Friday, May 29, 2015

In Screens We Trust- Why We Must ALL Be Careful

I have written, posted, edited, and eventually retracted this post a number of times.

Before I finish this blog today, I'm finally going to say something about Ferguson. A blog is a tough place to write about some of these complex things, because I often find that my point isn't clear enough, and I promote divisiveness when my goal is gospel unity.

But now  Baltimore, Maryland has had tragedy after tragedy... and still has potentially more tinder for a fire that not only ravages the citizens of the city- it has national implications as well.

So, at the end of this piece, I will say a few words... but the bottom line is this... Ferguson is a microcosm of a real problem we have in the world of social media and 24 hour news for profit.

The facts of Ferguson finally show a verdict.... we were ALL wrong. And I worry if anyone is willing to see it and say it.

One of the dangers in today’s society is screen manipulation or deception.

In his mesmerizing book, Future Crimes (2015/Doubleday), Marc Goodman devotes an entire chapter to this phenomenon. It is Chapter 8, “In Screens We Trust”

He uses an attention getting quote to begin the process:

“The world isn’t run by weapons anymore, or energy, or money. It’s run by ones and zeros—little bits of data. It’s all electrons. There’s a war out there, a world war. It’s not about who has the most bullets. It’s about who controls the information—what we see and hear, how we work, what we think. It’s all about information.
Excerpt From: Marc Goodman. “Future Crimes.” iBooks. (emphasis mine)

This chapter is another example about our vulnerability when it comes to bad guys and technology. Malicious hackers can cause great destruction by having ordinary people just follow what their screen tells them to do.

We see this honestly when we follow the GPS directions in google maps without any concern that the sweet girl’s voice coming out of the device may be dead wrong. Before we know it we are heading to Paducah, KY instead of Kentucky Avenue. Any alert person would recognize that they needed to travel 25 minutes and not 5 hours! But many of us will follow her voice way beyond the alarms in our brain going off and saying to us that ‘this ain’t right’ !

Goodman’s examples are way cooler than mine. Did you know that the virus (or more precise the computer ‘worm’) that damaged the Iranian Nuclear facilities messed up centrifuges, but kept faulty information on the sensors? The engineers were blindly believing their screens that all systems were ‘green’, when the real data should have shown them that everything was red lining. We have to understand that the screens may not be telling us the truth!

Every screen we read…. whether it is airport flight information or our latest bank statement look so smart...great optics….colors, bars, pictures...but the screens are dumb. They are only as good as the information is accurate.

How fake is our online world? Here is what Goodman uncovers:

“According to Facebook’s own 2014 annual report, up to 11.2 percent of its accounts are fake. Considering the world’s largest social media company has 1.3 billion users, that means up to 140 million Facebook accounts are fraudulent and these users simply don’t exist. With 140 million inhabitants, fake Facebook-land would be the tenth-largest country in the world. Just as Nielsen ratings on television sets determine different advertising rates for The Walking Dead versus the Super Bowl, online ad sales are determined by how many eyeballs a Web site or social media service can command—if only the data could be believed.
Want 4,000 followers on Twitter? They can be yours for $5. Want 100,000 fans on Facebook? No problem, you can buy them on SocialMediaCorp.​org for a mere $1,500. Have even more cash to burn? How about a million new friends on Instagram? “For you we make special deal,” only $3,700. Whether you want favorites, Likes, retweets, up votes, or page views, all are for sale on Web sites like Swenzy, Fiverr, and Craigslist. These fraudulent social media accounts are then used to falsely endorse a product, service, or company, for a small fee of course[…]”

Excerpt From: Marc Goodman. “Future Crimes.” iBooks.

What impact does all this make?

Sadly, the culmination of the speed of information, the amount of information,  the erosion of critical thinking and non-political education, the trend of resisting an authorized Truth and having no consensus of values is killing our country.

Of all the screens, which one is the MOST deceptive?

The cable news screen.

America… we have a problem, and a study of Ferguson is a clinical on the cancer.


I still can’t believe I am writing this… because I feel like Nietzche’s madman…  how can I articulate something so complex when I too suffer the symptoms? And how can I do it without being misunderstood?

I am haunted by a quote by Ravi Zacharias everytime I speak and write:

How do you reach a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings?
But here is my attempt…

Are ANY of us willing to challenge our preconceived and settled judgments AND be willing to change those as the evidence directs?

The human condition doesn’t give us much hope to believe this to be so.

How many times in your life have you presented solid arguments and facts to try and persuade someone to alter a view only to find that you did almost nothing in altering that view?

