“Malcolm’s Major Moments”: Week ending 28th June 2019

This last Wednesday was Penny’s birthday. We both had a day off and went out for a nice long stroll at the Dunstable Downs (plus cake!). We parked and began our walk near something called the “Tree Cathedral“. 

Here is the description from the National trust website:

“Whipsnade Tree Cathedral was the vision of Edmund Blyth, who served in the infantry in World War I and suffered the loss of dear friends Arthur Bailey and John Bennett, who died in the March retreat of 1918. Edmund wanted to create a lasting legacy for his comrades-in-arms who were no longer with him and so began the idea of a unique First World War commemoration. Situated on the edge of Whipsnade Village green, the Tree Cathedral is composed of different varieties of trees and shrubs laid out to the plan of a cathedral, with a nave, transepts, chancel, cloisters and chapels. The idea of a Cathedral constructed with trees and plants is original and it’s one of Bedfordshire’s unique hidden gems.”

I’ve been there many times for special extended prayers. On this occasion, Penny and I sat on a bench in the ‘nave’ of the cathedral and prayed for a while thanking God for another year together and the beauty of nature all around us.  Edmund Blyth had the vision to construct this ‘cathedral’ out of trees, hedges and shrubs. It is beautiful, and a fitting memorial to his friends. But we don’t need something manufactured to catch a vision of the goodness of God. We just need to open our eyes to his goodness all around us. Genesis reminds us that God is all about making what is good:

“The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:12 NIV11)

Has this been a “good” week for you? I think it has. Perhaps it’s been difficult, even tragic. But, God is working something good in our lives if we could only but see it. Occasionally the darkness, the mist, the confusion hides God’s purposes for us for a time. But, he is all about what is good, and can only do what is good for us – and we will see it as such eventually.

What’s important is that we hold onto a vision of God as good, even when it doesn’t feel like it or look like it. This week I read a challenging and inspiring small book. Here’s a quote from it:

“The vision that really matters is the vision of how good God is and how blessed I am to be his child. This vision, of an already existing reality, sees the goodness and competence of God. Then out of the goodness of that vision grows a desire to do something for God, to make his kingdom real…. All human work is meant to be rooted in what God is doing….The only safe way to lead a team is to be rooted in this God vision. It’s not a vision of what might happen someday. It’s a vision of what already is. It’s a vision of God and the goodness of God. If I can live in that vision, then I will seek to do good things with God, and I won’t be clutching onto outcomes in a life-or-death manner.” Ortberg, John. Overcoming Your Shadow Mission (Leadership Library) (pp. 91-93). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 

One of the reasons we engage in the spiritual disciplines, including prayer and reading God’s word, is to help us hold onto the conviction of God’s goodness in the present, not just the hereafter. The joy is not only in knowing where we’re going, but in knowing that we have a companion on the journey. And that companion is our great God who only has the best in mind for us.

I wish you a wonderful week of walking in God’s goodness.

God bless, Malcolm

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

The Sunday Sample: Episode 89. “Posture in Corporate Worship”, Part 7 – Prostration.

What is the usefulness and relevance of movement and posture in corporate worship? This is the Seventh in a series on this topic inspired by a chapter in “Participating in Worship” by Craig Douglas Erickson.

Today we look at the issue of prostration. 

We might have reached the most challenging of all postures! As uncomfortable as I feel about raising hands, the idea of prostration is on a whole different level. However, the Bible mentions prostration as a posture of prayer more than any other! Here are some Old Testament references:

Deuteronomy 9:8; Psalm 37:6; 43:25; Genesis 18:2; 19:1; Judges 13:20; Daniel 8:17; Genesis 17:3; Joshua 5:14; Ezequiel 1:28; Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 94:6; 2 Chronicles 7:3; Numbers 22:31; Genesis 23:7; 42:6; 43:26; 1 Samuel 20:41; 24:8).

The New Testament tends to translate the word for prostration as “worship”. We see that as Jesus prays in Gethsemane he is worshipping/prostrating himself in Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:35.

After his resurrection the followers of Jesus “worship/prostrate” themselves at the feet of Jesus, Matthew 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52

Paul mentions prostration as part of Christian worship in 1 Corinthians 14:25

In Revelation the saints in glory are prostrating themselves before the throne of God, Revelation 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4.

It is appropriate in our corporate worship settings? If so, for what purpose?

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 94. “Sharing the Load”

We continue our series today based on the book, “Unloading the Overload: Stress management for Christians” by Chris Powell and Graham Barker.

Today we explore the issue of sharing the load. What can we learn from Moses, Nehemiah and Elijah? How does delegation effect our relationship with God?

