Start your Christmas Eve in the right frame of mind by joining us for the hearty singing of well-known Christmas carols. We’ll enjoy readings by the children, as well as a performed duet and the revealing of a newly written Christmas song.

Plenty of parking. Refreshments afterwards.

 

Date: 24th December 2017
Time: 10:30-12:00 p.m.
Event: Watford Church of Christ Carol Service
Topic: Carol Service
Sponsor: Watford church of Christ
07973 491 021
Venue: Laurance Haines School
Location: Vicarage Road
Watford WD18 0DD
UK
Public: Public

“How To Hear When God Speaks To You Today”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 17

I’m deep into the Epistle to the Hebrews at the moment. My preparation for the New Year teaching series is complete. But I want to make sure the book is feeding my soul. Not just my mind. Here’s a thought that came to me this week.

Opening paragraphs of Hebrews in the Chester Beatty museum, Dublin. p46 ca200AD

 

 

God’s Word exists to feed all of who we are. The mind, the heart, the emotions – all of us. He speaks to us. But how?

In the days before Jesus, it was “through the prophets at many times and in various ways,” Heb 1:1.

Past Words

Check out some of the ways God spoke in the past:

And that’s not to mention a donkey, a false prophet, a flood, thunder and storms.

Present Words

Now, “he has spoken to us by his Son” Heb 1:2. Why His Son? Because a son is better than a messenger.

God speaks to us today in the entirety of the New Testament. But what I’d like to focus on is how God speaks to us in the person of His Son as revealed in the Gospels. And how this helps our Bible Study and our Prayer. To do this, we’ll take the example of Jesus in Luke 7.36-50. Here is the passage in full:

“When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39  When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” 40  Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Penetrating Words

Here’s how to make sure a passage about Jesus speaks to you. Really speaks to you. Not just enter your consciousness, but has the potential to change you. To do this we’re going to ask three questions about Jesus and the people around him.

  1. What do I understand about who Jesus is?
    • A question about his identity
    • What is revealed about his deity?
    • What is revealed about his humanity?
    • In this passage the words, ‘prophet’, ‘teacher’ and phrases like, “your sins are forgiven” point to something important
  2. What do I feel about what Jesus said and did?
    • Put yourself in the shoes of the other characters in the story
    • In this passage, what did Simon feel? How about the ‘sinful’ woman? The other guests?
  3. What do I see that’s relevant for me today?
    • Is there an attitude to avoid, or adopt?
    • Is there an action to copy or cut out?
    • In this passage: avoid self-righteousness; adopt unconditional love; speak kindly to those burdened with guilt; be grateful for what Jesus has done for us; etc.

Putting it Together

Now you’ve done your study, summarise it and make it into a prayer.

It could look something like this, “Father, ……I understand better than before that Jesus was/is…..(prophet, teacher, able to forgive sin etc.); Like others, I feel….. (grateful, sometimes confused, loved etc.); Please help me to be less like Simon in……(self-righteousness etc.), and more like the woman who was……(grateful, loving etc.); Today, I can see ways to think and act more like Jesus by………; Please give me the strength I need………..Amen”

God speaks to us more fully through His Son. Jesus improves our understanding, our hearts, our emotions and our actions. He is the full package. Are you making the most of him? Why not try these tips and see if they help your prayer life?

Question

How do you hear God speaking to you today? What have I missed in this short article?

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

Get coached on Coach.me

“What does the New Testament teach us about preaching?” Part 3 – ‘peitho’

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 86

This is part 3 of a four-part series looking at some of the Greek words used to describe teaching and preaching. We continue with ‘peitho’.

Here are the references to its use in the NT: Matt 27:20, 43; 28:14; Luke 11:22; 16:31; 18:9; 20:6; Acts 5:36–37, 40; 12:20; 13:43; 14:19; 17:4; 18:4; 19:8, 26; 21:14; 23:21; 26:26, 28; 27:11; 28:23–24; Rom 2:8, 19; 8:38; 14:14; 15:14; 2 Cor 1:9; 2:3; 5:11; 10:7; Gal 1:10; 5:7, 10; Phil 1:6, 14, 25; 2:24; 3:3–4; 2 Th 3:4; 2 Tim 1:5, 12; Philem 1:21; Heb 2:13; 6:9; 13:17–18; James 3:3; 1 John 3:19

I have three tips for us to consider from its use in Acts 17

  1. Of what do your audience need persuading?
  2. Do you display conviction?
  3. From Problem to Solution

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

Get coached on Coach.me

Here’s a quiet time idea for today

Try meditating on the first verse of Hebrews:
 
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways” (Hebrews 1:1 NIV11)
 
What the English translation does not bring out is the alliteration in the original Greek. There are five words beginning with ‘p’.
 
