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

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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 103. “Father God as Rescuer”

Today we explore the topic of Father God as ‘rescuer’. What comes to your mind when you think of a rescuer?

These podcasts are my attempts to think through how to have a deeper walk with God. To enjoy more satisfying and meaningful times of quiet with him. As I explore topics on these recordings I hope they help you, and that you can reflect back what you are learning so that we can all grow and learn together.

The reason Father God as rescuer is on my mind is because I am reading my friend Andy Boakye’s book: “Death and Life”. His explanation of the connection between the Exodus (as well as the return from exile) and the new life offered by God through Jesus as detailed in Galatians has been inspiring me. I will preach on the following passage this Sunday 1st September 2019 for the Watford church of Christ.

I’ll share a few thoughts here today, and then I’d love your ideas too.

“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me. To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

(Galatians 1:1–5 NIV11)

Father God is the one who’s will led to our rescue. I plan to explore this in discussion with the Watford church on Sunday. I will ask questions for discussion in small groups as well as asking people to write down their ideas.

Here are some of the preliminary questions – in draft form at the moment:

Complete the following sentences:

  1. “I have been rescued from…….in my past”
  2. “I have been rescued from…….in my present”
  3. “I have been rescued from…….in my future”
  4. “I have been rescued from…….in my eternity”

Discuss the following questions: 

  • How does it feel to be rescued?
  • How does it feel to be the rescuer?
  • What is possible because we’ve been rescued?
  • From what specifically for yourself has God rescued you? How does this make you feel?

Make the following lists:

  • List examples of God as rescuer in the Old Testament.
  • List examples of God as rescuer in the New Testament.
  • Describe an example from your own life when you’ve been rescued from something by another human being or organisation.
  • Brainstorm a list of what a follower of Jesus is rescued from
  • Brainstorm a list of what a follower of Jesus is rescued for

How else might you explore the topic of ‘rescue’ and Father God as ‘rescuer’?

Please drop me a line – malcolm@malcolmcox.org. 

There’s more detail in the podcast on my thinking about this topic. Have a listen and leave your ideas in the comment box.

Why not pray about this topic today, or make it a theme for the week? Let me know what insight come your way.

The podcast finishes with the words of the song “Rescuer” by Rend Collective. The link to the lyrics is here.


Resources mentioned in the podcast: Lyrics to the song “Rescuer”; Andy’s Book; the Watford church of Christ


Scriptures referred to, or that you might find useful: Galatians 1.1-5; 1 Th. 1:10; Col 1.13; Exodus 18.10; Dan 6.27


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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 102. “Learning to Relax”

These podcasts are my attempts to think through how to have a deeper walk with God. To enjoy more satisfying and meaningful times of quiet with him. As I explore topics on these recordings I hope they help you, and that you can reflect back what you are learning so that we can all grow and learn together.

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 learning to relax.

The Bible does not teach directly about “relaxing”. But, we are urged to “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Easier to say than to do. The key phrase is, “because he cares for you”. It requires some deliberate focus to be reminded of this and convinced of it.  If we can learn how to do this (to relax), it will have a profound impact on at times of quiet with God.

Here are some Scriptures which, if meditated upon, will help us to “relax”:

  • “Who will separate us from the love of Christ?” Romans 8:35.
  • “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10.
  • “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.

Consider the example of Eliza’s servants (2 Kings 6:8-23). He needed to “relax” to be able to see the reality that was otherwise hidden from him, that God’s army was greater than that of the enemy.  Certainly Jesus seemed to be able to relax –  consider his attitude asleep in the boat whilst the storm raged (Luke 8.23).

Sure, the Christian life is not easy. We carry a cross (Luke 9:23). And Paul spoke of struggling for people on God’s behalf (Colossians 1:29). The key is that it is God’s energy which empowers us. How do we access this power?

How do we become aware of it and our need for it? It’s got something to do with relaxing.

Spiritual relaxing is a skill which can be learned. I have grown in this area by utilising the resources mentioned below. I won’t go into them in detail now, but bear in mind that awareness can be cultivated and learned. I would encourage you to have a look at the apps and resources below and to experiment with them to see what might help you.

