“How To Be Humble, Hungry and Smart – Part 2”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 26

Last week I introduced the question as to which might be the most essential spiritual qualities for a disciple. My suggestion was these: humble, hungry and smart.

The book, “The ideal team player: how to recognise and cultivate the three essential virtues” by Patrick Lencioni, provides a fascinating insight into the significance of these three qualities in a secular situation. However, the spiritual applications seem obvious.
 
We tackled humility last time. Today we will look at the second of these qualities.
 

Hunger

What does it mean to be spiritually hungry? And how does it affect our prayer-life? Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount: 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6 NIV11)
 
According to him, being hungry is healthy. It takes us in a good direction. A hunger for righteousness implies a desire to connect with the source of that righteousness. That sounds a lot like spiritual ambition.
 
What’s the difference between selfish ambition (Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; 2:3; James 3:14, 16) and spiritual ambition? It has to do with benefitting other people.
 
For example, the ambition of the Apostle Paul was directly connected to people hearing the gospel:
“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20 NIV11)
 
That is perfectly good and fine, but what we do when we don’t have the hunger?
 
Here’s a quote from the book in the section dealing with how to help people with their hunger:
“The first and most important part of helping that person become hungry is to find a way to connect her to the importance of the work being done. Until this is accomplished, a manager cannot expect much change.” 
Lencioni, Patrick M.. The Ideal Team Player: How to Recognize and Cultivate The Three Essential Virtues (p. 202). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
 
If we are going to refresh our hunger, we must first connect with the significance of our relationship with God. How can we do this? Here are three suggestions.
 

1. Pray for Hunger

I don’t like being hungry. But I have to say that I have a clearer mind when my stomach isn’t full. Ask God to create a healthy dissatisfaction in your soul. It may not be comfortable. But it will ultimately be satisfying.
 

2. Pray to Remember

God has acted in the past when you were hungry. Can you recall times of spiritual hunger? The situations that led you to seek God. The circumstances that opened your heart to repentance. Pray about them, and ask God to recreate the same spiritual hunger in you today.
 
Make sure you take communion in a meaningful way. The Lord’s supper is your weekly opportunity to remember and refresh your spiritual ambition.

3. Pray for Vision

It is when we are stretched beyond our resources that we feel the hunger. When God gives us vision we recognise our poverty, and reach out to him. It is in that reaching that we find his supply. It is in that stretching that we find his support. Can you pray for a faithful vision?

Conclusion

Trying praying these three prayers this week. Pray to be hungry, pray to remember, and pray for vision. The prayers remind me of the heart and life of the Apostle Paul. his spiritual ambition has always been an upward call to me. While I am not Paul, I know I will be closer to God if I imitate the faith of that great Christian.
 
We will look at smart next time.
 

Question

What do you think is the best way to develop spiritual ambition? How do you get it back when you’ve lost it? 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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“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 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 Have Fun in the Mist”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 11: James 4.14 and combining memory verses

Fog of Life

Have you ever got lost in the fog? The fog of war is well-known. But what about the fog of life?
 

Dog in the Mist

Walking across Cassiobury Park this morning on my regular prayer walk I heard a man shouting. Shouting in the fog. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. Then, there he was. A shadowy outline in the mist. He pulled back his arm and threw something. It was then I noticed a smaller figure. It was his dog. The dog ran after the ball that had been thrown.
Then the man did something rather unexpected at 7 o’clock in the morning. He started laughing. While the dog was running after the ball in one direction, he took off in the opposite direction. I could see him running and hear him laughing. His dog picked up the ball, turned around and, in confusion, could not see its master. It soon heard him laughing and ran after him. I chuckled to myself as a former dog owner recognising this child-like desire to play games with one’s pet.
 
If you look really closely you might be able to see the man in the photograph.
 

Vanishing Mist

Mist can be an opportunity for fun. But it can also be an opportunity for soberness. As James wrote,
 
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 NIV11)
 
We don’t know about tomorrow. It may never come. As Jesus said,
 
“…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV11)
 

Misty Humility

We are a mist. James does not write this because we do not matter, but to prompt us to humility. A healthy Christian mindset carries an equal blend of security and humility. We are unquestionably loved more than we can imagine. We are also undoubtedly unloveable. At least in human terms.
 
How can we carry both the confidence of God’s love and the humility of our mistiness together in a healthy way?
 

Misty Momento

I’d suggest we take a leaf from conquering Roman Generals. When they returned from victorious campaigns the adoring crowds saw them paraded in a chariot. The General heard two ‘voices’. One was the adulation of the crowd cheering their name. The other was that of a slave whispering in the ear, “Memento homo (remember you are (only) a man).”
 
They heard legitimate praise and sobering advice at the same time. We need the same. Combining memory verses makes this possible. Put together two verses of the Bible. Here is one example:
 
Combine,
 
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9 NIV11),
 
with,
 
“clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV11)
Thus the prayer could be, “Father, thank you for loving me as much as you love Jesus, help me to enjoy this love and to clothe myself with humility toward others, because you oppose the proud but show favour to the humble.”

Over to You

If you were going to combine two verses with these areas of focus, what would they be? Put together several combinations and commit them to memory. Recite them and pray them.
 
We may be in the mist. We may be the mist. But we’re laughing in the mist. Joyful in our mistiness because we know we’re loved. Rejoicing in being loved because we know we’re on our way to him.
 

Question

Have you tried this verse-combo practice? Which verses work 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 quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

Get coached on Coach.me

 

What we’re reading: “Zeal Without Burnout”: “A warning: beware celebrity!”

John 5.41 – Jesus did not accept glory from human beings. We have chosen a work the world despises, or at best considers marginal and odd. We are unlikely to get affirmation from the world, therefore it is all the more tempting to seek it from the congregation, or other church leaders. Psalm 146v3 – do not put your trust in princes. Suggestion: pray that Jesus will grow greater and we will grow less, John 3.30. We follow a master who “did not please himself” – Romans 15.3.

 

What we’re reading: “The Power of One”, Part 6, “Sober-Think”

The cost of Christian unity is high. What will it take for us to avoid the problems of arrogance on the one hand, and insecurity on the other? Are we looking for balance when this may not be our best goal?

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Website: www.malcolmcox.org

What we’re reading: “The Power of One”, Part 6, “Sober-Think”

The cost of Christian unity is high. What will it take for us to avoid the problems of arrogance on the one hand, and insecurity on the other? Are we looking for balance when this may not be our best goal?

The Power Of One (Book), Watford, Tim Roberts, Epistle To The Romans (Religious Text), C.S.Lewis, Arrogance, Humility, Insecurity, Soberness, Holy Spirit

If you like this audio, please click the “like ” button and share with your friends.

Don’t forget to subscribe.

Follow me here: @mccx
Website: www.malcolmcox.org