Mike Henderson
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Category Archives for Personal Growth

6 Types of Wisdom to Pray For

Timed excuseJames 1:5 (NLT) exhorts us, “If any of you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

Most of us probably approach the subject of wisdom from only one angle.

We simply want to know what to do next. Let’s call this particular wisdom. Perhaps you are looking to buy a new car and you want to make the right choice. Or it could be a career decision or any number of current decisions.

However, let’s expand our thinking of wisdom. For some good illustrations of the various kinds of wisdom read through 2 Samuel 14 and the beginning of 2 Samuel 15.

For starters there is popular wisdom. In many ways this is not wisdom at all, but if we have bought into the surrounding culture’s mentality, we think we are wise. I’m not sure you want to pray for this type of wisdom.

Many have unknowingly bought into the flavor of the day. But anyone can go along with the crowd. Absalom was all style and no substance, which incidentally makes many politicians, celebrities, and sport’s stars our modern-day heroes.  But Absalom proved to be deceptive, and he hurt a lot of people.

With that in mind let’s dig a little deeper.  Perhaps a good place to start is to read and reflect on the two chapters mentioned above. Here’s the bottom line: We can be wise and unwise at the same time. Full of wisdom and devoid of wisdom at the same time. Seems paradoxical, but a very real reality.

There are four main characters in those chapters, and they all possess wisdom. Not all wisdom is used wisely or for positive reasons. Some actually use their wisdom in order to manipulate others. Sad, but true.

That in itself calls for wisdom.

We’ll come back in the next post to discuss the types of wisdom you need to pray for. Until then read and reflect upon the two chapters mentioned above.

Your Excuses May Be Holding You Back

You can have results or excuses. Not bothExcuses. We use them all the time. Sometimes we quite frankly just don’t want to do something.
Maybe some are legit, but could we be hurting ourselves, could we be holding ourselves back from reaching our full potential?
We have to ask, don’t we?

In the church world several scenarios tend to come up regularly.

1. We may be encouraged to schedule some time for Bible study.

Excuse: I don’t have the time.

2. Could you serve in this area perhaps greeting or children’s ministry?

Excuse: That’s not my area of giftedness.

3. This week would be a great time to start tithing.

Excuse: I can’t afford to give that much.

4. Would you like to join us this week in small group?

Excuse: The time frame doesn’t work for me.

You get the point. Granted many of our excuses are genuine. Moses certainly seemed to have some legitimate reasons for not wanting to do what God asked of him. In Exodus 3-4 Moses has the incredible burning bush experience with God. Following that God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt and be the leader and main spokesman for Israel.

To be honest public speaking always seems to rated at the top of our fears, so Moses reluctancy is reasonable. Or is it?

Now Moses appears to have good excuses for not responding to God’s call. But then all excuses seem plausible or we would not give them. Moses seems to be lacking self-confidence in his speaking abilities, but then who hasn’t felt linguistically challenged at some point.

Is that a good reason not to go?

God didn’t think so. In fact, God eventually got angry.

And thankfully Moses did ultimately go.

So what was the outcome? Moses became the greatest leader in the Old Testament, and perhaps in the entire Bible, next to Jesus.

The bottom line: Moses’ excuses were keeping him from his full potential. I’ll bet he was glad that God kept on him. What if God had given up and said,”Fine, don’t go, I’ll find someone else.”

How sad that would have been. Not only for Moses but for the nation of Israel and ultimately even us.

So the next time someone asks or challenges you, before you give an excuse ask yourself: Is my excuse holding me back from my full potential?

 

 

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.

Ruthlessly Eliminate Hurry From Your Life

Stress - business woman running lateFor the sake of clarity I want to distinguish between being busy and being in a hurry.

Jesus seemed to always be busy, yet never in a hurry.

What about Moses? If he had been running red lights he would have surely missed the burning bush.

Just those two examples alone seem to indicate that if you are in a hurry you are not fully present.

When you and I (assuming you too have found yourself always in a hurry) are in a hurry we:

* run red lights.

* want others to hurry and finish their story.

* fly around corners on the roads and in the stores.

* don’t have time for others.

* skip our Bible reading and our prayer time.

* miss things, opportunities, and valuable lessons.

* listen less attentively.

* don”t call others when we should.

* fail to carve time out just to think.

* change lines in the store…more than once.

* are obnoxious to others.

You get the point. Hurry needs to go!

No wonder the late Dallas Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

So for the last couple of weeks I have tried, somewhat successfully to do just that.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend the ACC Basketball Tournament. That meant that I had to buckle down and attack my upcoming message as I would be gone for three days. When it came time to leave Carol and I did not have to hurry to get there. I had allowed plenty of time.

