The Real Top 10 Reasons I Love America

american-flag-2aYesterday, as I was preparing to leave a foreign country to return home after almost two weeks away from the United States, I posted a quick entry called 10 Reasons I Love the USA.  A comment to my earlier post convicted me that I needed another post.  I often write tongue-in-cheek satire posts that are a reflection of some of the random thoughts that go through my mind at times.  This post was one such entry.

Yesterday’s post was not at all meant to capture my true heart of patriotism towards our great country.  Sometimes it is hard when someone only reads one post of a blog to understand the real person behind the blog.  I write frequently here about some of the things I love about this country, but I decided it was a good idea to share another post with my real top 10 reasons I love the United States of America.

I love the U.S.A. because:

  1. We still elect our leaders and have a stake in the direction of our nation.
  2. Our nation, in spite of our political differences, still rallies behind the idea of independence as a nation.
  3. The United States is still one nation that allows individuals who apply themselves and work hard to succeed.
  4. We have a rich history of patriotism and fighting for freedom here and around the world.
  5. We have so many dedicated men and women who are willing to sacrifice their lives to protect our freedom.
  6. Our military families suffer separation as a family and even loss in order to have a strong military presence around the world. You can read another post about my love for military HERE.
  7. We are a nation of many background, nationalities and ethnicities, but we have a common bond of freedom.
  8. Our nation still is a commanding leader in capitalistic thought and practice.
  9. I can complain about things I see wrong in this nation, without fear of retribution from government, and know in my heart that I am still very proud to be an American!
  10. Our freedom allows me to do what I do (preach the Gospel) without fear of government interruption.

God bless America, land that I love!

10 Reasons I Love the USA (Happy 4th of July)

1136185_92020858We love to travel.  Through personal travel and missionary trips I have seen many wonderful places in the world.  I love discovering new culture and I believe there is much to be learned from other countries.  After almost two weeks away, however, I am reminded how much I love my country.

We are traveling home on the United States’ birthday.  In honor of her special celebration, here are 10 current reasons I love America:

  1. I love the USA because we have air conditioning in hotel rooms.
  2. I love the USA because we have baseball.
  3. I love the USA because we call the right game football.
  4. I love the USA because we drive on the “right” side of the road.
  5. I love the USA because we smile when we meet people on the street.
  6. I love the USA because we us deodorant regularly.
  7. I love the USA because we value capitalism.
  8. I love the USA because we appreciate good customer service.
  9. I love the USA because we respect personal space.
  10. I love the USA because we actually trust our police officers.

We have our faults, but when it is all said and done, there is no place like home.

God Bless the United States of America…my home sweet home!  Happy Birthday!  May your best days be in the days to come.

Why do you love America?

You can also read “The Real Top 10 Reasons I Love the U.S.A.”

The Strength of the Lithuanians

125px-Flag_of_Lithuania.svgOne thing that has kept us occupied the most in our culture training this week in Lithuania is the difference Soviet occupation has made on this country.  People talk constantly about “Soviet times” and “during occupation”.  We visited the KGB museum and saw the evidence of the stressed conditions of the people. Not one family here is unaffected by those days.

There are many visual evidences of those times, which ended about 20 years ago.  You can see it in the building disparity.  There will be a beautifully architecturally designed building Europe is famous for right next door to a very plain, no flash, almost ugly Soviet-built building.  It is obviously the major influencer of the economy here that has tried to learn to adjust to capitalism and the freedoms that come with it.  Sadly, you can see it in the fact that there are lots of older women walking the streets, but relatively few older men.

In spite of the hardship of this country, however, it has been amazing to see the tenacity of these people.  They are survivors.  They find a way to make something work.  They find a way to be happy, to provide for their family, and even to give to others.  I will be telling more stories later when I have more Internet time, including one man’s story that literally blew me away, but for now let me just say that I hope when times are tough for me I will have the courage and resolve of these people.

Are you having a hard time these days?  Perhaps you need to hang around my Lithuanian friends for a while.

Are You Feeling Unqualified For Today?

