Malcolm’s Major Moments, 14 September 2019

Digging deeper

We encourage the wildlife in our garden. Bird and bat boxes are up on trees and poles. Plants have been selected for their benefits to butterflies and bees. Nuts and fat balls are displayed for our feathered friends to enjoy. What’s next?  What’s next is the need to dig deeper.

All our current wildlife offerings are primarily aboveground. But Penny wants a wildlife pond. Newts, frogs (to eat the slugs), insects, a place for a hedgehog to take a drink, damselflies, dragonflies and much more will be attracted into our garden. What do we need to do? Dig. Dig deeper.

I spent all Saturday afternoon and all Wednesday afternoon digging. Saturday was about removing the turf. Wednesday was about beginning the serious digging. The photograph above shows you what I had achieved partway through the afternoon. I spent five hours digging on Wednesday. This is the result…

It doesn’t look like much. That’s five hours of work! My elbows, knees, lower back, shoulders, well, and everything else in my body aches and tells me I spent five hours digging. But my eyes tell me it’s unimpressive. That’s the problem with digging. You don’t get the visible results that the physical effort merits.

Isn’t that rather like the spiritual life? We expend significant time and energy and emotional investment digging, digging and digging into God’s word and prayer and spiritual disciplines hoping for massive impressive visible breakthroughs. Yet we forget that God works patiently and with his appropriate timing to develop us step-by-step more and more into the likeness of his Son.

As I continue to dig this Saturday and probably for several Saturdays hence, I need to remind myself of the vision. A completed pond teeming with wildlife. That will keep me digging even when I don’t see significant visible results. Similarly, if I keep my eyes on Jesus, I will not be discouraged or disheartened when the transformation into his likeness takes longer than I would like. 

I offer my recordings this week in the hope that they will keep you focused on Jesus, and motivated in digging deeper in your spiritual life. 

The podcast summary contains a reminder of what’s been posted on my site this week. I.e. the usual TTT, SS & QTC. To watch/listen to any posts, just head over the the website.


Prayer request

In 2003 I took my first personal spiritual retreat (more on that in this coming week’s quiet time coaching podcast). A three-day time away with God which changed my life.  Since then I’ve taken a few more, and contemplated leading a group retreat. I think the time has come.

In the first part of next year I am planning to offer a spiritual retreat for a small group of people. I’m investigating venues and planning the schedule. Please pray for the success of this venture, if it is in line with the Spirit’s will for my life.  If you think you’d be interested to attend, please drop me a line: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.


Thank you for reading this far, and encouraging me in my endeavours to support our times of quiet with God, our corporate worship experiences, and the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching.

If you know anyone who might enjoy these materials, please send them a link to my website and encourage them to sign up for this newsletter.

God bless, Malcolm

The Sunday Sample, Episode 100: “When to lose the leader”

We tried something different this Sunday in Thames Valley. A song with no leader!  How did that work? And why? Have a listen to the podcast for the details.

How do you decide the right context for a ‘leaderless’ song? What works for you?

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 105. “Why You Need Friends That Make You Pray”

I have just got home from having breakfast with some friends. I wanted to record immediately some reflections on the significance of that breakfast and its impact on my prayers.

You see, as I walked home from that breakfast I spent most of the time praying. Praying about our conversation. Why is this? Let me give you the context.

Once a month on a Thursday morning I meet with three other church ministers from West Watford for breakfast. Alice, John and Richard. We’ve been doing this for about three years. We are very different people from different backgrounds and different denominations. Our conversations are fruitfully varied.

For example, this morning we covered recent holidays, personal life, our own spirituality, things causing us delight and stress, vision and mission, discipleship, books we are reading, death and resurrection, salvation and universalism, the future of Christendom in a secular society, and even Brexit!  We asked each other questions, listened and even gave advice. There was more, but those are the headlines.

As I walked home I found myself praying even without thinking about praying.  That’s a really good testimony to the value of stimulating friendship. Helpful friendships make you pray. I talked to God quite freely and easily about things we had  discussed. Processing my feelings, clarifying my thinking, and, doing my best to figure out what God wanted me to learn from the conversation. Not all of that got resolved between Domenic’s Café and my home, but it was really good to pray about it!

Do you have conversations with friends which make you pray?  If your prayers have been a little stale, perhaps you need a conversation with a human being to stimulate your conversation with the divine being. Find someone different from you, talk and listen, then, I dare say, you will find yourself praying on the way home.


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 173: “Illustrate From Experience”

Illustrations are the secret missiles of speaking impact.

What makes the best illustrations? Illustrations which pack the right emotional punch to clarify and reinforce your point such that people take action.  These are often stories and anecdotes from past experiences. However, it’s often the case that the best illustrations are rooted in our areas of expertise. 

Let me show you how Joe used his area of expertise on Sunday at our biannual ‘allotment’ service. He is a professional horticulturalist and knows his fuchsia from his fruit tree. As you watch the clip, what do you notice?

