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When Dreams Die

In the NFL about this time of year, dreams die. That is, another team loses and is knocked out of the playoff race. Their dream of making it into the playoffs and hopefully getting to the Super Bowl can vanish in a weekend.

However, does that mean that the dream really died? Not at all. Pretty soon every team will begin to strategize for the next season, the next run. And the dream will live again.

Think about Joseph and his dreams in the book of Genesis:

Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words (Genesis 37:5-8).

Then through a series of incidents he found himself in an Egyptian prison. The years passed.  As he sat in the prison cell I can imagine his dream continually surfaced in his mind.

I wonder, did his dream ever die? After a series of providential circumstances Joseph not only got out of prison, he rose to an unprecedented level of authority. Now Joseph was governor over the land. He was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground (Genesis 42:6).

Maybe your dream didn’t die. Maybe its just not the right time. As you get ready to begin a new year, maybe it’s time to dream again.

walking through life

What Would Jesus Do?

What would Jesus do?Did you know that one of the greatest ways to grow and develop as a believer is to follow the example of Jesus?  What would Jesus do?

Think about it. When He was under stress in the Garden of Gethsemane, what did Jesus do?
Mark 14:34 says, “And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful (deeply distressed), even to death. Remain here and watch.”

Three times Jesus came back to his friends for moral support. In other words, when you are under a load of stress, share it with your friends. Do not carry the burden alone.

Stress is going to take a toll on you. It took a toll on Jesus as He admits it was almost killing Him.

And as Luke 6:40 says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

Clearly there is a gap between our lives and the life of Jesus. Typically, we attempt to close the gap by increasing our knowledge of the Bible. Or we resort to more time in prayer. Or we attend church more. But have not then unintentionally reinforced the GAP???

When I was growing up there were people who would rededicate their lives to Christ on a regular basis. It never seemed to help.

It’s not about decision making, but about practicing the habits of Jesus.

Here’s some homework that will help: Read through the Gospels, and write down 25 responses of Jesus in various situations. Then start practicing some of them until you work your way through the list.

We have already mentioned one. What did Jesus do when under a heavy load? He went to His friends. If Jesus could not rely on His own inner resources, you likely can’t either.

Here’s another assignment: Find Ten Things Jesus did in His relationships that visualized love…then PRACTICE THOSE.

When Jesus met a woman at the well He turned the conversation to spiritual things. Follow His example.  For instance, a common conversation is about what you did with your weekend. How about saying something like, “I had a pretty normal weekend, went hunting on Saturday, and went to church on Sunday…do you attend church anywhere?” See how easy that can be?

Now it’s your turn. What would Jesus do?  Live your life purposefully following Jesus’ example.

VIDEO: God Can Turn Your Life Around

God can turn your life around because He is “The God of Great Reversals.” We can see God work in Hannah’s life in the book of 1 Samuel.

VIDEO: The Story Behind “It Is Well With My Soul”

Did you know the story behind the well-known song “It is Well With My Soul”?  The song has comforted millions over many years.

VIDEO: When Your Life is a Mess

How do you handle it when your life is a mess?  Especially when it’s not even your fault.  Do you hang on or do you bail?  The Old Testament story of Joseph gives us a great example of what to do.

Like this video?  Subscribe to the New Hope Church YouTube Channel!

Pride Goes Before Destruction

One of the better known verses in the Bible is Proverbs 16:18: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Occasionally we get to see it played out right on our own TV screens.
The opening night of the NFL season was at New England–last year’s winner of the Super Bowl.
Fans were greeted with a huge, over-the-top intro hyping how great the Patriots were.
Not sure who gets the credit for the idea, but let’s just say it seemed odd.  It certainly didn’t reflect the attitude of the coach or the quarterback. The intro was clearly out of character.
It was way too much pride in their Super Bowl win. They had already celebrated that back in February.
But then, why not just rub it in. Maybe it will intimidate the opponent, the Kansas City Chiefs.  After all, New England was favored to win, and some were already talking about a perfect record all the way to another Super Bowl win.
Let’s just say that the Chiefs didn’t get the memo.  They easily handled the Patriots that night.
For New England it was utter humiliation.  The celebratory intro made it worse.

