“Aspiring to Acts”

As someone once said, “The Gospels produce acts”.   We take a look today at what the book of Acts shows us in connection with our five church aspirations. To be:

  1. God focused
  2. Relationship-based
  3. Enabling our children to become Christians
  4. Always free, yet spiritual
  5. Toiling to build the church well

The Scriptures used are in the attached handout: Aspirations summary sermon handout

Please leave a comment or question below. We learn best when we learn in community.

God bless, Malcolm

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“How to finish the race”, Hebrews chapter 12

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,


“Zamar Praise Devotional”

We take another look at a Hebrew word for praise described in Chris Tomlin’s book “Holy Roar”.  This week the word is, ‘Zamar’.
praise  זָמַר  zamar – sing, to sing praise, to make music, to chant, sing, or play instruments to worship God and proclaim his excellence. Striking with the fingers; to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument, i.e. play upon it; to make music, accompanied by the voice; hence to celebrate in song and music:—give praise, sing forth praises, psalms.
Psa. 144:9  “I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,”
Here are all the references: Judg 5:3; 2 Sam 22:50; 1 Chr 16:9; Psa 7:17; 9:2, 11; 18:49; 21:13; 27:6; 30:4, 12; 33:2; 47:6–7; 57:7, 9; 59:17; 61:8; 66:2, 4; 68:4, 32; 71:22–23; 75:9; 92:1; 98:4–5; 101:1; 104:33; 105:2; 108:1, 3; 135:3; 138:1; 144:9; 146:2; 147:1, 7; 149:3; Is 12:5
See 2 King 3 for the story about Elijah and the harpist.
“Elisha knew the power of a good soundtrack, how it frames the moment. Music so often prepares the heart for the reality of an important message.”….“As we listen to music, can’t we recognise the way it prepares our souls to receive God’s word? Can’t we allow it to soften us? Can’t we appreciate how it serves as a vehicle, carrying our praise to the throne of God? When we do, we are participating in the zamar.”
Music is designed by God to assist our spiritual awakening, listening and growth.
My thoughts:
  • Allow the music to do its work – not just the form of the song
    • Set the mood with playing/singing before the song begins
  • Share your music story & get to know others’
    • What role has music played in your spiritual journey?
    • Does your worship team know this?Does your church congregation know this?
    • Do you know the music stories of your team and your church?
Tell them. Ask them.
Please post a comment here.
And please pass on the link to this article to one other person.
God bless, Malcolm

“How to ask people to pray for you”

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.
[callout]’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.'[/callout] 


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.


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”

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?
  • 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

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

“Halal Praise Devotional”

Here’s a Hebrew word to inspire your worship team: HALAL. But what does it mean….?

Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people. Let Israel rejoice in their Maker; let the people of Zion be glad in their King. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” (Psalms 149:1–3 NIV11)

halal: Praise (347x) to praise; give thanks; cheer, extol; Pu to be praised, be worthy of praise, be of renown;  to make one’s boast in (the name of God); “Hallelujah” is a compound of the second person plural imperative and the personal name of God: hallelu-yah, praise Yah(weh); boast; exult; praise.

God’s great dance floor

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

God bless, Malcolm

“How to be heard by God”

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.
[shareable]’If you want your prayers to be heard by God, come to him on his terms of peace.'[/shareable]


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)


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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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