“How to be real about fear without being controlled by it”, Psalm 27

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 10

Life reveals an unsettling truth. Fear is part of our everyday existence. There’s no running away from fear. It stalks you even in private. What to do? Self-medicate? Not satisfying, successful nor healthy.
 
 

Eye-opening Bravery

My father had an operation on his eye on Thursday. He had the option of a local or a general anaesthetic. He opted for local. Eye open, fully conscious, lying on an operating table for 90 minutes while the surgeon operated on his right eye. He’s a braver man than me. I’d go ‘general’ every time. As a result of his courageous choice he was out of the hospital more quickly and is enjoying a faster recovery. He felt the fear but was not controlled by it.
 

Fear Appears

How do we best handle fear when it appears? David was a man who knew fear. Bears, lions, spear-throwing kings (1 Samuel 17.34-37; 1 Samuel 19.9-10). They all had a go at him. Let’s have a look at David’s thinking in Psalm 27 and see what we can learn.
 

Confident Declaration

“The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?”
(Psalm 27:1 NIV11)
 
David is in trouble. Later in the Psalm he mentions enemies, the wicked, foes, war, trouble, oppressors and false witnesses. In other Psalms he opens with his challenges. But here he starts with a confident declaration of faith. David is not pretending. He is afraid. But he knows his feelings, real as they are, do not objectively describe reality. God is in the picture and is involved.
 

Faith and Feelings

There is no ‘right’ way to bring our fears to God. David shows us one way in this Psalm. He begins with what he knows to be true about God. He may not feel it, but he states it in faith. Look again at David’s statement: “The Lord is my light and my salvation”. It makes sense to be afraid of darkness (Isaiah 59.9-11, Matthew 6.23) and lostness (Jude 6, Luke 16.24). However, by faith we find that God provides light and salvation (Psalm 119:105, John 8.12, 9.5). Therefore we can be confident of his concern, presence and support even when it’s dark and we feel ‘lost’. David describes God as his “stronghold”. What does this mean? A ‘stronghold’ is a place of safety (Psalm 9.9), a refuge. In the Hebrew it can mean a fortification behind a wall above the enemies at a safe distance from their attacks. 

Conclusion

David’s confidence is not in Jerusalem’s physical defences. It is not in his skills (formidable as they are). His confidence is in God. Making that the first statement of this Psalm reveals how determined he was to set his mind and heart on God. Our fears need putting into perspective. Even in our fear, we can have the confidence that God will supply all the strength we need (Ephesians 3.16-17). The next time you feel the fear, don’t begin your prayer with it. Instead, why not tell God how much confidence you have in him? And then talk about your problems?
 

Question

What difference does it make when you tell God what you know to be true about him, before mentioning your fears? Are there other ways to bring our worries to God? What works for you?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

How to be supplied with spiritual strength from the Psalms

Using the Psalms as God intended

Worship is Work

I lead musical worship in Church congregations. It is a privilege, a joy, and hard work! I need spiritual strength to lead worship. Where is the supply coming from?
 

God’s Songbook

Two weeks ago I chatted about this with my friend Dave Eastman. Check him out on lifechangingworship.com. He shared his conviction with me that a worship leader needs to be constantly in the book of Psalms. It is God’s songbook. A hymnal with 150 songs ready for any and all occasions in the Christian life.
 

Regular Devotion

I love the Psalms. I turn to them from time to time. But I’ve not been devoting myself to them regularly. I wonder how many of us use the Psalms in moments of great joy, or deep crisis, but neglect their day-to-day use.
 
What a shame to relegate this amazing resource to special occasions. They are available to supply us with spiritual strength whenever we need it.
 

A Psalmic Pile

Thanks to Dave, I’ve reflected on my use of the Psalms. So far I’ve made two decisions.
 
  1. I’ve opened a tab in my Bible software specially for the Psalms. That tab stays open no matter which other part of the Bible I’m studying.
  2. I’ve pulled my favourite books about the Psalms off the bookshelves and piled them up in one place. Now I see them every day and am reminded to look into them for insights. The books include: “The Psalms and the life of faith” by Walter Brueggemann (more theological). “Music of the heart”, new Psalms in the Celtic tradition by David Allen. “A long obedience in the same direction” by Eugene Peterson (focussed on the Psalms of Ascent). “Prayer, praise and promises” a daily walk through the Psalms by Warren Wiersbe (a devotional focus).

All About You

Here is a thought from Psalm 86 and some insights from Brueggemann. Read this Psalm, and you will hear a desperate David. But notice that his attitude is not one of self-pity. Instead, he is very focused on the qualities of God. This is emphasised by the use of the word, “You”.
 
Quoting selectively from the Psalm, “You are my God…For you, O Lord are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call on you… For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God… But you, O Lord, are a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness… Because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”
 
The force of the Hebrew doesn’t come across in an English translation. But the point does. David knows he must focus on who God is if he is to be supplied with the spiritual strength he needs.
 

Conclusion

I will finish with an old rabbinic prayer quoted in Brueggemann’s book on page 37:
 
Where I wander-You!
Where I ponder-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You ! You! You!
When I am gladdened-You!
When I am saddened-You!
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!
Sky is You! Earth is You!
You above! You below!
In every trend, at every end,
Only You, You again, always You!
You! You! You!

Questions

What is it about the Psalms you find most helpful? Do you use them regularly? What books would you recommend to help us understand them and apply their message?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm 

Tuesday Teaching Tips Episode 78: “How to blend preaching and pastoral care”

Three tips for knowing when to prepare lessons and when to be with people

What’s the right blend of pastoral work and preaching preparation? How do we know whether we are getting it right? I share three tips to help us make wise decisions about both.

