Two Ways to Quickly Find Support From God When You Need It

How a Text Message Refreshed My Soul

Have you ever felt low? Lacking in energy and motivation? What picked you up? Let me tell you about something that strengthened my soul this week.
 

A Gratitude Text

A text message pinged into my phone last night. It was from an old friend. Someone I don’t see so often these days, but for whom I feel lasting affection and considerable respect. He messaged me out of the blue. It wasn’t a request, but an unsolicited message of encouragement. He thanked me for my impact on his life, and my support. Seeing the message caused a small lump to form in my throat. The word that stood out to me was ‘support’. He used it three times. In one text message. I don’t remember the details of the events he mentioned. Some of them were over 15 years ago. But, it is clear he felt supported.
 

A Source of Support

Do you feel supported by God? If you were sending him a gratitude text, would support be the main topic? God helps us in so many material, emotional and spiritual ways. But even if you couldn’t remember them all, would you still recall his support? I hope I do. I know I can, and so can you. God wants to be our support. But how does this work?
 

Two Words

Two Hebrew words are commonly translated ‘support’ in an English Bible. Let’s look at them.
 

1. ‘mishan’

“They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support.” (Psalms 18:18 NIV11)
 
Here the emphasis is on supply. God supplies what his people need. Have a look at the rest of the Psalm. The writer was in ‘deep waters’, facing an overwhelming enemy, in need of rescue. Feels like my life. What about yours? What did God do? He supplied rescue to a safe place. The panic of sensing a need unmet makes us forgetful of the many times we’ve received what was needed.
 
The next time you’re in need of support reflect on what you already have. Part of my prayer time this morning was a ‘basics’ segment. I thanked God for supplying the air I breathe and all the senses with which I enjoy this world. I listed everything from the earth beneath my boots to the leaves on the trees. I have been repeatedly over-supplied. When I remember God’s generosity, it gives me faith for his future supply.
 

2. ‘saad’

“When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.” (Psalms 94:18 NIV11)
 
This time the emphasis is on sustaining. God sustains his people. The idea is that God sustains to the point of refreshment. The Psalmist’s “anxiety was great” (v19), but, and I love this phrase, God’s “consolation brought me joy”.
 
We can get so caught up in the whirlwind of a crisis we lose sight of its temporary nature. This too will pass. God is with you in the storm, and he will sustain you until you get to the right refreshment stop.
 
Many times the sustaining is only obvious in hindsight. I’ve known life, ministry, church and family crises that seemed unending. Later, a few weeks, months or years later, I can see God kept me going, and gave me refreshment. Reflect on the challenges of the past years. Can you recall the refreshment that came at the end of the tough time?

Conclusion

From Psalm 18 we know God supplies what we need. Friends can help, but God is the support. The direct support. Go to him first when you are struggling.
 
Psalm 94 reminds us that God’s love is our support. His personal presence supplies us with faith and strength long after ours has run out. Read Psalms and other scriptures about the love of God if you want to stand strong.
 
I’m so grateful to my friend, Mr ‘T’, for his text message. And glad he felt supported by me. I will send him a reply after finishing this blog and recording the podcast. How much more does God deserve a gratitude-text from me – otherwise known as a prayer!
 
The next time you need God’s support, do two things:
  1. Thank him for what he has already supplied. Ask him for what you need to get through the current crisis
  2. Thank him for his sustaining love up to know. Offer him your commitment to continued trust in his love. Ask him to provide you with consoling comfort.
 

Question

What helps you to feel God’s support? What does it mean to you to experience his supply and sustaining strength?
 
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 quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
By the way, if you’d like some personal coaching on developing spiritual disciplines in your life, click on the badge below and find out more.

Get coached on Coach.me

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 72 – “How to cut out the half you don’t need”

How to edit a talk

What’s the best way to edit a lesson? How do we know what to cut out? I’ve been using OmniOutliner to help with structuring my lessons, but I’m struggling to reduce my average sermon length to 25 minutes. It’s not that 25 minutes is the right goal for everyone, but I’m focussed on learning how to better edit my lessons. What do you do to edit your talks?

Audio:

 

Thank you for watching this video or listening to this audio.

