Missing The Gentle Nudges

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This was originally written for a devo for Western Hills Church.

But before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives. This happens because we tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler nudges. .
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost For His Highest

The older I get, the smarter my parents get. At one point in my life, I was infinitely smarter than my parents. They were out of touch. Slow. Well-meaning but completely ill-equipped to help me in my complicated life of constant change.

What.

An.

Idiot.

Do you remember as a child – or maybe even as an adult – getting instruction from a coach or a mentor or a parent? And your initial reaction was probably – “Whatever. What do they know?” Of course, more often than not we quickly realize they knew quite a bit.

Experience. She is a brutal teacher.

God will always first speak to us in a gentle whisper. I have a dear friend that calls it “The Nudge.” He’s always telling me – “I’m feeling a Nudge here. Not sure if it is ‘THE Nudge’ but I’m gonna listen to it.” More often than not, he’s right.

The Nudge that says – stop right here and pray for this person. Over the phone, in the hallway, at the cubicle. The Nudge that says – listen first. Just listen. The Nudge that says – trust me in this. Serve. Give. Risk. The Nudge to trust the Scriptures even when it seems impossible. The Nudge to ask about someone’s faith.

There have been times when I’ve missed ‘The Nudge.’ Crisis results. Sometimes it’s a crisis of inconvenience. Sometimes it’s a crisis of regret. We get to see God work and realize we missed out on it and we had a chance to be in the middle of it. That mission trip we thought we could never get time off or money to pay for. That kid that trusts Jesus and we were too busy to listen or coach or teach. Families get help and we weren’t there to be a part of it.

Sometimes it’s a crisis of pain. By missing the nudge, we find ourselves in a situation of a series of ‘no-win’ decisions. A family on the brink of destruction due to unfaithfulness. A young woman realizing she is now a mom. A man consumed by porn or alcohol or some other addiction. A marriage pushed to the breaking point due to finances.

The wild card in all of this is what does crisis do to you? I’ve seen crisis shipwreck people. I’ve seen the anger and despair take over. The clouds come in, the hate and bitterness rise. The blame begins to flow in all directions – up and out. I’ve also seen crisis create a sense of resolve. It clarifies what is important. It can move us very quickly to trust and faith.

This whole series of “You Can’t Talk About That In Church” has hit on subjects that God has already given gentle nudges to us. From sexuality to finances to our freedom in Christ – God’s word has these ‘gentle nudges’ to protect us or to provide.

Are you catching them?

Allow me a couple of suggestions in hearing the ‘gentle nudges.’

1. Get quiet. Turn off the radio. Don’t come home and flip on the TV. Just sit for a few moments and listen. Get still.

2. Get in the Scriptures. It’s not enough to just get quiet, you need to learn (or relearn) what God’s voice sounds like. So start by reading the Scriptures. YouVersion on your smart phone has about a jillion different reading plans you can start with. Even using the verse of the day will be a great starting point. Point is – read the Bible. Learn what God’s voice sounds like.

3. Start obeying with small stuff. You gotta crawl before you can walk. Ask the Spirit, is there anything in my life that you have repeatedly told me to do that I am not doing? Is there anything in my life you have repeatedly told me to NOT do, that I need to stop doing? It can be as simple as getting up 30 minutes earlier to read and pray. It could be quit gossiping, start serving 1 hour on Sunday morning, make it church more than 2 times a month, increase your give, be slower to speak, start praying for your family or leaders.

4. Keep your head. If crisis happens, don’t panic. Stop and ask the question – what does God want me to get out of this? Did I miss a nudge?

Here’s the gospel – you are never too far gone for him to reach you. There is nothing you will ever do that will make him love you less. Repentance can happen anywhere anytime. And since he is always speaking to us, the nudges never stop either.

And that’s good news.

How To Fix The NFL Train Wreck of 2014

After the most depressing week in football history, I’ve got the perfect solutions for the NFL, the owners, the Commissioner, and the NFLPA.

1. Remove Roger Goodell immediately from player discipline issues. Don’t have to fire him as Commissioner, just remove him from handling player discipline.

2. Hire a new position: Player Misconduct Commissioner. Job description is easy – this individual handles all off-the-field player misconduct cases.

3. Establish small (3 person) Player Misconduct Council. Call it a Tribunal if you want to have a teen dystopia kind of feel. Put a former player, a union rep, and an owner rep on the council. The Player Misconduct Commissioner brings cases and recommended penalties to this group. Group either affirms, alters, or denies recommendation. Straight majority rules.

