Why am I here?

Imagine you’re at a shooting range and there are lots of targets with prizes underneath. If you hit that one, you win a rubber duck. If you hit that one, you win a stuffed teddy. If you hit that one, you get a goldfish. And so on. But right in the middle is the biggest target and it has a prize of a million dollars. But no one is shooting at it. People are walking away delighted with their rubber duck and their cute teddy but the biggest target with the biggest prize goes unclaimed!

That’s mad, you say. That would never happen. Or at least, “If I was there, it would never happen!”

But you know, that’s what’s happening all over the world every day. And it’s very possibly happening in your little world too.

God sets himself forth as the biggest prize we could possibly enjoy in this life. But the vast majority of people are shooting for rubber ducks and cute furry teddies: boyfriends, girlfriends, FB, computer games, sports, jobs, money, pleasure, cars, houses, etc. Lots and lots of rubber ducks and furry teddies. But the huge million dollar prize, God, goes unclaimed. In fact few are even aiming at Him

That’s not a recent problem. 350 years ago a number of pastors got together and wrote a brief  Q&A about God. And their first question was: “What is the chief end of man?” What should be our number one target? What should we aim at above anything and everything else?

They answered: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

To put it in a more popular way: Our number one target in life is God, and He’s also our greatest prize and enjoyment. That’s why you and I are on this planet for these few short years.

We’re here to end in God. Whatever else we aim at in life, let’s make sure we aim towards God above all.

We’re here to exalt God, to worship God, to praise God, to lift Him up in our thoughts, in our affections, in our words and in our actions.

We’re here to enjoy God. Enjoy God? You may think that these two words do not belong in the same sentence. Enjoy God? Well the main reason for that is that He’s not your chief end, your greatest aim in life. As long as God is second, you won’t enjoy anything in life, and you’ll actually blame God for that.

End in God, exalt God, and enjoy God. And you’ll not only live a more worthwhile life on earth. When it’s time to leave, you’ll leave with much more than a rubber duck!

This is the second film in the series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, filmed and edited by my son Angus. The introduction to the series can be viewed here:
Introduction: A Summary not a Substitute

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Abeka founders retiring
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The cult of Amazon Prime
“There are two types of people in the world: those with Amazon Prime and those without. How you think about consumption, commerce and your personal time is radically different depending on if you’ve join the cult — yet. And to be clear, Prime is a cult you will be joining.”

A Biblical Theology of Food and Drink
This is a bit niche, but Nick Batzig’s been digesting this for a year!

Anti-depressants and the placebo effect
Why do anti-depressants sometimes offer no better results than a placebo? This article does a great job of explaining why and should make Christians pause before they simply regurgitate the latest media cliches.

Logos on Youtube
One for my Hebrew Exegesis students.


Brandwashing, Brainwashing, and Biblewashing

You may not know it, but you’ve been Brandwashed, probably multiple times, and especially if you’ve shopped at Whole Foods.

Martin Lindstrom made Time’s 2009 list of “World’s Most Influential People” partly due to his book Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy. His latest book, Brandwashed, highlights “the tricks that companies use to manipulate our minds and persuade us to buy.” Lindstrom is a fan of Whole Foods and loves their produce, but in a Fastcompany column, he used it as an example of how “many strategies retailers use to encourage us to spend more than we need to – more than we want to. Consider these examples from one of Lindstrom’s visits to one of Whole Foods New York City stores:

  • The escalator brings you straight into a realm of freshly cut flowers, immediately priming us to think of freshness, a suggestion that we carry with us, albeit subconsciously, as we shop. (Consider the reverse impact of cans of tuna and plastic flowers).
  • The prices for the flowers, fresh fruit, and vegetables are scrawled in chalk on rough cut black slate, prompting images of outdoor farmers markets and roadside stalls with prices changing by the hour. (The signs are actually mass-produced, the prices set at Texas HQ, and the “chalk” is indelible!)
  • Ice is everywhere. Why? Well, of course, some produce needs to be kept chilled, but lots of other stuff needs no ice. It serves the same symbolic and priming purpose as the drops of water that some stores spray on select vegetables.
  • The stacked “crates” of melons are actually one large cardboard box that’s been carefully designed to reinforce the idea of “rustic old-time simplicity”