When it came time to leave early Sunday morning I once again left early enough so I would not have to hurry back. Life is stressful enough. Why hurry and add to it?

Also just the other day I had to go to Lowe’s for two small items. First though I needed to take care of something in the customer service line. The woman in front of me had several items to return and it got complicated. Typically when in a hurry I’m sure I show it. However, I looked at my daughter Heather and said, “Let’s go get the two items and come back.” So we did. No stress. Minutes later there was no one around and we breezed out of the store.

It actually felt good to not be in a hurry.

Have I arrived? Absolutely not.

But I have learned why Willard said, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.”

So that’s the challenge. Ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life.

Starting today.

Antidotes for the Lack of Productivity

get things doneIn my last post I mentioned eight things that get in the way of our productivity. We are constantly bombarded by them, at least I am.

So what’s the solution?

Let me list eight antidotes to the eight hindrances.

As a review I will list the hindrance followed by the antidote.

  1. Perfectionism – Ship it. That is if I am writing something I have to eventually hit the save button for the last time. In a sense we are never fully ready, but in reality we simply can’t keep trying for perfection. So whether you are painting, writing, or studying for a test you will need to tell yourself, “I’m done.” Go take the test, finish the painting, or ship the product.
  2. Pain – Saturate your mind with Old Testament stories and other Scripture. In fact, in the Psalms you can find every human emotion. In the various stories you will be encouraged as you see God show up, knowing that He can do something similar for you.
  3. Procrastination – Start eating the elephant. Yes, it’s true. You can eat an elephant one bite at a time, although I cannot prove it. But you do have to start. Right now if you have been putting something off, take a break and go start. Only if you work at it for five minutes. Do it for a week. You may be surprised.
  4. Play – Schedule it at a different time, not during your work time. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun at work.
  5. Pressure – Scratch something off your list. For me that often means put the book back on the shelf. To add that to my to do list is unrealistic. If I don’t force myself to take stuff off my desk, it just adds to the pressure, which in turn slows me down.
  6. Pace – Savor the point at life you are currently at. You may be in a fast pace or a slow pace. Small kids will change your pace more than teenagers. Savor where you are right now. As I mentioned I follow a particular pace when developing a message. The temptation is not enjoy it as much as I should.
  7. Process – Sit down and do it. Before I wrote this post there were other things that distracted me. Once again, I tend to follow the same routine every morning. I put the dogs outside for a few minutes and grab a cup of coffee.Then I start out by doing some light reading, then I read the Bible, and then I spend time in prayer. After that I do the other things on my schedule.
  8. Pandemonium – Scale back. Easier said than done. But if we are honest we have brought much of it on ourselves. Today as I write this Carol and I are taking Heather and Savannah to Dulles Airport for their overseas trip. Then we drive to Richmond to watch a play so Carol can see some of her students. Then we come home around midnight. The point is some things you can’t take off your list, but there are some things.

Eight things that get in the way. The good news is there will always be unproductive days. I say good news because that is life. Why feel bad? You simply cannot allow that to destroy you. However, you can have better days. But you must be proactive.

What’s the biggest thing in the way of your own productivity?

Why not tackle that one first.

You’ll feel much better. After all, who wants to end the day feeling unproductive?

Hindrances to Productivity

get things doneWho hasn’t struggled with productivity? All of us want to be more productive.

Perhaps one of the best places to start is to identify what’s holding you back.

In my own life I have identified eight things that get in the way. Just being able to identify them has proved helpful.

  1. Perfectionism. This shows up when I sit down to type out a message or a blog post. I have to force myself to hit the publish key for the blog to go live. Yes, I could rewrite it, but then I could rewrite it again and it would never go out.
  2. Pain. While physical pain can definitely cramp your productivity, I am thinking more along the lines of emotional pain. It is so widespread and all of us encounter it. And it will slow you down. It has your attention, not the project you are working on.
  3. Procrastination. I wish I could tell you that I never put anything off. But I can’t. Sometimes I just don’t want to jump in and get started. Precious moments are wasted.
  4. Play. To be honest this is not an issue for me, but I have seen it in others. There is nothing wrong with having some play time, but once again, there is a time and a place to play.
  5. Pressure. Deadlines, projects, outside pressures, and even things coming up can distract you and cut into your productivity.
  6. Pace. It’s not unusual for me to use thirty resources when putting together a message. If I don’t properly pace myself, or if I get sidetracked into another resource, then I’ll have to hurry at some point which means that I may not be able to consult a very helpful resource. All because my pace was wrong.
  7. Process. When it comes to writing many times I have to force myself to just sit and write or type. If I try and edit at the same time then I lose some valuable thoughts and it slows me down. The process is something that I face every day.
  8. Pandemonium. Chaos and Clutter. Guilty on both counts. Both include multiple things. It may be numerous things on my to do list, too many obligations, too many conflicting opportunities, and too many things on my work desk.

