“How to build healthy spiritual habits”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 59

We’d all like to have healthy spiritual habits. But how do we build them? And what we do if we feel guilty about the need for external support?

Encountering some dog walkers on my prayer walk this morning reminded me of how helpful it can be to have a friend when trying to establish healthy spiritual habits.

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: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Sing a song with God”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 58

Do you sing in your times with God?  Is it part of your relationship with him?  In today’s podcast and video I reflect on an experience I had last night and connected with something that happened a little while ago in my local woods.

Thank you for listening and watching to this recording.
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.
God bless,
Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.

“Gethsemane – Keep Watch with Jesus”: Guest blog post by Dr Steve Kinnard

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 53

I’m very privileged to bring you a post on prayer by my friend Dr Steve Kinnard. We’ve known each other a few decades now, and I have benefitted significantly from his lessons, conversations and reading his books.

This blog post originally appeared on Steve’s site, November 7, 2016.

The Garden of Gethsemane is a special place for my family. When we lived in Jerusalem, we often had family devotionals in Gethsemane. Our daughter Chelsea adopted an olive tree that she would climb.  Chelsea would lay upon one of its branches and pray. We called that olive tree–The Chelsea Tree.  We visited the tree on our recent trip to Gethsemane. It is still a strong, healthy tree. And our daughter Chelsea has grown into an amazing woman of God. We are blessed.

Let’s meditate on the story of Jesus in Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-ff.

 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Luke 22:39-46

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus asked his disciples to perform one task–Keep watch with him. Stay awake with Him.

Stated in the negative this is–don’t fall asleep on Jesus.

Stay awake. Stay awake and pray. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

One task. KEEP watch. Stay awake.

I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples. Luke, who was not one of the original disciples, informs us that the disciples were exhausted with sorrow. I get that. When I’m sad, full of sorrow, I want to sleep. Sometimes when I see a really depressing movie, I say, “I need a nap after that.” I sleep hoping that while I’m sleeping the situation will change, and I won’t have to be sad anymore. But so far, sleep has never caused the situation to go away. So I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples because I understand what it means to be exhausted with sorrow. And they had had a long, difficult week with Jesus.

At the same time, I also realize that if a really good friend asked me to stay awake while he prayed, I’d find a way to stay awake. Especially if there were three of us who were fighting to stay awake. We could help each other stay awake.

Let’s say my good friend Troy Baker asked me to pray with him. I’d be honored to pray with Troy. Troy says, “Steve, just keep watch for me while I pray.” That’s risky leaving me alone to keep watch. But then Troy invites another friend Mike Santorio to join me. Ain’t no way Mike Santorio is going to allow me to fall asleep. He would have me doing push ups if I began to look sleepy. Then Troy invites another friend Lance Sarincino to join us. Lance is an amazing guy. But, at times, Lance can be a little scary. And I’m pretty sure Lance likes it that way. So I wouldn’t fall asleep because Lance might tie me up and dangle me from a cliff. I’m sure pictures of me dangling from that cliff would be posted on Facebook the next day. My point it this–it only takes one person who is invested to make sure the others stay awake. Be that person.

I think Peter, James, and John could have kept each other awake. If one of the three had been intentional about keeping watch, then he could have kept the others awake.

But that’s not where there minds were.

They failed to Keep Watch. They failed to stay awake with Jesus.

If you are going to keep watch with Jesus, you have to be intentional about it. Staying awake with Jesus doesn’t happen by accident.

And here’s the thing:

If we aren’t careful, we can easily sleepwalk through our spiritual lives. We get up in the morning, have our routine quiet time, rush off to work or to school, rush back home after work, have a quick dinner with the family, perhaps run out to a regular midweek Bible study, come back home, go to bed, and wake up the next day for the same routine. We aren’t intentional about growing to be more and more like Jesus, so we don’t grow spiritually. We maintain the status quo, but we don’t grow.

We might think about growing with Jesus, but we don’t do the things that Jesus did to be the person he was. Like getting up early, while it was still dark, to connect with the Father in prayer. Or, memorize large portions of scriptures so that when we are tempted we have scriptures on our hearts to use against Satan. Or, develop the compassion of Jesus for the sick, the needy, and the hurting. Or, be willing to go person to person and village to village to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to those who are lost. Or, pray the Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

So we must decide to Keep Watch with Jesus. We must decide to stay awake and not to sleep walk.

The older I get, all I want to know about, learn about, focus on, think about, meditate on is Jesus.

Because Jesus is THE difference maker in life. He gives me energy. He gives me purpose.

When I’m selfish, I think about the selflessness of Jesus.

When I’m lazy about pursuing God, I think about how Jesus would get up early to pray with God or stay up the whole night in prayer.

When I’m struggling with love for neighbor, I see the way Jesus touched lepers and spoke with outsiders like the Samaritan woman and cared for people with a selfless, agape love.

I know one of the most special aspects about being in the Holy Land is knowing that you are walking where Jesus walked. On our tours, we love to focus on the spots where we know Jesus walked there. You don’t see signs in Aramaic that read “Jesus slept here,” but you do have places where you know Jesus was.

