Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 74: “How to Find the Answer to a Question”

What's the best way to dig into a question to find an answer?

Once we have identified the questions in a text, how do we go about finding the answers? I give you a peek into my method using MindNode. It’s a tiny tip this week because I’m on holiday and this was pre-recorded.

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

God bless,

Malcolm

Tuesday Teaching Tip, Episode 73: “How to Find the Right Questions to Answer”

What questions are hidden in a passage?

Before we preach from a passage in the Bible, we need to know what the questions are. Those questions need answering before we decide what to bring to the congregation. I share here one of my techniques to discover the questions using Accordance Bible software.

 

Thank you for watching this video or listening to the 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 and listening. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless,

Malcolm

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

 

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

 

The Weeping God

Luke 19.28-48

I’m preaching on Luke 19.28-48 tomorrow. What a corker! The verse central to the section is:

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it” (Luke 19:41 NIV11)

Jesus weeping. It’s not the first time (John 11.35) and he’s not the only one (Luke 7.13; 8.52; Romans 9.2-3) But why now? Why here? Is he weak? Is he controlled by his emotions? Are the tears motivated by regret, fear or horror? The word translated ‘weep” could equally be ‘wailed’. Jesus burst into sobbing. Something serious and meaningful is happening. But what? Let’s note three things:

  1. Jesus saw things as they really were. The crowd rejoiced (19.37), but Jesus wept. It was not that they should not rejoice, just that they could not see the bigger picture. How we all struggle with this. Are we willing to accept the reality of where we are in our faith, our relationships, our parenting, our marriage? Or are we so blind as to not see and admit where we are in the wrong, where we are weak, and where we need help? Are we also ready to accept the lostness of the world around us? We do not need to despair, but we do well to lament.
  2. Jesus lamented the lost opportunity. He did all he could to speak truth and act in love so as to convince people that the kingdom was coming/had come. Yet, the vast majority of the people who heard him, saw his miracles and felt his love did not respond. Jerusalem (city of peace) was to be a war zone in a few years. It’s ironic, but terribly sad, that the city of peace does not know how to enjoy peace. Has God put an opportunity before you to respond to his love? Take it while you can. You do not know how long you have.
  3. Jesus wept for others, not himself. The self-forgetfulness of Jesus is inspiring and, in fact, divine.¹ He was not weeping because he was to suffer and die in the city spread out before him. That would be reason enough, but his focus was not, and had never been, on himself. He knew God had a plan and, though it would be difficult, it was a good plan – for the the people he could help. How tragic, then, that those he longed to help and could help, are the very people rejecting such help. No wonder he wept!

Why is Jesus weeping? Because he saw things as they really were, because he longed to gather people to a place of peace with God, and because he knew how much he could help.

He did not weep every day, and neither should that be our goal, but a little weeping could go a long way to help us have the heart of Messiah.

God bless,

Malcolm

¹For more on this see Keller’s excellent short book:

Here’s just one quote, “The way the normal human ego tries to fill its emptiness and deal with its discomfort is by comparing itself to other people. All the time.” Jesus is so different, he feels no need to make comparisons. Instead, his energy is used for compassion.

“What is the Primary Point?” Luke 19.10

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The story of Zacchaeus is captivating. I remember the song from Sunday school, “Zacchaeus was a wee little man, and a wee little man was he.”¹ We’ll be exploring its message this Sunday. But, just what is the main point? I can see lessons from:

  1. The character/heart of Zac (eagerness, humility, faith, generosity)
  2. The actions of Zac (effort, repentance, hospitality)
  3. The actions of Jesus (noticing, associating with sinners, pronouncing)
  4. The character/heart of Jesus (love, compassion)

But is there one main point? What was paramount in Luke’s mind as he recorded this incident? What might God want us to take away from what happened that day in Jericho? Perhaps there is no core message, but several interconnected points. What do you see here?

I’d be grateful for your thoughts as I prepare the sermon. Let me know what you think. You can leave a message here, or email me.