 

Quote in the video taken from: churchleaders.com

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

How to Pray for Kings

How to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness

Have politicians and public authority figures ever been more derided? Perhaps, but not in my lifetime. We’d agree they need our prayers, but do we, in fact, pray for them? What does the Bible have to say?
 

Pleasing God

Our key passage is 1 Timothy 2.1-4.
 
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NIV11)
 
Paul wrote this. He had first-hand experience of the injustice of authorities. Yet, his perspective was pure. We could forgive him for a rant, a diatribe, a list of complaints. Take for example his illegal beating and imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16.37). This might, in our day, have been followed by a twitter storm. But no. He acquires an apology and moves on. What is going on here?
 

Two Reasons to Pray for Authorities

Paul recognises that God wants all people to be saved. The appeal to pray is for “all people”. Paul goes on to mention “kings and all those in authority” for two reasons.
 
1. Firstly, they have more power to stand in the way of the spread of the gospel than other people. They also have the power to facilitate conditions favourable to the Gospel.
2. Second, they are often the last category of people we think to pray for. Unpopular decisions, questionable morality and insensitive pronouncements lead us to dislike them. Perhaps even hate them.
 
Jesus said this, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NIV11). If we are to pray for our enemies, then we can’t leave our kings and authorities out. No matter our differences.
 

Suggestions

1. Pray for those who influence your community: local councillors, your MP and the like
2. Pray for those who influence your country: parliamentarians, party leaders, kings, queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents.
3. Pray for those with global influence: world leaders, the secretary-general of the United Nations and leaders of other global organisations.
4. Pray for your enemies: the authorities you complain about
 
If we spent as much time praying for these people as grumbling about their decisions, we would see the Gospel spread more rapidly. Some of them might become followers of Jesus. We could find ourselves in a better spiritual and emotional place.
 

Conclusion

Pray for them by name. Do it personally, and do it in church gatherings. If you are a church leader, I urge you to call on members to pray in this way.
 
I believe I am called to pray for Baroness Dorothy Thornhill (Mayor of Watford), David Gauke (MP for where I live), my Queen, Theresa May, President Trump, Kim Jong-un, António Guterres – and othersPraying for them does not mean I agree with them. It simply means I acknowledge they are sons and daughters of God just as much as me.

Question

Which kings and authorities do you pray for? What motivates you to do so? What points have I missed?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

Tuesday Teaching Tips Episode 77: “How to speak through a translator”

Seven tips for effective teaching when being translated

What’s the best way to prepare to speak through a translator? And how do we make sure a lesson goes well on the day? I offer seven tips to help us speak with excellent impact even through the language barrier.

 

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

I’m privileged to have been invited to speak in Harrow at the North-West region of the London International church of Christ this Sunday, 1 October.
 
It’s a special service called, “Reconnect”. The idea is to reconnect with former members of the NW congregation. If you’re someone who worshipped with us back in the day, would you consider coming along and reconnecting with us? I’d love to see you.
 
The lesson will focus on God and his desire to reconnect with us as creator, truth-giver and love-giver.
 
The details are in the accompanying pictures. Feel free to pass it to anyone you think might be interested.
 
Penny & I will both be there.
 
God bless, Malcolm
Date: 1st October 2017
Time: 11:00-12:30
Event: "reconnect" - 1 October, 11am
Topic: reconnect
Venue: Harrow High School
Location: Harrow
UK
Public: Public

What to do when you don’t know how to love God

Three tips to find and grow that connection with God

Connection Crisis

It’s awkward when you don’t know how to connect with someone. Even more so with God. How can we connect with the awesome, pure creator of all we see and cannot see? Let’s talk about that today.
 

Mexican Standoff

I’ve just returned from a few days in Mexico where I was attending a conference on worship. I speak no Spanish and most of the people there spoke no English. In my home church culture, we hug one another as a greeting. But I noticed a lot of cheek-to-cheek kissing going on in Mexico. The women did this with one another and with the men. The men held out their hand to other men in a clasp-like manner and then hugged. I clumsily imitated them. Once I kissed a woman’s ear instead of her cheek. Another time I trod on a man’s foot as I attempted the hand-grip and hug. Coordination was never my strong suit!
 

Shunned No Longer

I was embarrassed about my mistakes and my clumsiness. However, no one shunned me. I was not avoided in case I trod on someone’s foot. Everyone embraced me eagerly. I relaxed, kissed and hugged, and gradually got better at it. I was reminded that God will never shun my attempts to communicate, not matter how hapless.
How are we going to connect with God? By embracing the ways he has taught us to connect with him. And doing so consistently. Practice makes perfect in many things, and our relationship with God is no exception. Here are three ways to connect. If practised regularly they will help you to develop a deeper connection with God over time.

Three Tips

1. Open your heart to God. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalms 34:18 NIV11). Give him your deepest fears and dearest hopes.
2. Praise God. “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalms 145:18 NIV11). The word, ‘call’ is ‘qara’ in Hebrew meaning to praise the qualities of YHWH.
3. Pray with others. “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” (Psalms 34:3 NIV11) Find a friend to pray with and glorify God together.
 

Conclusion

Connection with God is possible. He made us for this very purpose. But we’re limited in our understanding of how to do so. Never fear. God has left us with a huge book with helpful examples, instructions and principles. Put the three above into practice this week and see your connection with God grow and grow.
 

Question

What helps you to connect with God? What have I missed that could help other people?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

Tuesday Teaching Tips Episode 76: “How to preach for the first time” – Part 2

Seven more tips for first-time speakers

What’s the best way to approach preparing your first sermon? I offer seven more tips to help first-time speakers.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

Pictures and video of the Sunday service in Guadalajara. Watch out for the 13-year-old guitarist!

God bless,

Malcolm

A report on the Saturday morning workshops. Some points from one of the lessons and a few musical excerpts.