To quote from the book: 

“Somehow on the solitary path that he has followed, Elijah has come to believe that everything depends on him. He has been living as though he is the Managing Director of the universe. He should have known that there were others still faithful to Yahweh, because he had met one loyal follower, Obadiah, just prior to the contest on Mount Carmel. But no, he carries the weight of, “I’m the only one left”. There’s a fair bit of “poor me” in Elijah at this point!”

What stops you from sharing the load? Do you overrate your importance? Do you believe you are the only one who can do the job well? 

“All these are simply ego-driven enticements to overload, even though we often try to justify them to ourselves. At our worst, we even affirm that we are sure God wants it this way.”

What do you do to unload the overload? What helps you to delegate

Scriptures referred to or you might find useful: Numbers 11.1-25; Exodus 18.13-27; Deuteronomy 1.9-18; Nehemiah 3.1-12; 1 Kings 18; 1 Kings 19.9-10

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 162: “Why You Need a Centralising Theme.”

Recently I heard two lessons which contained lots of good truth, but lacked clarity. My own sermons have often been guilty of the same flaw.

Mark Kermode mentioned a film that had lots of good ideas. He admired those ideas but they didn’t form a coherent whole. Therefore the film lacked focus – it was confusing.

Rather like a film or TV show which has so many characters you struggle to remember names and who they all are.

I experienced this when watching “Avengers Endgame”. So many characters! Not a problem if you are already invested (like my son), but not if you are new to the franchise. Our new-to-the-faith listeners need less information well delivered.

Interesting that Jesus’s lessons seem to be so clearly focused on one particular idea: note the parables.

How do we decide that central theme?

Intersection of three things:

  1. Pastoral needs
  2. Prayer
  3. Passage

What do you do to focus in on one theme?

Thank you for listening to this recording. You can find more teaching tips here and on the on the YouTube teaching tips playlist

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org

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

God bless,

Malcolm 

The Sunday Sample: Episode 88. “Posture in Corporate Worship”, Part 6 – Bowing.

What is the usefulness and relevance of movement and posture in corporate worship? This is the Sixth in a series on this topic inspired by a chapter in “Participating in Worship” by Craig Douglas Erickson.

Today we look at the issue of Bowing. 

Yes, bowing. I know, and seems a bit strange. Why do we bow? As an expression of honour and reverence. Psalm 94:6-7 reminds us of the value of bowing as a gesture of reverence.

What does bowing do for us? A number of things:

  1. An expression of thankfulness (Psalm 137:2).
  2. An acknowledgement of the presence of the holy (Psalm 21:9; 44:11).
  3. An attitude for worship and adoration (Genesis 24:26; Exodus 12:27; 34:8; 1 Chronicles 29:20; 2 Chronicles 29:29; Nehemiah 8:6).
  4. Posture of lament (Psalm 34:14;).
  5. Gesture of supplication (Exodus 11:8).
  6. Reverential greeting (Genesis 33:3, seven; 43:28).

Ultimately, Jesus bows his head on the cross, John 19:30.

To quote Erickson, “The bow is a reverential gesture that acknowledges the presence of God as mediated through objects and people.”

Is there a place for the bow in our corporate church settings? Bowing before God in prayer, bowing before the word? I’m not so sure about this particular gesture, but I’d be interested in your take.

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 93. “Why Memory Lane Matters”

Attending two funerals in Kent gave me the opportunity to take a stroll down Ram Lane – a spot with special memories for me. But it served a larger purpose than simply a reminder of events linked with that lane.

Walking down that lane helped me reflect on many of the ways God has been with me over several decades of journeying to Him and with Him.

Take a walk with me to consider the significance of deliberately accessing places conducive to spiritual reflection.

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 161: “The Sermon as Participation”, Malcolm Cox

Public speaking is a two-way experience. Even though it is often one person doing all or most of the speaking, it is better to conceptualise the event as a conversation. The people to whom you are speaking are not meant to be passive. They are meant to be participating.

Some greater clarity was brought to my thinking on this by reading the book “participating in worship” by Craig Douglas Eriksson. In the chapter “Fresh from the word”, he has this to say:

“Sermons should be designed and delivered in such a way that listeners will respond – thinking, doing, feeling, deciding for themselves. Preaching that consists of conclusive pronouncements can reduce the congregation into quiet submission and become a form of coercion that hampers participation.” Page 106

An extreme but positive example of this can be seen in Festus’s outburst during Paul’s “sermon”,

“At this point Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.”” (Acts 26:24 NIV11)

It may not have been Paul’s intention to cause the outburst, but the fact of the outburst reveals that Paul’s words are having an impact causing participation by his audience. Now I don’t know if I want that kind of response next Sunday when I preach, but I would like some response! How do we achieve this?

Some suggestions for participation:

  1. Images: slides containing powerful images help the visual learners.
  2. Handouts: help the kinetic and visual learners since they can both feel/touch and see what is on the page. They are interacting with the handout as well as you.
  3. Questions: to which you genuinely want an answer. I.e. not rhetorical questions (although these have a place).
  4. Breakout discussion groups: giving your audience time to talk to each other about what they are learning.
  5. Pauses: give your audience time to think and apply what you are telling them for themselves.

