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I would like to stop talking about youth gambling.  But I can’t, because the problem is very big and getting bigger.

Let the record show that I’m not against poker—if it’s played simply as a card game.  But I must say that poker is almost synonymous with gambling, and the current poke craze sweeping the country makes Texas Hold ‘Em and other poker games a growing threat to youth well-being.

Keith Whyte, Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, says, “Gambling has become the most popular high-risk activity among teenagers, outpacing drinking, taking drugs, or smoking.”  According to NCPG studies, 70% of 12 to 17 year olds have gambled in the past year.  (See Margery D. Rosen, “Junior High Rollers,” Family Circle, (February 2006), p. 26+.)

Parents are buying poker starter sets for their children.  Middle schoolers are playing poker for money in their family rooms.  Some parents think this is harmless activity, perhaps even a better alternative than being out with friends, doing drugs or abusing alcohol.  Yet young people are embracing another equally dangerous, pattern forming, and for some addicting, behavior capable of ruining their lives.

Americans continue to believe that gambling is a harmless game, that the money they lose in gambling is no different than any other misspent entertainment monies.  But gambling is different.  It gets under your skin, and it gets under the skin of adolescents even more quickly and dangerously.  Few if any people become addicted to movies, eating out, golfing, boating, hunting, or shopping.  These forms of entertainment cost money and maybe an individual spends beyond his or her means, but these activities still do not typically possess the incredible capacity to harm found in gambling.

Gambling via poker may be a game, but just like in the Old West, it’s a game that—eventually—almost always brings pain and penury and almost never brings profit.  I wish parents could see this.

I say to parents, “Model good stewardship with your funds, teach your children to do the same:  to develop a good work ethic, to save and invest, and to be generous by giving freely to good causes.  And tell them that whatever they do, to stay away from gambling.  Tell your kids that gambling is a house of cards that always comes crashing down.”

Parents, I don’t care how much money you have or make available to your children.  Ask your children if they are gambling.  Ask them specific questions about poker, online gambling sites, sports wagering at school or work, and more.  Find out what they know, what they are doing, and what they say their friends are doing.  Then talk about the bad economics of gambling, the way it masquerades as a game, the way it can, like a snake in the grass, lay quietly and unseen for a long time before it bites you.  Talk to them about honoring God in all that they do, including how they handle their time, talent, and treasure.  Keep talking to them.  And above all, do not gamble yourself.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Mr. Doug DeVos visited campus today as Executive-in-Residence and speaker at the Executive Series Luncheon.

Mr. DeVos spoke in a student and personnel chapel, conducted a question-and-answer session with students and personnel, visited classrooms, and spoke at a university business luncheon. At the luncheon, Mr. DeVos recommended four values, all grounded in his Christian faith: Partnership—shared values; Integrity—Who are you when no one is looking; Personal Worth—everyone is special and important; Achievement—success is not sinful, but one should not stop at success…the next step is to help someone else.

A warm and engaging speaker, Mr. DeVos clearly loves his family and leads his business with an eye toward honoring God. He belies the current culture and sometimes media caricature of all business leaders as nothing more than unscrupulous robber barons ready to cheat the next person out of one more dollar. His commitment to integrity was on display as he shared both successes and some less than successful personal and professional experiences.

Mr. DeVos is the president of Alticor and its subsidiaries, global direct-selling giant Amway Corporation, North America’s e-commerce leader Quixtar, Inc., and business-to-business supplier Access Business Group LLC. As president he oversees the $6.4 billion enterprise and shares the chief executive office with Chairman Steve Van Andel.

The Cornerstone University Executive Series Luncheon is distinctive in that it encourages Christian business leaders to share how their faith influences them in the marketplace. The Series is now in its tenth year providing a venue about four times per year for discussion of Christian faith, business, the economy, and leadership. The lunch is provided to attendees without cost by Executive Series Luncheon supporters Integrity Business Solutions; Grotenhuis; and Mika, Meyers, Beckett and Jones, all of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Series reinforces the university’s mission “to enable individuals to apply unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world.”


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

University students are taking cheating high tech. Information technology has changed virtually everything about students’ ability to undermine or destroy the integrity of the academic experience.

Students used to trade copied papers, exchange pirated examination questions and answers, or ask a friend to place their name on the attendance sheet even as they skipped class for other pursuits. Now students can use computers, cell phones, calculators, iPods, even video equipment, to cheat and to plagiarize.