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 or listening. Have a terrific Tuesday and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

This Sunday I’ll be speaking twice on the topic: “The Most Important Meal in the History of the World”

10.30 AM Watford church of Christ, Laurance Haines School, Vicarage Road, Watford. Pot-luck lunch follows the event.

3 PM Thames Valley churches of Christ, Earley CresCent Resource Centre, Warbler Drive, Reading RG6 4HB

Both lessons will expound on Luke 22.1-23. If you have any questions about the passage, please leave a comment and I will do my best to address them.

Both services are open to all who wish to attend regardless of faith or background.

God bless, Malcolm

“When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 22:14–16 NIV11)

Date: 27th August 2017
Event: Speaking Engagements Sunday 27th August 2017
Topic: “The Most Important Meal in the History of the World”, Luke 22.1-23
Public: Public

HOW TO BE GRATEFUL IN ADVANCE

What my 32nd Wedding Anniversary taught me

It’s our 32nd wedding anniversary today! I’m a lucky man. God gave me a wonderful woman. I’m brimming with gratitude. Shall I tell you why? I think I will.
 

Surprise

Today’s post will be shorter than usual. The reason for this is that my wife surprised me on Monday. She told me we were going away for the night on Tuesday. To the Grove hotel. It’s a very nice hotel (one of our church members works there and got us a discount). Consequently everything this week has to be a little more compressed. However, I wanted to bring you some spiritual lessons I learned from this experience.
 

Special

The reality was amazing. An 18th-century country mansion converted into a luxury hotel. Our room was gorgeous. The bathroom was luxurious, with a bath was so big you could almost swim in it! The evening meal was amazing. Lamb shoulder melting in the mouth. The grounds were stunning – 300 acres of countryside. I felt special. I was in a special place with a very special person who was helping me an experience a very special love.
 

Behaviour

Today, on our actual anniversary, I’m reflecting on what I noticed about myself. My mood changed on Monday after Penny told me we were going away. I worked hard until late. I bounced around all Tuesday. I was more energetic. More friendly to strangers. More giving to my friends. I’m still basking in the gratitude-glow! What was going on?
 

Lessons

What was different? Simply that I had something exciting to look forward to. And I had someone for whom to be very grateful for providing this experience. I had a clear vision of what would be good about the future. Isn’t this what we receive from God? And isn’t this why we read our Bibles and pray our prayers? So that we don’t lose sight of what is on offer?
 

Conclusion

I was grateful in advance. It made a huge difference to how I lived for several days. How can we be grateful to God in advance? Here’s my suggestion for this week. Pray through Psalm 100 – one of the greatest passages on gratitude in the Bible.
Psa. 100:1    Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; 
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Pray through the themes of this Psalm and feel your gratitude grow. Let me know how it affects you.
 

Question

What helps you to look forward to the future with positive anticipation? What helps you to be grateful in advance?
 
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 high-quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

What’s your method for collecting ideas for your next lesson? It’s really annoying when you have a killer illustration come to mind –  but no way to record it. I share my current method using Drafts and Evernote. What do you do? Please leave a comment – I’d like to know. So would many other people.

Teaching, preaching, lessons, Drafts, Evernote, illustrations, note taking, mccx, malcolmcox.org

“Tuesday Teaching Tips: “HOW TO USE DRAFTS FOR SERMON IDEAS””
by Malcolm Cox

Sorry, listening to the audio on this website requires Flash support in your browser. You can try playing the MP3 file directly by clicking here.


22 August 2017

What’s your method for collecting ideas for your next lesson? It’s really annoying when you have a killer illustration come to mind –  but no way to record it.

I share my current method using Drafts and Evernote.

What do you do? Please leave a comment – I’d like to know. So would many other people.

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The Sunday Sample – 20th August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Date:  Sunday 20th August 2017

Location: Watford & Bracknell

Special Occasion: none

Speakers

I spoke in Watford. Ben Dannatt preached in Bracknell. The same line-up as last week. A coincidence – not planned that way! Both lessons are available via the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels and their respective podcasts.

In Watford, we had some Q&A as well as a discussion. This helped the congregation’s attentiveness, and I learned from the replies. The congregation were relaxed and we had quite a few laughs when parts of the service did not go to plan. It’s such a help that we’re good friends and can laugh together! My questions were more appropriate this time. It was interesting to use Noah as an example of the kind of faith talked about by Jesus in Luke 21. I don’t often dip into the OT in this way, and it was refreshing.

