“What Happens When You Go With God”, Acts 14.20-28

“What Happens When You Go With God”, Acts 14.20-28
Introduction, v20

Themes• Numbers converted, word spread • Making disciples everywhere • Opposition / setbacks • “Firsts’ all over the place! • Overall feeling:

Undiminished enthusiasm for the things of God • Resulting in….

1. Bear God’s Fruit• By bringing God’s Word to all kinds of people

A. Converts – variety• Flexibility of approach: Jews / Gentiles / Pagans Undiminished enthusiasm for winning disciples for Jesus

B. Elders – leadership• Evangelism and strengthening • All churches need both • That’s whey we need to meet up • Leaders are not the most gifted, they are committed to strengthening • Brave to go back to where persecuted • High level of compassion for young Christians / new churches •

Undiminished enthusiasm for the strengthening of disciples

2. Bear With Setbacks• Persevered despite these ….

A. External Setbacks• Opposition; Poisoning; Persecution • Brave to go back to sites of pain • Compassion for young Christians drove them • Undiminished enthusiasm despite external setbacks

B. Internal Setbacks• Betrayal / Desertion • John Mark • Undiminished enthusiasm despite internal setbacks

Conclusion, 14.26-27• Why did this happen?  God – He is the focus. • We don’t know how they felt day to day, but we do know they found their way back to undiminished enthusiasm for the things of God. • Because motivated within the grace of God; • Conscious of the presence of God; • Confident in the love of God • Because confident of the competency of God • His power/strength • His wisdom • Do you believe God is loving and competent? • When we go with God we see the fruit of God in new disciples and strengthened disciples • When we go with God we see undiminished enthusiasm despite external setbacks and internal setbacks • When we go with God we live for him with undiminished enthusiasm

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

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 165: “Why You Need Keynote Stories”

I used a ‘keynote’ illustration in a recent sermon. It was about my encounter with an epileptic. The reaction I experienced prompted last week’s teaching tip.

Today I’d like to talk about the significance of having a body of ‘keynote’ stories which you have ready at hand for the right occasion.


What is a ‘keynote’ story?

  1. A story with an emotional connection for you
  2. A story you can tell without notes
  3. A story containing a punchline
  4. A story most often containing a laugh and a gasp
  5. A parable
  6. Not an anecdote. Anecdotes are fine, but they don’t contain a narrative arc. They make a point, but don’t take you on a journey. ‘Keynote’ stories have a shape.

What does a typical ‘keynote’ story look like? 

It answers three questions and leaves you with an opportunity….

  1. Where did you start?
  2. Where did the story take you? (Usually through a challenge or bad place.)
  3. Where did you end up?

Opportunity: What is the point you can now make that helps your talk?


Where do you keep your ‘keynote’ stories?

  • I keep mine in a folder within Evernote. It’s called “Keynote Illustrations” and contains tags.
  • You can keep yours anywhere, but separate them from other illustrations. 
  • You may not think you need to do this, but over time we forget we have even these captivating stories. Mine include a story about an epileptic, riding a motorbike in India, my university dissertation, praying in a car, the first time I told a girl I loved her, the death of my brother, and more. 

How do we best use ‘keynote’ stories?

  1. One at a time. They pack emotional punch. More than one in a talk will be overwhelming.
  2. Edit them. Each story likely has lots of details – not all are relevant to your particular audience. Leave in the parts that are relevant and remove any fluff.
  3. Tell them slowly. You know the story so well, you may rush the telling. Give your audience time to take in the story, and especially any emotionally involving moments.
  4. Get the ‘punchline’ right. Practice the high point of the story.

Why are they important?

  1. Authenticity. Keynote stories have great authenticity because they are stories that matter to you. They are often about incidents that had a significant impact on the way you view the world, yourself and God. 
  2. Memorable. You remember them, and so will your audience. Hopefully they will continue to attach them to the spiritual point which will provoke them to think and act in a way that reflects the spiritual point you were making in your lesson – long after leaving the event. 

I have recorded previously on anecdotes and stories. Here are the links:


Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

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

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 

“BY THE SPIRIT”, Praying in the Spirit – Part 1

“BY THE SPIRIT”

Praying in the Spirit – Part 1

John 14:16–17; Ephesians 1:13–14; Ephesians 2:22; Romans 8:15–27

1. “We” – we cry 

Question: “How does the “we cry” help your life of prayer?”

