Expatriate Patriotism

always-rememberSunday is an anniversary of an event that momentarily changed the United States. Most, if not all of us, who were alive and aware that day fifteen years ago will always remember the Eleventh of September.

The images are forever implanted in our minds eye. We still see the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center being struck by passenger planes. We recall the panic of people on the street running from the destruction as the towers collapsed. We know where we were and what we were doing on that Tuesday morning. I was driving to minister’s breakfast and listening to the events unfold on the radio. I had a “War of the World” moment thinking that this was a hoax, the horror was surreal. When I arrived at the breakfast the entire restaurant, employees, owners, and patrons were watching the news. No one said a word, until one of the older preachers suggested we pray.

Pray we did.

For the next few weeks, months, and even years patriotism ran high in our country. Flags flew, ribbons and bunting adorned homes and businesses. Everyone stood for the National Anthem and Congress gathered on steps and sang God Bless America. We were for a moment proud of our country, defending our freedoms, and pulling together.

Patriotism

Love and devotion for one’s country of birth. Love for patrios – of one’s father – one’s fatherland.

Patriotism is not unique to the United States. All nations have patriots, citizens who love their country.

But I am an expatriate.

Although I live in the United States and even though both my paternal and maternal ancestry have branches going back to colonial days and one branch to the 1600’s, as well as some Native America ancestry (although it is just a trace), The United States is not my fatherland. My Fatherland is where my Father is. My citizenship is in Heaven and I am a resident of the Kingdom of Christ – His Church.

  • As a patriot of the Kingdom, I love the Church. “Honor all people, Love the brotherhood, Fear God, Honor the king.” (1 Pet 2:17).
  • As a patriot of the Kingdom, I am honored to serve the Church. ” . . . strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Cor 14:12b)
  • As a patriot of the Kingdom, I defend Her. Paul was imprisoned for defending the gospel (Phil 1:16) I too should stand ready to defend the Church (1 Pet 3:15).

Will you stand with me against the enemies of Freedom in Christ?

Will you join us as we wage war not against flesh and blood, but against the powers of darkness and sin?

Will you be a patriot of Heaven?

-Scott

Preaching

Preaching.  That is what I do.

Preacher. That is what I am.

I first began serving in ministry during the summer of 1986 as an intern in Calhoun, GA. I followed that with a worship leader role in Montgomery for a few months until, I began working with a church in Bay Minette, AL. After graduation from Faulkner University (c/o 1989), I began my first fulltime work in Niceville, FL. In 1999 I began working with the Church in Parrish, AL. and then in 2014, I began working with Central in Tuscaloosa.

Thirty years. I find it very difficult to comprehend how thirty years can pass so quickly.

Thirty years.  How times have changed in these three decades. Culture changed, technology changed, churches changes, ministry changed, and preaching has changed.

The message is still the same, but my delivery and tone has changed. Maybe I am mellowing. Maybe society is forcing me to be more gentle in my approach.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Some of this change came almost naturally. Some of this change is from the influence of ministers I have known and know. And some of this change is purposeful as I read books about communication, preaching, churches, and ministry.

I watched a video on preaching just this morning that reminded me of my need as a preacher to be sincere yet kind; to be true to the text yet gentle. If you are a minister, I recommend watching this video and others in the series Ministers and Mocha. You will laugh and learn with each video.

I want to share something this morning’s guest, Dan Winkler, shared about the honor of preaching.  There are three things we have as a goal when speak God’s Word:

  1. Change minds.
  2. Touch hearts.
  3. Alter the destiny of a soul.

Keep preaching.

-Scott

Morning Motivation

motivation

The question of the day on the radio this morning was, “What motivates you?’

Thinking this through and listening to some of the callers answers, this is a wide open question. I almost want to take a camera and microphone around campus and around town and ask random people. I wonder, “what answers would I get?”

  • Graduation
  • Grades
  • Scholarships
  • Employment opportunities
  • A Paycheck
  • Spouse
  • Parents
  • Children
  • Political issues
  • Environmental issues
  • Honesty
  • Morality
  • Love

The list could potentially be endless.

What motivates me?

The apostle Paul gives a couple of answers:

  1. Heaven – I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Phi 3:14
  2. Christ’s love – For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Cor 5:14-15

As I look back on my life, from the time when I recall first beginning to have more responsibility for my actions and when I began consciously making choices for future, I see one overarching motivation. There seems to me one thematic unit that guides what I chose then and what I choose now.

