“What to do when you are stuck with God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 47

In last week’s episode (number 46) we looked at more reasons why we need a specific place for study. Please let me know how you’ve been getting on with your own study.
 
This week, let’s talk about what to do when you are stuck in your relationship with God. We’ve all been there. I have many times. I will be again, and so will you. What is it that will get us out of our rut?
 

Neither shallow, nor introspective.

We cannot stay shallow. Equally, we dare not become introspective. Perhaps a change of perspective will help. We’re not really trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? We’re attempting to go deeper into God. As Richard Foster puts it,
 
“I do not mean to turn inward by becoming ever more introspective, nor do I mean to turn inward in hopes of finding within ourselves some special inner strength or an inner saviour who will deliver us. Vain search! No, it is not a journey into ourselves that we are undertaking but a journey through ourselves so that we can emerge from the deepest level of the self into God.”*
 
Yes, that’s right. We emerge into God. In other words, we take action and discover that the faith involved in that action brings the reward of a renewed connection with God. It’s so important to remember that a relationship with God is not, in its essence, a concept or a feeling. It is something built by our faithful actions.
 

Confidence comes from action

Confidence with God grows as we take action. It has always been thus in the Christian life.
  • Jesus said, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17 NIV11)
  • The faithful of Hebrews 11 are commended for taking action, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7 NIV11)
  • Abraham is held up as the example of faithful action, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22 NIV11)
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God – take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often.

Experiment with the ‘examen’

One action you could take is what’s called the ‘examen’. Psalm 139 sums it up:
 
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
 
The prayer of ‘examen’ consciously invites God to reveal truth in us. The revelation of truth is a startling stimulus to growth. We do not know what we will discover. As a result, we need to deal with the fear of what is turned up. Foster inserts this prayer at the end of his chapter on the topic:
 
“Precious Saviour, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid… Afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite you to search me to the depths so that I may know myself – and you – in full measure. Amen”*
 
Why not pray this prayer, and then practice one of these four suggested methods for going deeper with God?
  1. Meditate on scripture – such as Psalm 62
  2. Pray the ‘Lord’s prayer’, Luke 11.2-4
  3. Pray through the ‘Ten Commandments’, Exodus 20.1-17
  4. Pray through and/or meditate on one or more of the ‘Beatitudes’, Matthew 5.3-12
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God - take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Try one of these suggestions for a period of time and note what you learn. What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

Question

What happened when you took action on one of these ideas? Were some easier than others? Why might that be?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
Get coached on Coach.me
 

“How to reap your reward”: Hebrews 12, Acts 8

What it takes to inherit spiritual rewards, and how to live consistent with our faith in those rewards

It is easy to grow weary and lose heart in the Christian race.  Hebrews chapter 12 provides us with the inspiration of Jesus, and Acts chapter 8 provides us with the inspiration of the early Christians. In this lesson, I examine how their examples help us to not give in to the temptation to become weary and lose heart.

Thank you for watching and listening to this recording. Please leave a comment on anything you saw or heard.  We learn best when we learn in community.

Please pass the link to this recording on to one other person.

God bless, Malcolm

“Warnings and Promises from Hebrews”

The final class from the Hebrews teaching series 2018

In this final class we look at some of the warnings and promises in Hebrews.

Click for the Handout.

Please leave a comment with your own thoughts, or post a question.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13.20-21

God bless, Malcolm

“How To Be Humble, Hungry and Smart – Part 1”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 25

What are the most essential spiritual qualities for a disciple? How about these three: humble, hungry and smart?
 
 
Written as a fable, it tells the story of Jeff and his baptism of fire in becoming a CEO. The story is well written, short and illuminating.
 
The conclusion? The qualities of being humble, hungry and smart are critical to performing well in a team, and the team performing well. True enough. But what of the application?
 
Am I humble, hungry and smart? What would other people say? I can bring to mind recent events when I have been deficient on at least one of these areas.
 
We’ll start a three-part study of these three qualities and how they influence our relationship with God and others.
 

Humility

Today, we will examine the issue of humility. Of course, this is a huge topic. But we will look at the basics as they impact our prayer-life.
 