To quote from the book:

“While the Bible does not directly say anything about relaxation, it does encourage us, at a number of points, to learn to “let go”. We are to let go of anxieties; we are to let go of activity and noise, in order to know that God is present; and we are to let go of the sense of carrying the Holyoke ourselves, and take on the yoga that is shared with Jesus-a yoke that is easy, involving a burden that is light. All of these injunctions have a relationship with the concept of relaxing and trusting in God’s faithful presence in our lives.” p86

What have you done which helps you to ‘spiritually relax’?  Please report back if you try any of the resources mentioned below. 


Resources mentioned in the podcast: Christian MindfulnessMind and SoulShaun LambertHeadspaceFeeling Good.


Scriptures referred to, or that you might find useful: Luke 8.23; 1 Peter 5.7; Romans 8.35;Matthew 11.28-30; 2 Kings 6.8-23; Luke 9.23; Colossians 1.29.


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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 101. “Access All Areas”

These podcasts are my attempts to think through how to have a deeper walk with God. To enjoy more satisfying and meaningful times of quiet with him. As I explore topics on these recordings I hope they help you, and that you can reflect back what you are learning so that we can all grow and learn together.

Today I’m in Buckinghamshire on one of my prayer walks and I’ve come across a sign.

The sign reads:

“This is a protected site under section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Trespass on this site is a criminal offence.”

The sign has a picture of a man with a red line across his body, indicating no admittance.

Underneath it continues:

“The Chequers Estate is monitored by security cameras. Thames Valley Police.”

What is going on here? I had found myself walking along a footpath crossing the borders of Chequers. For those of you who don’t know, Chequers is the location of the country residence of the British Prime Minister, currently Boris Johnson. This is where he might come to entertain heads of state or notable people visiting our country, perhaps wishing to do business or discuss diplomatic issues.

As you can imagine, with a sign like that on the tree, I’m not going down that track. I’m clearly not meant to be going beyond that point. I don’t want to test the sign of no admittance. I have no desire to be jumped upon by soldiers or police. It’s not the place for me.


One can understand why heads of state need a high level of security and protection. Seeing the sign reminded me that no such barriers exist between us and God. Ephesians 2.18:

“For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:18 NIV11)

I love the way that we have all three aspects of God in this verse. Through him (Christ) we have access to the Father by one Spirit. Christ, Father, Spirit.

It is because of their cooperative work that we have access to the Father. An access that we can’t buy, earn, or deserve.

We often feel separated from people who are prominent in our society, but there is no separation between us and the Father. What an amazing thought. We have access to Him at all times. The word “access” is in the present continuous tense in the Greek. It’s impossible for a believer to exist outside of God’s presence. We always have access to His presence no matter what’s going on.


Consider Hebrews 4.16:

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV11)

Access is always ours. We can approach the Father. We can go to him, we can speak to him. There’s no reason to believe that anything can stand in the way of unlimited, permanent access.

A commentary I read puts it this way:

“We have access because we are those who desire to walk with the Spirit, those with whom the Spirit has chosen to walk.” Warrington, “The Holy Spirit”, The Bible Speaks Today, p217.

The Spirit has decided, “I’m walking with you.” I’m in a field at the moment in Buckinghamshire, and the Spirit is walking with me! What a thought. I am walking with the Spirit right now at this very moment as I record this. The Spirit is with you as you listen to this today, or in 10 years down the line. We are walking together because he has chosen to walk with us despite his divine status and our lack of it.

The quote goes on:

“Despite his divine status, the Spirit is presented as undertaking a service for believers, resulting in their being presented to God in a superlative fashion; they are located in the very presence of God himself.” Warrington, “The Holy Spirit”, The Bible Speaks Today, p216.

When you pray, when you consciously enter the presence of God, when you spend that time of quiet with him, you are being presented to Him as one who deserves to be there. You are not approaching him in despair, not crawling in, nor walking backwards, or bowing low as if you have some kind of subservient position. You have the same position before God as Jesus. The Spirit presents us to God the Father in the same way Jesus is presented – as the one who is victorious, the one who is glorious, the one who is perfected. That’s the way we are presented.