Ben spoke well in Bracknell. His application of what it means to have spiritual friendships was relevant and imitate-able. The warmth with which he shared about his friends Alex, Elliot and Heinrich was genuine and inspiring. I was reminded how important good friendships are. Luckily I was able to experience that straight away. Reinhardt asked if we could talk over a cup of tea in the cafe after church. Sweet fellowship!

I’d be interested in your feedback. Please leave a comment below.

Note to self: connect OT & NT more often in sermons

Music Worship

Old school: We went old-school this week in Watford and Bracknell. No instruments. Simple is beautiful. The change was refreshing. Maybe we should do that once a quarter or so. The vocal harmonies are clearer, and the songs that work well a capella are uplifting if led well. Talking of leading well, CJ gave us a thoughtful introduction to the service in Bracknell. He read a Psalm before starting the song, “I will call upon the Lord”. I noticed that the congregation started the song with great togetherness, & sang it more heartily. The connection between scripture and the song lyrics helped us to remember what we were singing about and who we were singing about.

We need monitors in Bracknell. The singers sang so much better this week without instruments because we could hear ourselves. We love singing with the instruments too, but we need monitors to help us to be our best.

Note to self: plan some dates for a capella services 

Other Thoughts

Last week I said I would:

  1. Bracknell: keep the song service simple. The PA experts are away. – done
  2. Watford: Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Watford – done

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Lower Earley: confirm which person is leading which song well in advance – by Friday.
  2. Watford: keep my combined sermon and communion to no more than 25 minutes.

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

“Quiet Time Coaching – “How to walk your way to better prayer””
by Malcolm Cox

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18 August 2017

Are your prayer times varied? Do they contain creativity? Have they become stale? You need to go for a walk. A prayer walk.

Seven reasons why walking is good for your prayer life and three ways to build walking into your prayer life.

And the case for owning a dog!

How to Walk Your Way to Better Prayer

Why you will want walking to be part of your prayer routine

Are your prayer times varied? Do they contain creativity? Have they become stale? You need to go for a walk. A prayer walk.

The Dog That Changed My Life

Fifteen years ago my prayer life was transformed. By a dog. We bought a puppy. Little Jack needed many things. Cuddles, socks to chew, balls to chase and – walks. Snow, sun, rain, fog – it didn’t matter.

I discovered something on my daily date with Jack. Once you’re outside and walking, you might as well pray. It’s not that I didn’t pray before. But the regularity of the routine caused tremors in my prayer universe. I found greater creativity, depth and intimacy in my times with God.

Three years ago old Jack left us for doggie heaven. But my walks are as regular as ever. I cannot now abandon the habits that helped me have a better prayer-relationship with God than I ever imagined possible.

Prayer Places

There’s a place for prayers in our ‘room’ (Matthew 6.6), or even on a ‘roof’ (Acts 10.9). But prayer outdoors is legitimate. Jesus did it many times (Mark 1.35; Luke 9.28). Others spoke to God outdoors, such as Abraham’s servant (Genesis 24.12), Jonah (Jonah 4.2ff) and Moses (Deuteronomy 34.1ff).

How about getting outdoors for your next prayer time? Here are some reasons to do so, and tips to help make it happen.

Seven reasons why walking is good for your prayer life

  1. You see something new every day. Even if the route is the same, people and nature alter what surrounds us. New sights prompt new prayers.
  2. You see something that prompts you to pray for people. I walk past a homeless man sleeping rough on one of my regular routes. I pray for him and people like him. I have stopped to talk to him when he’s awake too.
  3. You are reminded of reasons to thank God. On today’s prayer walk I saw a blackberry bush and stopped to pick some blackberries. As I did so, someone walked past. He said, “Picking a healthy breakfast?” I replied, “Yes. And it’s free!” I was reminded to thank God for all the things I take for granted. The food in my fridge, the place I live (where free food is available on bushes!), the friendliness of strangers, the physical ability I have to walk in the woods, the fact I have time to come out and pray like this, and so on.
  4. You are reminded of reasons to praise God. The fresh air, the green grass, a tall tree, the moon in the sky, the exuberance of young children, the playfulness of a puppy, the energy of a fitness fanatic, the beauty of a lake, the splendour of a sunrise…….
  5. You have different distractions. Distractions always exist. But when you’re out you cannot be distracted by your normal back-at-home distractions. Removing the home-based distractions helps us pray with greater clarity.
  6. You have better vision. Walking and praying helps our vision because we see things from a different perspective. Looking at Watford from the park instead of my car changes the way I pray for my town. Stopping to chat with dog-walkers connects my prayers to real people and increases my faith that the harvest is plentiful.
  7. You can imagine Jesus walking with you. He goes with you all through the day, of course. But a prayer walk can help us trust, believe, accept that he is walking with us just as he did with his disciples.
Walking and praying helps our vision because we see things from a different perspective. Click To Tweet

