Mike Henderson
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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?

Toxic Cultures

Toxic WasteIt’s so easy to overlook culture. At times it appears to be like carbon monoxide.  You can’t see it or smell it, but it’s there.

The problem is when it is toxic. Of course, at times it is very noticeable. It may appear in the form of anger, drama, hatred, gossip, secrets, moodiness, the silent treatment, and unhealthy competitiveness.

Think about a toxic culture that you are or were a part of.  It happens even in families. It only takes one family member to ruin a family dinner, a family vacation, a family cookout, or a family birthday party.

While we can all relate to a current or previous toxic culture, I am sure that we ourselves had nothing to do with it. It’s so easy to see it in others, but not ourselves.

Way back in the Garden of Eden when sin entered into the human race so did toxicity. And who stepped in to deal with it?  God did. And He set the example for all of us.

At New Hope I consider monitoring and maintaining a healthy culture to be one of my biggest responsibilities.  Our culture is far more important than our strategy or vision.

Whether I am meeting someone over a cup of coffee or attending Sunday morning or attending a team meeting it is always something I look forward to. I attribute that to our healthy culture.

To have the right people in the right places with the same vision is fun.  Now I don’t have to tell you that unhealthy cultures are not fun. So why do we stay in them or settle for them?  No doubt at times we move too slowly in fixing the culture.  We allow one of our kids to continue on with a bad attitude or we do the same thing at work.

Surprisingly unhealthy cultures can infiltrate the church.  One pastor who is well known for training other church staffs writes, “…we thought we’d find the biggest need would be new methodology. We were wrong. The greatest need was for unity…Some actually thought they could serve God effectively while undercutting and backbiting and carrying around hurt, resentment, and bitterness.”

In other words, many churches tolerate toxicity. As I said, we have all done it. Whether at home or at work.

Here is a short acrostic that has helped me. A.C.T.: When I haven’t ACTed it has taken an emotional toll.  I am sure you can identify. Just do the following three things with a teenager, a spouse, or a coworker.  You will be glad you did.

Analyze my current relationships. Do I have the relational capital to speak the truth in love? It’s amazing to me that in some marriages a couple seems to lack this and is afraid to bring up and discuss the very things that are destroying their marriage.

Clarify expectations. Have I been clear about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Take responsibility for shaping the culture. Perhaps I need to discipline one of my kids. Perhaps at work I need to make it clear that a particular behavior is unacceptable. Perhaps I need to encourage more. Maybe I just need to be more kind. You get the idea.

We can all define a healthy culture and a toxic culture. Amazingly we often settle for the latter. Let’s ACT and inspire a culture that is characterized by love, fun, encouragement, warmth, humor, and passion!

Ultimate Satisfaction!

IMG_0977A while back Carol and I wandered into Hot Cakes, a small cafe with excellent food.

We just went in for desert and it was very difficult to narrow it down to just one. So I settled for the Napoleon.

Let’s just say it knocked my socks off!

Satisfaction to the max.  As we left I was satisfied that I had made the ultimate choice.

A few weeks later and we were back in the same area, and thought “Why not?”  So back into Hot Cakes we went.

Keep in mind we probably only go there about once a year.  At any rate, I thought this time it was a no-brainer.  Get another Napoleon.  So I did.

But this time was different.  Not nearly the amount of satisfaction as the first one I had gotten a short time earlier.

It’s so easy to overdo a good thing.  That’s one of my weaknesses.

It reminds me of Peter up on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, James, and John. Peter was having such a good time that he suggested to Jesus that they all just stay there.  However, Jesus knew the euphoria would soon wear off. What would not wear off is their relationship with Him.

Satisfaction.  We crave it.  We make choices based upon what we think will satisfy us the most. But just like that it is gone.  We loved the desert, but an hour later it’s over.

We go to the theme park with the kids and they are on cloud nine…until we leave.  It’s at that point that we tell ourselves that we should have ridden one more ride or skipped another particular ride.  And then we slip into dissatisfaction.

Satisfaction.  When it arrives it tends to be short lived.  I love sinking my teeth into a meat lovers pizza. But moments later it’s gone.

New lawn mowers age, new clothes get old, and vacations go by quickly.  But when tomorrow comes there will be more choices.

Wonder what will satisfy me tomorrow.  Whatever it is it will likely be short-lived.  But that’s ok. My ultimate satisfaction is not meant to be found in things and stuff. It is to be found in my relationship with Jesus Christ. In John 6:35 Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

That’s ultimate satisfaction!

What are you looking to for satisfaction?

Tolerating Small Things Can Be Destructive

SurvivalWe’ve all seen it, at least we have noticed it in others.  That is, something small, or seemingly small, is tolerated until it destroys.

Let me illustrate.  I have watched people be rude in relationships to the point where it eventually ended a friendship.

There have been marriages which were destroyed over time by a controlling spouse.

And there have been habits, or little things, that others have tolerated or perhaps been unaware of that led to a downfall.

So which is it?  Are we good at ignoring, and thus tolerating the little things?  Or are we rationalizing, which any of us have done at some point?  Is it a big deal or is it no big deal?

Case in point.  A few years ago I was having a cup of coffee at Starbucks with a friend. While we were talking an attractive woman walked in.  No problem.  The fact is a guy can’t not notice an attractive woman.

However, the guy I was with did not simply notice the woman.  He turned around a complete 180 degrees in his chair to continue to look. Noticing is far different than staring.