How does that affect the way that you pray? How does that affect the way that you approach God? Let me know what these thoughts stir in you today.


I am glad I had that unplanned encounter with the sign today. It has made me grateful for the glorious access I have with God.

Scriptures referred to or you might find useful: Hebrews 4.16; Ephesians 2.18


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

“Praying in the Spirit – Part 2” Malcolm Cox, Watford church of Christ

“Abba, Father”: Romans 8.15-27
Praying in the Spirit – Part 2

Intro
“I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth.” John 14:16–17
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13–14 NIV11)
“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22 NIV11)

  1. “Abba”
    dadda
    A Christian is someone who wants God
    “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Jn 14:23
    Matt 6 – hypocrites pray to be seen
  2. “Father”
    Not starting with “Lord” etc.
    God honours you as if you have done everything Jesus has done
    Start with “Our father” to remember your position

Conclusion
What do each of these four points mean for you & your ‘group’?

We – communal
Cry – real
Abba – relationship
Father – safe

How will you adjust the way you pray as a result of what the Spirit has made possible?
Suggestion: Use Romans 8.15 as a prayer frame for a week – “We cry, “Abba, Father.””

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 100. “The Value of ‘Constant Use'”

Today I am out and about on the first Monday of August.

I spend a bit more time on the first Monday of each month praying and planning and thinking about last month’s lessons. I ask myself what God has taught me, and do some planning for the month ahead – looking at what’s coming up and what God might want me to be focusing on in my personal life, my relationship with him and my ministry responsibilities. 

So I’m walking around Butler Hill near Aylesbury and reflecting on something I heard yesterday from my good old friend Tony Heath. He preached in Lower Early on Sunday on the topic of spiritual maturity. One verse in particular stood out to me –  it’s Hebrews 5.14

“Solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil”. 

The key phrase there is “constant use”. 

Spiritual disciplines is at least part of what he is talking about here. This is how we gain spiritual maturity. Implementing God’s commands in our daily life, and in our times of quiet with God. The phrase in the Greek translated “constant use” can also be translated ‘constitution’, ’skill’, ‘outward appearance’. 

In other words it’s about who we are becoming. Not only on the outside, but something deeper as well. 

We grow as we become a person of trained habits which then affect the outward appearance, our whole constitution. Not only that, but we master skills that glorify God and benefit people. 


Our question today is, “Which is your favourite spiritual discipline? One you have practised regularly.” 


Maybe ‘favourite’ isn’t quite the right word. But which discipline have you found to be effective through constant use? Why has it worked for you, and why would you recommend its use to others?

It might be a discipline like fasting or something like a prayer phrase. One I’ve been praying over the past five weeks is, “We cry, “ abba, Father””, from Romans 8.15. It helps me tremendously to remember that I am not praying in isolation, that I can be honest with God, that I have a ‘dadda’ whose face I crave, and a father I can trust. 

This week’s quiet time coaching episode is a short one because I have two relatives in hospital and my daughter is getting married soon. There is quite a lot going on, but I would really like to know your thoughts on spiritual disciples you have employed regularly because perhaps I could use that discipline myself more effectively.

Scriptures referred to or you might find useful: Hebrews 5.14, Romans 8.15

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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 99. “How to stay motivated in your relationship with God”

I’m recording this on the hottest day of the year in the UK so far. Possibly the hottest ever day since records began. 

Sensibly, I went out nice and early for my morning prayer walk. I noticed something unusual. Most days I see the occasional cyclist and a few joggers. Today, well before 7 AM, I was dodging between powerwalkers, joggers, runners and cyclist of all shapes and sizes. I couldn’t work it out. It’s Thursday morning. There’s nothing special about today. Why so many more people exercising than usual. Then it hit me. 

They all know that it’s going to be too hot to exercise later. They’re getting the lunchtime run or evening jog in whilst they can. They’ve adapted.

