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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 92. “How to be enabled by God”

Today we explore the issue of how God enables us. How does he enable us to be all we can be for him? In what ways can we cooperate with him to enable him to bring us to maximum Christlikeness? What is the place for prayer in this challenge?

We look at insights from Acts 14 and Acts 4

“So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:3 NIV11)

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”     After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4:29–31 NIV11)

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

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, Acts 14.1-7, Thames Valley churches of Christ, Malcolm Cox

Link to video here.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?”, Acts 14.1-7

Introduction, v1a• Modern Konya, 90 miles east of Antioch.   • Abundant water, a genial climate, rich vegetation, and great prosperity. • “Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.” (Acts 14:19 NIV11)

• “They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch,” (Acts 14:21 NIV11)

• “The believers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him.” (Acts 16:2 NIV11)

• “what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them.” (2 Timothy 3:11 NIV11)

Results of effective speaking

1. Enabled by God, vv1b-3
A. Belief

B. Opposition• “refused” – a choice

C. Perseverance• “considerable time” • “boldly” • Message of his grace – wonderful phrase • God with you • God enabling you – ‘didomi’ • How? •

Prayer – “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” (Acts 4:29 NIV11)

• Suppression of ego: “for the Lord”, v3

• Focussed on preaching a person, not a religion: “for the Lord”

• Preaching a positive message – “his grace”, not negative one

Results of perseverance

2. The results of God’s enablement, vv4-6

A. People make a choice

B. Opposition• More serious this time • Gentiles and Jews – unholy coalition. Reminds us of Pilate and Herod. • Why do they decide to move on?

C. Moving on• How do we decide when to move on?

• Surrounding countryside: Herts, Beds & Bucks

• Cynics – pigs simply devour – ““Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6 NIV

• When other opportunities present themselves – “Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.”” (Mark 1:38 NIV11)

Summary

Expect people to choose

Expect the negative people to oppose you

Move on when to stay would prevent the gospel being spread

Conclusion, v7• Unstoppable zeal • Neither poisoning nor plots were enough to deter them • Starts with “as usual” • Ends with “continued to preach” • God: • Confirmed the message of His grace • Empowered his messengers • Affirmed his bold ambassadors

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


https://youtu.be/qW_Qc6s0QWs

“High Drama in Lystra”, Acts 14.8-20, Watford church of Christ, Malcolm Cox

Video available by clicking here.

“High Drama in Lystra”, Acts 14.8-20

“In Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, “Stand up on your feet!” At that, the man jumped up and began to walk.When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them.But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: “Friends, why are you doing this? We too are only human, like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” Even with these words, they had difficulty keeping the crowd from sacrificing to them.Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. But after the disciples had gathered around him, he got up and went back into the city. The next day he and Barnabas left for Derbe.”

1. Everybody worships something, vv8-13

A. Noticing needs

B. Confusion abounds

2. Prepared to share, vv14-18

• How do you feel about sharing your faith?

A.Flexible cp Acts 14, 17 & other speeches • Good news • Positive message • Turn • Living God • Abilities: • Creator • Provider • Nature: • Patient • Kind • Benefits: • Joy

B. One way to be ready• Tell your story • 3 minutes • 2 words before/after

Summary•Peter May testimony advice • “The Search for God” by Peter May: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1910786373 • Handout available and recordings online • https://youtu.be/tIgrwZen5gQhttps://audioboom.com/posts/4903183-what-we-re-reading-the-search-for-god-the-path-to-persuasion-testimony-time?t=0

Conclusion, v19-20• God’s power at start and end of Lystra

• Sacrifice is part of the mission – for us all!

• “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:10–12 NIV11)

• “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6–8 NIV11)

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

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