To be fair, they could have done a pregame celebration with more dignity.
In fact, pride is not always negative. For instance, we appreciate people who take pride in their work. So pride can be positive.
The pregame celebration could have focused on the fans, the attitude of some of the players, the hard work put in at practice, and a host of other things. Yes, the team was down 28-3 late in the game, but why not take pride in the fact that the team never gave up?
At any rate, the whole thing seemed to promote more arrogance than gratitude.

At the end of the day, you have to wonder if all the pregame hype had not actually worked against the Patriots.  We’ll never know. After a few games they are still struggling.
But we do know that it’s good advice to let someone else toot your horn.

Pride in the form of conceit and arrogance is never appropriate.  To others it’s always out of place.
Now keep in mind that we are talking about one the greatest sports franchises ever to come along.  Even they seemed to be oblivious to their uncalled for boasting and pride.
Which is a reminder to us that pride is never far away and does indeed precede destruction.

Dad, Dogs, and Incessant Barking

WatchdogIsaiah 56:10 (ESV)

His watchmen are blind;

they are all without knowledge;

they are all silent dogs;

they cannot bark,

dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber.

One of my favorite stories working with my dad happened at Andrews Air Force Base. Dad owned a steel erection company, and I was a foreman for one of the crews.  One day the crane operator was on vacation, so Dad came out to run the crane. That day I worked as a connector, which means I was up on the building and when the crane operator swung the steel into position, I was waiting with another guy to bolt it in place.

The connector is in constant communication with the crane operator using hand signals to position the steel where it needs to go.  Hand signals are the best way to communicate because the distance and the noise of the crane and other equipment make talking or even shouting almost impossible.

But on that particular day my dad shouted at me all day long, trying to tell me how to do my job. To be clear my dad was not mad at me. Loud was simply his normal way of communication, so shouting was not hard for him. Sometimes people thought his typical speaking voice was at a shouting level.

The next day the crane operator came back to work, so Dad stayed in the office.

When I arrived that morning a construction worker from another company on the job asked me, “Who was that man that yelled at you all day yesterday?” When I replied it was my dad, he didn’t buy it until another coworker backed me up that, yes, it really had been my dad. His final words were, “Man, I have never heard a man holler like that in my life.”

My dad could, and sometimes would, incessantly holler all day. But my dad wanted me to be the best. He was my most loyal friend on the job. Without a doubt, my dad molded my life more than anyone else.

In Isaiah’s day there were watchmen who would not bark. Granted most people do not want to be barked at. But prophets were to sound the alarm when the people drifted. Let’s be honest. It’s easy to drift…in our habits, in our eating, in our materialism,  in our time on the internet, and even in the way we dress (I could wear the same t-shirt for weeks).  Sometimes we need a person who cares enough to bark.  We need parents, coaches, mentors, teachers, professors, and pastors who will bark at us when we drift.

You know, that day is one of the fondest memories of my life and of the days working with my dad. 

I’m thankful I had someone who cared enough to bark.

Practical Strategies for Reading and Studying the Bible

(null)Let’s face it. Many never get started reading and studying the Bible.
First, let’s talk about the obstacles.
1. Clarity. The Bible can be a bit intimidating so where do we start? Not knowing what we want can keep us from ever starting. Why not set a goal to read five days a week?
2. Competence. Let me assure you that whether you are brand new to reading the Bible or have studied it for years you will always feel a somewhat incompetent. But that should drive you to the Bible, not away from it. Over time you will hone your skills and feel at home in your Bible. It will take time, but you must not delay starting.
3. Commitment. All of us are busy. But clearly Christ-followers see the Bible as important. It is simply going to boil down to discipline. So schedule it. Put it on the calendar.
4. Courage. This is similar to point #2, but the focus is on fear. You may fear that after a week or two you just can’t do it. Or you are afraid that you will quit. Or that you will attend a small group and have nothing to share. Or worse, what you share will not fit what the Bible is actually saying. When you started eating you missed your mouth with the spoon. My guess is you are still eating, but have learned how to hit your mouth every time. Same with the Bible. So don’t let fear keep you from getting started.
Game Plan for Getting Started
1. Purchase a Bible you will actually read. Trust me on this one. Different people like different translations. Carol and I both grew up reading the KJV. However, when we got married I bought her a NASB and she loved it and loved reading the Bible much more. Go online and read some out of the NASB, ESV, NLT, NIV, KJV, NKJV, and the NEB. You can go to www.youversion.com to check them out. Also you may want to experiment a little at