I see this motivating factor in my choice of friends and activities in Junior High and High School.

This motivation played a role in who a tried to date and who I continued to date.

I see this same motivation in my choice of college and career.

I see how this thematic unit influenced who I asked to be my life-long partner in life – my wife.

This motivating factor played a role in the way we raised our son.

It moved me from ministry position to ministry position.

It is what drives the Morning Drive.

I can sum my motivation up in a few simple words that are not original with me, I have heard them from many others in my nearly 50 years of life.

What is my motivation?

“But for the grace of God, go I”

Grace. God’s amazing grace. In all fairness, I think that is what Paul was saying as well.

What motivates you?

-Scott

Kids Today

You hear it all the time. “Kids today.” Adults stating concerns about the future as they look at the youth of today. If we only watch the news, I can see how we can have great concerns. Shootings, protests, and lootings carry top billing. News groups share edited interviews of selected young Americans that seem support our fears.

Kids today are different. They are not you and me. They are making their own choices based on their individual and communal values. Some of that is good. Today’s young adults are buying smaller houses, trying to live on less of their income, all as they try to protect our environment.

I happen to know more than a few in this generation. Yesterday I spent a good bit of the day at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Alabama.  The students I cam across were extremely well mannered. They smiled and spoke to me, often asking how my day had been and welcoming me to their school. Yes, my son is a student there, but not everyone who spoke knew that. I was there to drop some things off to Andrew, to get some studying done, and to watch the Marching Eagle Band perform (and I caught a football game too). While at the game a group of students asked if they could sit with me.  I knew a couple of them from my time in Walker County. They talked about classes, churches they have visited, and their planned tips home.

I also know quite a few in Tuscaloosa. Students at the University of Alabama and Shelton State. Nearly 40 of these young Americans are leaving town today for Labor Day Weekend. For many this is the last hoorah of the summer. For these, howerver, as a part of Tide4Christ it is a trip to South Baton Rouge, LA to help with disaster relief in this flooded community.

With compassionate minded and friendly youth like these living and attending universities all over this country – our future can me and is in good hands.

-Scott

Putting Off Marriage

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Talking to Christians in Colossae, the Apostle Paul encourages them to change their ways.  He reminds them that now that they are different. “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  (Col 3:8-10). It is worth noting that Paul tells the Ephesians something similar in Ephesians 4 and then in chapter 5 compares the relationship of Christ and the Church to that of husband and wife.

This recognition caused me to pause and consider the things we need to Put Off when we marry and what we need to Put On in their place.

Put Off

Put On

Self-Centeredness

Love

Critical Judgment

Self-Reflection

Bitterness

Compassion

Grudges

Forgiveness

Pride

Humility

Hatred

Kindness

Lying

Truth

Profanity (Destructive language)

Encouragement

Ingratitude

Gratefulness (Thankfulness)

Impatience

Patience

Complaining

Contentment (Joy)

Jealousy

Agape Love / Trust

Anger

Self-Control

Self

Spouse

-Scott

Dad 101

meandrew

On July 25, 1997 my life changed! The change was immediate and long lasting. I am who I am today partly because of the events on that day. That day 19 years ago our son entered the world. A few days later we left the hospital to begin life as new parents in our own home. Enclosed in the assortment of material and supplies the hospital sent home was a pamphlet from The Family Source of Florida entitled, “10 Ways to Be a Better Dad.”  Now that Andrew is away from us for his sophomore year at Faulkner, look back and hope I was and am to him the Dad they describe.

Here are their suggestions along with my comments:

  1. Respect your children’s mother! Amen and amen. Children need to know their parents love and respect each other. This will form the foundation of their own marriage in years to come.
  2. Spend time with your children. That day over 19 years ago seems like yesterday. Now that little bundle of joy wears shoes two sizes bigger than me and looks down on me in the eye when we are standing. In just over two years he will be graduating college and taking the next step of adulthood. Take time to be with them and enjoy playing and being active together.
  3. Earn the right to be heard. Talk with them while they are young. Talk about difficult subjects that are age appropriate. Offer to help and help them with their struggles now and they will turn to you in trust later.
  4. Discipline them with love. Children need limits to keep them safe and to help them grow. Set those limits and lovingly enforce them in appropriate ways.
  5. Be a role model.. Your children will naturally look up to you when they are young. Be a GOOD role model of what a father and husband should be. They may not tell you so when they are teenagers, but they will still admire you in someway especially if you are consistent when they are young.
  6. Be a Teacher. Parents, you are your child’s first and primary teacher. Do not rely on the school or church to be your children’s only teachers. Teach them about right and wrong and encourage them to always perform to their best ability.
  7. Eat together as a family.. This gives your family the opportunity to debrief their day. You can talk about the good events and the emotional events; all the ups and downs of their daily activities. This gives you opportunity to listen to your children and therefore to know them. Which in turn gives you the right to offer guidance. They also hear about your day and how you cope with daily events.
  8. Read to your children. Amy is an elementary school teacher. She teaches young children who are new to reading. She can tell which children have parents that read to them. These children are better prepared to read and want to read because they see a love of reading modeled in the lives of their parents. Andrew is an avid reader (or he was while at home) and that inspires me to become a more regular reader.
  9. Show affection. This is not easy for some men, but we need to demonstrate love to our children. Hugs and kisses are great when they are little. As they mature, expressions of affection need to change. They will let you know how they want you to show love. Now athat Andrew is a man, we “man-hug” (a handshake that leans in to bump shoulders) as well as showing affection in other ways such as doing things together, the occasional fist bump, and things like that.
  10. Realize a father’s job is never done. My son is leaving the nest. Even when he is grown and he begins his own life and eventually a family of his own, if he is anything like my dad’s second son, he will still look up to his dad and look to him for love and advice.

BTW, thanks Dad for being a great example of all of these things.

-Scott

The World’s ______

The World'sThis weekend while at a “superstore,” I walked past the back to school / college section. I was not looking for anything in that section but something caught my eye. I had to do a double-take. A cup that read, “World’s Okayest Student.”

I did an image search for the cup and found there are cups, t-shirts, coffee mugs, bags, badges, and more with similar phrases: World’s Okayest Boss – Nurse – Mom – Dad – Child – Teacher – Husband – Wife – Principal – Employee . . .

The World’s Okayest . . .

I get the humor. I catch the sarcasm. It is funny, well it would be if.

If it weren’t true. Too many in life whether at school or in the workplace do just enough. They are not the worst but they are not striving to improve. They are just average, they are just okay and they are okay with that.

What ever happened to trying to improve? What happened to setting your sites a little higher and striving for better?

Sadly, there is probably a version that says, “World’s Okayest Christian.” If not I wonder if I could sometimes be the face of the “World’s Okayest Christian.”

Let’s not be just okay. Let’s become more. Let’s grow in Christ, in service, in love, and in faith.

I refuse to be just an Okay Christian!

  • Jesus condemned the church at Laodicea for not being cold or hot, but for being lukewarm – okay.  Laodicea was Asia’s “okayest” church. (Rev 3:15-16).
  • The Hebrew writer challenges his readers that they ought to be teachers, but they were satisfied with where they were- they were the “okayest” and he knew they should be more. (Heb 5:12-14).
  • Paul similarly corrects the Corinthians for not growing and still being the “okayest” – 1 Cor 3:1.
  • Peter would tell us, Don’t just be the okayest. Grow in grace.” In fact he does tell us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 3:18).
  • Paul says of himself, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” Phil 3:12-15).

I will be more that okay. I will be the best I can be. I will strive for better than I am in what ever I do, school, work, parenting, marriage, and especially as a disciple of Christ. Will you join me?

-Scott

 

 

Friend to the End

Michael W Smith sings, “A friend’s a friend forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them . . . ”

The old hymn says, “What a friend we have in Jesus . . “Do You Love Like Jesus?

The proverb says, “There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother . . .” (Pro 18:24)

Jesus says, “Greater love has no one that this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14)

All of this came to my mind this morning as I was listening to Roxanne and Chris on WDJC 93.7 FM. They were talking about God (Christ) being our friend. Using an allusion to Facebook, they reminded us that God will never unfriend us.

What a great way to start a Friday! God will NEVER unfriend me.

He will be there for me. He has my best interest in His heart and will. That reminder is something I needed. Thank you, Roxanne and Chris.

There is more to friendship. Some think of friendship as always getting along and always being their for each other without ever disagreeing.  Some think friends always support you and your decisions.

Yet a true friend . . .

  • Will tell you when you are wrong.
  • Will tell you want don’t want to hear.
  • Will tell you to get over yourself.
  • Will correct you when you are wrong.
  • Will give you the constructive criticism you need.
  • Cares enough for you to hurt your feelings to help you change.

God is no different!