Like the Sea of Galilee.

Or, Caesarea Philippi.

Capernaum

Nazareth

Bethesda

The Garden of Gathsemane.

The steps of the southern Temple Mount.

It’s exciting to be in those places. I love those spots.

But I think the question we each need to ask is, “Am I going to walk in the steps of Jesus every day of my life wherever I might be in life?” Because the steps of Jesus lead to the needy, the lonely, the hurting, and the lost. The steps of Jesus lead to great relationships within his kingdom–helping, helpful, encouraging relationships. The steps of Jesus lead to keeping the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. The steps of Jesus lead to building up the kingdom.

So keep watch with Jesus. Keep watch by obeying his commands. Keep watch by getting into his word and letting the word change your heart. Keep watch and pray. Pray that you will not give into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Be intentional. Have great times in the word. Have inspiring pray times. Decide to be with positive people who build you up and don’t drag you down. Flee temptation. James says that if you flee temptation, the devil will run from you. When is the last time you made the devil run?

Will you stay awake with Jesus? Will you stay awake and pray? Will you stay awake and pray so that you will not to fall into temptation?

Keep Watch With Jesus

Jesus on the Sea of Galilee

Jesus in Caperaum

Jesus in Bethsaida

Jesus in Chorazim

Jesus in Caesarea Philippi

Jesus in Nazareth

Jesus on the Temple Mount

Jesus on the Mount of Olives

Jesus in Gethsemane asking his disciple

Keep watch, stay awake, pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

Jesus on a cross at Golotha

Arms outstretched

Breathing his last breath

Jesus in a tomb

But not for very long

Jesus rose

Up from the grave-Jesus rose

Keep watch

Stay awake

Pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

Keep watch with Jesus.

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: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“How to look in the right place”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 52

Purchasing some binoculars has changed the way I ‘look’ at things. Spiritual parallels abound. I share some thoughts on the significance of using scripture to help our spiritual sight to be located in the best place to help our prayers.

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice. Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (Psalms 105:3–4 NIV11)

Which scriptures help you to focus your heart and mind in such a way as to prepare you for prayer?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me on coach.me. Join the facebook group, Quiet Time Coaching if you would like to be part of a community striving to grow in our relationship with God.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

“For God Alone”, Class 4

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

Class Four: “Considering what God has shown us”

24 August 2018

Here’s the FGAClass4 Handout.

Here are the slides: FGA4.

How to process this class series:

  1. Consider what God has shown you. What have you learned, or been reminded of?
  1. Confirm your biggest convictions. What is your resolve going forward?
  1. Clarify what questions still remain. Is anything important unclear?

Question: “What one change in your ‘quiet times’ would bring you the most joy?”

Two bonus ‘quiet time’ ideas

  1. Contrast Psalm 1 and Psalm 150
    • Read the two Psalms and consider that life often makes this level of trust and praise hard
    • Read and think about these quotes from Walter Brueggemann
    • “..praise as glad, exuberant yielding and self-abandonment (as expressed in Psalm 150) takes place only when one comes to terms emotionally, psychologically, dramatically, and theologically with the demanding, sovereign reality of God.” Brueggemann, “Psalms”, p194
    • “In the end, Israel goes to the sanctuary [temple] in doxology [praise]. Israel comes there with old, unresolved complaints that still sob and ache. Israel comes there with hymns of hope and gratitude still to be fulfilled. Israel carries to God’s throne all its old, powerful memories of brutishness and envy. Israel brings with it to the sanctuary the whole Psalter, its awesome account of hurts and hopes that are voiced in God’s presence.” Brueggemann, “Psalms” p212
    • In what way can a ‘quiet time’ help you to reconcile what you know, by faith, about God with what you actually experience in life?
    • What does the example of Jesus have to say to you about this?
  1. Elijah’s extended ‘quiet time’, 1 King 19
    • Challenging circumstances! Read chapter 18 for context.
    • Honest prayer, v4
    • God refreshes him, vv5-8
    • Taken to right place, v8
    • Rest, vv5, 9
    • Expresses his viewpoint, vv10, 14
    • Encounter with the presence of God, vv11-13
    • Renewed mission, faith and courage, vv15ff
    • What do you learn about the nature of God?
    • What do you learn from the way Elijah related to God that could help you in your ‘quiet times’?
Thank you for listening to this podcast and watching this video.
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions.
Thanks again for listening. Have a super day.
God bless,
Malcolm

“How to pray for people”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 50

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV11)

1. A prompt, not a to do list

  • Review every Saturday
  • Put in diary, so don’t forget
  • Pray for people at least once a week
  • Helps me keep my promises to pray for people

2. Pause before each person

3. Picture, bring them to mind, picture them in your imagination

Please leave a comment, pass the link on and subscribe.

What question would you like to see answered?

God bless, Malcolm

“For God Alone”, Class 3.

Dealing with boredom and bewilderment

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

Sometimes the most basic things in the Christian life suffer. Either because we forget their significance, or we lose inspiration. This class series is designed to refresh our desire for a daily focused time with God – something that is often called a “quiet time”.

