Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Brief Thought on the State of Evangelicals and their Fear of Being Labeled “Activists”

If Isaiah, Jonah, Jeremiah or Habakkuk were to show up today in the United States preaching their prophetic messages of repentance, rejection of wickedness and transformative action, 90% of the evangelicals would reject them for being divisive, criticize them for being judgmental or harsh or willfully choose to be identified with those they were condemning so as not to be associated with them. With few exceptions, prophetic voices who stand against sin are shouted down by Christians in the United States. We look for more reasons to disagree with them, than agree with their message. We are so desperate to avoid the labels of intolerance or “hatred”, that we are quite willing to remain silent or even join in with the bashing. We give the wicked the benefit of the doubt and rarely do the same for those who are actually in the Family of God. No wonder we have no impact, no influence, no respect and no virtue. The salt has lost its savor.

Pimping for Hollywood Again?

Some have asked me if I’m supporting the upcoming movies about “Noah” and “The Son of God”. I don’t care much one way or the other if people go as long as they know that historically, Hollywood does a LOUSY job of accurately portraying Scripture on the big screen. As for me, I don’t plan on seeing either movie at a theater, if ever. The church where I serve as a pastor isn’t using the movies as some sort of evangelistic outreach as many churches are. I have been reminded of an article that I wrote about 7 years ago wherein a “rethought” my participation in the great “Passion of Christ” movie debut in which I coined the phrase, “Pimping for Hollywood”. This article and the phrase were latter cited in Warren Smith’s excellent book, “A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church”. Because there are some similarities, I thought I’d post a link to that article here:

http://danburrell.com/?p=281

20 Years of an Unlikely Friendship

The late motivational speaker, Charlie “Tremendous” Jones used to say, “You will be the same in ten years as you are today, except for the books you read and the people you meet.”  That has always been true in my life and I’ve kept a list of the Top Ten most important books I’ve read and Top Ten most life-changing people I’ve met over the years.  Today, marks a 20-year “anniversary” of a friendship that many would have considered “unlikely” for both of us.  It is a friendship with a person who ranks in my “Top Ten” of people who have changed my life.

My friend, Candy Hatcher, reminded me over the week-end that it was 20 years ago today that I wrote a rather “pointed” “letter to the editor” in The Palm Beach Post that was published.  I took substantial umbrage from what I felt at the time was an unfair characterization of the “Religious Right” in Florida politics.  Candy was a special features writer (and an excellent one at that) who would do series on tough topics ranging from deficits in the Child Protective Services program in the state, to issues of crime and punishment and on this occasion, into politics.  I’m known to have a sharp pen at times.  I defend myself by noting that no one reads boring prose.  Others will point out that the pen can be mightier, and even more painful, than the sword.  I will confess that I have swung back and forth on how to reach a balance on that observation for years.  I still have a level of writing dualism that can be both offensive and effective, so the journey continues.

To my surprise, within hours after publication of my letter, I received a phone call from none other than Ms. Hatcher asking to come sit with me in my office and discuss my letter.  Oh….and she was bringing her editor.  It was the beginning of a friendship.  The meeting was emotional.  We both left that meeting and those that would follow with a broader perspective of those who might be on their other side of some imaginary fence politically and professionally.  I hope I changed the way she viewed pastors and people who sincerely hold to an evangelical/fundamental view of Scripture.  I know she changed the way I viewed journalists and those who might be a bit more left of the political center than I had previously experienced.

A lot has changed in twenty years.  Neither of us still live in Florida.  Candy got married to a great guy the week of 9/11 and her professional life has taken her to Seattle, to Chicago and now to Virginia and she continues to do the kind of writing that she’s best at — human interest stories that poke you in the heart and punch you in the brain.  As for me, I’ve distanced myself from most of the political connections I’ve previously had and while I am still keenly aware of (and vocal about) political matters, it’s more of a hobby with me and no longer a cause.  I don’t know this to be a fact, but I hope our friendship has provided Candy with a window into the world of conservative evangelicals in general and the pastor’s perspective in particular.  She has earned my respect professionally and personally though I’m sure we differ on things politically still.  I hope I have earned enough respect from her where she can see that conservative Christians really want a lot of the same things that more liberal people do, we just differ significantly on who should take the lead on achieving those solutions.