4. Establish 3rd-party appeal board. MLB has this. NBA has this. Shouldn’t be that difficult. Don’t reinvent the wheel. In fact, let the same appeal board that handles MLB do the NFL.

5. Quit using the excuse “We are going to let the legal process play out.” Technically, legal process has nothing to do with a companies policies and procedures. Plus, we know what this is code for. It means “this offense is not quite heinous enough to cost us sponsorships or money and/or he is one of our best players so we are going to do everything we can to keep him on the field.”

That’s right – we are looking at you Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers, and San Francisco 49ers. We didn’t hear that phrase with Aaron Hernandez or Michael Vick or Ben Roethlisburger. You don’t need to see the legal process to play out with Adrian Peterson, Ray MacDonald, Greg Hardy, and Ray Rice. There’s enough to suspend them. Hardy has already been convicted and he appeal so – the legal process HAS played out.

Bigger than that – it’s not about LEGAL, it’s about LEADERSHIP. If you make millions of dollars representing a city and organization, is it really too much to ask from you – “don’t do anything that will get you arrested?” Apparently it is. Make it simple – you get arrested, you are missing at least a game – maybe more.

NOTE: We don’t want to hear that it will be expensive to hire these positions. You made $10 Billion dollars last year. You want to save a few coins? Hire a few of us fans for 6 figures. We’ll do it for pennies on the billions of dollars you are making.

Special Instructions To the NFLPA and Players:

1. Quit defending each other/yourself via Twitter.. Obviously you have freedom of speech to do this. Understand this as free, helpful advice. Let’s face it. When you tweet defenses for your buddies, you just prove the point that you’ve lost any real perspective on life and it confirms our suspicions about your intelligence level.

I’m looking at you both Baltimore Ravens and Adrian Peterson. “We won this for Ray.” Seriously? You won this game for a guy who knocked out his fiancé in an elevator? Just shut up. Really. You get arrested for beating kid with a switch – causing bruising and bleeding, and you have at least 7 kids from who know how many mothers and you quote a Bible verse to us???

Seriously??? Is there any chance we can have the opportunity to use the switch on you?

Just stop it.

2. Nothing Good Happens After Midnight. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that if you are out clubbing and drinking till 4 AM, bad things are going to happen. Go home. With a driver. Again, you don’t HAVE to do this.

3. Think twice before saying the words “taking food off my table”. You missing a couple of game checks is not taking food off your table. It may be taking gas out of your Ferrari or eliminating that 145th pair of shoes or even that 9th car. But it’s not food off the table. It’s insulting to the rest of the world when you say this.

4. Act like a decent human being. We’re not expecting Rhodes Scholars, Boy Scouts, pastors, or even “Momma’s Boys.” Just common decency that we expect from a 4-year-old when they are out in public. We expect them to not wet on themselves or anything else. We expect them to not hit ANYBODY. We expect them to be in control of their emotions and act human.

We’re not expecting much.

The bar is humiliatingly low.

It’s ridiculous that you need a Conduct Policy that middle schoolers don’t need because they have the common sense to act responsibly and intelligently.

Maybe one day we will see an owner or a business partner – like FedEx, Levi’s, Sports Authority – step up and say ENOUGH. We are done. There’s something more important than money.

Maybe.

Movie Review: The Act of Killing

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In 1965, the communist Indonesian government was overthrown by the military. The United States provided weapons and covert training to make this happen. Para-military groups called ‘death squads’ acted as modern-day gangsters, arresting and killing thousands of communists and Chinese.

This film returns to the scenes where these arrests and executions took place with the men who carried them out. Anwar Congo is not only the film’s tour guide but he was a former death-squad leader. He not only takes us to the places but reenacts many of the scenes with a chilling bravado that will make you question if humanity really has learned anything in the past 2000 years.

It’s not just the brutality of the murders, it is the way Anwar and his colleagues tell the story. They are proud of what they did. Still proud. They are so adamant to tell the whole story in as much detail as possible, they start recreating scenes with actors, costumes, and special effects. It is as if you’ve been given a backstage pass to a person’s personal delusion of reality.

Anwar and his friends speak of the evil of communism and the Chinese as an ideology but offer no real stories of what was so inhumane about their rule. We get to see this hate get fleshed out as they extort small Chinese business owners on camera in the markets. A newspaper editor happily recalls selling out communists to the death squads, bragging that he was the final determination of life or death for these people. The hubris is shocking.