Here’s a quote from the book in the section defining humility:
“Great team players lack excessive ego or concerns about status. They are quick to point out the contributions of others and slow to seek attention for their own. They share credit, emphasize team over self, and define success collectively rather than individually.”
 
Lencioni, Patrick M.. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues (p. 157). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
 
I felt a combination of ‘ouch!’ and overwhelm at reading that. Before you and I run away screaming, “It’s impossible!”, let’s have a look at what the Bible tells us about humility.
 

1. People Prayer

Humility in prayer, or a lack of it, is revealed by the way in which we talk about other people.
 
“The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.” (Luke 18:11 NIV11)
 
Comparing ourselves to others in prayer reveals an insecurity with God. If we think we have to portray ourselves as better than others to God, we fundamentally misunderstand the nature of his love for humankind. He has no favourites. He loves all equally.
 

2. Submissive Prayer

Submission is a bit of a dirty word these days. But we’re not talking about forced submission. Biblical submission is always willing. Not that it’s easy. But a sign of prayerful humility is that we submit our requests according to God’s will.
 
This is what lies behind the famous phrase in the Lord’s prayer: “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 NIV11)
 
This attitude is best illustrated in Gethsemane: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42 NIV11)
 

3. Confident Prayer

A characteristic of humble prayer is confidence. Why? Because this demonstrates trust in God. As the writer to the Hebrews says:
 
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 NIV11
 
To approach God with trepidation, fear, uncertainty or hesitation indicates we believe our judgement about ourselves to be more valid than God’s judgement about us. That looks a lot like pride and not much like humility.
 

Conclusion

What does this mean for our daily prayers? Let me make three suggestions.
 
i. Pray for the good of others. Pray to see them as God sees them. Pray to see them as Jesus saw the thief on the cross (Luke 23:43).
ii. Pray to be willing for God’s will to be done in your life. Pray for the strength to trust him when his will is different from your own. Pray for the kind of joy that Jesus had even though he went to the cross (Hebrews 12:1-3).
iii. Pray with the assumption that God wants to hear your prayers, likes to hear them, and really loves you (Revelation 8:3).
 
We will look at hunger next time, and finish with the issue of being smart in the third article.
 

Question

What do you think is the best indicator of humility in prayer? How do you see it in action? What is the difference between confidence and pride? What is the difference between false humility and true humility? How does this affect your prayer life?
 
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 fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

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“How to finish the race”, Hebrews chapter 12

Hebrews series 2018

What will it take to finish the Christian race? We take a look at the exhortations, warnings and inspiration in Hebrews chapter 12.

Thank you for watching and listening. You can find more episodes on the topic of spiritual disciplines here.

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

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

Have a super day, and some wonderful quiet times.

God bless,

Malcolm

“How to ask people to pray for you”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 24

Is there something wrong with asking people to pray for us? Do you feel uncomfortable doing so? Is it selfish? Is there a right way and a wrong way?
 
 
I received a prayer request from a friend of mine this morning. It was for a friend of theirs. Nothing wrong with that. And I immediately prayed for their friend. However, it made me reflect on the fact that I don’t often receive prayer requests from people that are for personal needs.
 
Then I reflected on the fact that I rarely ask for people to pray for me. What stops me? It didn’t bother the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, for example.
 
“Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honourably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon.” (Hebrews 13:18–19 NIV11)
 
He (or she) wasn’t the only one. Let’s have a look and see what this passage and others teach us about asking for prayer.
 

1. Be specific in what you request

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews asks for two specific outcomes. Firstly, that he might be “restored” to them. And secondly, that it would be “soon” (see also Philemon .22).
 
Jesus gives us permission to be specific in our prayers to God: “Give us each day our daily bread….Forgive us our sins…” (Luke 11:3-4 NIV11). If we can be specific in our requests to God, it follows that we can be just as specific when asking our friends to pray for us.
 

2. Ask for things that will also benefit others

In the Epistle to the Ephesians, Paul has a personal prayer request. But it is not only for him.
 
“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.” (Ephesians 6:19–20 NIV11)
 
This request is specific, and it is personal. But its answer will also benefit others – that they will come to know the gospel.
 