I wanted to list a few things I have learned from this friendship today.  Because of that initial interaction, I have changed my behavior when I am at odds with an opposing view point.  Since that day, I’ll have lunch with gay and lesbian activists, I have had good conversations with my US Representative and mayor (now Governor of NC) on areas in which we disagreed, I have allowed myself to even be interviewed by so-called “alternative” magazines like Creative Loafing and survived the experience and actually enjoyed the interaction with the reporter and I find myself more anxious to talk about differences personally than simply lobbing missives across cyberspace.

Here’s some of what I learned:

1. Those who don’t think like me are more like me than I realized.

Journalists are people too.  They have feelings, they have hobbies, they live in neighborhoods and they are just trying to do their job most of the time.  I’m still convinced there is a leftward bias over-all, but I’ve changed as to why I think that is the case.  I think it is because too few journalists know conservatives in general (and conservative Christians specifically) and many Christians are so cloistered in their own little community, we have no occasion to interact with others who don’t think just like us.  But I’ve enjoyed discussing travel with a leading gay activist in our community, I enjoyed debating philosophy with a lesbian Unitarian pastor at a luncheon, I have appreciated learning of how others go about helping others who are in need even if we likely vote completely opposite.  In the end, we’ve got families, friends, hobbies and interests that form bridges of communication and friendship and that’s important whether we are on the same side of other issues or not.  And when I realized how we conservatives are viewed by those left of center, I understand why they might not want to have lunch with us.  That coin of perception has two sides and both of them aren’t accurate.

2. It’s foolish to believe stereotypes.

My “liberal” journalist friend, Candy — she’s been a Baptist about as long as I’ve been a Baptist.  All journalists are not atheists.  Most of them love God, their church and their country. And lest you be tempted to lump then together with a few bomb throwers on cable news or the internet, let’s not do that so we don’t have to be lumped in with the likes of Benny Hinn or Mark Sanford.  I think Candy discovered that evangelical Christians don’t want a theocracy.  They aren’t trying to control everything.  Not every pro-lifer silently cheers when someone does something outrageous outside of an abortion clinic.  We aren’t intent on thumping people with Bibles and we’re not some sort of evangelical Taliban.  We just love God, our family and our country — in that order.  We want a healthy place to raise our kids.  But then, so do journalists.  We each probably make really good neighbors, in fact.

3. Talking is better than shouting.

On this day when Washington is in absolute lockdown/gridlock, would to God that they would/could put aside the partisanship that makes the capitol so toxic and just sit down and have a decent conversation and look for agreement.  I might have a penchant for verbal firebombs and even people like Ann Coulter and Stephen Colbert can make me snicker a bit with their acerbic wit.  But let’s be honest….it does nothing positive.  Nothing.  It just creates walls.  No one is ever going to be convinced to change because of shouted rhetoric and heated diatribes.  The world would likely be better off if the talking heads at both MSNBC and Fox News would simply shut up.

4. You learn more from your critics than from your “friends”.

Both pastors and journalists can have a tribe of people who constantly feed them complements and blow petals of good will their direction.  We also can get roasted by incendiary blasts of criticism that would make a steel girder wilt.  But sometimes, those critics tell us what others don’t have the courage — or the observational skills — to tell us.  Every so often I’ll pop off on Facebook or in some blog article or whatever that Candy will read and she’ll shoot me back a sharp little retort.  She’s almost always right.  I spouted some nonsense about a columnist from the Orlando Sentinel one time without reading the article thoroughly and Candy called me on it and made me look like the fool I really was.  (Thank you, knee-jerk reaction — once again, you’ve delivered humiliation to me.)  We can learn from everyone if we’re not too arrogant and bone-headed to realize that perceptions are as powerful as reality and that we’re not always right about every single thing that comes down the pike.  Candy has earned the right to bust my chops when I need it and I hope I’m a more careful thinker and writer because of it.