There are times the Word of God (Scripture) convicts me. When I hold up my life to His will, I see I am wrong. I don’t want to hear it, but I am. His word tells me to “die to self” in other words get over yourself. Following Christ is to be the end of me. His Word reproves and rebukes – corrects me when I need correction. He sets a standard for me to improve toward. God cares enough about me as His friend to hurt my feelings to lead me to change.

The sad side to this is that sometimes we rebel. We do not want to hear needed correction and we run. God does not unfriend us. He does not abandon us or leave and forsake us. But we leave, forsake, abandon, and unfriend God.  This is the story of the prodigal in Luke 15:11-32. The father considered the lost son was dead. He still loved the son. He still wanted him to be His son. He welcomed Him back when he returned. God as the Father and as our friend will not leave us but allows us to break the relationship even though it wounds Him deeply.

The good news is that God is gracious and although we may not deserve it, when we are ready to be friends again through Grace He welcomes us back.

How great is our God!

-Scott

A Not Surprising Marriage Report

smileIn the past year, after finding that the average couple spends $30,000 on their wedding and 12.5% spend $40,000 (this does not include the honeymoon) Emory University professors Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon surveyed 3,000 people of varying income levels and married only once to see the effects of expensive weddings. According to a report on Ozy.com Their findings may need to change the way many approach their wedding day.

Wedding Costs and Marriage

  • Couples spending $20,000 or more increase their odds of 3.5% over couples spending $5,000 – 10,000.
  • Those that spend approximately $1,000 have the greatest odds for a longer marriage.
  • For the prospective grooms; spending $500 – 1,999 on an engagement rings decreases divorce rates by 1.3% over those spending $2,000 – $4,000.

A conclusion is that the more you spend on your wedding day you are increasing your chance for divorce.

There are a couple of possible factors:

  1. Couples who spend a lot on the wedding start the marriage with increased debt. Debt is a factor in many divorces.
  2. Couples focus too much on the day and not the marriage.

Do not misunderstand, I like weddings. Setting aside a day to celebrate the beginning of a marriage is a great idea. In 1st Century Palestine Jews had week-long festivals when a couple married. Jesus attending such an event in Cana (cf. John 2). Jesus used some of 1st Century wedding traditions to illustrate our need to be ready for His coming (Matt 25:1-13)  and to answer a question about fasting (Mark 2:18-20). But we must not let the day become more important that the marriage that follows.

Spend as more time preparing for your marriage than you do on your wedding.

Remember that the wedding is just the beginning of a marriage.

-Scott

Image via: Daniel Howell Photography

What Did You Expect?

Everyone of us enter marriage with certain expectations. Some are natural, some are 12307952_10206589030497621_5876259313852573140_oachievable, and some are just plain unrealistic.  These unrealistic expectations have potential to damage your continued marital happiness, so I suggest that you avoid them.

Unrealistic Expectations

  1. Our relationship will never change, it will always be the same as it was (is) in the early years of our marriage. I am sorry, this just is not true. The relationship will change, the thrills will be different. Consider this from a FB post I read, “Falling in love is a passive and spontaneous experience. But after a few months or years of being together, the euphoria of love fades. It’s a natural cycle of EVERY relationship. Slowly but surely, phone calls become a bother (if they come at all), touch is not always welcome (when it happens), and your spouse’s idiosyncrasies, instead of being cute, drive you nuts. The symptoms of this stage vary with every relationship; you will notice a dramatic difference between the initial stage when you were in love and a much duller or even angry subsequent stage.  At this point, you and/or your partner might start asking, “Am I with the right person?” And as you reflect on the euphoria of the love you once had, you may begin to desire that experience with someone else. This is when relationships breakdown.”
  2. The Honeymoon Excitement can be maintained or resurrected. I suppose I have to be the one to tell you that you have to go to work, if you have children then the role of parenting will impact that honeymoon feeling, and bills will come in the mail. Your love will have to change from infatuation to intention (read the above quote again).
  3. If my spouse loves me they will know my needs and wants without me having to tell them. NO ONE, not even your spouse can read your mind.  Tell each other your wants  and needs. Husbands, follow your wives interests on Pinterest if you want her to think you can read her mind.
  4. We should be just alike in everything.  We should have the same likes and dislikes, think the same, and do the same activities. NO! I am not sure I would like Amy if she were exactly like me. You are different people with different backgrounds and different genders – you will have differences.  Celebrate those differences and learn to try new things together.

There are other UNREALISTIC expectations, what you can think of?

– Scott