There is plenty of documentation of what the death squads did but there is little to no mention of the history that led up to the coup of 1965. Was all this action in reaction to the corruption and atrocities done by communists? It’s as if these death squads suddenly appeared and started killing people in response to the coup. The film hints at a very disturbing reality. That these ‘gangs’ were already in force and were just looking for a cause, an excuse to carry out the act of killing.

The final 15 minutes of the film finally show a chink in the armor of Anwar. He reveals that he is ‘haunted’ by those he killed. Almost every night, their faces return to him in his dreams, terrifying him. His ‘friends’ do not share the experience. They convince him to get help from a doctor, be stronger, push it aside. We are never given resolution to his demons. This is to be expected as there probably will be no resolution for Anwar.

It’s an award-winning documentary and rightfully so. It showed how fragile life is, how little value humanity has in certain circles.

The Act of Killing

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A haunting look at the 1965-1966 coup of Indochina.

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Book Review: World War Z

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I’m not a huge fan of the zombie genre but Max Brooks kept me thoroughly entertained with his ‘fictional history’ of the Zombie War. This all started by watching the movie “World War Z” which I surprisingly enjoyed. Curiosity getting the better of me, I had to read the book.

Let me start with the first shocker of the book. It’s not like the movie. In fact, it’s going to be easier to make a list of all things that are the same between the book and the movie:

1. They both have Zombies in it.
2. A lot of zombies die.
3. Israel’s “10th man” concept is communicated clearly.
4. They are both titled ‘World War Z.”

Let me double-check….Yeah, I think that about covers it.

The movie is entertaining and so is the book. They are just very, very different.

The book is a not-so-subtle slap in the face to the American value system and arrogance. Cuba comes off as the model country of how to survive in case the entire democratic/capitalistic system craters.

The real genius of the book is because of the way Brooks tell the story, it’s entirely possible to miss the critique of American arrogance. It reads like a commissioned report, an investigative history. The interviews are from widely different characters all over the globe detailing their experiences with the zombies. It’s through these interviews we learn not only about individual tales of heroism but also the nightmares they live with. Each story is told from distinct perspectives, no objectivity is even attempted. It leaves the reader having to understand that none of the accounts are objective.

Telling the story this way allows Brooks to get in many critiques about American hubris, arrogance and dependence on technology. It’s a not-so-hidden critique on our abandoning the “dirty jobs” for white-collar jobs. What makes Brooks brilliant is that he is able to do this in a way that doesn’t compromise the story. It’s brilliant and completely works. We are transported from Brazil to China to Russia to Japan to different cities in the United States hearing of the successes and failures against people who had been reanimated by the virus. Along the way, the depravity of man is clearly exposed against the backdrop of a worldwide tragedy. But the goodness of man is exposed thru the stories as well.

It is absolutely worth reading.

Our Own Personal Wizard Of Oz: Goodell, the Ravens, and Ray Rice

The genius of the story Wizard of Oz was the actual character of the Wizard. He appeared to be the most powerful character but reality was he was the weakest. Completely devoid of any real power or magic, he was all smoke and mirrors, created because the culture was too weak to stand on their own. So he played that role but when real power and leadership was needed – he couldn’t provide that. And the people got mad at him for not having any real power when the real issue was the people’s lack of courage to face reality in the first place. He was just opportunistic enough to take advantage of the situation.

See the parallel?

I get why the whole world hates Roger Goodell, the Ravens, and Ray Rice right now. I just think that circle should be a little wider. Like ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS, Fox, and NFL Network as well. What about the hotel? Or the law enforcement agencies? You’re telling me that TMZ scooped all these guys on an NFL story?

I’m not buying it. I’m not a fan of TMZ but let’s get this clear – they seem to be the only ones willing to make it public. All those other entities’ relationships with the NFL compromised them. At worse – they were bought out to not tell the story. At best – because of their relationship with the NFL, they didn’t push hard enough to find out the whole story.

This isn’t a one-time issue. It’s happening right now again. See Greg Hardy with the Carolina Panthers and Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers. The networks that have NFL contracts aren’t pushing these stories, demanding punishments from the team or the league. Both men played on Sunday. Ray McDonald’s case happened within 72 hours of the new “Domestic Violence Policy” that has YET to be enforced.