5. Disagreement doesn’t have to be personal.

Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I have a tendency to run toward debates, not away from them.  I love hardscrabble verbal exchanges.  Until, of course, they become personal.  Then it isn’t fun anymore.  When I make someone cry because I’m being a jerk, it haunts me for weeks.  When I get defensive about something, I find that it can make me isolate or get bitter.  What happened?  It got personal.  Sometimes it’s OK to just shrug one’s shoulders and say, “I see it differently” and then move on.  Not every disagreement has to be blown up to theological or philosophical proportions.  So you like Obamacare.  I don’t.  Doesn’t make you morally superior because you care about those that fall between the cracks.  It doesn’t make me morally superior because I believe in smaller government, free enterprise and rugged individualism.  It just means we see it differently.  Next topic?

6. Good friendships don’t have to have proximity to endure.

I love the internet age.  Via social media, email and other new-fangled tools, we get to stay connected.  You can criticize Facebook all you want and act like you are too sophisticated to enjoy it, but I like it.  (And I bet you are a Facebook stalker yourself if the truth be known.)  I like hearing how my former students are doing, who is having kids, who is running a business, who needs prayer and who is enjoying success.  I haven’t seen Candy in over a decade — in spite of the fact that I keep asking her and her husband to swing by when they come back to her home state of North Carolina.  But a couple of years ago, I was awake in the middle of the night, struggling with the state of my life at that moment and feeling pretty cruddy about things, when I got an email.  (I just happened to be online at the time.)  It was an email from Candy.  She told me at about 4:00 in the morning that she had me on her mind for some reason and experience told her that when that happened, she should pray for whomever the Lord had placed in her thoughts.  So she just wrote to tell me that I was in her prayers.  I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.  I mean, I’m the dude that blasted her work in a public diatribe.  She hadn’t seen me in years.  Yet, she not only was sensitive enough to God’s voice in her life to realize He was speaking to her, she let me know that we were good enough friends that she would resp0nd by praying for me.  Now that’s a friend.

There’s more that I could share that I’ve learned, but I’m leaving for Vietnam in a few hours.  I wanted to post this before I leave and because it was the anniversary of my letter.  Here’s what’s cool.  Everyone who knows me knows that I love Cuba and go there often for ministry.  Candy and John love Cuba and go there for ministry as well.  Guess who sent me a Facebook message this week telling me that she was praying for me as I go to Vietnam?  Yep….Candy Hatcher Gregor.  She’s my “liberal” (and she really isn’t all that liberal — I just like to tease her) journalist friend and she’s my prayer partner.  I’m her “thinking fundamentalist” friend (and no, that term is not oxymoronic in my case— usually, at least) and I’m her prayer partner when she and/or her husband go to the mission field.  I’m so glad she didn’t just ditch my opinion in her “stupid critics” file that day twenty years ago.  I know if she had, I would be a far different person than I am today.  And that wouldn’t have been a good thing.

The E-I-E-I-O’s of Public Speaking

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Whether you are teaching a class of wiggly 3-year olds or speaking to an audience of thousands, communicating important content to the listeners is a responsibility that the speaker needs to embrace and fulfill.  If we are to be at maximum influence, we will need to plan in advance for the delivery from start to finish.  Here are five key objectives that you should strive to accomplish by the conclusion of your presentation and they are easy to remember thanks to “Old MacDonald”.

1. Educate

It is important that you have a clear awareness of your mission when you take your place in front of those who have gathered to hear what you have to say.  You are there to change the status quo.  You are to add value to the listener’s life by educating them with new material, practical application, challenges and ideals.  If your audience leaves the room with no new knowledge, skill or aspiration, then you have failed as a communicator.

2. Inform

What will your listeners take home after your have addressed them?  This is sometimes called the objective and the best way to identify that objective is to complete this question, “As a result of this lesson, my students/audience will know/be able to ________________.”  If you do not know what it is you are wanting to accomplish in your presentation, don’t count on the students to be able to pick it out on their own.  I like to use a simple three-step plan for helping my students identify my key point(s):

  • Tell them what you are going to tell them (Introduction)
  • Tell then (Lesson)
  • Tell them what you told them (Review)

Emphasizing that main point those three times will help ensure that your students get your point.

3.  Entertain

There are few crimes greater in my book, than to bore people with Truth.  There simply is no excuse for a dry presentation.  The distance between dry information and exciting application is about 18 inches — the distance between the head and the heart.  If you only focus on transferring information without ever acknowledging the human impact of that information, you will have an audience that will have checked out to varying degrees.  Jesus, the Master Teacher, used everything from stories to recitations to sarcasm to object lessons to soaring prose to mystery to keep the attention of His audience throughout the Gospels.  We should learn from His example.  Laughter, dramatic tension and emotion are all tools that will help move Truth from the head and into the heart.