Not so long ago I was wrapping up my sermon when someone in the congregation stopped me and asked me a question. It wasn’t directly related to the topic of the sermon, and it was unexpected not only by me but by the rest of the group. I felt an initial spike of annoyance. I was wrapping up. I was about to make my main point and leave everybody was something to think about, and this chap was interrupting me! However, I suddenly realised this is exactly what I should be wanting. The fact that he is asking the question indicates he’s been listening, thinking, and developing his understanding. I did my best to answer his question, he gave me the broadest smile, was clearly satisfied, and I also sensed that the congregation appreciated this change of schedule.

What can you do to make your sermons more “participatory” without losing focus? I’d like to know what you do already on this and your thinking on it so I can do a better job.

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Adoption by our Abba”, Father’s Day 2019

“Adoption by our Abba”, Father’s Day 2019

Introduction

  • “Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behaviour from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love.” (Ephesians 5:1–2 MESSAGE)
  • Can be challenging day
    • Lost your father
    • Difficult relationship with father
    • Inability to become a father
    • 35,000 children will enter the care system this year in the UK alone
    • We need fathers
  • However, can celebrate the good in fathers and father-figures
  • Questions: 
    • “Who were/are the important father figures in your life?”
    • “What did you learn from them?”

1. God our Heavenly Father Adopted Us

  • “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:3–6 NIV11)
  • He chose us
  • Felt so lost
  • Remember that feeling?
  • Have that feeling?
  • What does this mean…….?

2. We have a real relationship with our Father

  • “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”” (Romans 8:15 NIV11)

“Before you were conceived as a bundle of cells, you were conceived in his heart. Before you were born into an earthly family, you were adopted into His family. Before you were able to form a smile, he beamed over you with pleasure. He was your Father, first.”

Talk – pray. Let him talk to you – Bible. Only way to get to know him better.

3. We care about what & who our Father cares about

  • “Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.” (Psalm 68:4–6 NIV11)

What might your response be to the fatherless, widow, lonely, prisoners?

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

The Sunday Sample: Episode 87. “Posture in Corporate Worship”, Part 5 – Kneeling.

Video can be found here.

What is the usefulness and relevance of movement and posture in corporate worship? This is the Fifth in a series on this topic inspired by a chapter in “Participating in Worship” by Craig Douglas Erickson.

Today we look at the issue of kneeling. 

What is the value of collective kneeling in corporate worship? First of all let’s have a look at Scripture:

  1. Solomon’s prayer of dedication for the temple (1 Kings 8:54)
  2. Adoration and praise (Psalm 94:6).
  3. Christ in Gethsemane (Luke 22:41).
  4. Stephen’s prayer for his persecutors (Acts 7:60).
  5. Peter praying for Tabitha (Acts 9:40).
  6. Prayers of departure and blessing (Acts 20:36; 21:5).
  7. Paul in prayer (Ephesians 3:14).

We tend to associate kneeling with an especially powerful awareness of our sinfulness before God. However, this is not particularly biblical. It’s something that came into the church consciousness later. This in many church traditions kneeling is reserved for penitential prayer or acts such as receiving communion. Does this mean that, in our tradition where this is not so common, we should not utilise kneeling in our corporate settings?

We can pray whilst standing, and pray whilst seated. But isn’t there something different about praying whilst kneeling?

What might it be like if we listened to Scripture read while we knelt on the ground? How might our experience change if we sang whilst kneeling? Click To Tweet

As close this episode by considering what Paul tells us about kneeling:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9–11 NIV11)

There is no suggestion in the context that such kneeling is negative, but  an appropriate response to our wonderful saviour. If this will be the case on that day, perhaps we should get in training today.

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.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

“Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” (Psalms 100:2 NIV11)

God bless, Malcolm

PS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

New album by “The Mighty Trumpet Company” with Roger Packham and friends

Please consider supporting my friend, Roger Packham and his friends who make up the band, “The Mighty Trumpet Company”.

Their new album is themed on the book of Joshua. The songs are tuneful, meaningful and performed with passion. 

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”” (Joshua 1:9 NIV11)

To hear the album and follow their Spotify Artist:
https://open.spotify.com/artist/5helYBZ78RmC9jnPU5DgIT?si=GFdtjVBoRT6dJHB4_nyl1A
Please follow them: become a listener!

For other social media:https://www.facebook.com/mightytrumpetcompany/    (Please follow: they need to get 1000 followers!)

https://www.instagram.com/mightytrumpetcompany/https://twitter.com/TrumpetMighty 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCbU9QGNybluXNl7kVcHxkZA  …. please subscribe to their Youtube channel: More videos to be posted soon