This morning, as this is posted 8 hours after it is written, I will speak to a group of Lithuanians who mostly do not speak English.  In fact, my talk will be translated into Lithuanian and Russian.  There is a part of me feeling a bit unqualified.  I am reminded of the story of Moses.

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. Exodus 4:2 NIV

Moses had plenty of excuses. He couldn’t do what God was asking of him. He was not the right choice to carry out the mission of God. If God really wants to achieve victory….well…He’d just better pick someone else. Moses had the excuses, but God already had the plan…and it included Moses!

God said to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses responded, “A staff”, but he must have looked at the staff and thought, “Well, it’s just a stick God. You’ve seen one before! After all, you made them. I just can’t walk as well now in my older years. This helps me climb over the rocks. Gee, I thought you knew what a staff was…”

Then, Moses observed God do miracles with that ole stick right before his eyes. And that was only the beginning. Moses would see God perform many other miracles with the “ole stick” in the days ahead.

Moses was not eloquent in speech. He did not command a great army. He was in exile from his people. He was not the most obvious choice to lead this great exodus from Egypt, but He was God’s man. And, Moses had everything God needed to complete the task!

You and I do too! Sometimes we may not have what we think we need to accomplish the task of the day or to get through a trial; to conquer the mountain ahead or to see victory, but God has a plan! God asks of you and I today, “What is in your hand?”

God has fully equipped us to do the work in which we are called!

If you do not have confidence in your abilities today have confidence in your Creator! He has prepared you for this day!

Use The Summer To Prepare For Fall

SummerSunOne quick reminder.  Don’t kill a summer.  Use it to plan for fall.

Summer is often a time for church leaders (unless you are youth leaders) to take vacations, chill out, and rest up.  While I agree with that need, the fact is that fall gets here quickly and we need to be prepared for one of the best growth opportunities of the year.

Take some extra time before summer is over to spend some time dreaming, planning and implementing steps to help your church have a great fall!

I would love to learn from you.  What are you doing this summer to prepare for a great fall?

An Encouragement To Be A Dad (Happy Father’s Day!)

1013952_55377813Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your sons will be like olive shoots around your table. Psalm 128:3 NIV

The role of a father is so important in the home. God bless the fathers of the world today!

I have shared this story many times, but a friend told me once about an incident at her daughter’s house. Her son-in-law was really excited about reading the “Left Behind” series of fiction novels. One night he was so anxious to finish the latest release that he stayed up most of the night. Seated comfortably in his favorite chair, his back was to the rest of the house. The first time he got up was well after midnight. He was startled to stumble over one of his sons. His son was sleeping behind his chair, just to be close to “Daddy”.

What an impact a father has on his family. I can honestly say I have never met a woman who would not faithfully serve the Lord if her husband did. Most women I know, even very independent women, welcome their husband assuming the spiritual leadership of the home. Women are freer to serve Christ and be fruitful for the Kingdom when they have a supportive husband who surrounds her with unconditional love.

Children love to spend time with their fathers. They long for male attention, male interaction, and a father’s approval. One of the greatest gifts I can give to my boys is to simply spend time with them in the backyard. They love for me just to pass a ball with them. It is these times that I believe is molding their character into being godly young men.

Fathers, please, don’t neglect your greatest responsibility. I know the world is demanding much from you these days. I know you are tired from the pressures and stress of life, but your family’s health depends so greatly on the important role you play.

A Dozen Things That Encourage Me (Plus One)

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Here’s a random post that came to me this morning. I was thinking about some of the things that encourage me in life.

 

 

 

Things such as:

  • The reminder of God’s love
  • Cheryl’s smile
  • Time with my boys
  • A baby’s giggle
  • A Bible verse
  • A big dream
  • A kind word from a friend
  • A special memory
  • A thank you email
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • An answered prayer
  • The awareness of God’s presence
  • The love/innocence of a child

What would you add to this list?  What encourages you?

3 Questions To Help Answer Difficult Issues

I received a call recently from someone trying to make a difficult decision. I seem to get those kinds of questions frequently. Usually the dilemma a person is facing has no direct, easy answer and the exact answer is not always clearly spelled out in the Bible.