For the last three months I have adopted a more intentional and extensive exercise regime. More time on the bike, and regularly going through a strength training set of exercises developed for me by Debbie Bishop. Both innovations have been tremendously helpful to my energy levels, sense of well-being, and hopes for a healthier old age!

However, a mixture of travel to help my mother, a few days with a bug, and the recent hot weather have made me inconsistent. Or rather, I have decided inconsistency is allowable. Now, while adaptability as a good thing, inconsistency is not! Something interesting happened today.

I already knew I needed to do my strength training exercises, but, given the anticipated heat of the day, I had half allowed myself the idea that I would skip them. But, having seen all those extra joggers and cyclists this morning, it helped motivate me to get on with my exercises once I got home.

So, back at the pad, I jumped straight into it, before the heat of the day became oppressive. Placing a fan on the floor and directing it straight of my face while performing the floor exercises also made a difference!

Much as we might hope to not need external motivation, the truth is that the example of others and the camaraderie of working together on something makes a difference to us being consistent in the things that matter.

This is just as true of prayer and our times of quiet with God as anything else. Yes, we need our own motivation, but we are kidding ourselves if we think we don’t need some external support and inspiration from time to time. Let’s think about what this could mean and how it might help our times of quiet with God.

  • The Friend. 
    • Friends help us in three key ways:
    • First, they give us companionship: “And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God.(1 Sam. 23:16 NIV11)
      • Sometimes we need a friend to help us find strength in God. A person to talk to, a person to pray with.
      • Do you have such a friend?
    • Second, they give us guidance, “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently.” (Galatians 6:1 NIV11)
      • At other times we need someone to help us come back to God when we have moved far away from him.
      • And, of course we may need this ourselves.
      • Are you this kind of resource for other people? Or, do you need some restoration yourself?
    • Third, they give us inspiration, “Jehu said, “Come with me and see my zeal for the LORD.” Then he had him ride along in his chariot. (2 Kings 10:16 NIV11) 
      • Spending time with someone on fire for God can you help us reconnect with him.
      • Who would be the”Jehu” in your life?
  • The Community
    • “…the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”(Rom. 8:15 NIV11) 
      • The key word here for our purposes is, “we”. It’s never just that I cry, but I cry together with others.
      • It’s important that we know each other’s prayer needs in the congregation. If your congregation is large, then at least know the needs within your local small group. Take the example of the apostle Paul:
        • “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives…” (Col. 1:9 NIV11)
      • And, of course, let your needs be known.
        • “Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favourably received by the Lord’s people there…” (Rom. 15:31 NIV11)
    • I sent a text message this morning to someone letting them know I was praying for something they asked us to pray about. I just received a reply thanking me, and telling me that she is praying for something I have asked for prayers about.
    • Knowing that my needs are known and that I know the needs of others is a motivation to consistency in my times of quiet with God.

I am grateful for the early-morning exercisers in Cassiobury Park this morning. They helped me to get on with what I really want to do. I hope you find the motivation you need to help you to develop the depth and intimacy with God that you really want. Could a friend and your Christian community help you with this today?

Do you have any tips you could share that might help us develop a consistent motivation in times of quiet with God? What helps you to stay motivated? And what ways have you found it effective in trying to help other people stay motivated? Alternatively, what demotivates you? Please share your story, your answers, your questions and your struggles.

Scriptures referred to or you might find useful: 1 Samuel 23; 2 Kings 10; Colossians 1:9; Romans 15:31.

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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 98. “How to redefine yourself”

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 redefining ourselves. How does our view of ourselves and the ways others think of us effect our times of quiet with God?

We will never grow to maturity in Christ unless we deal with the inner life. Our times of quiet with God are our primary opportunity to help us become develop the inner life and become more like Jesus. At times we have to deal with external barriers to this development, but a more common and pervasive challenge is what is going on internally.  

In other words, we can be our own worst enemy.

However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Our times of quiet help us to develop emotional maturity. This maturity is not a position, but a process. As we go through life we develop healthily as we better understand and experience the ability to form our own independent convictions, whilst still remaining connected to community.

