On Fixing Things

My son Matthew has an astounding ability to break toys. It’s what you do when you are a seven-year-old boy. I’ve started throwing these disabled items into a box that I’ve mentally labeled: “things I’m gonna fix when I get a round tuit.” Whether toys, tools or other trinkets, things get broken so easily. The world in general is broken and some things are hard to fix.

Before my fried Keith became a pastor, he was a copier repair man. While in training for the job he was shipped off to the Panasonic copier school. On the first day, various students asked the teacher how to fix a copier if it did this or that. The teacher ignored their questions and kept on teaching. Finally, he explained, “My job is to teach you how a copier works. If you understand that, then you will have the answers to all your questions.”

Several weeks ago, our oven stopped working. I was temped to rush off and get a new heating element from partsdirect.com but then thought that maybe what I needed was a new thermometer, so perhaps I should order both while I am at it. If I had, I would have wasted money ($70) and time (a few days for the parts and some time in installation). I would have been very frustrated because neither part would have fixed the stove. Instead, I watched a YouTube video that explained how my oven is supposed to work and which part does what. I compared that with the symptoms mine had and learned what I needed was a new control panel, which “only” costs $388. Time to get a new stove instead!

This “learning how the thing works before you try to fix it” principle has lots of applications. It’s what we had in mind when we wrote each of our books. In “Joy in a Foreign Land” we wanted people to know our story, but we also wanted to share how we survived. We do that by impacting truths about how a family is supposed to work. In “Faith in the Heartland,” Joan wanted to do more than write about fascinating experiences when our family lived on the road for five years in a “tin can.” What she really wanted to share are truths about walking by faith – things that might be helpful to anyone.

If you are part of a church, you no doubt know that churches can have problems. Ah, but how to fix them! Chances are that “increasing curb appeal” won’t turn around declining membership. “Better technology” probably won’t help increase love for one another or overcome division. Instead of jumping to someone’s idea of a “quick fix,” it is better to think through how God has designed a church to function. And that’s what I try to offer in my book, “Have We Lost Our Head?”

Whenever we find that something isn’t working well, before we try to fix it, let’s try to understand how it’s supposed to work – whether a toy, a tool, our family or our church. If made by man, look to the manual from the manufacturer, or watch a YouTube video put out there by an expert. If made by God, refer to his Word as the final schematic to understand his design.


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