Now that’s a problem.  I did not say anything, but I could see the handwriting on the wall.  That is not healthy.  Some would say, “It’s no big deal–guys do that all the time.”

Two problems.  That is rationalization and toleration all wrapped up in one.  The Bible says that “The wages of sin is death.”  In other words, sin or destructive habits must not be tolerated or rationalized. Because you will not like the end result.

That is sin’s ultimate end.  Death or destruction.  Over time I watched this guy’s marriage fall apart as he eventually went after another woman. As I think back perhaps I should have said something because I have been around lots of guys, but this was a first for me.  Most married guys tend to be a little more discreet.

Think about it.  Turning around and continually watching attractive women must have become such a habit that he no longer thought about it, whether I was sitting there or not.

Take inventory of your own life. What small things are you tolerating? Take action today before they destroy something tomorrow.

Are You Indispensable?

iStockValuesRecently I had coffee with a friend who had worked with Lou Gerstner, one of my favorite CEO’s.  Back in the 1990’s IBM was about to go under. They reported the biggest corporate loss of all time, and Gerstner was brought in to restructure and rebuild the company.

While initially IBM was forced to lay people off, today they boast a workforce of 400,000 and the company is thriving.  However, in the midst of the turmoil Gerstner fired the #1 producer in the company!

Why would he do that?  Because the employee operated against the cultural value of teamwork.  On a side note I totally understand.  At New Hope Church we believe people are hurting and living with a great deal of stress.  The church should be the one place they can come and be accepted and welcomed. If you have a hard time accepting everyone, then you would be uncomfortable in a leadership role at New Hope. One of our core tenets is a welcoming atmosphere.

Back to IBM.  After they fired their #1 producer what was the fallout? There wasn’t one.  The company never missed a beat.

Think about it.  The #1 producer was not indispensable.

As Seth Godin said in his book Linchpin, “Every day, bosses, customers, and investors make hard choices about whom to support and whom to eliminate, downsize, or avoid.”

In most fields tenure is no longer a guarantee. You must show up every day living out the company values.

Perhaps now you know the answer to the question, “Are you indispensable?”

Cure for the Common Cold!

ColdSprayIs there a cure for the common cold? Well, not exactly. But we all wish there was. And there are some things you can do to prevent from getting one. If you don’t do those things, you are likely to get a cold. When do colds tend to hit you? At the worst possible time.

While Carol and I were in Rome, just before we were to come home, I came down with the dreaded common cold. Thankfully it was not as bad as it could have been and did not interfere with the things we wanted to do. However, I still wanted to be prepared in case it got bad, so I went to a local pharmacy and picked up some nasal spray. Fortunately, they had one bottle written in English so I knew what I was getting.

When I’m at home, my game plan for curing the common cold is to not get one in the first place.

Not long ago my son Gabe came down with a cold. Now, everyone in our house knows I get paranoid when someone gets a cold.  Actually, they would say that paranoid is an understatement.

After all, I have to speak every Sunday and I want to be at my best. Plus, I just don’t like colds.

So in my typical fanatical fashion, I questioned everyone to check up on how often they were washing their hands.  And I monitored what they were touching.  I don’t even touch door knobs when this kind of thing hits our house!

To top it off, Gabe was banned from using my iPad.  Yes, I go a little over the top. But, hey, I don’t get very many colds.

Sadly, most of us are not very fanatical about things that contaminate our marriages, our health, or our finances.

We could sit down and come up with a long list of things that destroy us and our relationships or our physical health.

Things like sugar, but who wants to cut down on sugar?  And no one is touting it as a great food source.

I can’t believe how many marriages have been affected by an unhealthy overdose of sports.  For many, sports is contaminating their relationships.

My spiritual walk with God can be contaminated by busyness, overcommitment, bad attitudes, and irresponsibility.

We could go on, but you get the point.  Go radical on contamination. We allow way too many things into our lives that should not be allowed.

And don’t forget that even good things can contaminate.  It could be a person, a food group, or a thing.

The bottom line is this:  Are you taking contamination seriously?

 

When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages

BadThings2One of the sad realities of many marriages is that the honeymoon not only ends, but often the marriage fails. To be fair there is no way that couples can adequately foresee the troubles that are just over the horizon.

Les and Leslie Parrot address four huge things that can destroy a marriage. Who expects infertility when they get married? Depression is widespread and can wreak havoc on a good marriage. What about a rebellious child? What about a disabled child? One of my mentors said that the divorce rate among couples with a disabled child is eighty percent!

The truth is every marriage is susceptible to being overcome by a number of things. It could start unraveling right after the wedding as couples learn to adjust to schedules and idiosyncrasies. When there are jokes going around about sharing the same toothpaste and how to unroll toilet paper, you know it doesn’t take much for problems to arise.

Marriage is like a vacation. They all start out well, but often there are flat tires, kids fighting in the back seat, and tempers out of control. Growing up my mother would pile all five of us kids in the car and we would set out for Arizona to visit my grandparents. When we left, mom’s purse was full of money. When we got home, we were eating crackers and drinking water and riding on fumes. We barely made it.

Sounds like a lot of marriages. The ones that do make it, barely do so. It doesn’t have to be that way. In this book, When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages, the Parrots offer advice on getting back to good, overcoming the bad, and how to have a successful marriage.

Pick this one up. It is required reading for all married couples and couples about to be married.