“Why you need a specific place for study”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 45

Where do you go to engage in the spiritual discipline of study?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because of a podcast I listened to the other day. I like the Renovare podcasts, and enjoyed the recent one entitled, “Spiritual director and author Fil Anderson and lawyer Justin Campbell talk with Nathan Foster about how to study for transformation instead of just information.” If you would like to listen to it yourself, you can find it here.

One of the interviewees spoke of the helpfulness it was to him having a separate room in the house for study. The interviewer, Nathan, does not have space in his home for a separate room, but has a chair set aside for study. Nothing else happens in that chair except study. When he is in that chair he does not allow himself to have his phone within reach or any other device that might distract.

Why do we need a place free from interruption? We need it because intimacy and understanding are bred in a focused environment.

It is well known that Jesus took himself away in order to be with God. In Mark he, “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). In Luke he, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)

Jesus may not have had a house with a study room, nor a chair for regular study. But that did not prevent him from being intentional about removing himself from people and other distractions in order to be focused on God.

To be honest, I’ve let this slip in my life. Therefore, here are my new resolutions. I would like to know what you think of these, and I’d like to know the practices which you have found helpful.

Here are the specifics of what I will do to enjoy more satisfying study:

1. Phone out of sight

The phone will go into my pocket, behind me on a shelf, or in a drawer. I have already disabled almost all notifications on my phone, but even the sight of it can be a temptation to distraction.

2. Noise-cancelling headphones

I have a really nice set of Sony noise cancelling headphones. I need to put them to better use. I already have a favourite piece of music I play when I’m doing my Bible study (Mozart piano concerto in D minor K466 if you’re interested). Now I will pipe it straight into my ears and allow the noise cancelling technology to keep me in my study-world.

3. Clear the desk

I don’t have much on my desk. I think better without clutter. However, I do have one or two things on the surface such as my Full Focus Planner and gratitude journal. These, and anything else I will remove from the desk surface.

Conclusion

I shall try these for the next month and let you know how it goes. Of course, this is not intended to create some new rule as if to say this is the only way to do it. Nor is ‘study’ exclusively connected to Bible study. This could apply to reading books, magazines and other materials.

Your study space might be a particular seat on the train, a park bench, the passenger seat in your car. It does not matter so much where it is. It matters more that we find and make the most of a special space for study.

Question

What do you need to put out of site? What do you need to turn off, or turn on to help you be focused? What else do you do to enjoy deeper study?

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

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“What a drowning deer taught me about the heart of God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 42

It was about 6:30 AM this morning. My customary prayer walk was taking me through Cassiobury Park and into the conservation area close to where I live. My mind and my prayers were centred on Psalm 130. All was well.
Approaching a bridge over the Grand Union Canal, I came across two dog-walking women in animated conversation. One of them saw me. She walked over and declared, “There’s a deer drowning. It’s fallen in the canal. I can’t help because my dog will scare it. Can you rescue it?”
 
Her face was contorted with worry. I could not say “no”. I had no idea how I was going to get a soaking wet heavy deer out of the canal. But I knew I had to try.
 
Annoyed, because she had interrupted my prayers and my walk, I trudged reluctantly into the undergrowth between the path and the canal. Soon I was surrounded by stinging nettles. I was wearing shorts. Not the best combination.
 
After multiple stings, I reached the canal bank. Now even grumpier. No deer in sight. No sound of a deer. No sign of a deer. The lady shouted at me through the undergrowth, “It looks like it got out. Thank you for trying.” I fought my way back through the stinging nettles to the path. Fully fed up now. Interrupted prayer time, interrupted walk, fruitless search, throbbing calves.
 
Then I considered this Psalm:
 
“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” (Psalms 119:175–176 NIV11)
 
The Psalmist wants to praise God. He has experienced God’s life-sustaining teaching. Yet he is aware of his tendency to stray. Many other Psalms talk about seeking God. But I love this verse. It is a plea for God to seek his servant.
 
And, of course, it reminded me of what Jesus said in Luke’s gospel:
 
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4 NIV11)
 
In this wonderful parable, God is portrayed as the seeking Shepherd. The master of the flock is not grumpy about the effort, annoyed at the time involved, bothered about being interrupted, nor reluctant to seek. I have to confess that some evil thoughts went through my mind about that deer. If it was stupid enough to fall into the canal it deserved what it got. No, I know that’s not the right attitude. Sorry.
 

Conclusion

I’m so glad that God is not like me. I hope that deer did get out of the canal. As far as I can tell it did. What a relief. How much more of a relief it is that God doesn’t treat me as I deserve. He seeks me out to rescue me, take me home, and – He rejoices all the way.

Question

When you pray, do you reflect on the seeking nature of God? Could you meditate on Psalm 119 and Luke 15 in your next prayer time? What helps you to be grateful for the seeking Shepherd?
 
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 talk meaningfully about the communion: Part 4”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 110

I have a passion to do my best to make sure that our congregation’s members can take a meaningful communion every week. I believe we can avoid dull repetition and boredom. And the opposite problem of going off-topic in such of creativity. The answer, as usual, is to go deeper. I have taught on the atonement a few times, and found this to be tremendously helpful in my thinking about the communion.

I share today about one of the models of the atonement – that called, “Healing”.

Let me know what you think of this model. In what way is it helpful? How could this view of atonement be brought to life in a communion talk?  What scriptures, images, stories would give people sense of being healed, as they take bread and wine, that they are restored, reconciled, adopted into God’s family?

Please leave a comment in the comment box below. We learn best when we learn in community.

Please pass the link to this recording on to one other person so that they may benefit.

Click like, and subscribe you haven’t already done so. If you have time, leave a review which will help us gain greater visibility for these recordings.

Thanks so much for watching and listening. I hope you have a terrific Tuesday and a wonderful week.

God bless, Malcolm

Scriptures referenced or alluded to in this recording:

“The atonement means that the relationship between humans and God is restored (healed). The central piece in this restoration is that God, through the Servant who personally takes on all our iniquities, grants forgiveness of sins….The punishment for our sins, which was often meted out in terms of suffering, sickness and calamity, has also been taken on by that Servant. His absorption of both the sin and its punishment is the means to our healing and restoration, by grace bringing us shalom or well-being in all its richness.” The Nature of the Atonement”, p130

“How to help the nearby needy”

Thames Valley churches of Christ Class

How can we help the nearby needy? We run through an overview of the Bible’s teaching on helping the needy from the Old Testament to Jesus, to the early church, and the Apostle Paul.

A discussion followed (not recorded) based on three questions:

i. Who are my nearby needy?

ii. How can I help my nearby needy?

iii. How can my family group help our nearby needy?

The handout is here.

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 me your questions or suggestions.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm

“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