Many thanks, and God bless,

Malcolm

¹Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
and a wee little man was he.
He climbed up in a sycamore tree
For the Lord he wanted to see.

And when the Savior passed that way
He looked up in the tree.
And said, ‘Zacchaeus, you come down!
For I’m going to your house today!
For I’m going to your house today!’

Zacchaeus was a wee little man,
But a happy man was he,
For he had seen the Lord that day
And a happy man was he;
And a very happy man was he.

“Today’s the Day”, Luke 19.5 & 9

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“Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.” An helpful phrase my parents repeated to me while growing up. “Carpe Diem” became popular after Robin Williams used it in, “Dead Poets Society”.

The significance of noticing and grasping opportunities goes back further. For example, here in Luke 19 – the passage I’ll be preaching on this Sunday.¹ The small man climbs a sycamore tree to see the Son of Man. Many lessons can be learned, but one that stands out is pointed out by the repeated word, “today” (vv5, 9). It’s the same Greek word both times, ‘semeron’, meaning, ‘now’, ‘at present’, ‘this day’, ‘the present day’, ‘until this day’, ‘until our times’, ‘the position today’.

Luke has a thing about ‘semeron’, recording it 11 times. Of the other Gospel writers, Matthew come closest with eight references, while Mark mentions it just once and John not at all. What is Luke doing? There is not space nor time to delve into all the implications in this short blog, but all the Lukan references are below for you to contemplate.²

Needless to say, Jesus knew his time was short. He is on his last approach to Jerusalem, but in a sense he has been on the road to that city since he became conscious of his mission. There is an urgency in ‘today’, and an opportunity. The world has been offered a ‘Saviour’, prophecies have been fulfilled, miracles have been witnessed, and we do not know how long ‘today’ will last. Therefore, let’s “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5 NIV11) while such opportunities exist.

Is there a decision of faith to be made today? A phone call, a confession, a prayer, a conversation? Let’s make the most of today. It will not be with us for ever.

God bless, Malcolm

 

¹Watford church of Christ, Laurance Haines School, Vicarage Road, Watford, 10.30 am, Sunday 9th April.

²Luke 2:11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 4:21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Luke 5:26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Luke 12:28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
Luke 13:32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.
Luke 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”
Luke 23:43 Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

“Questions about an architelones”, Luke 19.1-10

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My next sermon is about an “architelōnēs”. A what? A chief tax collector. The word appears just once in the New Testament, and it refers to someone who turns up just once – Zacchaeus.

I’m in the early stages of sermon preparation – probing the passage for ideas, insights and information. A few questions have occurred to me so far. What are yours?

  1. What is the least appreciated part of this story? Many Christians will know the text well. What might we have missed?
  2. Is there any significance in the fact that his Hebrew name meant, ‘pure’ or ‘righteous’?
  3. The word “today” appears twice. Is Luke telling us something? (Luke 2:11; 4:21; 5:26; 12:28; 13:32–33; 19:5, 9; 22:34, 61; 23:43)
  4. How did Jesus know the name of the man in the tree? Is it important?
  5. The crowd “mutter” in a similar way to the Israelites in the desert. Are we meant to notice that connection? If so, what is the point?

There are more, but these five will do for now. Do these same questions matter to you? Or are there different issues you’d like resolved? Please let me know by leaving a comment, or emailing me, mccx@mac.com.

God bless,

Malcolm

“The Healing Power of a Question”, Luke 18.41

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Jesus knew all the answers, but he still asked questions. Seems a bit odd, doesn’t it? As Conrad Gempf comments in his book, it must have been obvious to Jesus what the man’s need was.¹ He may not have had a white cane or a guide dog, but the way he walked and looked was surely enough. Questions were very much part of Jesus’ style of dealing with people and advancing his mission. Let’s look at some examples.

James and John ask Jesus for a favour, and his response is, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36 NIV11) He encounters an invalid in Jerusalem and asks him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV11). A woman touched his cloak and he responded, “Who touched me?” (Luke 8:45 NIV11) At a critical point in his ministry he asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15 NIV11) In each case he is not the one confused or lacking information. He is asking what he wants to know. The question is – what do the answers reveal?