Three ways to build walking into your prayer life

  1. Know your ‘why’. Don’t do it because I said it’s a good idea. Have your own motivation. Pray about finding the right motivation, then write it down.
  2. Know ‘when’. One day a week, every day, days of the week that start with an ‘S’. It doesn’t matter, but create a routine. Monday is a longer walk for me (6.45 am). Tuesday, Thursday and Friday are long-ish (6.45 am). Wednesday, Saturday (8 am) and Sunday (7 am) are shorter walks. I vary the schedule, but that’s the way it is most of the time.
  3. Fully commit. No matter what, you’re going out to pray. I walk every day. Sometimes an hour. Sometimes 10 minutes. But I walk every day. Rain, snow, sunshine, feeling great, feeling lousy. Whatever your frequency or timing, make it something that nothing can compromise.

Conclusion

I don’t want to give the impression this is an exercise in military-style discipline. I’m not known as someone with strong discipline. But I’ve got to share that regular prayer walking has changed my relationship with God. It has changed me for the better. It has led to spiritual breakthroughs. It has deepened my love for God. I’m not giving up something this precious.

And no excuses! If you can’t arrange a walk in the woods or the local park, how about the walk to the bus stop, to the car, to the office, to the shops to the school, to a friend’s house, to the back of your garden, to church?

How about you?

Do you walk and pray? If so, what do you find helpful about that practice? If you don’t, what stands in the way? Can I help you to make walking part of your prayer-routine? Contact me on coach.me if you’d like some regular coaching.

Please leave a comment with your reflections and ideas. We learn best when we learn in community.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

One caveat: I know that some bed-bound or house-bound people may not be able to go for a prayer walk. You can still have a fulfilling prayer life. “On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” (Psalms 63:6 NIV11) I’ll write about that another time.

The Sunday Sample – 13th August 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

A snippet from Ben’s sermon

 

 

Date:  Sunday 13th August 2017

 

Location: Watford & Lower Earley

Special Occasion: none

Speakers

I spoke in Watford. Ben Dannatt preached in Lower Earley. Both lessons are available via the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels and their respective podcasts.

In Watford, we sat in a circle – lots of people on their holidays. My lesson was on Luke 21.5-19 with discussion and interaction. The situation was a challenge. Lots of interruptions for seeing to the needs of babies, and latecomers. I wonder if we’d have been better off taking the chairs outdoors and sitting in the sun. The weather was good. Next time.

The discussion part of the lesson was helpful, but my questions were not quite on the mark. Next time I need to think through whether the questions are driving to the heart of the issue.

Ben spoke well in Lower Earley. His personal vulnerability was endearing, and his questions to our faith were probing.

I’d be interested in your feedback. Please leave a comment below.

Note to self: think through the questions more carefully

Music Worship

Watford: The depleted numbers gave their best, and Charl was rock-like. He showed a good connection with the congregation when acknowledging that one of the songs was not one we’d taught thoroughly. He led the song with stronger direction as a result which the church appreciated. The song was sung better than usual.

Lower Earley: the new projector is brighter. It lifted the mood of the whole church including those leading worship. Knowing all images and lyrics will be seen clearly was a boost.

We sang the “bread and wine” song seated, with no one up front leading it. A more meditative rendering of the hymn was the result. We’ll do that again.

Feedback was positive about the variety of songs, and the spiritually uplifting way they were led.

Note to self: vary the methods for songs to be led

Other Thoughts

Last week I said I would:

  1. Lower Earley: Double-confirm who is leading which song by Friday at the latest – done
  2. Watford: Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Watford – not done

The focus for next Sunday:

  1. Bracknell: keep the song service simple. The PA experts are away.
  2. Watford: Add personal vulnerability to my sermon in Watford

Please comment on what you’re doing locally with your services. What are you trying that’s working? What is God teaching you?

Share reflections with us so we can grow and please God.

You can leave a comment below.

God bless,

Malcolm