4. Inspire

If you entertain and educate, but fail to inspire, you did not complete your task.  Inspiration is what moves people to ACT on what they have learned.  It moves people to APPLY what they have heard.  It challenges them to ASPIRE to something greater than what they have been doing.  It is lazy to transfer raw information and then fail to challenge the listener to use that information in use what they have learned for the good of others and the glory of God.

5. Organize

Rare is the individual who can successful “wing” an effective presentation.  There needs to be a plan to what you are saying and how you plan on saying it.  Don’t even think about simply reading your presentation, but having an outline is essential.  And like writing a paragraph, a paper or a book, having an outline is important.  Capture their attention and imagination in the introduction.  Deliver the content in the body.  Review and challenge the audience to greatness in the conclusion.  Once you know the outline, then you can fill in the “extras” — the illustrations, the applications, the inspirational moments, the calls to action.

E-I-E-I-O — it’s simply and its effective.  Take a few extra minutes and make sure you round out your next presentation with all five goals.

eieio

The Christian Religion and the Ideals of Nations

To those who would bash the notion that the ideals of the Christian religion has an important force in civilization. Consider the worth of discipline, character, work ethic, morality, purpose and destiny in a people — All of which are byproducts of Christian virtues.

Jeremy Egerer: “[I]ntelligence amongst the good brings forth Madisons and Lockes — amongst the bad, maybe a Marx or a Rousseau. Men skilled in rhetoric can be Churchills or Hitlers, those with charisma either George Washington or Jim Jones. Considerable skill in engineering may eliminate dependence on oil, or it may build nuclear weapons for Syrian terrorists. Whatever the skill, whatever the gift, its benefit to mankind depends not upon talent itself, but upon the character of those who wield it. Therefore, all sensible men must be in agreement that the talents of mankind are not in themselves good, but are wholly and universally dependent upon the judgment, fortitude, and charity of their possessors. Talent for the sake of civilization must be developed, but it is better to be in the company of the righteous layman and farmer than surrounded by impressively treacherous and barbarous men. … Without valiant soldiers, honest judges, vigilant citizens, and ethical working men of all kinds, Edisons and Einsteins may occasionally succeed, but true liberty in divine Law permits genius to flourish.”

One of the Most Convicting Quotes I’ve Ever Read

I collected epigrams and quotations like others collect baseball cards. Rarely have I found one so utterly devastating in its accuracy as this one:

“I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality…asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me. But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing. Forgiveness says ‘Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology…’ But excusing says ‘I see that you couldn’t help it or didn’t mean it; you weren’t really to blame.’ …And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses. They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.” — C.S. Lewis

~ “On Forgiveness,” The Weight of Glory

Not Every Person Belongs in Your Church

My dear friend and mentor, Charles Wood, hit on a topic in his recent musings from “The Woodchuck’s Den” (I highly recommend that you get this near-daily counseling/coaching and information journal. You can do so by emailing him at lorchuck@aol.com. Tell him I recommend him to you.) It deals with folks who want to join your church, but come with an agenda or a pet issue. The temptation for many is to desire growth and fresh blood so deeply that they’ll welcome any one. The problem with that is that too often, we can sow the seeds of future conflict and even disaster. It’s like marrying the wrong person — it can impact the entire family.

Whether their “issue” is tongues or music styles or Bible versions or eschatology or politics or homeschooling or birth control or prophecy or Israel or any one of a thousand other pet topics to which people cling, when the personal preference becomes an agenda item for an individual who is insisting that others must join their cause or that having their priorities makes them somehow spiritually superior, in the end — division, dissension and controversy are just around the corner.

In his missive, Dr. Wood quotes a well-known pastor and researcher who offers some helpful thoughts on the topic.