And Whole Foods is just one example of many retailers covered by Lindstrom.  Even fruit growers are getting in on the act. “Sales records show that bananas with Pantone color 13-0858 (otherwise known as Vibrant Yellow) are less likely to sell than bananas with Pantone color 12-0752 (also called Buttercup), which is one grade warmer, visually, and seems to imply a riper, fresher fruit.” Crops are now being manipulated to ensure the maximum sales potential of the final banana! Lindstrom also found that while the Apples may look freshly plucked from the tree, “the average apple you see in the supermarket is actually 14 months old.”

Well, we can only imagine the impact of years of exposure to this kind of brandwashing. But, in a sense, its power and effectiveness should highlight our vulnerability to far more insidious and evil brainwashing. If these marketing strategies are so successful in prising our cash from us, how much more successful is the far less obvious and yet far more powerful priming and seducing we are continually experiencing at the hands of the master-marketer, the Devil.

Day after day, hour after hour, in both our conscious and in our subconscious, He is brainwashing us to believe in perception rather than reality.

So what’s the solution?


The Bible helps us to see the existence of diabolical brainwashing. It gives us a second sense, an ability to discern, a faculty of seeing that most do not have.

The Bible also teaches us the easiness of brainwashing. It demonstrates how weak, vulnerable and seduceable we are. But in doing so, it at least puts us on the alert.

The Bible analyzes the elements of brainwashing. It highlights a number of the Devils’ strategies, both by numerous descriptions and by fearful examples.

The Bible underlines the evil of spiritual brainwashing. We don’t just risk losing a few dollars as a result of succumbing to a marketing technique. We risk losing our own souls forever.

The Bible is the way of escape from the devil’s brainwashing. Yes, the only antidote to brainwashing is Biblewashing. It alone can resist the siren calls of the world: “Conform! Conform! Conform!” and enable us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:1-2).

This article was first published in the February issue of Tabletalk.

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Dan Phillips reviews “Spiritual Depression”
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Counting sheep and pastoral insomnia
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From one family to another
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Paul Edwards interviews Rick Santorum
Paul bounces back with a great interview.


Entitlement: The Gimme Generation

This week’s Connected Kingdom is on “Entitlement.” The podcast includes audio excerpts from others speaking on the subject, and concludes with some interaction between Tim and I. However, you can read a shortened version of the podcast below. Download here.

Jack Chambless is Professor of Economics at Valencia College. Every year he starts his class off by asking his students to write a 10 minute essay on what the American dream looks like to them, and what they want the federal government to do to help them achieve that dream. He describes this year’s results:

About 10% of the students said they wanted the government to leave them alone, not tax them too much, and let them regulate their own lives. But over 80% of the students said that the American Dream to them meant a house and a job and plenty of money for retirement, and vacations and things like this. But when it came to the part about the federal government 8 out of 10 students said they wanted free health care, they wanted the government to pay for their tuition. They want the government to pay for the down payment on their house. They expect the government “to give them a job.” Many of them said they wanted the government to tax wealthier individuals so that they would have an opportunity to have a better life.

Professor Chambless’ students belong to the “Entitlement Generation,” also known as the “Gimme Generation.” They think they can have and should have whatever they want, whenever they want, and from whomever they want it, while others pay for it.” Or more simply, as one Occupy Protestor painted on her placard, “Where’s my bailout?”

That sense of economic entitlement usually goes hand in hand with education entitlement. Students now come to college expecting straight A’s. That’s the default. And, as Anthony Carter notes, woe-betide any professor who “fails” to comply.