Just looking at these eight things may help you realize how easy it is to be less productive. These things seem to be ubiquitous. You are always fighting them.

So what’s the plan to overcome these hindrances? That’s coming in the next post.

Your Divine D.E.S.I.G.N. (2)

Daisies on green nature background, stages of growthIn my last post we looked at the first three of six components regarding our Divine Design. Not let’s take a look at the final three.

Individual Style. Personalities studies have always fascinated me.

To help us better grasp the various personalities let’s use a simple tool. Florence Littauer has influenced me the most when it comes to personalities. So I will use the four she uses in her writings: Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic.

Our space is limited, but these few descriptions should allow you to see where you fit.

I have watched people take jobs that simply did not fit their personality. If they had better understood themselves, life would have been much more enjoyable.

Sanguines love people, love to talk, and love to have fun. On the downside they can be motivated by their emotions. Popularity is their theme. They like to be the center of attention.

Choleric people love to be in control, do things their way, and thrive on the task at hand. Production is their theme.

Melancholy people thrive on order. They can’t stand chaos and clutter. Perfection is their theme.

The Phlegmatic personality loves people, loves to listen, and prefers to do things the easy way. You can tell by those things that their theme is Peace. They are not a fan of conflict. Sure most aren’t, but they are the peacemakers.

So where does David fit in? As a writer of many of the Psalms it seems clear that we could put him in the Melancholy category. While many melancholy people are less likely to share their deepest emotions, David clearly did. Since we all have a primary and secondary personality let’s put his secondary personality in the Choleric grouping.

As a choleric David thrived on challenges, excelled during times of crisis, and was very decisive.

Growth Phase. We have already mentioned David killing a bear and a lion. Evidently he was not ready for the giant until after those encounters. Also there were many lessons regarding leadership and servanthood that God could teach him while he was alone tending the sheep. Too often we find ourselves thinking we are ready, when in reality we are just getting warmed up.

Lead sheep….kill a bear and a lion…kill Goliath….lead an army….lead Israel as king. David grew during each phrase as God was preparing him for what He had prepared for him: Lead the nation of Israel.

Alan Redpath commented, “The conversion of a soul is the miracle of the moment; the manufacturing of a saint is the task of a lifetime.” If we could only be patient enough until the timing was right. No one wants to eat a cake if it comes out of the oven too early. Too often we run ahead of God while He is still manufacturing us.

Natural Abilities. While David was tending sheep he developed the skill of slinging. He also was being prepared by God as shepherding was exhausting work. Think of the patience David developed as sheep are among the dumbest animals. Add in unfavorable weather elements and predators. You become good at planning, thinking ahead. You also get a lot of time to reflect, which is something foreign to our fast-paced culture. Think how valuable this was for David as he penned many of the Psalms. Who hasn’t been touched by the twenty-third Psalm. It would be hard to find someone who has never heard of it. Yet what are the first words? “The Lord is my shepherd…” His natural ability, that of a shepherd, taught him much about God.

Three Things You Can Do Right Now

  1. Draw up your own profile as you see it through our brief discussion.
  2. Look at two or three ministries within your church where you could start serving. Or perhaps try a new area of ministry.
  3. Continue to learn and grow regarding your Divine D.E.S.I.G.N. Have fun serving and being who God made you to be. One more thing. Because there is a growth phrase, there will be times when you will not have all the answers or clear thinking about where you will wind up ultimately. That’s ok. Just keep taking the next step like David did.

Your Divine D.E.S.I.G.N.

Daisies on green nature background, stages of growthOne of life’s recurring questions is “What should I be doing with my life?”. Perhaps a better question is “How has God designed me?”.

What if we looked at our makeup from six vantage points? That is, what if we could discern in a practical way how God made us?

Let’s take a closer look at David and see how this plays out from a practical viewpoint.

Desire. All of us have desires or passions. When David met Goliath, David had a passion for the glory of God. He simply could not tolerate anyone disparaging the name of God.

1 Samuel 17:45-47 (NLT)

45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 Today the Lord will conquer you, and I will kill you and cut off your head. And then I will give the dead bodies of your men to the birds and wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! 47 And everyone assembled here will know that theLord rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is theLord’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

David was frustrated that someone would speak about God the way Goliath did.

Experience. David spent many lonely nights out in the field leading and protecting the sheep. We find out later that he had actually killed both a lion and a bear barehanded. Those experiences would soon prove valuable. He had no experience wearing the attire of a soldier, so he resorted to his experience with the sling.

1 Samuel 17:38-39 (NLT)

38 Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. 39 David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before.

“I can’t go in these,” he protested to Saul. “I’m not used to them.” So David took them off again.