Jesus was at a key development point in his life when he made a decision of independence to stay behind and engage with the teachers in the temple, whilst still understanding his need to be obedient to his parents (Luke 2:41-52).

This emotional maturity is dependent on us developing a healthy self-image. An image of ourselves as God sees us. Most clearly articulated in Genesis 1:27:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27 NIV11)

As the writers of the book put it:

“This is really the only solid basis for a good self-image. Other options are poor. Public adulation, financial success, sexual conquests, material acquisitions, you name it – all give temporary satisfaction but have long-term negative impacts on life. They never suffice, and chasing more simply creates more overload.” (p71)

What to do?  Some time spent reading, meditating and praying through Philippians 2:1-8 could well help:

    “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:1–8 NIV11)

We see in this passage that Jesus sets us the example of someone who considered the needs of others more important than his own. But, this did not mean he did what people wanted him to do or asked him to do. He did what they needed him to do. What a helpful distinction!

It means I don’t have to live to please people. I don’t have to live to make people feel good. I don’t have to prove myself by how much I do for other people. I only have to connect with what God reveals as to how to help people according to what he has called me to do.

Jesus poured himself out for people, but he still had boundaries. There were many he did not heal and countless numbers to whom he did not preach. He gave his whole heart to the few so that in the end the many could be blessed.

Is this a message you need to hear? I think I do. At times I do things for others that they could and should do for themselves. On other occasions I’m not quite sure about my motives. Do I teach and preach, arrange services, meet with people and lead worship because it is what people need, or do I do it to make me feel good?

This, of course, is not always an easy question to answer. Again, this is why we need our times of quiet with God. Let’s finish with three suggestions which can help us with these challenges.

  1. Spend some time connecting with God’s love and reminding yourself, and allowing God to remind you, that his love for you is enough. You do not have to prove yourself to him or other people.
  2. Pray for wisdom that God would reveal to you when you are acting to meet the needs of others that God has called you to, or whether you’re acting to bolster your self-image in the eyes of God, yourself or others. Ask God to reveal your motives.
  3. Read, meditate over and pray about the themes of Philippians 2:1-8.

What helps you to redefine yourself? To strip away whatever is from an unhealthy and inaccurate perspective, and replace it with the only view that truly matters – that of our maker and Father God.

Do you have any tips you could share that might help us ?

Scriptures referred to or that you might find useful: Genesis 1.27; 1 Corinthians 2.15-16; 12.1ff; Philippians 2.1-8

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

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 97. “The difference between moaning and groaning”

Groaning in the Spirit

What is the spiritual difference between “moaning” and “groaning”? Is it important?  Biblically, moaning looks super-dangerous  (think Israel complaining in the desert), whilst groaning looks meaningful. But, is this accurate?  We need to get it right.

This is on my mind for two reasons. 

  • First of all because I’m teaching a class series on the Holy Spirit for the Thames Valley churches of Christ on Friday nights. In the first class (which can be found here), we looked at Romans chapter 8 and the fact that there’s a lot of groaning going on! Creation, ourselves and the Spirit:

“…the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.”

Romans 8:22–23, 26
  • Secondly because Monday of this week gave me cause to groan and temptation to moan. In the podcast I detail what happened regarding my mother’s hip operation. The emotional cost of disappointment and frustration meant that I found myself wrestling with moaning.

I’ve attempted to record this Quiet Time Coaching episode whilst still in the middle of wrestling with the moaning/groaning differences. I hope I’ve created something authentic. Certainly, at the time, I had not fully distinguished what was going on in my heart.

The questions of the hour

  • Do you agree with me that moaning is different from groaning?  
  • How can we tell when we’re moaning and when we’re groaning?
  • Do you have any tips you could share that might help us develop better thinking and decisions regarding moaning and groaning?
  • Are there some Scriptures that you find helpful on these topics?

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 for my weekly newsletter at the 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

The scene through which I walked during this week’s Quiet Time Coaching recording.
Click on the picture for the class….