Friday, April 30, 2010

Real Power

Springtime in Alabama is a time of change.  Flowers bloom, trees bud, sun shines, rain falls, and occasionally a surprise in the form of a late snow.  This season presents quite a quandary, and not just for the weatherman.  Most of us face the issue of what to wear each morning.  We check the weather on television or even online, but we can never be sure if we are right.

Take, for instance, just this morning.  I chose to wear a light jacket on this  morning as I walked to deliver a message to my wife at the school and then to the Post Office before walking home.  During that short walk, the wind began to blow across my face and through my thin jacket.  I began to have negative thoughts about my decision to walk, and to question the reliability of the local weather forecast.  I felt as if the wind had a mind to blow my coat away, I pulled it a little tighter around me and began walking a little faster.

When I was approximately half way between the school and the Post Office, I began to get warm.  The sun decided to come out to play.  Oh how good the sun’s warmth felt on the back of my neck!  Oh how nice that warmth felt as I continued my trek!  By the time I reached the Hadder's Pharmacy I had to stop, not to catch my breath, but to take off my jacket.  What the wind failed to do with its force, the sun accomplish with gentle warmth.

This event reminds me of a certain fable concerning a conversation turned contest between the wind and the sun.  The wind in the fable did boast to the sun of its power, and did try and fail to remove a man’s coat by force.  The sun however prevailed, by warming the man so that he removed his own coat.

This story is like the story of God.  God, although He has the power, does not use this power to force us to do His will.  God in love, being love, gently warms our hearts through the sacrifice of His Son (John 3:16-17).  In another place John records, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1Jo 4:9-10 – ESV).

This story also contains instruction for us.  How do we influence people?  Many times we try to force our opinions (correct or not) on others.  We feel or think we know what is best for them and we tell them so in no uncertain terms.  If we force them to listen and close our ears to their thoughts and beliefs, we can not lead them to truth, they only tighten their coats of doctrine more tightly around them and quicken their pace to get away from us.  What if, what IF, we tried to gently warm them with the truth of God’s love?  What if, what IF, we let God’s love flow through us and warm their hearts?  What if, what IF, we let our light shine on them instead of shining the light in their eyes?  Remember Jesus’ words, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mat 5:16- ESV).   Look again to the context of John’s words in 1 John 4:

“We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1Jo 4:6-11 - ESV).

Take note of those around you, and let God work His power through your life, as you let your light shine, and act in love to those nearby.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Singing and Understanding

Recently, Cole's dad, Rick shared a very interesting story with me.  But first let me give you some background.

Rick grew up attending a charismatic church, that uses popular style musical accompaniment, soloists, choirs, etc. in worship.  Rick was one of the soloists.  Rick married, Gina who grew up attending a non-denominational acapella Church of Christ.  Rick attended with her often, but remained loyal to the way his parents raised him.  A few years ago Rick and Gina began attending with us.  After a few months, Rick said he had some questions for me.  We met in my study before worship on Sunday afternoon.  He questions were great but that is another blog.  He surprised his family and to the delight of all here, he came forward and obeyed the Gospel that evening.  Rick now leads in worship in many different areas and teaches our young teens on Wednesdays.

Now back to Cole.  Because Rick's family (parents, brothers, etc) are still part of the other group Cole and his brother Brooks will occasionally visit with family and attend worship where they assemble.  After one such visit, Cole told Rick and Gina, "That was a cool church.  They had a band with drums, guitars, it was great!"  Rick asked Cole a simple question, "What songs did they sing?"   "I don't know," Cole replied, "but it was awesome."

After the conversation had changed Cole interrupted, "We did sing, 'It is Well with My Soul,' it was good too."  Rick later discovered that the reason Cole remembered that one song was it was the only one the whole congregation sung acapella.  The message came through when the instruments were silent.

Now I wonder how Eph 5, Col 3, and 1 Cor 14 would fit into this event?


Monday, April 26, 2010


Hello, my name is Scott, I am a recovering competitor. . .

Competition is addictive.  Competition drives the American business model.  Competition runs deep in the heart and soul of many people.  Can you finish this jingle from years gone by, "My dog's better than your dog . . ."  I admit, wholeheartedly that I am a competitor.  I like to win when I play basketball,  I like for the team I support to win championships.  But competition can often get  in the way of positive outcomes.