Polumeros (many times), polutropos (in many ways), palai (long ago), patrasin (Father), prophetais (prophet).
 
Spend a moment praying over these five words.
 
Share what was meaningful for you about it.

Episode 16, Sunday Sample, 17 December 2017 – “Sing A New Song”

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: Watford ‘Pop-Up’ Nativity Service, and the Bracknell Carol Service

The children had a whale of a time taking part in the Nativity in Watford and the song in Bracknell. Special thanks to Michelle who rehearsed the children for the latter, and to Joe and his team who got the children ready for their performance in Watford. It was noticeable that the young people came to church with greater enthusiasm than usual. And that they were more engaged in the services than normal. Another good reminder to me that we must do all we can to help the children to see this as ‘their’ church, and not their parents’ church.

Question to you: What are you doing, as a leader of worship, to convince the children that they belong in your congregation? Indeed, that it is theirs

The nativity in Watford was recorded. I’ll add the link when it’s been uploaded. Likewise the service in Bracknell.

Speakers

There was no sermon in Watford nor Bracknell because of the service formats.  However, both services contained communion talks. I contribute the outline of mine in Watford below.


  • Question to the children: What was Jesus laid in?

  • MANGER: An animal-feeding trough (Heb. ebus) or stall (Gk. phaétneä) in a stable.

  • Troughs were free-standing stone boxes placed against stable walls or boxes made by hollowing out rocks protruding into the stable area.

    • At Megiddo archaeologists found limestone troughs, measuring 91 cm. (3 ft.) long, 46 cm. (1.5 ft.) wide, and 61 cm. (2 ft.) deep, quite ample for an infant. – PICTURE ON SCREEN

  • Manger – French word for eating

    • Place animals out of

    • Dirty and disgusting – PICTURE OF MODERN ANIMAL FEEDING TROUGH ON SCREEN

  • Jesus not too proud to be associated with animals and dirt

    • Jesus so humble

    • He was laid where animals ate

  • Now we ‘feed’ on him

  • “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”” (John 6:57–58)

  • Communion meal reminds us of this. Let’s pray and eat…


Music Worship

The carols went off well in both services. We lost our guitarist in Watford due to illness (get well soon, Charl). But we adapted and survived! The Bracknell carol service was our best in the three years I’ve been involved. Why might that be? Here’s what I’ve come up with.

  1. Patience pays off. We sang “Ding Dong”. It’s hard for a congregation to pull that off. The first time we did it three years ago it was greeted with almost disbelief. i.e. “We can’t sing that!” Three years later we sound pretty good, and even those for whom it’s too much give it their best shot with joyful abandon. Three years of patience has brought it’s reward.
  2. Expanded talent pool. Three years ago it was the narrow band of usual suspects involved. This year Don played guitar, Rachel played flute, Fabian played keyboard, some teenagers sang, Marianne and others performed a spoken word piece, the Wakefields performed a duet – all people who were not involved three years ago. Surface the talent you have. Find ways to use it.
  3. Variety is the spice of carol services. Reading and carols were pretty much all we had three years ago. This year: carols, readings, spoken word, teenagers singing, children’s’ performance, a duet, an original song, one song accompanied by guitar, some by guitar and bass, some by keyboard, and some a cappella. It’s worth the effort to create as much variety as you can.
  4. Sing a new song. I wrote a song for the occasion. I don’t consider myself a good song writer. And I find it very hard to do. But I have been known to complain about the lack of new songs, so I’m a hypocrite if I don’t give it a go! The recording will go on line soon, and you can tell me what you think (holds breath…). Could you write a song? At least try. Please!

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our “pop-up” Nativity service. I’m going to do a communion with a difference. Done!
  2. Bracknell: It’s the carol service. The best thing I can do is to be calm! That’s my prayer.  Done!

Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our carol service. My main aim is to be at peace, just like last week in Bracknell!
  2. Bracknell: No services until the New Year. This week I’ll outline the music plans for the January services for Bracknell and Lower Earley.

Please comment on what you’re doing 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

Episode 15, Sunday Sample, 10 December 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

 

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Locations: Watford and Lower Earley – in theory

Special Occasion: Lower Earley Carol Service

Heavy snowfall meant I never made it to my second service. Traffic ground to a standstill between Watford and the M4. The Carol service in Lower Earley went ahead without me.

I was bringing the laptop, and all printed materials. Luckily I was able to stop and send the order of service and song sheets via WhatsApp. The worship team accessed the song lyrics via their phones and iPads. The PPt was emailed over.

I was so impressed with the attitude of the worship team. No complaining, just a desire to make the service the best it could be, and make sure God was glorified. The lesson of the day for me was how grateful I am that the service did not depend on me. Others were willing and able to step in.

Question to you if you are the worship team leader: Could you miss church and be confident the worship would be God-honouring and encouraging?