  • The one who has to decide whether to risk losing a friendship to do the right thing…
  • The girl who knows she is in the wrong relationship, but can’t decide whether to let it go…
  • The person who is ready to give up on their marriage…
  • The person working for a boss he or she knows is being dishonest…
  • The person who did something wrong, did not get caught, but wonders if they should confess…

You know the type….
In fact you’ve probably been there…

Usually I do not give the person an answer; either because I do not know the right answer or because I have learned that even if I did he or she might resent the answer I give them. (I wrote a post about that principle HERE) Even though they have asked for my opinion, the person needs to own the decision they make, based on what is in their heart and their personal inclination. I can and will share truth with them, but the reality is that I cannot effectively lead people where they do not want to go.

Through years of counseling I have landed on the following three questions that have proven helpful to give people as a framework to use when working with these type decisions. Often these questions will guide an individual towards the best decision personally without pressure from me. They are more likely to follow a decision they reached on their own.

What can you do?

God’s grace is amazing. Even when we make a wrong decision, God works all things for good. (Proverbs 16:9) When a person understands this truth they actually are more open to making the wisest decision. The kindness of God does lead to repentance.

What should you do?

This is obviously a more difficult question. With this question the person is forced to consider the issue of right and wrong. They should think through this concerning what God would have them to do and what would be best in the short-term and long-term for all parties involved. The separation between the first two questions often helps people work through the correct answer for their situation.

What will you do?

This is the biggest question, because it forces the person to consider making the best decision as opposed to the popular, comfortable or easy decision. When a person answers this question it helps them develop a resolve in their heart to carry through on their commitment.

I give these questions to people and usually let them work through them on their own, at least at first. If they need to talk through them I will do that after they have wrestled to answer them personally at first.

Have you had times when you had to make a difficult decision and could not decide what to do? How did you solve your dilemma?

Great Things Often Come In Small Packages

1187603_98883611Praise the Lord, all you nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.  Psalm 117

The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117. I have often wondered what was going through the Psalmist’s mind when he recorded his thoughts for this Psalm.  Was he finished?  Did he get interrupted?  Was there something else he wanted to say?  Was he satisfied with his work?  (Obviously God was.)  This shortest chapter has huge meaning.  If we were to memorize just these two verses and implement them in our life, I think it may make a difference in our perspective on the world and the situations in which we find ourselves.

We often think that for something to be grand it must be huge, but that is not the complete definition of the word grand. (For a definition look HERE.)  Shortest or smallest does not always indicate lack of importance.  Many times it is the smallest detail that determines success or failure with a project.  The shortest moments of time can often cause the greatest and the most horrific life changes.  In my life the shortest words of encouragement have often had the biggest impact.

Are you concerning yourself with the small things that matter most?

Worship: Nothing Else Matters

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:41 NIV

That word “terrified” here is probably better translated “fear”. It doesn’t mean fear like to be afraid of something.  It literally means of those startled by strange sights or occurrences; or of those struck with amazement; or to treat with reverential obedience.

It really means a reverent awe.  Its like we may say to someone who has done something remarkable, “Wow, I’m scared of you!” It is more of a worship reaction than a reaction of terror.

The disciples, when faced with the incredible truth of Christ and His power, had no choice but to worship Him.  That is what worship is: ascribing worth. They had no choice but to ask, “Who is this guy?”

At that point, perhaps more than any other time, they realized with everything in them that This WAS Jesus.  Did they understand Him completely?  NO. Would they question Him again?  YES. Would there be other storms?  Of course!

For this one moment in time, however, nothing else in all the world mattered.

I had a time like that recently.  I was praying for different people in our church, reflecting on some of the amazing things happening there, when I simply became overwhelmed at Jesus. I started to tear up and soon my eyes were flooded with tears.  It was a great time of worship, in awe of who Christ is and what He is doing.  Honestly it gave me a different perspective on the day.

Could the solution to your current problems be a time of worship?  Do you need to get alone, separate yourself from every other distraction, and fall on your knees and worship?  Is that the missing piece in your life right now?

Worship, like nothing else we do, takes us to the other side with Jesus and builds in us the full reality of His love.  Find a moment this week to worship the Living Christ!