingle

Claude Hopkins is a name that was unfamiliar to me, until I read a little bit about the evolution of toothpaste.  Hopkins was a marketing professional and a friend of his contacted him about a new product called Pepsodent.

Hopkins had two rules that he closely followed when developing an advertising campaign:

  • First, find a simple and obvious cue.
  • Second, clearly define the rewards.

The rules paid off:  Three weeks after the Pepsodent campaign started, the demand for the toothpaste soared. In fact, the company received so many orders they ran out of toothpaste.

A closer look at Hopkins’ rules reveals the following:

  • He identified a cue which was the feeling of a film over the teeth.
  • He called attention to a routine (brushing your teeth with toothpaste).
  • He marketed the reward which was the feeling of a clean mouth.

The makers of toothpaste cleverly add an ingredient that leaves a tingling feeling in the mouth. Even though this ingredient doesn’t actually help to clean the teeth, people identify cleanliness with the tingle.   The end result is, people crave the tingling.

The story of Pepsodent is a lesson on habit control.  To stop unwanted behavior, a person needs to be familiar with the rules of Hopkins:

  • Cue
  • Routine
  • Reward

In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg, outlines this sequence:  The cue is the trigger that sets the sequence in motion…. The routine is the behavior itself, which can be positive (like a daily running habit) or harmful (like gambling away the family savings). And the third part is the reward — the goal of the behavioral loop, which your brain’s pleasure centers gauge to determine if a sequence of behavior, is worth repeating and storing in a lockbox of habit….

The first thing to do when trying to break a habit is to identify the cue.  Generally speaking, CUES are categorized as:  [1] Time of day [2] A certain place [3] A specific emotion [4] A certain person or group of people [5] A ritual that is already in place

To see this illustrated in the life of an individual, at least 4 of these 5 CUES, were present in the incident that involved David with Bathsheba.  Can you identify them?

If we find that we are craving a tingle, we may need to ask:  What CUES are present  in my life that are contributing to unhealthy habits?

Giving Sight to the Blind

A few months ago Patrick Greene, an atheist, had planned to file a law suit.  Greene was disturbed by a nativity scene on the lawn at the Henderson County Courthouse in Texas.

Greene decided to not sue after he discovered he was going blind.  Through the problem with his eyesight, he discovered something else.  Greene was befriended by the Christians he had been opposing.

Greene told the Christian Post:  “No Christian has ever acted this way in the entire time we’ve been married.  These are the first actual Christians we’ve ever met in our lives.”

I would imagine that Mr. Greene has been exposed to the words of Christianity several times in his life.  This is truly a case where actions have spoken louder than words.

This incident reminds me of the words of the Apostle John:  Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.  

I hope this thought keeps you thinking.

The Power of Faith

There are many places in the Bible where the subject of faith is discussed.  A few of these places speak of the need to have childlike faith.

This kind of faith is seen in the eyes of a child who believes in the power of his father.  When the child is tossed into the air, he trusts in his father’s strength to catch him.

How strong is your faith?  What do you see when the storms of life come your way?  Do you see insurmountable problems, or Noah’s rainbow?

When you find yourself in a den of despair, do you feel like you are about to be eaten by lions or does your eye of faith see Daniel’s angel?

Even though there were lapses in the life of Abraham, his life for the most part was one faith experience after another.  The pivotal moment came when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac.  As he was starting the trip up the mountain, he instructed his servants to stay behind, and said:  The lad and I will go yonder to worship, and we shall return.

Did you notice the pronoun?  Abraham used the plural pronoun we which indicates the presence of faith.  He didn’t how God would accomplish it, but he believed Isaac was the promised child and would somehow live on.

Then, there is the Apostle Paul who  lived a power-packed life that was faith-based.  He said:  I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.  Notice 5 things in Paul’s statement: In connection to himself, Paul used the words,  know, believed, persuaded, and committed.  In rgard to to the role of God, Paul said:  He is able to keep.

The essence of Paul’s statement is this–He knew the secret of abiding in Jesus (John 15).  When you abide in Him, you can confide in this:  He is able and He will keep you.

I hope this  thought is enough to keep you thinking.

A Lack of Communication

Friday evening I drove 2 miles north of Towanda to help build a ramp for a lady, so she would have easier access to her house.  When I returned to my truck to leave, it would not start.

I tried several different methods to get the truck to start and it would not cooperate.  After a few moments of frustration, I pulled out the owner’s manual and read it.  I followed the instructions, but nothing happened.  I changed the sequence and order of what I was doing, but the truck would not start.