It may seem self-evident to some of us that whether one cheats off line or online it’s still cheating. But students in the early Twenty-First Century are coming from a culture that says cheating is not only acceptable, its just part of the game. Don Campbell, writing in National CrossTALK, a newspaper published by The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, reports “cheating and plagiarism in the country have reached epidemic proportions on college campuses.”

Since fall 2002, researcher Donald McCabe of Rutgers University, has surveyed some 50,000 students on more than 60 campuses. On most campuses, 70% of students admit to some cheating, with one or more instances of serious cheating on written assignments reported by half the students surveyed. Some 44% of faculty members surveyed did not report cheating when they discovered it.

McCabe also found that high school students are cheating in record numbers at record rates. More than 70% of students surveyed in 18,000 high schools admitted to cheating on tests.

No one seems to know how to fix the problem. Faculty members don’t want to hurt students’ chances for advancement or they don’t want to involve themselves in possible confrontation. Students think cheating is really no big deal because they are maturing, or at least aging, in a culture that reinforces a morally relativistic point of view. Academic institutions have tried honor codes and online services that check student prose against vast databases. The former approach is breaking down and the latter approach is costly. Plus, no one seems to affirm a moral consensus capable of providing ethical punch to discussions about academic dishonesty. Everybody’s view of right and wrong is different.

Student dishonesty is simply a younger example of what adults are also often doing in the workplace. In this sense, students come by their dishonesty “honestly.” They mimic their adult mentors.

Technology is not the culprit, only the means. Computers, communications technology, and the Internet are not making cheating and plagiarism possible, just easier. What matters is the student’s moral code. What’s needed is a return to basic moral instruction in families and in elementary, middle, and secondary schools. Waiting to teach ethics to students in college is an already lost cause.

Christian university students also cheat. Sorry to say, lack of integrity, lying, cheating, and plagiarism also exist on the Cornerstone University campus. But we do have a different way of dealing with this problem than it appears our public university and most private college peers embrace. We teach students that God said “Do not lie” and “Do not steal.” We teach them that whatever they do, “whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

This Christian ethics approach works for many of these students but not all. We find that some students, no matter how they’ve been taught, still seem to want to make their own choices, perhaps their own mistakes. The light goes on sometimes four or five years after they’ve graduated. In the crucible of life alumni begin to understand that God’s way is indeed the best way.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


In Matthew 23, Jesus warns his true spiritual followers about the hypocritical Pharisees, people who Jesus said, “do not practice what they preach” (23:3). The Pharisees and other teachers of the law publicly and with great showiness tithed their income, yet “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (23:23). Concerning the Pharisees, Jesus told his followers, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (23:5). Jesus said the Pharisees might be clean on the outside, but inside they were “full of greed and self-indulgence” (23:25).

The Pharisees judged everyone else based on their own man-made code of conduct. This penchant for making up their own rules for spiritual behavior was so pronounced, and the Pharisees’ consequent neglect of biblical principle so profound, that Jesus said, “You blind guides! You strain at a gnat but swallow a camel” (23:24).

Straining at gnats and swallowing camels. That’s the general condition of many Christians and churches in this postmodern culture. They’re not operating with a spiritually discerning, Christian worldview. They’ve forgotten about, never understood, or rarely applied Christian liberty. In their effort to be “Not of the World,” they’ve simply become “other-worldly,” focusing on minor matters and therefore exercising very little or no earthly impact.

Insofar as Christians worry about the cultural “gnats” in their environment, they miss some of the much more spiritually threatening “camels.” For example, Christians break fellowship with other believers over the color of carpet in the church (this is not an apocryphal illustration but has really happened in many churches) or whether hymnbooks are used in the service, while local schools, universities, and zoos teach evolutionary theory unchallenged.

Christians argue and split churches over use of drums or guitars in the church, while the philosophic implications of the use of technology of any kind are largely ignored. Christians become emotionally animated to the point of anger over a young person getting a tattoo or wearing a ring in an eyebrow, while Christian moral outrage is limited at best in the face of America’s seduction by legalized commercial gambling.

Christians are good at straining at “gnats,” and like the insect, there are seemingly an unlimited number of “gnat-like issues.” But there are two “gnats” that occupy more of our attention than any others: music styles, and fads and fashions.