2. “Cry”

  1. Creation groans – v22
  2. We groan  – v23
  3. Spirit groans – vv26-27

Question: “What life situations have caused you to “cry” to God in the Spirit?”

Question: “How does the “we cry” help your life of prayer?”

3. “Abba”

Question: “How does the “we cry, Abba” help your life of prayer?”

4. “Father”

  • Not starting with “Lord” 

Question: “How does the “we cry, “Abba,Father.”, help your life of prayer?”

Conclusion

What does each of these four points mean for you and your ‘group’?

  1. We – communal
  2. Cry – real
  3. Abba – relationship
  4. 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.””
  • Do you have questions about the Spirit? Send them to malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

* “Cry” (katzo): Matt. 8:29; 9:27; 14:26, 30; 15:22–23; 20:30–31; 21:9, 15; 27:23, 50; Mark 3:11; 5:5, 7; 9:24, 26; 10:47–48; 11:9; 15:13–14; Luke 4:41; 9:39; 18:39; 19:40; John 1:15; 7:28, 37; 12:44; Acts 7:57, 60; 14:14; 16:17; 19:28, 32, 34; 21:28, 36; 23:6; 24:21; Rom. 8:15; 9:27; Gal. 4:6; James 5:4; Rev. 6:10; 7:2, 10; 10:3; 12:2; 14:15; 18:2, 18–19; 19:17

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 91. “Posture in Corporate Worship”, Part 9 – Kissing. Malcolm Cox

What is the usefulness and relevance of movement and posture in corporate worship? This is the ninth 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 kissing. 

In many cultures kissing on the cheek once, twice or even three times is a culturally normative method of greeting.  It’s not how I grew up, but even in my circles close friends would exchange a kiss of greeting.

Peter encourages Christ-followers to: “Greet one another with a kiss of love.” (1 Peter 5:14 NIV11) Here the word “love” can also be translated “peace”. We see the same activity encouraged in: Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Th. 5:26.

Are we missing something by not incorporating a “kiss of peace” either as part of our services, or in the fellowship?  When I first came to the fellowships in which I now serve, we simply shook hands. Later that developed to hugging. I love hugging-now. Not when it started. But the tangible physical experience of getting up close and personal with one another reinforces our sense of family. Might a kiss on the cheek of chief something similar and be even more biblical? Have we avoided kissing because of the potential lustful effects of such intimacy between men and women who are not married? Is a throwback to our largely student-based origins where energy and hormones tend to run amok?!

I’m not sure, but, it does seem clear that if we are claiming to be brothers and sisters in Christ, there must be some level of physical closeness with which we become comfortable. My question is, whether this should be incorporated into our services. Is there a place for, at the right moment in the service, asking people to exchange a kiss? We sometimes do this in a different way by asking people to stand up and greet the person next to them and often that means giving and receiving a hug. Why not a kiss also?

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

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 164: “What to do when illustrations aren’t received as expected”

Illustrations are an essential part of effective preaching and teaching. Jesus used them all the time. However, sometimes they aren’t received in the way we expect. What do we do in those circumstances?

This happened to me recently. I was preaching for the Thames Valley churches of Christ and using one of my “keynote” illustrations (more on the significance of “keynote” illustrations in next week’s teaching tips episode).  The story is about my encounter with an epileptic. Here are the links to the sermon (website, YouTube, podcast).  

Without spoiling the story, there is a twist which usually evokes great surprise and laughter. And I got those this time, but something extra I’d never experienced before. Which was an attitude of sympathy towards someone in the story who the congregation viewed in some sense as a victim, where I had always perceived him to be a perpetrator. This reaction temporarily threw me off balance. I’m experienced enough as a speaker to not let my surprise show, but I was distracted for a moment before pressing on with the conclusion of the story and the application.

The experience was a helpful reminder that I cannot expect to tell the same story to two different groups and expect an identical reaction. Each congregation has its own collective experience, culture and, sometimes, a different blend of values. I reflected afterwards that on most occasions I have used the illustration it’s been to groups of younger Christians and younger people than the group to which I spoke recently. This might have accounted for the difference in reaction. The Thames Valley congregation have recently been receiving many messages and training in caring for the poor and needy. This, I think, also affected their view of the perpetrator as victim.