When local Churches of Christ compete for members, feelings suffer, accusations fly, and fellowship crumbles.  When Churches come to realize they are autonomous and can work together, we accomplish more for the Lord's cause. When a program focuses on the outcome of competitions then the effectiveness of that ministry suffers.  When a program focuses of the mission of Christ (rescuing the lost, serving others, etc.) we are not in competition, but in cooperation.

Without fail, when I mention that I am "against competition," someone will try to tell me that most of life is competition.  The usual arguments include competing with other men for the affection of the one I would eventually marry.  I did not feel I was in competition with any other men.  Amy and I formed a friendship, that slowly moved to a romantic attachment, that quickly and naturally became exclusive.  Until the day, I proposed to her and she accepted, we were both open to the fact that if either one felt that our relationship was not going to last, that we had the right and responsibility to end it.  Once we said, "I do" however, the relationship became completely exclusive.

A second argument is that as a preacher, I competed for the role of ministry where I am currently located.  There were other men looking at my current position, and the elders were considering other men for this work.  Did I desire that those men lose to me? No!  I came looking at the opportunity here and allowing the folk here to see if I fit what they were looking for.  If so, then I was open to move.  If not, then I would continue where I was and be open to other opportunities that God would have me pursue.  I did not compete for this position, I came as myself and let things work as they would.

More recently, someone suggested that I am in competition with Satan for souls.  At first I had no answer.  As I thought more about this my answer is this: God is at war with Satan.  Satan is destroying souls and lives. God wants lives rescued from the disaster that Satan causes.  I am not competing with Satan, if I do, I lose by a long shot, "Wide is the path that leads to destruction and many there will be that find it."  Maybe this is narrow-minded of me, but I see my role as seeking to rescue folks from sin, not win an argument with them.  I present an offer of salvation through the only avenue that can save them - Christ (John 14:6) and let them decide for themselves.  I plant the seed and in some cases water the soil or young growth, but it is God who gives the increase.  God battles Satan and the victory is His in Christ (1 Cor 15:57).

In our family when we play card games, board games, and other similar games, we play for the fun of the game and the conversations that occur as we play.  I don't win a lot of games, we do not even finish games, but we have fun being together.  I repeat my belief that  competition can often get  in the way of more positive outcomes.  I am trying for a less competitive life. Am I completely free of competition?  No.  I still compete with myself to improve myself to do my best and I take that one day at a time and I still struggle when I am playing a game with someone who is super-competitive.  I just have to ask myself, "what does it matter in the end?"

What are your thoughts on competition?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Working Retreat

Today is Thursday and my first blog of the week. I suppose an excuse is in order.

I had a great opportunity to drive six hours to the Great Smokey Mountains and stay in the cabin pictured to the left.  I spent Monday evening, all day Tuesday, and Monday morning with 10 other ministers from Alabama, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  Not only were we from differing states, we were also from different areas of ministry.  So were full-time preaching ministers, some were youth ministers, a couple were bi-vocational ministers, and more than one entered ministry somewhat unplanned.  We had one key thing in common: A love for the Lord and His Church.  That is what brought us together, along with an email inviting us.

There was a special project that the host asked us to work on and I hope our input and efforts will continue to be of value to him.  But there was a side benefit or two.  We all went not knowing who would be there.  I was not sure I would know anyone except the host.  We went not knowing all the details but we went on faith.  While there old friendships grew and new ones formed.  our common bond in Christ provided great fellowship.  I could not help but think ho great heaven will be when we meet up with all the saints from years gone by and years to come.  I look forward to seeing you there.


Friday, April 16, 2010

Re-Thinking Church

A lot of good religious folks are talking about the church, and are rethinking and redesigning the church.  This May 1 and 2 the congregation at Sweetwater, TN will host a series of meetings designed to help us "Think About the Church."  If you are close by or are traveling through, please stop in.  Below is the advertisement for this series of meetings.  Oh, by the way, I am the guest speaker :-)


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Bank Loans

Enjoy this story of a Bank Loan for a Trip to Europe:

A man from Alabama walked into a bank in New York City and asked for the loan officer. He told the loan officer that he was going to Paris for an international redneck festival for two weeks and needed to borrow $5,000 and that he was not a depositor of the bank.

The bank officer told him that the bank would need some form of security for the loan, so the Redneck handed over the keys to a new Ferrari. The car was parked on the street in front of the bank. The Redneck produced the title and everything checked out. The loan officer agreed to hold the car as collateral for the loan and apologized for having to charge 12% interest.