There are a dozen different ways this should have played out but none of those happened because each level of “responsibility” pushed it up to the next level creating this Wizard of Oz culture for the NFL, Roger Goodell, and the Ravens.

We fans aren’t innocent either. I’m guessing we didn’t stop watching the NFL or buying jerseys or showing up to games or playing fantasy football this weekend. I wonder what would happen if every fantasy football league cleared their roster this week and every game ended in a 0-0 tie? Or if the stands were empty for one weekend?

The bottom line – our dollars and corporate sponsorship dollars helped build the Wizard. Wonder what it will take to pull the curtain back?

The Eiffel Tower and The Church

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Parker Dane used a great illustration yesterday in speaking on the church yesterday – the Eiffel Tower. The World’s Fair was coming to Paris in 1889 so the city commission Alexander Gustave Eiffel to build a temporary ‘monument’ to serve as the entrance to the Fair.

From the beginning, the monument had its critics. The art culture of Paris hated it. Many civic leaders called it a pox on the beautiful city. The city of Paris was petitioned to block the building of the tower.

The truth of the matter was that commission didn’t really have any other options. So to save face they only promised Eiffel 1.5 million francs to build it. Eiffel had estimated it would cost 6.5 million francs. The Commission never imagined that Eiffel would put up his own money to build the monument. To further protect his investment, Eiffel asked for a 20 year contract to recoup his investment from entrance fees.

Over 120 years later, the Tower is THE landmark of Paris. It is the most visited monument in the world boasting over 250 million visitors.

And it still has its critics as well. Most Parisians tolerate the structure seeing as a tourist trap distracting from the true beauty of Paris.

The parallels to the Church are eerie. The builder of the Church put up His own currency as well – His blood. The Church is THE landmark of Christ, standing in history as the most influential ‘organization’ ever. Of course that influence is marred with both moments of brilliance and grace as well as seasons of darkness and hate. She has her champions but also her critics.

There are those who will never accept or enjoy the Eiffel Tower. It was too hideous of a mark on Paris. There are those who feel the same way about the Church.

And let’s face it – some of the hatred is well deserved. From the grand failure of The Crusades and Inquisition to the small places of local congregations that still haven’t figured out Jesus’ words in John 13:35.

It’s hard for me to look at the Eiffel Tower as anything but magnificent. It’s been on my bucket list since a child. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that structure gone, removed. It is a stunning, amazing structure – as far as I can tell.

I feel the same way about the Church. It’s a stunning, amazing organism. The difference is I still believe that after having spent the larger portion of my life on staff at churches and working in para-church organizations. Shocking, I know.

I’ve seen and experienced the pettiness of jealousy and rumor. I’ve sat across the table from people who’ve questioned my love of Jesus and the very salvation of my soul. I’ve been called horrible, despicable things to my face and behind my back. I’ve been misjudged, misquoted, misrepresented and misunderstood. I’ve been disrespected and disregarded. I bear the scars of the imperfect Church. I’m no longer surprised at the stupidity or the senselessness of the behavior of some of those who claim to be followers of Jesus.

But I also see that glorious, invisible, body of Christ that responds to their leader Jesus by pushing back the darkness with light and love – His light and love. The Church that is in Pakistan and Iran and China. That stands in the gap in orphanages and brothels and trash dumps around the globe. The church that helps people heal their marriages and homes, helps them find their purpose in life. That brings God’s story to middle schools and high schools and college campuses. That invades the darkest of places with light and hope. That brings a prodigal home, that changes lives and histories.

You can’t miss that Church either.

I’m reminded of another illustration. I was in 6th grade band when my poor band teacher attempted the impossible – teaching us Mozart. In a word, it was a train wreck. I remember thinking – I don’t get how this guy’s music has lasted all these years. It’s terrible.

Then I got to high school and my girlfriend had season tickets to the Denver Symphony. Guess what was playing? Mozart. I was stunned. What we did to his music in middle school – there should be laws.

Then in November of 2004, Amy and I get to spend a weekend in Prague. We go to the Opera House and the Prague Symphony was playing that night. Guess what they were playing?? Mozart. Best ever.

Point? When the Church is obeying Jesus, it’s trying to play Mozart. It isn’t easy. And sometimes it sounds like a 6th grade band. Horrendous. But every member of the Denver and Prague Symphonies played in middle school band at some point. They were terrible at some point doing criminal things to Mozart’s music. But they eventually got it right. And when they got it right, there was nothing else like it in the world.

Here’s to getting it right.