Music is perhaps the number one “gnat.” While music clearly offers legitimate grounds for Christian liberty debates and sanctified disagreements, music can nevertheless be another “gnat” causing us to miss more spiritually threatening “camels.”

For example, is the person who makes the following observation a cynic or a realist? Consider these words: “American Christians dispute the type of music appropriate for worship while church members gossip, lie, and generally ignore pre-marital sex and adultery between its members.” These are fairly harsh words, but honesty requires us to admit that they’re an all too accurate description of many churches. We strain at “gnats” and swallow “camels.”

Music is a cultural battleground. No other issue causes more Church division than Christian culture wars fought over music. No other issue demonstrates more clearly that Christian liberty may be the least understood and least practiced doctrine in the Bible. No other issue better illustrates (or more wrenchingly illustrates) Christians’ lack of a fully developed Christian worldview.

A Christian worldview informs us: “The world as created is an unfinished symphony. God called man, his cultural creature and co-worker, to take up the work and bring it to the fullness of that perfection which God had placed in it as promise.” Music is part of that unfinished symphony. Christians need to understand music in terms of the biblical definition of life provided by a Christian worldview.

Christian culture wars are fought over issues of near infinite variety. It seems that our ability to create our own “holy lists” knows no limit. One more of these cultural issues significantly and perennially disrupts Christian unity and therefore demands our attention: clothing fads and fashions.

Clothing styles rank near music as an obstacle in our mission to fulfill the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. Given the amount of emotional and spiritual energy we pour into this debate, I’d have to say that clothing fads and fashions are another “gnat.”

Let me illustrate. A few years ago a nationally known preacher spoke at Cornerstone University. During that chapel message, he vigorously derided former NBA rebounding star, Dennis Rodman, for the constantly varying unnatural colors of his hairstyle. At the time there were two students attending the university who wore their hair in bright, unnatural, sometimes florescent colors. I saw them in the balcony during that chapel and wondered what was going through their minds. These were two young men who lived dedicated Christian lives, playfully enjoyed their differently colored hair, did not associate this action with unbiblical attitudes and values, and who today wear their hair in their natural colors.

During the next week’s chapels, I took what is a very rare step for our university and commented about this speaker’s diatribe. I noted the focus on Dennis Rodman’s hair. My point with the students was that from a Christian point of view the color of Mr. Rodman’s hair was the least spiritually objectionable thing about the man. His fame came more from his outrageous, degenerate behavior than from his basketball exploits. At the time, Mr. Rodman lived a highly public, in-your-face, immoral, even debauched lifestyle founded upon a worldview antithetical to the Christian faith. The color of his hair, like the blue colored hair of the elderly lady in church, simply does not mean much. It’s a “gnat.”

Fads and fashions are notoriously fickle. During these postmodern times of rapid social change, clothing and personal appearance styles come and go, or more likely are simply layered, with astonishing speed. This fact alone should make Christians proceed with a bit more caution in creating bandwagons of resistance to fads and fashions. More to the point in terms of a Christian worldview, unless fads or fashions are immodest, we need to appreciate the variety and move on to more important concerns.

“Modesty” is the key biblical principle governing clothing choices. When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden and knew that they were naked, they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves. Later after God dealt with their sin, He made garments of skin and clothed them (Genesis 3:7,21). How extensive these coverings were we do not know. We do know that regardless of the culture in which we live and whatever the clothing styles of the moment, we are to dress modestly.

Beyond modesty, the Scripture does not give us law; it gives us liberty. We are responsible to spiritually discern how to participate in fads and fashions in a manner that allows us to live in the world while being not of the world.

This text is excerpted from my book, Christian Liberty:  Living for God in a Changing Culture (Baker, 2003).


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Cornerstone University announced today that it will teach character principles to students in West Michigan public schools. The university will use the NAIA’s Champions of Character program.

In a precedent setting move, the university’s program initiative has been endorsed by the Ottawa-Kent Athletic Association. This association represents some 50 schools and about 50,000 students.

Character breakdowns are now a major problem in competitive athletics. Not a week goes by without some new revelation of sports figures involved in some questionable or even nefarious activity that undermines the purity and joy of competition governed by fair play. Cheating, doping, sports wagering, poor sportsmanship by athletes, coaches, and even fans, and even violence all threaten the very integrity of the game.

Even as I write this piece national sports news coverage has focused upon the details of a possible sports gambling ring surrounding hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his wife. Gretzky has not at this point been directly implicated, and I hope he is not involved. But the story is young. Either way, another sports character scandal is now in the news.