We must plan for redundancy.

The service in Lower Earley was videoed. Some of the singing and the nativity play are below…..

Speakers

The snow also frustrated many from attending our service in Watford. Around half made it to the venue, and we were blessed to have some extras who live near us but were not able to travel to their normal places of worship. The snow brought us blessings as well as challenges! 

We adopted a more informal format as a result of the conditions.  The sermon on Luke 24 was conducted more as a discussion than a ‘lesson’. Small group work surfaced interesting insights as to the experiences of the people encountering the risen Jesus. Our theme was, “Jesus Turns Confusion to Joy”.

Here’s my summary to the session, as well as two years of preaching through Luke:


  • We end Luke’s gospel with the disciples worshipping Jesus.
  • He has taken them from curiosity to confusion and, finally, to clarity.
  • They started out thinking he was a military Messiah, and ended up discovering he was a suffering Messiah.
  • At the beginning they wondered what was in it for them, but at the end they realised the message was for the world.
  • They thought Jesus was a King come to establish Israel’s dominance over the nations, but found out he was establishing a bridgehead of the kingdom of heaven.
  • Luke’s gospel is full of shocks, surprises and revelations.
  • At the conclusion to this two years in Luke, what has helped you the most?
  • Take some time to review your thoughts and write down a summary of the main things you learned.

Music Worship

I’m a traditionalist when it comes to carols and their harmonies. However, I must admit liking this version below. I don’t know who put it together, but I suspect it may have been Tidu Mankoo. It’ll be messy if done with the tradional harmonies. But if the congegation sing the tune in unison, then this works very well. We did this version in Watford on Sunday.

GOD REST YE MERRY GENTLEMEN Dm

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: Deliver an interactive sermon on Luke 24, and do it all in 30 minutes or less. Done
  2. Lower Earley: We’re singing carols. Some are long with many verses. Create variety in the carols so that they don’t drag. – I was not there!

Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: It’s our “pop-up” Nativity service. I’m going to do a communion with a difference.
  2. Bracknell: It’s the carol service. The best thing I can do is to be calm! That’s my prayer.

Please comment on what you’re doing 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

Corporate Worship Matters, Episode 7: “Seven Tips for a Cracking Carol Service”

 

Do you want to have a cracking carol service this year? I have seven tips for you.

  1. Give people what they want
  2. Respect your resources
  3. Involve children
  4. Preach the Gospel
  5. Add something different
  6. Contrast majestic and the intimate
  7. Think about the wrapping

Leave your ideas as comments, and pass the link on to anyone who might benefit.

Malcolm

Episode 14, Sunday Sample, 3 December 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

Stefan Wolmerans in full preaching flow

Locations: Watford and Bracknell

Special Occasion: None

Here is the outline of the devotional I shared with the worship teams in both locations.


The Role of a “Joiner”

 Last week we focussed on the ‘why’ of leading worship

 Today we will think about our role in a specific way – that of ‘joiners’

Consider this passage: 

Luke 2:13-14 “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.””

Heaven and earth are joined together by the praises of angels

 How does this happen? Because heaven and earth have been joined together by the arrival of Jesus on the earth.

 Those who recognise this join with heaven in praise. That’s why we gather here today. 

We are the leaders that help the congregation ‘join’ in with the praise of heaven. By what we say and sing we ‘join’ the congregations of heaven and earth today

Let’s pray before we ‘join’ heaven and earth in a few moments


Speakers

We had visiting speakers in both venues. Ben Dannatt preached in Watford, and Stefan Wolmerans in Bracknell. London and Thames Valley were doing a swap. Both lessons were faith-building. Check them out on the Watford and Thames Valley YouTube channels or podcast feeds.

I especially liked having a younger speaker in Watford. Ben was the youngest adult in attendance, not counting a couple of teenagers. I sensed vision for their children from the parents in the room. It’s vital we give younger people a platform to preach and teach. Mistakes will be made, but that’s the learning process in action.

Are you enthusiastically promoting the younger preachers in your congregation?

Music Worship

We learned the new song, “Lord you hear the cry” in Watford. I was impressed that the worship leaders had taken the time during the week to listen to the mp3 I sent out. It made a big difference to the time it took to learn the song, and gave them confidence as we taught the congregation. Let’s make the most of technological aids to compensate for the lack of rehearsal time.

What technology do you find most helpful?

A word on keys. A debate happens almost every Sunday. It goes something like this. “It’s too high to sing”….”But that’s the original key”…”But it’s too high”…”But the bass line will be too low if we drop it”…… and repeat. Some of the songs were too high this Sunday. On reflection, here’s what I learned. One song being a little high is not an issue. Two songs in a row is.