Harvard Professor of Law, Lawrence Lessig, has noticed a huge increase in the sense of entitlement among students especially in questioning authority. He says that the Internet “has created a world where everybody feels entitled to question somebody else.” He goes on:

There’s no authority, there’s no like “being the professor of law from Harvard” that entitles you to say “Here’s what the truth is.” There’s an opening. Here’s a professor of law from Harvard who says here’s what the truth is. That’s a way of beginning a conversation. Some fifteen year old can say “I just spent the last 6 months studying about the history about the fourteenth amendment and what you just said is #@X!. Here’s the right answer.” We’ve come to this place where the younger generation just believes it’s their right to be as involved and as engaged as anybody.

Of course, being a Harvard professor, Lessig thinks this is great:

I think that’s a thing to be celebrated and encouraged, but I think that what you recognize that what you can see in a wide range of internet contacts the sense of entitlement has driven enormous creativity and engagement that before was presumed to be disqualified.

So is it just a case of, “Well there are some pros, and some cons to this. No big deal. Let’s move on?”

Jean Twenge wrote the book Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before. She describes the entitlement generation as “smart, brash, even arrogant, and endowed with a commanding sense of entitlement.”

But, like Professor Lessig, Twenge also sees a flipside. She sees many of the “Gimme Generation” as individualists, “free-thinkers who are willing to break the status quo and pursue their dreams. Their confidence is what allows them to accomplish great things and can keep companies progressing.”

Again, we’re being tempted to minimize the significance of these societal changes. So, do we just shrug our shoulders and succumb to the spirit of the age? Economics Professor Thomas Sowell was interviewed about this on Fox News:

Interviewer: Professor, we had a series here a couple of weeks ago called Entitlement. There’s so many things that Americans now think they are entitled to because of government largesse. Everything from health care to food stamps, houses, even jobs. How do we get out of that?

Sowell: That’s going to be very tough. Because the whole media, politics, the educational system promotes the idea that you are entitled to something. It just seems obvious. Society is not entitled to anything. We can’t even get the food that we need without working for it. So when you say that somebody is entitled to it you mean that somebody else has to pay for what you want…

I’m totally with Professor Sowell on this. I see no long-term good coming from this entitlement mentality. It destroys initiative, independence, inventiveness, resourcefulness, motivation, the fear of consequences, and the link between cause and effect. It promotes indulgence, jealousy, conceit, laziness, and self-centeredness. It creates bad winners and bad losers.

It hurts marriages by putting the focus on “What can I get from him/her?” rather than “What can I give?” It hurts charity because the rich leave it to the government and withdraw from contact with the poor; the poor just get handouts from an impersonal, faceless, soulless State rather than from real caring people. Above all, a sense of entitlement destroys the Christian life.

As a Christian, I believe in one entitlement.

I’m entitled to Hell. That’s the only entitlement I have. That’s all I deserve, because of my sin. Anything else is grace, an unmerited bonus from the God of all grace. I don’t deserve a breath of life, a crumb of food, a drop of water, a stitch of clothing, a cent in my wallet, or an hour of education. I’m not entitled to one friend, one vacation, one verse of Scripture, or even one sermon. I’m certainly not entitled to salvation and heaven. I’m entitled to damnation and Hell.

That sense of entitlement makes me seek mercy, receive mercy, enjoy mercy, and be merciful to others. To paraphrase the Apostle Paul, “What have I that I did not receive as a free gift of divine grace? How therefore can I ever boast as if I had actually been entitled to it or earned it?”

So, there are basically only two ways to live: with a proud and angry sense of entitlement or with a humble and thankful sense of responsibility.

To summarize, “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

If you’d like to give us feedback or join in the discussion, go ahead and look up our Facebook Group or leave a comment right here. You will always be able to find the most recent episode here on the blog. If you would like to subscribe via iTunes, you can do that here or if you want to subscribe with another audio player, you can try this RSS link.

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