The FGAClass3 Handout and FGA3 Slides for the third class are attached.

If you have any questions about quiet times in general or about the class material in particular, please drop me a line.

I hope you find this a blessing.

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 the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: tvcochrist@gmail.com.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

“For God Alone”, Class 2

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

Sometimes the most basic things in the Christian life suffer. Either because we forget their significance, or we lose inspiration. This class series is designed to refresh our desire for a daily focused time with God – something that is often called a “quiet time”.

The FGAClass2 Handout and FGA2 Slides for the second class are attached.

If you have any questions about quiet times in general or about the class material in particular, please drop me a line.

I hope you find this a blessing.

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 the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email.

Thanks again for listening and watching. Have a super day.

“What to do when you are stuck with God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 47

In last week’s episode (number 46) we looked at more reasons why we need a specific place for study. Please let me know how you’ve been getting on with your own study.
 
This week, let’s talk about what to do when you are stuck in your relationship with God. We’ve all been there. I have many times. I will be again, and so will you. What is it that will get us out of our rut?
 

Neither shallow, nor introspective.

We cannot stay shallow. Equally, we dare not become introspective. Perhaps a change of perspective will help. We’re not really trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? We’re attempting to go deeper into God. As Richard Foster puts it,
 
“I do not mean to turn inward by becoming ever more introspective, nor do I mean to turn inward in hopes of finding within ourselves some special inner strength or an inner saviour who will deliver us. Vain search! No, it is not a journey into ourselves that we are undertaking but a journey through ourselves so that we can emerge from the deepest level of the self into God.”*
 
Yes, that’s right. We emerge into God. In other words, we take action and discover that the faith involved in that action brings the reward of a renewed connection with God. It’s so important to remember that a relationship with God is not, in its essence, a concept or a feeling. It is something built by our faithful actions.
 

Confidence comes from action

Confidence with God grows as we take action. It has always been thus in the Christian life.
  • Jesus said, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17 NIV11)
  • The faithful of Hebrews 11 are commended for taking action, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7 NIV11)
  • Abraham is held up as the example of faithful action, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22 NIV11)
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God – take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often.

Experiment with the ‘examen’

One action you could take is what’s called the ‘examen’. Psalm 139 sums it up:
 
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
 
The prayer of ‘examen’ consciously invites God to reveal truth in us. The revelation of truth is a startling stimulus to growth. We do not know what we will discover. As a result, we need to deal with the fear of what is turned up. Foster inserts this prayer at the end of his chapter on the topic:
 
“Precious Saviour, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid… Afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite you to search me to the depths so that I may know myself – and you – in full measure. Amen”*
 
Why not pray this prayer, and then practice one of these four suggested methods for going deeper with God?
  1. Meditate on scripture – such as Psalm 62
  2. Pray the ‘Lord’s prayer’, Luke 11.2-4
  3. Pray through the ‘Ten Commandments’, Exodus 20.1-17
  4. Pray through and/or meditate on one or more of the ‘Beatitudes’, Matthew 5.3-12
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God - take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Try one of these suggestions for a period of time and note what you learn. What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

Question

What happened when you took action on one of these ideas? Were some easier than others? Why might that be?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
Get coached on Coach.me
 

“What difference would it make if your enemy was anointed?”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 43

One Bible verse had a profound effect on my prayers this morning.

As I often do, I turned to the Psalms before going out to pray. I have been working through the Psalms of Ascent and have reached Psalm 133.

“A song of ascents. Of David. How good and pleasant it is
when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.” (Psalms 133:0–3 NIV11)

Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org.

It is a Psalm of beautiful idealism. God’s people living in unity. Not something that existed for very long at any point in Israel’s history. Not something which exists in many denominations and amongst Christendom today. And, frankly not something that exists consistently in my own network of relationships.

In particular, I focused on this phrase from the psalm:

“It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.” (Psalms 133:2 NIV11)

Anointed

I reflected on the fact that, “In Israelite practice anointing was a sign of election and often closely related to endowment by the Spirit.” (IVP Bible Background Commentary).

At some point in the past, I had studied this Psalm. I had noted a quote from a book by Eugene Peterson called, “A long obedience in the same direction”. He said this:

“When we see each other as God’s anointed, our relationships are profoundly affected.” (p181)

I determined to go out and pray for someone I found difficult to love. To hold them in my mind and heart before God as someone anointed. Someone special to God. Someone chosen by him and just as specially favoured as I or any other person.

As I walked through the park on my prayer walk, I picked one person and focused on seeing them as anointed. What a humbling experience. All of a sudden I stopped looking down on that person. Instead, I could see that he and I were on the same level ground.

I felt differently about him. I felt differently about myself. I could and would love him.

Conclusion

Is there someone you find difficult to love? Someone close to you. Why not decide to hold them in prayer before God and before your spiritual eyes as someone chosen, elected, adopted and anointed by him? Give it a go in your next prayer time.

Question

What happened when you tried this? What difference did it make to the way you see this person and feel about this person? Will it change your behaviour?

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

Get coached on Coach.me