Brain Hacking

brainA recent segment on 60 Minutes detailed the activities of “brain hacking” taking place among computer companies in the designs of their social media platforms and apps.

Programmers have developed algorithms that take advantage of the brain’s desires for pleasure, Responses to status updates from other users are often spaced out over a period of time to drive us to check our devices more. And “likes” are sometimes bunched up together so that our brains feel a greater sense of reward when they are revealed.

Beyond making me somewhat mad at Facebook and the like for playing with our minds like this, the story reminded me that there are many things that have a greater influence over our brains than we realize.

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Instant Gratification

shutterstock_577059676blogMore so than ever, we have a desire in our culture for instant gratification. Microwave ovens, the internet, remote control devices and electric garage door openers are just a few things that speak to our desire for instant gratification. We want what we want right now.

But ironically, with all these modern conveniences that are designed to save us time in theory, they have instead led to a more hectic lifestyle.

Geoffrey Godbey, a professor of leisure studies at Pennsylvania State University, states, “We want everything fast—fast food, eyeglasses in an hour … Internally, we are rushed.”

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Greater Than or Less Than

greater thanWe all remember those “greater than” or “less than” symbols we used in math class: 1 < 3, 5 > 4, etc. It’s a principle we can apply to our Christian lives as well. On 99.1 Joy FM in St. Louis during their Moment in the Word on June 9, 2017, they pointed to the following verse:

He must become greater; I must become less. —John 3:30

Spoken by John the Baptist, these words remind us that we must always allow Christ to be greater than ourselves. We must recognize that we are always less than him. In everything we do, we must apply the “greater than/less less” equation to it.

Is this activity making God greater or making me greater?

Is this approach to something making God less than ourselves?

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Hedonism and the Church

pizzaHedonism is a system of ethics in which pleasure is the sole goal of life. The motto of the hedonist is: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” As much as we would not like to admit it, much of the motivation for things we spend time doing in our American culture is rooted in hedonism. So many spend their days seeking to find pleasure for themselves. The problem, of course, with a hedonistic lifestyle is that other areas suffer as a result: commitments to family, work and the Church fall by the wayside many times when personal pleasure is your sole focus.

What can the Church do in regards to the prevalence of hedonism in our society? Guiding people to the greater good beyond personal indulgence is one of the most important qualities that the Church can provide. Christ himself spoke about overindulgence of selfish desires when he said: “Be on your guard against all kinds of greed,” which hedonism essentially is (Luke 12:15).

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Secular Humanism and the Church

globeProbably one of the most rampant worldviews in conflict with the Church today is secular humanism. This is the belief that there is no God, no spiritual direction, no afterlife. This world and this life is all there is to the secular humanist. There is no room for or need for God. Secular humanists rely solely on human reason.

The prevalence of secular humanism leads to a kind of elevation of humanity and a quest to live life to satisfy your own personal needs to the fullest, since this is all there is.

What can the Church do in the midst of secular humanism? One way is to gently point people to the Bible’s statements of the involvement of God in the world.

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Pluralism and the Church

The WayWe live in an increasingly pluralistic society. Pluralism is the philosophy that holds that no single explanation or view of reality can account for all the phenomena of life. As a result, most issues are considered “neutral” (neither right nor wrong) and can be determined by the individual as he or she sees fit.

The problem for the Christian Church because of pluralism is that the Christian Church becomes only one of many possibilities for how to look at the world, and, therefore, any standard of truth or conduct is diminished or often even disregarded.

Pluralism leads to a kind of chaos of thought in which nothing is agreed upon and there are no set rules for anything. It’s about your truth and my truth and their truth and all are considered okay in this framework.

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Consumerism and the Church

consumerismIdeologies of the world often clash with the theology of Christianity, and the ideology of consumerism is one of them.

Consumerism says, “I will pick and choose what I want.” In the mentality of consumerism, which is one of the most pervasive approaches in our society today, life is all about making choices. We choose what to buy, where to shop, where to live, what career to follow, what job to take, etc.

The problem comes when that approach leaks into spiritual life and the same principle is applied to what people believe and where they go to church. In this model, “the church becomes just another retail outlet, faith just another commodity. People change congregations and preachers and even denominations as readily and they change banks and grocery stores” (Colson, Chuck, The Body).

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The Face of Christ

face of ChristIn the May 2017 issue of Living Lutheran, the cover included 16 images of the face of Christ from different artists. Editor Jennifer Younker noted, “When I look at the cover I’m amazed that, even though all the images are very different, I instantly recognize them as the face of Christ. Although each individual visual is influenced by its regional, ethnic and cultural lenses, the cover evokes the freedom and salvation we receive from Jesus Christ and shows that Christ’s love transcends all perceived physical differences” (Editor’s Note, Living Lutheran, May 2017, p. 4).

This cover and these comments got me to thinking about how I personally envision the face of Christ. For me, I picture a warm, loving, kind face smiling back at me with a look that says everything will be fine because he loves me.

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Functional Atheism

functional atheistFunctional atheism is a term that is being used in theological circles that refers to the practice of those who profess to believe in Christ, but behave as if he does not exist.

One problem with this practice, of course, is that it does not acknowledge the very real impact that Christ has on our everyday lives.

The other problem is that it perpetuates the falsehood that we are in control of our lives and we can do what we want apart from Christ and our beliefs.

I am reminded of the verse,

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. —Psalm 115:1

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Speaking Out

MosesIn the May 2017 issue of Living Lutheran, President of Bread for the World David Beckmann talked about the role of the Church in combating hunger.

In the article he noted, “God did not send Moses to Pharaoh to take up a collection of canned goods, but rather to insist that he let the slaves go free” (Living Lutheran, May 2017, p. 12).

I found that interesting and motivating. Sometimes we as the Church are called to stand up for the rights of the hungry, the thirsty, the downtrodden. We must do what we can to get to the root of the problem and not just put a Band-Aid on it.

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