In part because of this growing breakdown of character in sport, some 70% of student athletes quit competitive sports forever by the time they are 14 years of age. Young student athletes say that what they dislike most about playing sports is “the car ride home”—which points to the negative influence parents and guardians often have upon young people’s understanding of the purpose and potential joys of competitive athletics. Something must be done.

The NAIA’s Champions of Character program is part of the answer. The program teaches students five core values: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership. These values may be taught using as much biblical theology as one cares to offer, or they may be taught based upon the broad public moral consensus shared by most individuals, regardless of their religious persuasion. Cornerstone University is a NAIA Champions of Character Program Center and is among the NAIA’s leaders (among some 300 schools) in supporting this character building program.

Cornerstone University’s Champions of Character program is being taught through the Athletic Department to all university student athletes. CU’s Athletic Director Dave Grube and Champions of Character Program Director Mike Riemersma lead the university’s athletic character initiative. Champions of Character seminars will be offered free of charge to area public schools, thus not adding to school district financial burdens while developing a quality experience that can literally transform students’ lives.

The goal of CU’s partnership with the O.K. Association is to help students learn to be not simply better athletes but better human beings.

I could not be more pleased with this development. Teaching character principles is a direct extension of the university’s biblical worldview. It engages us in a current cultural problem, and it allows us to help provide a solution. This program has enormous potential, so we are hoping CU will be able to expand this program throughout the State of Michigan.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


Aristotle once said, "Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way -- that is not easy." Aristotle got it right.

But my experience suggests that most people are not as particular as Aristotle about how they become angry, what they become angry about, or whether they’re aiming their anger—or criticism—at the right person in the right way.

I’ve said for years that you can’t be in leadership for longer than ten minutes without being criticized. Leaders always attract both more kudos and more blame than they deserve. Criticism is part of the reason Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.”

But the kitchen is getting hotter. What seems to be changing is the intensity of criticism. People don’t just criticize. They criticize even relatively minor actions of leaders at a level of emotional and rhetorical intensity that is at times startling in its rancor. This is true whether you are a nationally recognized leader like the President of the United States or you are a leader in your church, community, or local organization.

My experience teaches me that when people disagree with a leader’s decision or action some respond by asking questions and expressing concern. These people are looking for understanding and resolution, not self-righteous victory. But these people are dwindling in number.

My experience also suggests that an alarmingly increasing number of people who become upset with a leader’s decision respond in one of the following ways:

They make assumptions, do not check their facts, and respond in a manner that has the leader tried, found guilty, and preferably “executed” before he or she is given an opportunity to answer the criticism.

  • They use emotionally loaded terms, even invective.
  • They question not simply the merits of a decision or action; they question the integrity, motives, and character of the leader.
  • They do not ask questions; they attack.
  • They demonstrate an incredible level of cynicism or outright distrust toward leaders and toward organizations.
  • They assume leaders make decisions or take actions wholly driven by self-interest and without regard for others or what might be considered objectively and morally right or best.

I realize this list paints a rather dark picture. But I’ve read too many letters, notes, or emails and participated in too many calls or even direct conversations characterized by one or more elements of this list.

I believe the increasing emotional and rhetorical intensity I see in criticism is rooted in the moral breakdown of culture. People do not trust anyone anymore because they’ve been “burned” by family members who’ve abandoned, abused, or otherwise rejected them. People believe others always lie because they’ve often been lied to. Too many people react angrily because they do not know how else to react.

The solution to this problem is obvious but not easy to implement. Our culture and in turn each one of us needs a spiritual revival. We need to understand that “God is love” so that we can love others. We need to know that God will forgive us so that we may forgive others, seasoning our speech with longsuffering, hope, and trust.

I cannot be responsible for everyone else’s behavior, but I certainly am responsible for my own. I can learn to receive and give criticism in a manner that honors God.

By no means am I perfect and by no means have I always responded properly to others with whom I’ve disagreed. But as a pattern I think I have learned to proceed carefully, check my facts, ask questions, and treat the other with respect. If after all this I still disagree than I can at least disagree agreeably.

I tell people never to respond “in kind,” never put in print what will shame you if it makes the newspapers, and never attack. I’ve learned to offer constructive criticism, and I’m hoping to help others to learn the same. How to criticize is, ironically perhaps, one of the lessons I’ve learned in leadership.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at