Ed Stetzer, President of Lifeway Research, and a seasoned and experienced pastor wrote an article on the topic of “Issue Members” in Christianity Today recently that Dr. Wood sent out that I thought was just excellent. Here’s an excerpt:

“Yesterday, I had an encounter in the line where I shake hands after the Grace Church worship service. A well-dressed man came up to me after church, shook my hand, and immediately started a conversation about prophecy. I listened initially, but within a couple of minutes he had quoted one passage he feels is related to the founding of Israel in 1948 and another about Israel occupying Jerusalem in 1967. ‘Why don’t churches talk more about prophecy?’ he asked. At that point, I could have redirected our conversation and tried to persuade him that we believe in biblical prophecy and will teach on it another time (both of which are true). Or, since he approvingly referenced both Jack Van Impe and John Hagee, I could have found some ways of positively connecting with each of these men.

“In most cases, however, I’ve decided that ‘this is not the church for you’ is actually the right response for ‘issue Christians’ who are visiting the church. Honestly, if this person were unchurched and told me they thought highly of Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer, I would have sought a point of contact and encouraged further discussion. I probably would have tried to get together– if they were open– to see what the Bible says about the kinds of things that Wayne Dyer talks about. I would have used the bridge to talk about Jesus. However, in this case, I simply said something like, ‘We are not one of those churches that you would think talks about prophecy enough– this would not be the right church for you, but I do hope your search for a church home goes well.’

“You see, I don’t spend a lot of time with ‘issue Christians.’

“It’s not just the issue of prophecy either. I’ve had similar conversations with ‘issue Calvinists,’ ‘issue political Christians,’ ‘issue charismatics,’ ‘issue homeschoolers,’ and many others. These are often good people, and those are important issues, but when these are the primary defining issues in the first (and every other) conversation, the correct response is help them move on and do so quickly.

“Here are four reasons why I have no difficulty helping ‘issue Christians’ to move on:

1. Some ‘issue Christians’ get so stuck on specific ideas–you don’t have time to persuade them.
It is simply not a good use of your time and energy to debate with ‘issue Christians.’ Instead, reach your community, pastor your people, and get on mission. Focus on reaching the unreached, not debating church members about eschatology or pneumatology. If they know Christ, but are stuck on an issue, they will be just fine without you. Generally, you can’t ‘fix them anyway and they will (eventually) come out of it on their own.

2. Some ‘issue Christians’ have divisive views–you don’t need them to fit in at your church’s expense.
You can disagree in our church (to a reasonable degree) and still be a part–I’ve pastored cessationists, charismatics, Calvinists, and Arminians all in the same church. The issues are not the issue, it is that this person wants to make them an issue. Simply, ‘issue Christians’ generally do not fit in well in a mission-focused congregation. They don’t want to.

3. Some ‘issue Christians’ drift from church to church looking for willing ears–you do not need to let that in your church.
‘Issue Christians’ love to debate and display their knowledge. It is not good stewardship of your time to have these debates and you are not being a good steward of your church to let them loose inside.

4. Some ‘issue Christians’ will talk forever if you do not cut them off–you will probably offended them less than you think.
For many, listening for hours is the Christian thing to do. Many pastors listen, set up appointments, then seek to reason and redirect the confused. That’s not a good plan if it is obvious that this person has dwelt in and studied on an issue. My experience is that people like this get ‘cut off’ all the time. So, I say, ‘Thanks Joe, but that’s not what we are passionate about here–I do encourage you to find a church that is passionate about what your issues.’ Surprisingly, that does not generally offend–people like that have been cut off many times before this time.

“So, let me encourage you to thank ‘issue Christians’ for their passion and time, and encourage them to find a church home that fits their values. Of course, I should say, this is different if someone comes to me confused on an issue. In that case, we can counsel and provide more information.

“In conclusion, we should always provide guidance, but we should not always provide a platform. ‘Issue Christians’ want a platform with you and your church because they are passionate about an issue–don’t let that distract you or your church from being and doing all that God has in store. Move on… and move them on.”

Are We Ready for the Pursuit of Happiness? — Another Look at the Jason Collins Announcement with Matt Hatfield

From time to time, I like to add a fresh voice to this blog with the idea that there are some great writers out there who need a broader audience.  Today’s blog is one of those occasions and is written by my friend and fellow elder at Life Fellowship, Matt Hatfield.  You’ll find more information about him at the bottom of the page.  Take a few moments as he takes a deeper look at this week’s announcement by Jason Collins that he is a homosexual.  He was met with much affirmation from the media, sports world, politicians and other elites.  So what can the Believer learn as we digest the changes in cultural that appear to be unfolding with amazing rapidity.  Matt pokes us in the brain with this essay…

Are we ready for… the Pursuit of Happiness?

jason-collins.jpg“I think, I know, in my personal life, I’m ready, and I think the country is ready for supporting an openly gay basketball player,” Collins told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.