But at the same time, how many people have ever swayed your opinion?

We all believe that facts should shape our perception, but the reality is that most of the time we collect only the facts that bolster our perceptions.


Let me preach and then I will move to my point.

We used to sing a hymn many years ago…(remember hymns?).

  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
  • Mold me and make me after Thy will,
  • While I am waiting, yielded and still.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Search me and try me, Master, today!
  • Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
  • As in Thy presence humbly I bow.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
  • Power, all power, surely is Thine!
  • Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.
  • Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
  • Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
  • Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
  • Christ only, always, living in me.

  • (Words: Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907. Pollard believed God wanted her in Africa as a missionary, but she was unable to raise funds to go. In an uncertain state of mind, she attended a prayer meeting, where she heard an elderly woman pray, It’s all right, Lord. It doesn’t matter what You bring into our lives, just have Your own way with us. At home that night, much encouraged, she wrote this hymn.
  • Music: Adelaide George C. Stebbins, Northfield Hymnal with Alexander’s Supplement1907-source: )


American rugged individualism and Christ followers have always been at odds and yet Alexis de Tocqueville has been one of the few who saw the tension as paramount in the success, prosperity, and continuation of the American experiment.

“As I see it, only God can be all-powerful without danger, because his wisdom and justice are always equal to his power. Thus there is no authority on earth so inherently worthy of respect, or invested with a right so sacred, that I would want to let it act without oversight or rule without impediment.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (p. 290)

Our only hope as a nation is that we would temper our personal freedom by a willingness to acknowledge a higher cause to yield to. America proved the world right that no human king is worthy of that power. American democracy is a compliance to be governed by a consent of the governed. The power is in the people, but if the people are polarized and not unified, there is no power to progress.

When America submitted to Jesus as their spiritual king, there was a consensus of value. Because humans are involved, it is never a perfect and uniform obedience, the Bible celebrates diversity. Unity does not mean uniformity.

But even George Bush lost his moorings. His desire to spread ‘freedom’ to the middle east and other places was benevolent, but misguided. In a final analysis, ‘Liberty’ is not a high enough virtue. Freedom without virtue and self submission is ultimately selfishness.
Capitalism without virtue is greed. America without virtue is chaos.

Political freedom without a self submission to an outside absolute is a recipe for disaster.

I have quoted the last line of the Book of Judges too many times… but the broken record sounds the same:

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.

(Judges 21:25 ESV)

I fully believe in the existence of God and the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But even if I did not… that is the One world view that I would want to dominate any culture without fear. It is a call to die to self and live for others.

The problem is that a nation does not fare well in a theocracy… because ultimately men have to rule.

Again, understanding I may be misunderstood-

What I am advocating is a full endorsement of the American constitution. It has a wise self correcting mechanism built within the separation of powers.

But without self governance of individuals, even the American constitution is corrupted.

There has to be an ideal bigger that the Constitution… our founders understood that.

The Declaration of Independence lays it out… read it again for yourself:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The only way for our nation to last is a willingness for people to be ruled under submission to their Creator, then they give consent to be governed. But when ANY form of government becomes destructive to those ends (not ‘light and transient causes’ i.e. all humans suffer) there has to be change.

Again… Life, Freedom, and Happiness are not in a vacuum… they are in the context of a Creator. Self rule is governed by Him, and that gives men the ability to submit.

And whether Deist or Calvinist.. the founders view of the Creator was the God of the Bible- the Judeo-Christian God… love, justice, peace, and moral law.


Any hope of human reconciliation must begin with a healthy self suspicion and a willingness to say, “I was wrong… I am sorry...please forgive me.”

Can a marriage be saved by looking at a spouse and saying, “You are wrong..but if you confess, I will consider it”? This attitude is a quick trip to the divorce court.

All human reconciliation begins with a willingness to lay down my rights for the sake of others.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

(1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV)

And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

(2 Timothy 2:24-26 ESV)

I personally believe that this type of love is not possible apart from the beautiful example and message of Jesus.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(Romans 5:6-8 ESV)


The story of the shooting of Michael Brown (Aug. 9, 2014), the media coverage, the public outcry, the criminal investigation, and the DOJ investigation is a microcosm of all we are suffering from as a nation.

Would we have Baltimore burning if the Ferguson incident didn’t happen?

I don’t believe it would be to the degree…. and I truly believe that we are looking at worse things if we do not come to some level of understanding here.

