Contraception? Where’s the vision?

Looks like contraception could be President Obama’s ticket to re-election.

Despite handing the Republicans an open goal with his despotic attempt to coerce religious institutions to pay for their employees’ birth control and abortions, the Republicans have contrived not only to miss the goal but also to shoot into their own net by getting mired in a debate about the rights and wrongs of contraception, instead of keeping that debate focused on freedom of religion and of conscience. And while scoring own goals, for good measure let’s throw the whole game away by questioning Obama’s theology, and even whether Obama is a Christian or a Muslim.

Rick Santorum has been the worst offender among the candidates. It’s just so foolish for a Presidential candidate to not only allow himself to get drawn so deeply into the contraception issue, but to deliberately keep it alive, and then to launch out on Obama’s “phony theology,” followed by unconvincing attempts to say he was only talking about his “green theology.” And to top it all off, Franklin Graham disgraces himself with his horribly unconvincing, defensive ramblings about the genuineness of Obama’s Christianity, climaxing with the “Son of Islam” nonsense – on breakfast TV!

This is not just miles “off message,” it’s inter-planetary. And it’s so small-minded in the face of such huge societal and economic problems. At this rate, President Obama can start writing his inaugural address.

Where, O where is the grand vision? And where is the candidate who can cast the vision with attractive, compelling, and persuasive words – without getting distracted by every gnat that buzzes in his ears.

That vision must have two simple parts – The Economy and Society. And it’s got to be ruthlessly focused, rousingly big, and relentlessly positive.

When the Republicans talk about the economy, all people actually hear is: “Cuts, cuts, cuts.” That’s so small, so expected, and so negative. It’s designed to appeal to the 50+1% who like to think that the cuts are going to fall on the other 49% or perhaps on the next generation.

Where is the Republican who can honestly and courageously articulate the benefits of proportionate shared sacrifice for huge long-term gain? Where is the Republican who can reach out to the poor (both “deserving” and “undeserving”), the “entitlement generation,” the takers, and persuade them that there’s a much better way for them and their families? Is there no one who can connect with them, motivate them, and unite them with the rest of society? Is no one even going to try?

And, of course, the economic problems cannot be solved without addressing societal problems, especially that of family breakdown.

But when the Republicans speak about society, all people hear is “Wrong, wrong, wrong.” Gay marriage? Wrong! Abortion? Wrong! Single motherhood? Wrong!

These things are wrong, but angry condemning never helped anyone. We need a Republican who can paint a much bigger and much more positive vision of a renewed and revitalized society built on the basic building block of the family and respect for precious life. Holier-than-thou tones and denunciatory attitudes won’t cut it.

Again, is there no Republican who can compassionately reach out to the tens of millions of broken homes and broken lives with care, concern, and constructive efforts to at least slow down the rate of failing families and murdered babies. Is there no one who can inspire a new generation of young people to live lives of purity, commitment, and loyalty. Sounding like a whiny Pharisee won’t cut it here either.

The present range of candidates look terribly small, undisciplined, blinkered, and short-sighted. Maybe one of them could still grow into the desperately needed, big-vision leader who will be ruthlessly yet positively focused on the economy and society. But the time is very short.

And the opposition is very great. There’s a huge political class with an intense personal interest in growing the numbers of the dependent poor in order to maintain their own demoralizing and divisive power.

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11 tools I never want to be without
I’d add Downcast App for podcasts, the Kindle App for iPad, and Diigo for bookmarking.

The best chess player in the world
This sounds boring, but believe me it’s absolutely incredible.

Theology and Exegesis
Kevin DeYoung teases out the relation between exegesis ans systematic theology.

Visual Theology
Tim Challies is producing some powerful teaching posters.

7 Signs of Burnout
There’s an epidemic of this among ministers these days (HT: Ben Terry)

Randy Alcorn speaks of Jim Elliot’s unknown brother

Pornography and your Church Webinar

My friends at Covenant Eyes have a webinar next week called Pornography and Your Church: Changing the Culture of Your Church to Change Lives.

The purpose of this webinar is to give pastors and lay church leaders practical ideas about how they can create a “culture of accountability” to combat the prevalent but hidden sin of pornography.

  • How do you help men to be more open about their habitual sins?
  • How do you help parents to proactively guard their homes?
  • How do you protect those on your staff from Internet temptations?

During this webinar you will hear from church leaders who have witnessed great changes among the men, women, and families in their churches.

You will also be given 5 practical steps you can take to walk your church through a similar process.

Register today! Space is limited. Join us on February 29, 2012, at 3pm.

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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Many home-schoolers will be wishing Dr. Arlin and Rebekah Horton a happy and peaceful retirement.

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.