“How to be safe”, Psalm 100

"..we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

How can we be safe? What is true safety? And what does Jesus provide that no other person can?

“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.” (Psalms 100:3 NIV11)

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

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“How to re-enact a scene”

Tuesday Teaching Tip, Episode 96

Bethany and her mother inspired me to record this teaching tip on how to re-enact a story. Such a technique can illustrate a point far better than words alone (Luke 20.24, Romans 6.23)

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.

Please leave a comment, and pass it on …

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

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 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 Connect with the Heart”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 94

It is vital we connect with the heart when we are speaking. How can we do this? What do we see in Jesus?

Cliff Ravenscraft: “The Cliff Ravenscraft Show” episode 535. Interview with Ray Edwards.
“Stay in your head and you’re dead; speak to my heart, now we can start.”
“Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things?”” Mk 2.8
  1. Observe:
    1. Luke 14:7 “When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable:….”
    2. What are you seeing? Hearing?
  2. Question:
    1. Luke 9:18..20 “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”….“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.”
    2. What are you learning?
    3. What obstacles to your faith are you facing right now?
Conclusion
  • What do your audience need?
  • What are they hoping for?
  • What are they worried about?
Please leave a comment.
And please pass this on.
God bless, Malcolm

“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

 

 

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“HOW TO START YOUR SPEECH STRONG”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 93

I was sent a QUORA question to answer. It was about how to start a speech strong. Here are a few ideas:

Start with something than gives your audience a reason to listen to you. While most audiences are willing to listen, it is unwise to take them or their attention for granted.
Some commonly practiced “do-nots”:
  1. Tell them all about yourself. Your audience are the point, not you.
  2. Say bland things like “hello…nice to be here…” Boring!
  3. Talk about irrelevant things like the weather, the price of fish etc. Keep the focus on the topic.
Some suggestions for good openers:
  1. A short anecdote which connects with the theme of your talk and a need in your audience
    • “I stayed up all night typing on a portable typewriter …. degree almost lost…..”
    • Acts 17.22ff
  2. A question – if you want interaction and can expect participation
    • “Do you like having a clear conscience?
    • “What are the signs you have a guilty conscience?”
    • Lk 13.2
    • Act 3.12 – “Why does this surprise you?”
  3. A statement which gets attention. Not too controversial (that will get some listeners on the wrong side of you), but thought-provoking and, again, connected to a need amongst your hearers.
    • There are more active phone connections in the world than there are people – 7.7 billion
    • Kim Kardashian has been significantly influential in helping Americans understand statistics
      • 69 lawnmower deaths
      • 2 Islamic Jihadi Immigrants
      • 21 deaths by armed toddlers
      • 11, 737 killed by another American
    • Acts 23.6ff
    • Luke 14.26
See my Tuesday Teaching Tips: “When does a speech begin?” – 14 Oct 2016
Enjoy your opportunity to speak – it’s always a privilege.
Leave a comment ….      Pass it on ……
Have a terrific Tuesday & wonderful week.
God bless, Malcolm

“What is the difference between an anecdote and a story?”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 90

We are here to think about the difference between an anecdote and a story, and which are best in what circumstances. We look at two examples from Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.

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.

Leave a comment below.

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

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