In Luke 18, the answer reveals faith. This makes sense of Jesus saying, “your faith has healed you” (v42). The beggar could have asked for money, for clothing, for food, shelter, friendship, and a myriad other things. Things that normal mortals could provide. But the blind man had faith in Jesus, that he was not like other men, but something and someone different. Someone with the ability to “save” (‘healed’=’sozo’ – Gk). That faith caused him to ask for what must have seemed ridiculous to the crowd. It seemed perfectly reasonable to Jesus.

A question to myself: do my requests to Jesus reflect faith? Am I asking for what a kindly Uncle, expert or wise person could provide? Or am I asking the impossible – the ridiculous? In fact, am I asking for what I really need?

If you have a comment or question about these ideas, please contact me by leaving a comment or dropping me an email.

God bless,

Malcolm

 

¹”Jesus asked what he wanted to know” (Zondervan)

The Right Response to a Wrong Rebuke: Luke 18.39

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How does it feel to be rebuked? Not pleasant, I’m sure you’ll agree. A friend once asked me how I responded to criticism. I replied that I handled it rather well. He begged to disagree, and he was right. I was talking about how I reacted publicly (with dignity, restraint) – he was referring to what was going on inside me (panic, fear). It was a valuable and insightful conversation.

The blind man in Luke 18 felt the full fury of a rebuking crowd, “Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”” (Luke 18:39 NIV11) I wonder what it was that caused him to respond with louder shouts instead shutting up? The “calling out” of verse 38 has become a shout. The Greek word for shout is, ‘krazo’ (v.39) and is more dynamic than ‘boao’ (v.38). “Such shouting can be in hostility, anguish, joyful elation, or urgent authoritative testimony”.¹

He swam against the crowd-current. Peer pressure was ineffective in preventing this poor man’s perseverance. He looked wrong, but was right. He sounded wrong, but spoke sense. What drove him on?

Of course, we can point to his desperate need for a solution to his blindness. We can speculate about his life challenges. They were undoubtedly many and various. But, even then, there are many people who would buckle under the weight of numbers and public rebuke. What do we do when we are rebuked? How do we respond when we know the rebuke to be wrong?

This short article cannot address all the associated issues, but here are some thoughts that arise from this situation in Luke 18. We’ll approach them by asking two questions.

  1. If I accept and act on this rebuke will it take me nearer to Jesus, or further away? We all need to be nearer to Jesus, don’t we? Are the people around you taking you closer to him, or further away? I’ve been reading my 1974 schoolboy diaries. In one particular week I went to two church choir rehearsals, two church services (on the same day), one Sunday school class (also on the same Sunday) and two confirmation classes. I’m so glad neither my parents nor anyone else rebuked me for so much exposure to Jesus.
  2. If I accept and act on this rebuke will it prevent me from receiving help with something I genuinely need? A clue as to how much we should listen to someone rebuking us is to consider whether they are qualified to stand in the way of our need being met. The crowd were seeing, the beggar was blind. It’s all very well for them to rebuke the man, but they don’t have the same need as him. It’s a bit rich, such a rebuke coming from a group of people who are just fine thank you very much!

Some rebukes are right, and some are wrong. Our emotional response is not the best guide as to which is which. If, however, the rebuker is preventing you from moving closer to Jesus and/or standing in the way of your needs being met, then go with the blind man and ‘shout’ all the louder. Jesus will hear. And he will accept you.

What are your thoughts on the best way to evaluate a rebuke? And what are your opinions on how to respond to an inappropriate rebuke? I’d like your ideas, since I’m preaching on this passage soon (2 April, 10.30AM, Laurance Haines School, Watford).

More on this passage in the coming days.

God bless,

Malcolm

¹ Mounce, William D., D. Matthew Smith, and Miles V. Van Pelt, eds. MED. Accordance electronic edition, version 1.3. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.