On March 4, the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division released their report of the Ferguson Police Department. You can read all 100 plus pages here:

But this report is one of many facets, or factors that need to be weighed.

What a perfect storm!

The Ferguson disaster is a combination of these factors (along with the problem of presuppositions and factors I tried to flesh out).
  • Socio-economic issues. Poverty rate is very high
  • Law Enforcement Patterns of Concern. Policing for profit. Read the report!
  • Widening gap between the rich and the poor. Fractured homes and ineffective education.
  • Media hype. Media for profit sensationalizes. If it bleeds it leads.
  • American pastime of opinions/perceptions devoid of facts.
  • Leaders with agendas. A good leader will correct and counter for good of all.
  • Victim mentality- we have been hurt so we can hurt and destroy without consequence.
  • Abuse of authority. If you question me I will make you miserable.
  • Finger pointing instead of personal responsibility.
  • Liberals and conservatives distrust and blame one another.
  • Race baiting and excuse making on both sides.
  • Talking heads… all problems and positions… no remedies.
  • The agenda is to win my viewpoint… not find healing.
  • T.V. is deceptive… it over hypes and ultimately trivializes real problems.
  • No perseverance… we left Ferguson to  be consumed by Baltimore.. and soon we will ponder flood victims in Texas. Who stays to help improve and change?
  • The circus came to town and piles of debris a left in its wake.
In the end, Ferguson proved almost every outside opinion wrong. Sadly, we jumped on any salacious  tidbit to prove our presuppositions about what really happened. Solid facts are now in place. Officer Wilson used justifiable force, Michael Brown did not have his hands up, but the climate of the Ferguson police department wasn't conducive to good public relations and community cooperation- and a lot of good people got hurt in the process. Some refuse to budge on their positions even in the light of these facts. EVERYONE needs to alter their narrative based on these truths. Shame on the leaders, shame on TV news organizations, but shame on us as well.... we have to be better than this.

We have some severe issues in our nation, and polarization squashes any momentum to find progress and healing.



This is not a 50/50 deal… it is you bring your 100% and it doesn’t matter if nothing comes in return.

Everyday, I must wake up and say:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

(Galatians 2:20 ESV)

and then I need to live each day with an earnest, energetic, and honest quest to serve and love others under the direction of God’s Spirit.

Do I encourage people? Do I give to those who are hurting or needy? Have I been faithful to my family? Can I speak and live to promote unity.. racial healing… hopeful and not pessimistic? Do I speak words of life or death? Do I honor authority? Do I pray for my leaders? Do I work hard as unto the Lord? Do I always have to get my way? Am I willing to consider I am wrong? Do I initiate reconciliation? Do I forgive? Do I judge without looking at myself? Am I willing to die for my belief in the Bible and the good news of Jesus? And am I willing to suffer for standing on truth?

And the big problem is... the answer to those questions show me how much of a sinner I am. I can ONLY say yes to those questions if I have God's Spirit in me.

At the end of every day, because I failed, and fell short I pray this prayer:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

(Romans 8:1 ESV)

I do believe there will be a judgement day and a new heaven and earth… but that doesn’t mean I don’t work to make this world a better place today. It is our calling… to be salt and light… not divisive and cruel.


This does not mean that I withhold speaking Biblical truth. Not everyone will like or accept that truth.

There will be those who will want to silence me because the world view I ascribe to. Often because the message means we have a responsibility to God, we are accountable to Him. Men know God is there… but they, naturally, do not love that view.

But even then, it is not my job to be ‘dead right’ or to kill others with truth.

God loves me even though I am unlovely.

Shouldn’t I be willing to do the same toward others?

Jesus said it best… what good is it if you love those that love you?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

(Matthew 5:43-47 ESV)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shout Out to the Office of the Shelby County Sheriff

If you live in Shelby County, Alabama and have the time... and they have the space.. I want to give a recommendation to participate in the Shelby County Sheriff's Citizens Academy.

This 12 week program does an excellent job in presenting what our law enforcement officers do to protect and serve the citizens.

It is one more reason why I believe we live in a very special place- one that I am thankful for!

Each week of the program included education of different aspects of what the deputies do, and until you see it, you will never believe it.

First of all, the class is not easy to get into. The demand is high, so I would apply early if you are wanting to do it.

Information on the course may be found at this link: Shelby County Sheriff's Citizen's Academy

I personally enjoyed every week- but wanted to mention a few of the highlights:

Force Continuum

With so many stories in the news lately regarding law enforcement and the use of force, I found the class on the training regarding the force continuum to be extremely important. The media does not help in this area, because viewers are often making judgements on situations without any true knowledge of cases or the training that goes into these professionals.