Saturday morning I had it towed to a Ford dealership in Wichita.  After pacing for about 3 hours, I was given the verdict:  The transponder ring in the ignition had to be replaced, so it could read the chip in the key.  If there is no communication between the ring and the key, the anti-theft system prevents the truck from starting.

I could put the key in the ignition and listen to the radio.  I could activate windows, and several different items on the instrument panel.  I could put the transmission in different gears and turn the steering wheel, but the engine would not run.

As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that I have experienced this scenario in my personal life.  Everything can appear to be just fine from the outside; however, there is something wrong on the inside.

This happens when I allow something to get between me and God.  The saintly signal is interrupted, and I don’t go anywhere.  When this happens I have to shake off the cob webs and get right with God.

If there are times you find yourself in the same predicament, I encourage you to pray over some verses I use from Psalm 139:  Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting. 

Here’s a thought to keep you thinking:  Don’t try to play hide and seek with God when you’ve just asked Him to search your heart.

Fool’s Gold

As we well-know, all that glitters is not gold.  The history of mankind is a long list of newly discovered theories that have had the promise of gold.  Every time a new ism or ology comes along, we are promised a new age of peace and prosperity—but, it is just fool’s gold.

The problem with this line of reasoning is a little 3 letter word, and it is man.  Before you ladies start shouting with joy, let me say I am using man to mean humanity as a whole.

Mankind has swallowed the advice of Jiminy Cricket, hook, line, and sinker:  Let your conscience be your guide.  While the conscience can be helpful at times, there are other times that it is little more than a blind guide.

The danger of being led by the conscience is seen in the life of Samson. His conscience had been conditioned more by society and less by the principles of God.  This redneck judge from the pages of the Old Testament could whip anything that came his way, except his own desires.

Samson is a life-lesson on what happens when a person becomes his own standard of truth.  This lesson can be summarized in a phrase of 3 C’s:  Culture Conditions Conscience.

In Samson’s case it was the Philistine culture that had influenced his conscience.  He was enticed by the lure of their seemingly advanced lifestyle and by their ladies in general and Delilah in particular.  He thought he could toy with this teasing culture without becoming its captive.

He was wrong!  Before he knew it, Samson was in over his head; and,  he was drowning in a tidal wave of untruth.

There is a truth from physics that says that water will not rise above its own level.  This same truth can be applied to the case of Samson and culture as a whole:  It is incapable of rising above its own level.  Culture has become a ship with no compass:  It is drifting aimlessly into the abyss.

If it is going to improve, culture needs something from the outside to change it.  It was Archimedes who said:  Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.  The lever and fulcrum that culture needs is a return to the principles of absolute truth.

This is a return that can lead to a reawakening of the moral law contained in Scripture.  It can bring back the almost forgotten truth known as the Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The key to the Golden Rule is what I call the Godly Rule, and Jesus stated it in the same section of Scripture: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and spirit.

What has been ruling your life?  The fool’s gold of culture or the Golden Rule of God?

Zoned Out

As I was driving to Haysville on Tuesday to conduct a funeral, I drove past an AutoZone parts store.  As I read the sign, I thought:  AutoZone . . . that’s how I navigate my life.

If we would stop and think about our daily schedule, we could see many moments when we have been on autopilot.  Think with me for a moment about your daily routine.

  • When you get dressed, do you always insert the same leg first?
  • What about your shoes?  Do you always put a shoe on a certain foot first?
  • What other routines do you perform each day with little or no thought?

I’m afraid this can also be true of a person’s spiritual routine.  We get into an AutoZone where we do what we do out of habit instead of devotion.

It may be time to take your life off of autopilot and be more intentional for a day or two.  Instead of just doing whatever you do, pause and look for God along the way.  Solomon said it this way:  Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track  (Proverbs 3MSG).

I know that much of what a person does is because he is either right hand or left hand dominated.  It is an issue of coordination.  With this in mind, let me challenge you to be intentional by changing things up a little.  When you drink your coffee, pour the pot and drink from the cup using a different hand; and, when you do it, read the verse above.

Let me issue a warning:  This can be dangerous to your health.  I know from experience!  I ride about 6 miles on my exercise bike every morning.  The first time I tried to lift my coffee cup to my mouth with my left hand while I was pedaling, I almost crashed and burned.

Changing your routine may feel a little awkward at first, but I think it is beneficial.  When a person dispenses a ritual, his senses are keenley aware of the change.    By doing something different and trying something new there is a potential overlap into the spiritual realm of your life that allows you to see the presence of God in a fresh way.