Later, the bank's president and its officers all enjoyed a good laugh at the Redneck from the south for using a $250,000 Ferrari as collateral for a $5,000 loan. An employee of the bank then drove the Ferrari into the bank's private underground garage and parked it.

Two weeks later, the Redneck returned, repaid the $5,000 and the interest of $23.07. The loan officer said, 'Sir, we are very happy to have had your business, and this transaction has worked out very nicely, but we are a little puzzled. While you were away, we checked you out on Dunn & Bradstreet and found that you are a Distinguished Alumni from the University of Alabama, a highly sophisticated investor and Multi-Millionaire with real estate and financial interests all over the world. Your investments include a large number of wind turbines around Sweetwater, Texas . What puzzles us is, why would you bother to borrow $5,000?

The good 'ole Alabama boy replied, Where else in New York City can I park my car for two weeks for only $23.07 and expect it to be there when I return?

His name was BUBBA.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

How Many Bags?

Not long ago while at a local pharmacy, the young lady behind the counter noticed I lived in Oakman.  "I grew up there and graduated OHS," she said.  Then she mentioned folks she went to school with and we made some friend connections.  Then she asked if I knew one of the former principals of OHS.  When I admitted I did, she laughed and told me to tell him that he was a "two-bagger."

I did not know at the time what a "two bagger" was.  I inquired and she let me in on the story.  Here is the pun:  This young lady was about the same age as the principal's children and were friends with them.  He would jovially tell them when they were double dating to be sure to wear a paper bag over their heads so their dates would not know how ugly they were.  He would sometimes tell them to wear two bags just in case one ripped.

I remember when the loyal New Orleans Saints fans wore bags in the 1980's.  They were protesting a poor performing team.  There was also a stand-up comedian in the late 1970's who wore a bag on his head and called himself the "Unknown Comic."  These people wore bags to hide their identity for one reason or another.

I wonder how many bags we wear?  Do we have bags that we wear to hide our Christianity from our co-workers, schoolmates, or fellow athletes?  Do we have bags we wear when we are around other Christians to hide who we really are?  Can we become a "two or three bagger" just to cover ourselves in the case that someone begins to tear away one bag?  Are we ashamed to let people know who we really are?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Learning from a Teacher.

Let me introduce you to my favorite 1st Grade Teacher.  She was not my teacher when I was 6, nor did she teach my son's 1st Grade class (she was teaching 6th grade then).  We struck up one of our many conversations about teaching and preaching as we were returning from a "working vacation."  Yes, I am married to this teacher, I continual learn a lot from Amy's wisdom and insight even after almost 21 years of marriage.

Discussing how some of us who preach generally approach a topic or sometimes a situation within a congregation, she said that in the church we need to change from only using "spraying and praying" in our attempt to teach the truth. To "spray and pray" is an un-choked shotgun approach.  We do this when we preach a sermon or teach a class and hope that those who need to hear the message will get it.  We "spray" the message out and "pray" it reaches hearts.

Instead, she gave an alternative approach:  "Reaching and teaching."  This method is knowing the individuals of the congregation and reaching them with lessons to help them.  We can accomplish this is smaller classes aimed at particular age or social groups (singles, young marrieds, etc) and most effectively working with people on an individual level.

The more I thought about this the more I realized this is what Jesus did much of the time.  Consider how he taught the woman at the well, Nicodemus, Zacchaeus, and His apostles.  This is also the approach Aquila and Priscilla used to teach Apollos.

Thank you Amy, for reminding me how to be more effective as a preacher, teacher, and Christian who is concerned for the salvation of all.

The question is, "How can we best "reach and teach" instead of "spray and pray"?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who is Jesus Anyway?

Jesus and the New Testament penman ascribe a number of titles and names for Jesus.  Each of these terms in some way define who Jesus is and at least part of His purpose for coming to dwell with man.  Below are fourteen titles (names) in alphabetical order.

Jesus is the:
1. Bread of Life - Jn 6:35
2. Christ - Matt 16:16
3. Good Shepherd - Jn 10:10-11
4. Immanuel - Matt 1:23
5. High Priest - Heb 4:15
6. King of Kings - Rev 19:16
7. Lamb of God - Jn 1:29
8. Light of the World - Jn 8:12
9. Lord - Acts 2:36
10. Messiah - Jn 4:25-26
11. Savior - Acts 13:23
12. Son of God - Heb 4:14
13. Son of Man - Jn 12:23
14. Teacher - Jn 13:13-14

Which titles (one or more) stand out as very meaningful to you, and why?