Most decisions regarding the use of force are instant- meaning that training will usually trump any ability to evaluate a situation. This blog does not have enough time to thoroughly cover all of the dynamics involved, but it makes no sense to rally to those who resist as the first response in situations where officers must use force to subdue a person who will not submit to the authority of the law.

Shelby County Jail

The tour of the jail was extremely informative and eye-opening. As much as I admire any person on patrol, my respect for those involved in corrections multiplied exponentially. We were given great information on the layout and organization of the jail and seeing it in person is an unforgettable experience.

Criminal Investigations

We ended up learning about criminal investigations for 3 weeks. These were actual cases, actual photos of evidence, and the process of investigating and ejudicating real cases was impressive. I looked forward to each week and learned a lot of lessons about the tedious process of analyzing evidence.

Ride Along

Part of the class is an actual ride along with a deputy. 99% of these are usually event free- I was the (un)fortunate exception. My evening was quite the experience- high speed pursuit, arrest, and trip to the jail were just a part of my 'cops' in real life experience.

Weapons and Range

The highlight of the class was a day being trained by the amazing staff at the Shelby County Firearms Range. I received excellent training in gun safety and had the privilege to practice shooting a semi-automatic pistol at the range with very helpful instruction.

There were other great classes- Drug Task Force, District Attorney's office, Special Units and Tactical Unit.

This class was enjoyed by everyone!

Again- it was a great 12 weeks- and I plan on participating in the alumni association for years to come!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My Tribute to Terry Warren

Preparing to give this tribute was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. The more you love someone the harder it is to lose them- I will have a deep void in my heart for a long time!

Driving to Nashville on that Thursday was so bittersweet- I am so thankful that Julie and Lisa were able to go with me.... I don't think I could have done it alone.

It was my first drive in Leipers Fork since I left Nashville- it was a beautiful day and it is such a beautiful country!

And then the memories of hugging people that I have such great memories and love for! Ron Smith, Lemanski Hall, Chris Sanders, and Steve Lenger all brought tears to my eyes as I hugged them! The Olins and Bob Starnes were so sweet to me... Ricky Harrison... and of course the Warren family.

And you want to know how cool God is? Chad Mize, one of my former Briarwood students, was the pastor of the ceremony!

Oh My! What a ceremony it was! Len Russell stole away my heart- OH THE MEMORIES! I wish I could relate all of them!

And Coach David Martin, former Goodpasture coach.... what a great man... his warm tears as we said goodbye... I will never forget... heaven will be VERY special!

Here is what I wrote... I may not have said it all word for word:

"It is with a heavy heart and cry for God’s grace in this moment that I attempt to share an amazing brotherhood that I had the privilege to share with Terry for a very special but way too short 10 years.

I had never heard of Terry until he applied for a teaching and coaching position at CPA in 2005. When you read his resume for the first time, your first thought is ‘there’s no way all of this can be true”- Florida State, Dallas Cowboys, recording artist…. but it didn’t take long on any general google search to find plenty of documentation.

Then I met him. And what stood out to me and what deepened our friendship was the fact that he cared so little for any of those accolades. He would tell you about them..but it was never to brag, they were a part of his story but they did not define him.

What Terry cared about were God, Graham, Chel and his family and his friends. In our years together in Nashville and our times we talked over the phone after I moved back home, that was always the dominant theme of our conversations.

And everything.. and I mean everything was always under the context of his faith in Christ. A faith rooted in the good news that it was the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross that was our only hope of finding eternal life. Terry preached it, he sang it, and he lived it.

For a period of about three years, Terry and I were friends and neighbors. My 3 girls called him, Uncle Terry and we always loved our times together.

I got to know Terry very well in a short time.  I count 2005-2010 as a beautiful time in my life and coaching football was a large part of that and Terry Warren was a big part of that.  In 2006 we went 10-3 before losing to the state runner up in the 3rd round. But what the stats and records will never show is the amazing coaching bond that we had that year. The love and laughter that we had in our coaches office that year has never been equaled in my coaching experience. God gave us a spiritual bond that season: Ryan McSwain, Steve Lenger, Danny Keck, Mike Wall, Chris Sanders, Lemanski Hall,Tom Moore, and Terry Warren. I also need to thank Ron Smith and Ernie Conwell for their contribution to our staff and program. To me it was a golden experience. When we laughed, we laughed hard; when we prayed, we prayed hard, when we coached, we coached hard, and when we wept, we wept hard.