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Watford: Teach the song, “Lord, you hear the cry” – Done
  2. Both locations: Create enough time for a meaningful devotional for all the speakers and musicians – Done

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: deliver an interactive sermon on Luke 24, and do it all in 30 minutes or less
  2. Lower Earley: We’re singing carols. Some are long with many verses. Create variety in the carols so that they don’t drag.

Please comment on what you’re doing 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

How to stop your smartphone getting between you and God

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 16: Your smartphone isn't Satan's tool, but it can be his friend

When is your smartphone your friend and when is it your enemy? What does it do to your relationship with God? I have tips to make it a spiritual asset.
 
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SmartPhones are not the answer to all ills. Neither are they the reason for any societal decay you care to highlight. They are here to stay. As with all new technologies they have the power to enhance or detract from our spirituality. I have found my phone a great help at times, but a distraction at others.
 
“But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (Luke 10:40 NIV11)
 
Martha was not distracted by something evil, but something good. Hospitality is a Biblical command, after all. 
 

The “iPhone Effect”

Research illustrates the effects of a phone on relationships. The details are in the links provided. In summary, when a phone was visible the quality of the conversation diminished. People felt less connection, less empathy, less warmth. Even if the phone was not turned on. I know families who have a rule to counter this issue. No phones at the dinner table. 
 

Pause the Phone

We must consider the application to our walk with God. Especially our devotional times. Those moments we set aside for focused prayer and Bible study are precious. Will the phone help or hinder? Here are a few pointers.

When you want to avoid distraction

  1. Put the phone in Airplane Mode – vibrations can be enough to cause distraction
  2. Put the phone in another room – i.e. out of sight
  3. Leave the phone behind – if you go out for a prayer walk or into the garden

When you want to use it to help your prayer time

  1. Open a prayer app – I use “PocketPrayer” and “Daily Prayer” weekly
  2. Open a Bible study app – for praying through scripture
  3. Keep a notes app open for recording prayer thoughts – I use Drafts and save to Evernote
 

Conclusion

The key is to be intentional about your use or non-use of the phone. Where do you need to alter the way you use your phone? Remember, the phone is not the issue. The use of it is. You are in control.
 

Question

How do you prevent your phone from becoming a problem in your quiet times? In what ways do you find it helpful?
 
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
 

Get coached on Coach.me

 

Episode 13, Sunday Sample, 26 November 2017

Reflections on Corporate Worship

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Locations: Watford and Lower Earley

Special Occasion: “How to help a grieving friend” event in Watford

I was involved in services in Watford and Lower Earley this last Sunday. As you can see in the picture above, the Watford children enjoyed their class on tree-climbing like Zacchaeus!

Here is the outline of the devotional I shared with the worship teams in both locations.


The Power of Silence to Prepare

 Last week we focussed on: not ‘what’, but ‘why’ we are leading worship

 Today we will prepare ourselves for ‘who’ we are worshipping: God

Silence with God helps prepare us for work of substance – leading others in worship

Moses & David must have experienced much silence in the fields with their sheep. Jesus (eg Lk 5.16) deliberately chose quiet places to pray. Helped prepare them.

 Robin Daniels (in his book, ‘The Virgin Eye’), “If we do not keep attuning to silence, we lose gravitas, we become lightweight.”

Silence is praise and prepares us for praise: “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” (Psalms 62:1 NRSV)

 We will spend one minute of silent reflection on this phrase – “For God alone”

Then I will pray for us all

Let’s be silent together before our God …..


The minute of silence seemed to be appreciated by the teams. We gathered our thoughts and consciously placed them on God. Why not try it where you are and let me know how it goes?

Speakers

Our Watford service was different in that a large chunk of the sermon was spent in small groups. We discussed our experiences of loss and what it was that people said and did that we found helpful, and not so helpful. The results were profound. Some tears were shed, and the mood was sombre at the end. I guess there’s no way around that. The feelings evoked are powerful and not to be ignored.

Music Worship

As mentioned last week, I tried a revised song-sandwich in Lower Earley. The first three verses of “Soon and very soon” were followed by “Shine, Jesus, Shine” and concluded with the final two verses of “Soon and very”. All in G. It worked better than the previous week in Watford. However, another lesson was learned. Because we sang the first three verse of “Soon” slowly, it dragged after the first verse. We’d have done better to sing only one or two verses of “Soon” before going into “Shine” and then back to “Soon” at the faster speed. More helpful lessons learned!

Other Thoughts

Last week I said we’d do the following:

  1. Have a devotional for all the service participants that includes one minute of silence – “For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.” Psalm 62.1, (NRSV) Done.
  2. Have a second bash a the S&S song-sandwich in Lower Earley. Done.

Next Sunday we’ll do the following:

  1. Watford: Teach the song, “Lord, you hear the cry”
  2. Both locations: Create enough time for a meaningful devotional for all the speakers and musicians

Please comment on what you’re doing 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