3. Be vulnerable in your requests

In the passage above Paul is implying that he is frightened to preach the gospel. Otherwise, why use the word “fearlessly” twice? Something similar is happening in the Epistle to the Romans:
 
“I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.” (Romans 15:30–32 NIV11)
 
He is in a “struggle”, he is afraid of the danger from “unbelievers”, and he is anxious that he may not be “favourably received” by God’s people in Jerusalem. This is a significant level of vulnerability from an Apostle.
‘If we can be specific in our requests to God, it follows that we can be just as specific when asking our friends to pray for us.’
 

Conclusion

If the Apostle Paul and the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews both felt it was appropriate to ask people to pray for them, we can enjoy the same permission. When we ask people to pray for us, and when we in turn pray for other people, it is as if we are joining hands in prayer. 
 
Let us be specific, mindful of the benefits to others, and vulnerable.
 

Question

What stops you from asking people to pray for you? What topics do you ask people to pray for when they pray 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 fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

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“How to be Willing”, Hebrews chapter 10

Hebrews series 2018

How can we be willing to love God and serve Him? We look at the willingness of Jesus to offer his body and the willingness of God to remember our sins no more.

Please leave a comment with your own thoughts, or post a question.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13.20-21

God bless, Malcolm

“How to be heard by God”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 23

It’s very frustrating to be ignored. When it’s a stranger it’s an inconvenience. When it’s your children it’s an annoyance. When it’s your spouse, it’s an emergency!
 
But what about when it’s God?
 
 
I took my usual prayer walk this morning in the park. I saw many dogs and their owners. I didn’t see many owners ignoring their dogs. But I saw lots of dogs ignoring their owners! One person in particular was trying to get their dog’s attention by shouting loudly and blowing on a whistle. I could see the two dogs halfway across the park having a great time, with clearly no intention of returning to their owner anytime soon. On one level it was quite funny. It certainly entertained me! But it wasn’t healthy.
 
What do we do when it doesn’t look like God is listening? We can’t answer every angle on this question today, but we will take a look at one verse in Hebrews which can help us.
 
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5.7 (NIV11)
 
What does this passage teach us about how to be heard in prayer? I suggest two things to ponder:
 

1. Peace Plant

The word translated ‘petitions’ is ‘hiketeria’. It is an olive branch held in the hands of someone who wants peace. They are not coming with a demand, but with a request. They are not being passive, but taking initiative.
 
If you want your prayers to be heard by God, come to him on his terms of peace. Approach him, with confidence (Hebrews 4.16), but with humility, understanding that peace is in his hands to give, not in yours to demand.
 

2. Wholehearted Heart

Jesus prayed with fervent cries and tears. A rabbinic saying goes like this:
 
“There are three kinds of prayers, each loftier than the preceding: prayer, crying, and tears. Prayer is made in silence: crying with raised voice; but tears overcome all things (‘there is no door through which tears do not pass’).”
 
It is not necessary to weep every time we pray, of course. But, ask yourself if you are praying like you mean it.

Conclusion

Jesus was not delivered from death. Does this mean he was not heard? Not at all. We know he would have preferred to live (Matt 26.36ff), but his greater preference was for God’s will to be done in his life. The evidence he was heard is that, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Luke 22:43 (NIV11)
 

Question

What helps you to come to God with the confidence that you will be heard?
 
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 fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

 

 

Get coached on Coach.me

“How to have a clear conscience”, Hebrews Chapter 9

Hebrews Series 2018

What is it that gives us a clear conscience? How can we maintain a clear conscience over a lifetime?

We look at Jesus and the way his one time sacrifice as a ransom sets us free from the slavery of a troubled conscience before God.

Please leave a comment with your own thoughts, or post a question.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13.20-21

God bless, Malcolm

“They will all know me”, Hebrews Chapter 8

We are now really at the heart of the message of the book of Hebrews.

The chapter begins with ‘the point’, which is the ‘main point’, showing that this is the author’s main point about the priesthood. We take a look at Hebrews chapter 8. We examine the Old Covenant problems, the New Covenant promises and forgiveness.

Please leave a comment with your own thoughts, or post a question.

“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Heb 13.20-21

God bless,

Malcolm