However, David had a lot of experience with a sling. David was able to use that experience to kill the giant.

Spiritual Gifts. Rather than paint David into a corner, it becomes obvious that he has the gift of leadership. He does things leaders do. He takes the initiative. He takes responsibility. He casts a daunting vision.

Romans 12:6-8 (NLT) lists several spiritual gifts. The list is not exhaustive, but it does give you an idea. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

I will only comment on the gift of leadership since space here is limited. As a leader David took his responsibility seriously.

In my next post we’ll look at the remaining components of your profile.

Defining Moments Define You

iStock_000023602902SmallNow that football season is over and the Super Bowl has been decided, here is one of my biggest takeaways: Defining moments define you.

Let dig back into the archives. Way back.  I still remember watching the NFC Championship Game in 1967 (at the time it was the National Football League) with my dad. Ray Scott and Jack Buck, two of my all time favorite sportscasters, called the game.

I will spare you the details, but the game came to be known as the Ice Bowl. Look it up. The weather conditions were beyond brutal.

However, the Green Bay Packers were coached by the legendary Vince Lombardi, and the Dallas Cowboys by the legendary Tom Landry. It was a tight game. The score was Dallas 17 – Green Bay 14 with just seconds remaining. However, Green Bay had the ball at the one-yard line (sound familiar?). Actually it was a little less than a yard to go for a touchdown.

It was third down and Bart Starr, the quarterback, was able to sneak it into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. That play was played over and over. It became a defining moment. Now no one knew that at the time. But that’s the way defining moments are. You don’t realize them until later.

But that touchdown secured Vince Lombardi’s place in football history. In fact, I will go so far as to say that if Green Bay had not scored, today’s Super Bowl winner would not be receiving the Lombardi trophy, but the Landry trophy. That’s how big that play was.

You too will face defining moments. My dad faced one when he came home with an unusual job offer. He took it, and it continues to define his life.  It was a wise decision.

In my own life I made a decision to buy a piece of land in a split second. That quick decision became a very positive defining moment in my family’s life.

In the business world, Stephen Covey wrote a book in his fifties entitled “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.”  That book became a defining moment in his own life.

But let’s go back to football and the recent Super Bowl. Seattle had the ball at the one yard line; however, unlike Green Bay, they did not score. As a result New England won the game and Tom Brady became a four-time Super Bowl winner. Even though he was not on the field for the crucial play, that win has forever put him in the conversation of “Best Quarterbacks of All Time.” The play at the end of the game and the win became defining moments in his life. It didn’t hurt that he had an incredible fourth quarter while on the field.

A defining moment may be on its way into your own life. You may not recognize when it comes, but there will be one. The best way to prepare is to start making wise decisions today so when the defining moment comes, you’ll be ready to make the decision that defines you.

In the Old Testament a boy named David made a decision to take on the giant Goliath. That decision became the defining moment in his life. But his earlier decisions led to that decision.

Once again, a defining moment is on its way. I hope you’re ready. It may define you for years to come.

Are you ready?

Have You Scheduled Some Play Time?

IMG_3449We have just begun a new year.  Many have set some ambitious goals.  Turned over a new leaf.  Added this and subtracted that.  But as we go through the various lists, something appears to be missing.  Play Time.

We have even taken it out of our educational system.  Recess seems to be a thing of the past.  Play time is no longer valued.  It’s missing in my own life.  Perhaps one reason is that I grew up with a dad who thought play was a curse word…almost.  My dad was obsessed with work, efficiency, and production.  But deep down in my dad’s soul was a yearning to play.

In fact, one memory of working for my dad stands out.  It was the day the unthinkable happened.  It was a cold morning one winter.  Four of us were up on the building:  my brother Mark, Mike, Scott, and me.  Out of nowhere, dad climbs off the ladder and comes walking across the building.  Familiar sight.

And then it happened.  Dad stunned as with his first words.  We should have been sitting down.  He said, “Let’s go skiing.”  Our jaws dropped.  Dad never, never, never, had fused work with play.

Well, needless to say, that day will never be erased from my mind.  That day the five of us hit the slopes.  While I can’t remember what happened the next day at work, I promise you we were more creative, more productive, happier, less stressed, and no doubt, even had a better attitude.

Perhaps like me, you, too, struggle with play time.  But what if play actually made you more productive, more creative, better at anticipating and making decisions?  Wouldn’t that inspire you to play more?

Today everyone has heard of Google and Pixar.  What you may not know is that they have intentionally incorporated play into the company’s culture.  Maybe they have learned the value of play.  Perhaps I need to stop working and go play.

Even Jesus had his disciples get into a boat and spend some time away.

What do you say we stop for a moment and schedule some play time?