This week I was able to do something with one of my boys. Doing even small things with these young men is a real blessing to me and doing things with them for the church is awesome. Today we pulled one of the wooden counters out of the foyer of the church. These counters, as those of you who know Gracepoint church, are live edge, three-inch-thick slabs from the oak tree that once shaded the Northern corner of our property. The loss of this one-hundred-fifty-year-old giant was a sad thing. These counters and the cross in the worship center are made from that oak. 
 
When they were installed, they had been curing for about two years. The hardwood expert who made them told us the trees would continue to dry out and settle into the atmosphere in the building for a couple more years. I thought at the time that they might twist against their mounts some but in no way would they move very much. We took one of them out today because it had dried out unevenly and had a half-inch deep dip. It was made worse by the fact that it was at a center point in the tree’s rings and created a separation that was becoming easy to catch a finger on and may eventually cut someone. 
 
The three slabs will need to be resurfaced and made smooth once again. The environment that they exist in right now is forcing them to adjust and warp.
 
I can’t help but think about the influences of the environment on me. Nearly two thousand years ago the Bible writer Paul noted in his letter to the Corinthians, “Bad company spoils good character.” We all adjust to our environment. We, like those slabs of oak, can be twisted by the nature of the place we find ourselves living. As our culture moves further away from God, we need to be particularly aware.
 
You no longer live in a nation where respect for Christian values can be taken for granted. In most public universities a believer is likely to be ridiculed for their faith. At a time when a great deal of study from a number of good scholars is proving the value of the Bible in fields as far-flung as biology, physics, and psychology; secularists have become aggressive in their arguments.
 
What are we to do? 
 
First, choose your social environment carefully. Place yourself among people that are thoughtful thinking Christians. They will help you when you get weak in the knees. 
 
Read the studies that are coming out in support of the Bible. Choose some archeology done by believers, read some of the good work done on Creation and Intelligent Design. The number of good publications by solid scholars that will support your faith is growing fast.  Choose your mental environment for yourself.
 
Choose to copy Jesus in your day-to-day. Your Bible will show you his example. Be strong and be loving at the same time. Do not try to condemn people into a relationship with Jesus. Be caring and careful with people’s hearts. Earn the right to share your heart by living a consistent loving walk. As we prepared to take the slab of oak out of the church today, we talked about how Jason was investing time in a new acquaintance.  Just working together, talking, and sharing life conversations. That is amazingly revolutionary behavior.
 
When the Apostle Paul wrote that little line about “bad company” Christians were just launching their startup. They were trying to live like Jesus and tell everyone that they met that Jesus died for them. Simple as it sounds, they changed the world, one person at a time. Choose to re-shape the culture. Live your values, love your neighbor, and love God. 
 
You might just change the world yourself.
 
Walt