Jason Collins, on his “coming out” as a gay athlete in the NBA.

Evangelicals will certainly look upon this moment as a continuation of the decline of morals in our country; the inevitable outcome of a society that has moved God from the back-burner into the garbage can.  The average American citizen?  They will think quietly to themselves, “well that’s not the way I roll… but who am I to judge?”  And life will go on as normal. 

But is there something that could be done?  Something that should be said?  How does the Christian respond in the face of a moment like this?  You know the moment.  It’s that instance when we find ourselves “not ready” for apparently what “the country is ready for.”

I don’t know Jason Collins… other than what he has said and what has recently been written about him.  He seems like a genuine enough man.  Likeable.  Not intent on doing anyone wrong.  Not wanting to stir the pot.  Just want to be who he wants to be.  A gay man in a culture wrestling with the whole idea of homosexuality… and tolerance… and acceptance. 

But in our spirit, there seems something amiss.  In a curious twist of fate, we find ourselves like the man coming out of the closet… wanting to speak up, needing to say something… but knowing that it may not be well received.  Knowing that we may be rejected.

What is it that we would say?

I think I’d say, “this isn’t right.  This is not God’s plan.  This is not what His heart desires.”  I know that the culture has applauded the courage of Mr. Collins to stand up for what he feels, how am I to applaud that which I believe grieves the heart of God?  And while I know the chorus of “thou shalt not judge” would rain down… I think I’d know that declaring what is right & just is not what was being rebuked by Jesus when He warned His followers about judging one’s neighbor.  Warning about consequences is different than rendering the judgment.  The former is to be undertaken by God’s children… the latter is certainly up to God.

You see.  God has a set of rules.  And for the most part, these rules are set in place to maintain order.  Keep us healthy.  Keep us safe.  These principles allow us to know God’s heart and to know what is pleasing and displeasing to Him.  And while one of the things we discover when we study His word is that His love for us is immeasurable.  We also discover that God cares little for man’s opinion on things.  He is not a politician.  He doesn’t take votes.  The majority doesn’t rule.  Frankly, God is about God – and that which would oppose Him is often met with severe consequences.  Further, while God wants His children to have joy… defining our own basis for happiness is not all that important to God either.  Which makes Mr. Collins’ following statement both naïve and frightening.

“I hope that every player makes a decision that leads to their own happiness, whatever happiness that is in life,” Collins responded. “I know that I, right now, am the happiest that I’ve ever been in my life.”

In this short little statement, we can find the crux of the problem with not just Mr. Collins, or our country… but with the psyche and condition of all men.  The pursuit of happiness

Now such a phrase will evoke almost universal positive feelings in the heart of any red-blooded American because it harkens to the core of our country’s value system.  Such is why the founders of our country felt compelled to include the proclamation in the Declaration of Independence.  And though it was penned with noble intentions by mostly noble men… there are consequences for even the best of intentions.  As an aside, Satan is a master of twisting good intentions to serve his purposes.  Thus, the quandary we are in today.  By slowly allowing the rhetoric of literal definitions to expunge the meanings of original intentions… man now, cannot just pursue happiness, he can define it.  And once man is given the opportunity to take a Sharpie marker and strike out God’s definitions, we are in trouble.

And to be sure, we are in trouble.

Not just because Mr. Collins “came out” but because of the underlying rationale behind.  Mr. Collins is not unlike most of us.  He believes that he has a right to pursue happiness.  This, however, is an American endowment.  It is not from God.  God calls us to pursue, Him, first… not happiness.  If pursuing personal happiness becomes our mantra, then we have indeed declared our independence from God.  What irony.