I’m guessing you saw at least these three things:

  1. He didn’t need notes
  2. He was able to communicate the illustration while staying engaged with his audience
  3. He was at ease using the illustration

Watching Joe gave me pause to consider whether I’m using enough of my areas of expertise as the source of my illustrations.

As an example, I wonder if I am using my music expertise enough. There are so many potential illustrations within the musical sub-fields of playing piano, singing in choirs, composing, singing practice, piano practise, solo singing, conducting, and much more.

Not all our illustrations can or should come from our areas of expertise (that would be too narrow), but we will be doing ourselves and our listeners a favour if we include them regularly. 

What is your area of expertise? Share how you have used it, or plan to use it in a lesson.

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

Malcolm’s Magic Moments: 7th September 2019

“Reasons to be cheerful”

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When you believe in love, when you have experienced love, when you trust that love never fails, you always have a reason to celebrate. No matter what is going on. Many of you will know that my mother had a hip replacement operation six weeks ago. It was a long and tortuous journey from diagnosis to surgery with many barriers to overcome. However, since waking up from the operation she has not had one scintilla of pain. It’s like a miracle.

She does, however, still experience significant pain from the results of a lifetime’s suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. Despite all this, can she rejoice? Oh yes! My mother’s middle name is “Joy”. You can see in the photograph above that she is living up to her name. It’s her birthday. Penny and I went to celebrate with my mother and father this week. The hip pain is gone. Other pain remains. But we celebrate life, the abundance of glory contained within God’s creation, and family. Oh yes, the rather nice lunch put together by my wife did also help!

I hope and pray that you have many things to celebrate. Daily. Yes, daily. You can celebrate every day. Part of my daily prayer is to thank God for the new day. It wasn’t promised, I could not earn it, I certainly don’t deserve it. But it has been gifted to me. Therefore at the beginning of every day, I celebrate. As the King James version puts it:

“This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

(Psalm 118:24 KJV)

I offer my recordings this week in a spirit of celebration. I hope that you can celebrate the fact that Jesus never said “goodbye”. I pray you can celebrate the opportunity to preach even when you don’t know what to preach about. And, I pray that you can celebrate the challenge of needing the wisdom to know when to change the song service and when to leave it alone.

The podcast summary contains a reminder of what’s been posted on my site this week. I.e. the usual TTT, SS & QTC. To watch/listen to any posts, just head over the the website.


Prayer request

As mentioned elsewhere I had a very helpful meeting with members of the Thames Valley church discussing adjustments to my future role. I’m very excited about the opportunities for a greater emphasis on teaching, training and coaching. Please pray for me that I understand the correct priorities, and am willing to step outside my comfort zone. If you have any recommendations on materials which may help me to coach better, please pass them my way.


Thank you for reading this far, and encouraging me in my endeavours to support our times of quiet with God, our corporate worship experiences, and the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching.

If you know anyone who might enjoy these materials, please send them a link to my website and encourage them to sign up for this newsletter.

God bless, Malcolm

The Sunday Sample, Episode 99: “When is it right to change a song on the fly”

Today I share an incident from our service on Sunday in the Thames Valley churches of Christ.

CJ made a helpful suggestion about changing the final song – during the service.

Let’s talk today about how we decide when it is appropriate or not to change a song on the ‘fly’.

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 104. “Jesus Never Said “Goodbye””

I hate saying “goodbye”. It feels so final. Yesterday Penny and I visited my mother to help celebrate her birthday. We had a lovely time, but it was very painful when it came to saying “goodbye”. I didn’t know what to do with myself. Where to look, what to do.

Goodbyes are hard at the best of times, but especially when it’s someone you love deeply.  What about with Jesus? Do you realise that Jesus never really said “goodbye”? What does that mean for our times of quiet with God?

This is on my mind because I heard a Renovare Institute podcast including reference to a song by Carolyn Arendes: “Never Say Goodbye”. Arends wrote this song after her mother was diagnosed with cancer.  In an interview with Christian Music Today she said:

“This Easter she had been in the hospital for four months straight with no end in sight, and she was so discouraged. She’s always loved Easter services, and she was too ill to even get out of her bed, let alone go to church. She called me Easter Sunday morning, crying, and my heart sank at the sound of her choked-up voice. But it turned out to be happy tears. She had just heard a preacher on TV say, ‘Jesus said a lot of things while he was here, but remember, he never said goodbye.’ That to me was another reminder that death and sorrow and separation and loneliness do not get the last word. Love does, thanks to Jesus.”