www.lumina.bible.org which has the NEB along with some notes. I have given the initials but once you begin searching they will all make sense. Also you may want to start out with a Life Application Study Bible. It only comes in a few translations though. However, it is very helpful and is a great place to start. I say that but it has some insightful scholarly notes also.
2. Take advantage of the Bible reading plan in the weekly bulletin at New Hope Church. That will get you through the New Testament every two years. You’ll notice I keep colored pencils next to my Bible. I encourage you to write in your Bible and use a variety of colored pencils for various subjects. Develop your own personal system as to which color you will use. For instance, I use red for verses that deal with the cross, salvation, and Jesus.
3. You will need a Concordance but can typically do word and phrase searches digitally at no cost at www.biblegateway.com  If you want a hard copy then you will likely want the NIV Concordance.
4. Next it is helpful to have a Bible Dictionary like The Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary which is full of helpful articles, full-color maps, and graphics.
5. Another handy reference book is Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible. Once again, a lot of these resources will raise your level of confidence and get you up to speed at a much faster rate.
6. Digital resources are both free and expensive. Check out www.e-sword.net  www.olivetree.com  www.bible.org  as well as ones mentioned previously. Then there are websites like www.probe.org  that is loaded with hundreds of articles on everything from Theology to Current Events.
7. Keep a notebook handy and write down any observations and questions you have from the text you are reading. You don’t have to have answers now, but you will not forget. Also, you may prefer to do your reading online and store your notes their. Plus you can do the same thing on your phone or tablet.
8. Ask questions while you read. Joshua 1:8 talks about meditating on the Bible. That word has the idea of muttering, talking to the Bible. Talk to the Bible and it will talk back to you. So ask questions like:
* Is there an example to follow?
* Is there a sin to avoid?
* Is there a prayer to repeat or does the verse bring a prayer to mind that I can pray right now?
* Is there a command to obey?
* Is there a verse to memorize?
9. At this point it can be very helpful to have a commentary at your side. I recommend that you start out with a one-volume commentary like The Moody Commentary on the Whole Bible. It also comes in a digital version. You certainly don’t want to reach a wrong conclusion and say what the Bible is not saying. So having a solid commentary can help you stay on track and aid even more to your understanding of the Bible.
You don’t have to do all nine to get started. Actually a Bible is all you need. However, every prospector likes to have a few extra tools in the bag. The more tools the more likely you will enjoy all the nuggets you are able to mine from the Bible.

Can Pressure Hurt Your Personal Performance?

IMG_1037The NBA season is winding down and things are getting tense.  The Miami Heat tend to have more pressure than some of the other teams. They supposedly put together a dream team a couple of years ago in hopes of winning a championship.

Fortunately they have been able to win back to back championships the last two years. Prior to those championships, their star player, Lebron James, appeared to struggle at key times, i.e. the end of the game. He has been labeled as a bad closer.  Before he was criticized for not coming up big at the end of games with a clutch, game winning shot or play. Fair or not that was the word in the media.

Now I can’t say for sure, but is it the pressure?  We all play differently under pressure. Michael Jordan loved the pressure and always wanted the ball at the end of a close game.  He typically delivered.

But let’s look at the pressure in our own lives.  Perhaps it’s a job interview.  Some great employees are terrible at interview time.  Why? Does the pressure of getting the job hurt their chances?

What about your child who just had a stellar year on the soccer field. Put them in the tryouts for the next level and they have a bad showing. Is it the pressure to perform?

Is it the constant scrutiny? More than likely it is due to increased performance expectations? As a parent it’s a trap that we can easily fall into. Over the years I have watched parents become visibly upset when their child struck out in baseball, missed a shot in basketball, or missed a kick in soccer. As if our kids needed more pressure.

Pressure. You can’t escape it.  It shows up repeatedly.  And when it does it robs you of joy and takes the fun away from the event.

So what can we do to counteract the downside of pressure?

1. Learn to relax. If you miss the basket, will it matter in ten years. For Lebron it may, but not for you.

2. Lighten up with others including your kids. If will be much more fun and enjoyable. It will definitely make the ride back home more enjoyable.

3. Love the pressure. Be excited that you are the one in the position to score. You got the second interview. You have the ball with three seconds left. Relish the moment and make the most of it.

4. Learn from any failures. No one, absolutely no one is perfect under pressure all the time. Learn from it and move forward.

Be honest, where are you allowing pressure to hurt your personal performance?