What we will discover in our pursuit of God is that He has standards that are far different from those which flow naturally from our bodies.  Honestly, our personal appetites would generally make God wretch.  People don’t like to hear this.  But somewhere along the way, we bought into a doctrine that equated our happiness with God’s happiness as if God’s sole objective is to create and raise “happy” children.  We even have a phrase for it… “God wants me to be happy.”  This little cliché has become the magic potion that dissolves marriages, erases debts, covers over wrongs… It’s a cure-all – a man-made tonic on an oblivious but welcoming conscious, dulling our senses and mind until we no longer know right from wrong. 

What God wants is for His creation to pursue Him… and leave the defining of “happiness” up to Him.  He warns us to “take every thought captive” for a reason.  Thoughts can be dangerous.  Many should be jettisoned.  Too many thoughts start with the premise, “how can I make this work out the best for me?” rather than simply, “what does God’s Word say?”

Now when most of you started reading this article, you probably thought that it was going to give a Biblical response to homosexuality.  I don’t think that is really what is needed.  The Bible is quite clear on the matter – to suggest otherwise is simply putting one’s head in the sand.  Homosexuality is a sin.  Whether by nature or nurture, it is out of the scope of God’s desire for His children.  But He has a plan of restoration for all sin – including this one. 

In the end, I think what is important is that we do an honest assessment.  One that has less to do with sexual orientation – as most of us do not personally struggle with homosexuality.  But we all struggle with sin.  And sin at its core is a feeding of personal appetites to make us happy.  So… are you pursuing happiness… or are you pursuing God?

matth.pngMatt Hatfield is a businessman and one of the founding elders of Life Fellowship Church in the Lake Norman region of metropolitan Charlotte, NC.  He has a degree in Philosophy from Davidson College and attended Dallas Theological Seminary in pursuit of his Masters.  He is married and has three children and lives in Huntersville, North Carolina.

Romney Blows His Opportunity by Selecting Ryan

1rr.jpgI’m getting texts and messages asking what I think of the selection of Paul Ryan by Mitt Romney to be his running mate.  So here are my condensed thoughts.  (Well, as condensed as I ever get, which isn’t very condensed.)

I like Ryan in general.  He obviously a family guy, talks the conservative talk, understands sound economic policy, is extremely smart and will be able to eviscerate Biden in the debates on a level that has the potential to as epic as it will be historic.

That said, in typical establishment Republican fashion, Romney blew a great opportunity in his selection.  Here’s why I think so…

1. Could you find two MORE stereotypical Republicans to run in a country that is teeming with diversity?  As some predicted, Romney played it safe and picked a boring white guy.  No real risk, not even a nod toward minorities, not one step out of his whitebread box.

2. Can you think of anyone, ANYONE who is more likely to vote for Romney because he selected Ryan to run with him?  Face it, he brings nothing to the ticket except he won’t be an embarrassment and he’s smart.  But so are a lot of other of the front-runners he was allegedly considering (except for Christie who is a loose cannon.)

3. Ryan is not going to be of any significant help in any of the swing states and he’s likely to impact the Florida race negatively as the scorched-earth, thuggery of Obama’s campaign paint him as dumping Senior Citizens over the cliff (they already have the commercial.)  The retired condo commandos of South Florida are going to be so worked up by the rhetoric that they will be waiting in line for the polls to open like junior high girls at a Justin Beiber concert.  Republicans cannot win the White House unless they carry Florida, Ohio and Virginia –Romney is behind in all three states and Ryan’s name on the ticket isn’t going to move the meter forward and likely down in Florida.

4. Ryan would be misplaced in the Vice-Presidency.  What do VP’s do?  Mostly go to funerals, make speeches and stay in the shadows (unless your name is Joe Biden, then you got to strut around in full pomposity saying things so stupid that the only thing preventing the main-stream media from turning him into Dan Quayle’s younger brother is the sheer weight of their pro-Obama bias.)  Ryan would have been an EXCELLENT choice for Budget Director or Secretary of the Treasury or Chief of Staff or Secretary of Commerce.  He will be wasted in the VP’s office.

There are a few more minor reasons I would add if I had more time, but that is enough to explain my lack of enthusiasm.  For months I’ve been handicapping the race at 60/40 Obama wins reelection.  Ryan does nothing to chain that number in MY mind.

Who would I have chosen?  Marco Rubio.  At least he’s likely to be the Republican nominee is 2016 if my prediction is correct and Romney loses.  But by then, there may not be a country left.  (Yep, Obama’s THAT bad.)