If I may, I want to tell you two traits that were personified in Terry Warren: Terry was a warrior and Terry was an artist. Rarely will you ever find those characteristics in one man!

Make no mistake, when it came to football work- Terry was a warrior. It was the only way he knew how to play the game. I watched highlights of his playing days. It was old school football. Toe to toe and man to man- as a defensive end or outside linebacker, every snap is a warrior’s test of manhood.

I happened on a book right after I met Terry and it fascinated me. It was a book by Max Hastings simply called “Warriors”. In the book, Hasting’s chronicles the history of some of the greatest warriors in history and the difficulty they had in finding a place in civilian life.  I distinctly remember reading the following quote and immediately thinking of Terry.

“Every army, in order to prevail on the battlefield, needs a certain number of people capable of courage, initiative or leadership beyond the norm.”

I wrote the following in a blog post in 2008 with Terry fully in mind- and based on the recent news about Jim Harbaugh and his defense of football, shows that these tensions still exist and will exist:

The harder we fight for our faith and families, the more we will face misunderstanding and even persecution. If you are a good fighter, be careful, because there are a lot of people who do not like that ‘warrior spirit’. If you are a man's man and have grown up fighting for what you get- look out- this culture will not accept you with great comfort. It doesn’t keep us from fighting for the truth, but it does prepare us for misunderstanding in the midst of this fallen world.

So Terry was a warrior And Terry was an artist.

When Terry Warren sang, grown men wept.

In the summer of 2007, Terry and I would travel and speak at a few out of town churches. He would sing and I would preach. I would teach out of God’s Word and the audience was always polite. Then I would take a seat on the platform and watch the reaction of people when this huge, warrior man would hit the high notes of the Les Miserable song ‘Bring Him Home’ full of passion for his Lord and watch man after man start wiping away the tears.

Living in Nashville for 7 years and teaching literature for almost 15, you slowly begin to understand that artists experience the world with an uncommon perception.  I have a theory that on the inside they know artistic perfection, and life on the outside is their heroic attempt to present it. Those of us who watch their performances are mesmerized by the beauty and we are elevated by the experience. Yet, I think all artists have a mighty struggle in that, their best attempts on the outside always fall short of the perfection on the inside that they want to express.

That my friends is where we all must continually come back to the gospel message. Though our best attempts fall short, God’s grace points to  Jesus  for our full justification under the standard of God’s perfection.

So the warrior quote I just read can be tweaked and you say the same thing about artists:

“Every army, in order to prevail on the battlefield, needs a certain number of people capable of courage, initiative or leadership beyond the norm.”

“Every artistic expression, in order to prevail in the performance, needs a certain number of people capable of courage, perception, and talent beyond the norm.”

So think about what I have just presented:

Terry Warren- warrior- artist “ABOVE THE NORM” “Above the norm”

Terry Warren was a man who loved me ‘above the norm’ and he loved his family ‘above the norm’- He loved his friends “above the norm”
I will close with this-

My phone rang Monday morning, it was Randy Howell. You may not recognize Randy’s name, but he was the 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion, the superbowl of bass fishing.

Randy heard the news before I did and he called me immediately. He was truly broken by the news.

Randy had been a part of Terry’s TBN program. I had met Randy in Birmingham, and knew that his testimony would help proclaim the gospel to that worldwide TV audience.

Randy drove to Nashville..never hearing  or knowing anything about Terry.

Randy met Terry and only spent and hour or 2 with him. But because he had met Terry and looked into his warm eyes, because he had heard him sing, because he had heard his prayers..Randy knew Terry was special in a very short span.

I knew Terry was special in our 10 years together as friends- but that also was too short a span.

To his family, you know how special he was… and your lives are richer for it.
And we  eagerly look forward to continuing with Terry, in God’s timing, he has gone ahead and will not return to us- but by God’s loving grace we will go be with him… for all eternity.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  (John 3:17 ESV)"

And then I drove home.. exhausted.. and praying for God's grace to carry me through an important session meeting at 6:30 Am the next morning!

The next two days, I listened to Terry sing to me.. oh the joy and sorrow!

I came home Friday- right after my morning meeting- and all alone just cried it all out to Jesus! Angry, lonely, hurting.... crying out for Graham and Chel and Kelly and family... crying out for the ceremony in Tallahassee... but mostly... missing my friend!

If you have never done so.. please listen to him sing... it will fill your heart with God!

Below is an example: "Revelation Song" by Terry Warren