I’ll wrap it up today with the words of David:  The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24 NIV).

Cravings

Due to my love of ice cream, I often joke and say I have a body by Braums.  I have a particular fondness for their yummy Rocky Road.  Because I have trouble controlling my ice cream cravings, I keep very little of it at home.

My craving for ice cream is not hunger related.  There are many times that I feel hungry, but I have never felt the pangs of starvation.  The hunger I feel is directly connected to the fist sized part of my body that I call my stomach.

Even though the average stomach is just the size of an adult’s clenched fist, it has an above average capacity to influence the behavior of the rest of the body.  When a person is really hungry, he wants to eat his food.  When a person is starving he may even riot or steal to get food.

When we look at the ministry of Jesus, we find several cases in which he fed the people.  One of the more remarkable stories is when He used the bread and fish of the small boy to feed many people.

A key point of this story is that Jesus did not take the bread from the small boy, but the lad gave what he had to Jesus.  Even though the little guy had very little himself, he had a craving.  His craving was to help others who were hungry.

This young boy gave a swift kick to the can of logic, and showed his faith through his actions.  He craved the will of God, and he did what he could do.  And God, I think He smiled.

Then, there is you and me.  What about us?  Will we allow our lives to be controlled by the desires of our belly?  Let’s learn from the lad and crave the presence and will of God for our lives.

A Change in Time

I have never been a big fan of Daylight Savings Time.  I can move the clock on the wall forward an hour in the Spring and back an hour in the Fall, but my internal clock never changes.

Now that we have moved our clocks forward an hour, we have gained another hour of daylight.  While this is true, it has not changed the fact that Father Time is still at work.  In his methodical way, tick by tick, he gobbles up the minutes and hours of our life.

In moment of quiet contemplation, the Psalmist wrote about our timely relationship with God:  Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom (Psalm 90).

Now that we have taken the time to change our clocks, does there also need to be a change in our time?   Time expenditures are a good indicator of the priorities in a person’s life.  When a  person numbers  his days, he can see the #1 priority in his life.

I hope this is enough to keep you thinking.

The Day and the Hour

Before you get started reading, I want to ask you to do three things.  First, look at your calendar and see what the date is.  Second, look at your watch or a clock to see what time it is.  Third, answer this question:  What were you worrying about in 2011 at this exact date and time?

Most people have a little trouble answering my question.  If you can remember what you were worrying about, I hope you discovered that all that worrying didn’t really change the outcome of your situation.

People worry about all sorts of things.  Some people get depressed because they worry about what they perceive to be impending doom.  I know some people who worry themselves into anxiety attacks because they are focused on what might potentially happen.   Anger, shame and guilt can also be the results of thoughts that focus on catastrophic thinking (thinking in terms of always, never, should have and oughts).

The truth is, sometimes people worry themselves sick.  Worry and stress have been linked to a higher risk for illness, including conditions such as obesity and hypertension.  Some people attempt to manage their proclivity to worry through self-help techniques.

While self-help measures can be very beneficial, I put a priority on the principles of Scripture.  In the case of worry, I like Philippians 4:6-7:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I hope  the words of Charles Mayo are thoughts that will keep you thinking:  Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system, and profoundly affects the health. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt.

Vertigo

Hey boys and girls, who can leap tall buildings in a single bound; is stronger than a locomotive; and, is faster than a speeding bullet?  That’s right, it’s Superman.

When I was just a kid, I watched superman every time I got a chance.  I think some of the opening words are still appropriate for today:  faster than a speeding bullet.  There are times that life seems to speed by at a dizzying rate of speed.  This fast-paced living can blur our perspective on life and leave us with mental and spiritual vertigo.

Spiritual vertigo can afflict all of us.  It even diminished the wisdom of Solomon for a part of his life.  Solomon began his reign as a man focused on the principles of God, but he digressed into a Hedonistic lifestyle that eventually morphed into fatalism (Eccl. 3:18-21).

The wise old king had failed to follow his own advice.  In Proverbs 3 he advises his readers to not lean on their own understanding, but to acknowledge God and to embrace His principles.

Solomon had become so dizzy with the world’s delights, his only focus was the horizontal dimension of life.  He had forgotten that his real joy and satisfaction had come from his vertical relationship with God.

Here is a thought to keep you thinking.  If you realize your life is just a merry-go-round existence, it’s time to slow things down and get your feet back on the solid rock of Jesus Christ.