Here are the lyrics of the song:

1. I know when You were here

You spoke a lot of words

To disturb the comfortable

And comfort the disturbed

But those who knew You best

Must have wondered why

You never said good-bye

CHORUS

2.You said “Lo, I’m with you always

Always know that I’m

Making preparations

In a world beyond all time

Where we never say good-bye”

I know when You were here

The people gathered ’round

To hear You tell of prodigals

And treasures lost and found

And some folks understood

And some folks didn’t try

Still, You never said good-bye

CHORUS

3.I know when You were here

Whenever You would speak

The lame would walk, the blind would see

Your talk was never cheap

And when the time had come

You said You had to die

But You never said good-bye

CHORUS

My best friend at University (and we’re still friends today) was Laurence. Whenever he and I parted he would say “see you soon” instead of goodbye.  I thought this was a bit odd. Why not say “goodbye”? I asked about this. He said that it felt too final. Instead, he preferred to say “see you soon” in anticipation of the next time we met. In other words, he was expressing to me that he was looking forward to seeing me again.

I have adopted this phrase ever since. And I think Jesus would use it too.

  • “Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.” (John 16:19–20 NIV11)

Jesus is out of sight, but not of mind.  He is with us now, and is looking forward to enjoying an even more direct, personal and physical (if that’s the right word) connection with us in the next life. For him, this will be soon. It may not feel soon to us, but in the context of eternity it certainly is!

How does it feel to pray knowing that Jesus is looking forward to seeing us “soon”? Why not pray about this topic today, or make it a theme for the week? Let me know what insights come your way.


Resources mentioned in the podcast: “Never Say Goodbye


Scriptures referred to, or that you might find useful: John 16.19-20.


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 172: “What to do when you don’t know what to preach”

Sometimes we’re given a topic or text to preach. Sometimes we’re following a series we’ve already selected. But, from time to time, we have freedom to choose.

What happens when you have this opportunity, but do not know what to speak about?

Here are three tips:

1. Go ask 

  • Pray to discover what is troubling you or exciting you.
  • Ask God for insight as to what’s going on in your own life and heart.

2. Go serve

  • Get involved with people. 
  • Then reflect on what God is teaching you and showing you.

3. Go repent

  • Is there something nagging at your conscience?
  • Repent, get refreshed (Acts 3.19), and share the joy of your repentance.

What do you do when you don’t know what to preach on? Do you have a tried-and-tested method? Please share it here.

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

Malcolm’s Magic Moments: 31st August 2019

“Open Your Eyes – God is Amazing!”

Podcast Version of the Newsletter

The Feast Is Free

This time last year I was regretting not having done some blackberry picking. The area in which we live is blessed with many blackberry bushes. In order to harvest this free food, all we need to do is walk out of our house turn left, left again and we are confronted with bush after bush bearing beautiful fruit.

This year I decided not to pass up such a good opportunity.

When Ben Dannatt rang me yesterday for our weekly discipling phone call, I grabbed two plastic bags and my airpods. Whilst we talked about many and various deep spiritual issues I picked two bags of blackberries. They are now washed and cooked. Some in the fridge for festooning my breakfast porridge. Some in the freezer for a taste of summer when winter comes. How sad it would have been to miss out on this free food!

There’s a line in song we sometimes sing, “shall they starve and famish while a feast is free?”.  I wonder how often I, and many of us, miss out on the richness of God’s offerings for us. Are you making the most of prayer, God’s word and spiritual disciplines? It’s all free!  Just open your eyes – God is amazing!

Penny and I took a few days away for our 34th wedding anniversary and spent most of the time in gardens and walking country footpaths.

The glorious riches of God’s creation were all around us. Interesting birds, majestic trees, impressive shrubs, beautiful and, on occasion, rather strange flowers! Not to mention the insects, cloud formations, butterflies and other wildlife.  Open your eyes – God is amazing.

Whether you’ve got blackberries to pick, or not, I pray that this week you find plenty of opportunity to make the most of what God has provided by his grace, love and power of the Spirit.  Let me know what helps you to be reminded that God is amazing.

The podcast summary contains a reminder of what’s been posted on my site this week. I.e. the usual TTT, SS & QTC. To watch/listen to any posts, just head over the the website.


Prayer request

I have a very interesting meeting coming up this Sunday 1st September. I shall be meeting with a number of people from the Thames Valley churches of Christ to discuss how my role might shift given the changing needs of the church.

The balance of my “doing” things as opposed to training people needs to shift more in the direction of training, in my opinion. Please pray that God gives us wisdom to see in which areas I can be the most helpful to his glory and encouragement of the church.


Thank you for reading this far, and encouraging me in my endeavours to support our times of quiet with God, our corporate worship experiences, and the effectiveness of our preaching and teaching.

If you know anyone who might enjoy these materials, please send them a link to my website and encourage them to sign up for this newsletter.

God bless, Malcolm

The Sunday Sample, Episode 98: “Heaven is the Homeland of Music”

From “For the Audience of One” by Mike Pilavachi and Craig Borlase, this quote:

“Heaven is revealed to earth as the homeland of music.”

Christina Rossetti

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:    “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.””

(Revelation 5:6–10 NIV11)

The vision of the Lamb and the loving power of this sacrifice makes heavenly creatures and elders burst into song.

Let’s bring this vision to our collective worship the next time you gather with fellow-worshippers. No boredom here! No meaningless repetition. Just an outpouring of grateful praise.

How might you engender this attitude at your next gathering?

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