Monday, April 5, 2010


As our Jewish friends complete the Week of Feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits), I shared a sermon yesterday on the Passover and our connection to it as Christians.  Here is the slideshare version below.  Some of the formatting from my original changed in the uploading process.

Apr 4  A M  Passover
View more presentations from Scott McCown.

Here is the outline with a few more details:


Acts 12:4 – Pesach – paska - Easter in KJV / Passover in ESV
Lev 23:4-8

After centuries in Egypt deliverance had come for Israel.
The first 9 plagues are over 10th is on the way.
Early spring and Moses gathers the elders of the people together.
o In 10 days the people were to:
o Take a spotless male lamb of a year old
o Separate it from the other livestock for four days on the `4th slaughter it.
o Dip hyssop broom in blood and paint awning and sides of doorway with blood.
o God would Passover (pay-sak) the house where He saw the blood.

Passover by the time of Jesus Day
Week of feasts not just one day
Passover day
Feast of Unleavened Bread
Feast of Firstfruits

NT Passovers
Jesus at 12 – Luke 2
Jesus with disciples – Luke 22:7-13.

Lessons and Comparisons
Matzah – Unleavened bread is a part of Passover
Passion traditions
o On the night before Passover the father does a final search for leaven in the house.
o By candlelight he sweeps any remaining breadcrumbs into a wooden spoon using a goose feather.
o Crumbs, feather, and spoon are bagged and burned outside the house in the morning.

1 Cor 5:6
o Take pains to remove sin from our lives.

Participants sing Hymns during and after Passover
Matt 26:30
Tradition suggests one of those hymns was Ps 118.
Notice verse 22 – stone that is rejected (Lk 21:17).
Jesus is that cornerstone

Jesus is the Lamb of God
Jn 1:29
o Remove our sin (leaven)
o Provides blood for sin

He was Sanctified (separated) for God’s purpose – Jn 5:30
He was Sinless (spotless) – 1 Pt 2:22; 2 Cor 5:21.
He was (is) Sacrificed – Heb 7:26-27.
He provides Salvation – Acts 4:12.

Paul’s statement – 1 Cor 5:6-8.
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


Friday, April 2, 2010

I Love Children!

Last night, Amy and I made a quick run to the local dollar store so she could pick up a few things for school.  As we were at the cash register, a young mother and her preschool age daughter walked in.  As Mom selected a shopping cart this precocious four year old asked,"Can I push the buggy, Momma?"  

"Yes, but stay with me." The mom replied.

"O.K., because I am pushing I pick out the stuff!"

I stifled I laugh!  This little preschooler had figured it out.  The one who controls the cart is the shopper and gets what she wants!

How often do we try to manipulate co-workers, spouses, friends, etc to get what we want?  Is that fair?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Care for the Demanding

We had a Tom Cat named Boots, he is a roamer, we are not sure where or if he is at this moment.  We also had a stray, Little Bit, who adopted us and had two litters of kittens before she died defending the second set from a pack of stray dogs.  Of her litters of kittens, there is still one that stays around our house.  It is not a domesticated cat, it will not let us come near it and hides when it sees us.  However, this cat expects -- demands -- a bowl of food in the morning, and we feed it.  Admittedly, I get frustrated that this cat, to whom we have given ardent devotion in the form of free shelter and free food does not return that devotion by allowing us to pet or play with it.  This cat is far from its parents -- Boots would let you pick him up and carry him anywhere.  He liked to climb in laps and nap or just be petted.  Little Bit was wild when she came to us, but warmed up to us and would rub against us and came to the point where she would climb up in our laps if we were sitting on a step or on the ground.

This particular offspring of Boots and Little Bit remind me of a passage in Judges 2:7-11.  Here the penman records that as long as Joshua and the elders that were with him remained the people were faithful to God, but as time went on there arose a generation that did not know Joshua or those elders, and did not remember what God had done in delivering the people from Egypt, through the desert, and into a land ready for them.  This group forsook God for idols and did what was right in their own eyes.

Concerning this propensity of people someone said, "We are always and only ONE GENERATION away from apostasy."  Maybe that is why God told the people in Deut 6:4-9, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates."

Parents we need to teach our children about God and remind them of the blessings that are in Christ.
Parents we must train our children to be godly in their lives while they are young.
Parents we should nurture them (lead them) in the Light.

What do you do to help your children become more and more like Christ?