2014 NFL Predictions

“I can’t tell you how much I missed NFL football this year.”

“Amen to that.”

Conversation between father and son last night as we get ready for the 2014 NFL Season.

These are completely worthless and if you seriously are going to use them in Vegas as your retirement plan – you’ve got issues. No time for fluff or cute little insights from the offseason. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Bold indicates division winner.
Bold Italics indicate wild card.

NFC Predictions

NFC East
Philadelphia Eagles
New York Giants
Dallas Cowboys
Washington Redskins

Random Thoughts: Kelly has proven his offense will work in NFL. Giants could snag wildcard here if Manning the Lesser gets some protection and a decent running game. Cowboys and Redskins are both hot messes.

NFC South
New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons
Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Random Thoughts: I love this division – mainly because of the Saints and Falcons and their sweet looking uniforms. The Bucs changed their uniforms this year. NOT A FAN. They now look like they all work for Burger King. Think I’m kidding?
NFL: Preseason-Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
At any rate, Carolina needs receivers and Tampa Bay needs…alot. But Lovie Smith will get them there eventually. Not this year.

NFC North
Green Bay Packers
Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions
Minnesota Vikings

Random Thoughts: I’m thisclosetopicking the Bears as a wild card. Especially with all the drama coming out of San Francisco. Okay…forget it. I’m picking the Bears to win the wild-card. I instantly regret this decision. Lions and Vikings have what the other needs. Think about it for a second – it will make sense in a minute.

NFC West
Seattle Seahawks

San Francisco 49ers
Arizona Cardinals
St. Louis Rams

Random Thoughts: San Fran is so close and they could be the wildcard team but there is serious drama surrounding this team and it isn’t all good. Cardinals look good and could push, Rams…wow. Snakebit team.

NFC Playoffs
Packers (home field), Seahawks – byes
Saints over Bears, Eagles over Falcons.
Packers over Saints, Seahawks over Falcons
Packers over Seahawks

NFC Champion: Green Bay Packers

AFC Predictions

AFC East
New England Patriots
Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills
New York Jets

Random Thoughts: Not to take anything away from Tom Brady and Belicheck but can we at least be honest and say that all you need to win this division is an average QB and a coach that it isn’t an idiot? I mean, the rest of the teams in this division aren’t just bad, they are putrid. And they stay putrid. And they don’t make great draft decisions or trades or coaching hires or GM hires. Remember Matt Cassell destroyed this division for like 8 wins the season Brady was hurt.

AFC South
Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars

Random Thoughts: See note above. Luck is great but let’s get real…none of the rest of these teams are going to challenge the Colts. Lone exception is Texans if they ever find a QB that throws as many TDs passes for them as he does for the opposing teams.

AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore Ravens
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland Browns

Random Thoughts: Can’t believe I’m picking the Bengals but who else are you going to pick? And Ravens as a wildcard? Again, I ask you – who else are you going to pick? KC? Steelers? The Steelers are an enigma to me, they should be better than what they are but they just don’t play that way. Hope Tomlin can push for the playoffs this year but…

AFC West
Denver Broncos
San Diego Chargers

Kansas City Chiefs
Oakland Raiders

Random Thoughts: Denver should fly thru the division. Chargers are going to be good. Chiefs looked absolutely horrible in preseason. Not even close to the same team they had last year but they are the Chiefs and they do have ways to surprise you.

AFC Playoffs
Broncos (home field), Patriots – byes
Chargers over Bengals, Colts over Ravens
Broncos over Chargers, Patriots over Colts
Broncos over Patriots

AFC Champion – Denver Broncos

Super Bowl – Broncos over Packers

Random Thoughts: It’s not a stretch to see the Broncos winning the AFC. It’s a weaker conference and the defenses in the AFC can’t match up with the Broncos. Hence, why the Broncos the last two years have laid waste in the regular reason racking up 12 and 13 wins.

The NFC is another beast altogether. Honestly, both the Seahawks and the Packers are a better teams than the Broncos. Their running games and defensive backfields are so much stronger than any of the teams the Broncos will face in the regular season. If it does indeed end up Broncos/Packers or Seahawks, the NFC will have the edge. I just can’t pick them over the Broncos. Too much of a Bronco fan.

If however the Saints make it – can you imagine that Super Bowl???? Brees and Manning? Broncos/Saints? Good night – there could be 200 points scored in that game.

Any rate – we kick off a new season in just a few minutes.

Go Broncos.