It’s not to say that any one particular reaction is right or wrong, but speakers must be prepared for the possibility of an unexpected reaction.

Jesus certainly did not always get the reaction he hoped for (see Mark 6.1-7 – not strictly a response to an illustration, but certainly not the hoped-for response to his teaching).  He was flexible enough to respond in a godly manner whatever his audience response might be. When they asked questions as a result of his parables he used their confusion to clarify the point (Matt 13.10, 36). 

Here are three tips to help us with such an eventuality:

  1. Consider THIS audience. In other words, don’t just assume that this group will be the same as every other group, or every other time you have used this particular illustration. Consider the overall culture of the group, and any recent experiences which might colour their view of your illustration. Then decide if this is the right illustration for this group at this time.
  2. Pause.  When things go in a different direction to that which you expected, take a moment to pause and consider whether you need to address the reaction, adjust the next part of your presentation, or simply press on. Most congregations will not notice a short pause. They will assume it is part of your presentation.  Pray in that moment and then decide whether to enquire about the reaction (sometimes interaction can be creatively helpful to your point), or continue with the lesson as planned.
  3. Reflect. When the unexpected happens, take some time afterwards to think through why that might have been, and what the lessons are for your use of this illustration in the future.

In my case, the illustration still worked to make my point, but when I come to use it again I will think more carefully about whether it is the right illustration, and how to use it, than I did on this occasion.

Have you have had this experience of an illustration provoking a response you did not expect? What happened? And what did you do? What lessons did you take from the experience?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

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

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 

“Jesus the Life-Whisperer”

Wellington Service 2019, Thames Valley churches of Christ

We are designed for an adventurous life.

Why settle for a rocking horse when a real one is available? We take a look at why going through life with Jesus is better than doing it alone.

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 90. “Posture in Corporate Worship”, Part 8 – Sitting. Malcolm Cox

What is the usefulness and relevance of movement and posture in corporate worship? This is the Eighth 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 sitting.

We take sitting for granted, of course. But should we consider that there may be some aspects of our Christian worship that benefit most specifically by the fact that we as a congregation and/or those leading worship, singing and preaching might be seated.?

Jesus sat among the teachers in the temple (Luke 2:46😉 and he taught while seated (Luke 4:16-20; John 8:2). Mary sat at Jesus feet (Luke 10:39). Sitting was permitted during the delivery of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:30).

Sitting whilst praying is unknown in the Bible. Instead, the many postures recorded for prayer vary from prostration and kneeling to standing. For some reason, sitting seems to have been avoided. It is, however, our most common posture for prayer. Are we missing something here?

There is, clearly, nothing inherently unspiritual about sitting, but should we consider more carefully how much “sitting” there is in our services? Granted, we must pay attention to the people in our midst who have physical challenges and those who are not strong, but I wonder if we have too much sitting.

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

Tuesday Teaching Tips, Episode 163: “How to Preach a Visionary Lesson”

It should be taken for granted that God is visionary, and speaking about him should inspire vision. Before saying anything else – we need to have this in our own hearts! That’s the reason we have times of quiet with God – even on a Sunday morning!

It is possible to speak on love, prayer and even the cross without really talking about God. One of the most frequent pieces of advice I give young speakers is to talk more about Jesus. 

I have benefited recently from reading the short booklet, “Living in the vision of God” by Dallas Willard. This teaching tip is too short to do justice to his brief but masterful exposition of how vision goes astray. However, I would quote him about the significance of a God vision:

“The love of God, and only the love of God, secures the vision of God: keeps God constantly before our mind.”

Why is this so important? Willard again:

“Vision of God secures humility. Seeing God for who he is enables us to see ourselves for who we are. This makes us bold, for we see clearly what great good and evil are at issue, and we see that it is not up to us to accomplish it, but up to God – who is more than able. We are delivered from pretending, being presumptuous about ourselves, and from pushing as if the outcome depended on us. We persist without frustration, and we practice calm and joyful non-compliance with evil of any kind.”

Perhaps the key Scripture in this regard is from Proverbs:

“Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD’S voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to GOD! Run from evil!” (Proverbs 3:5–7 MESSAGE)

How do we prepare a lesson with a healthy focus on God? Consider asking these questions, or at least some of them as you prepare your lesson, and as you review it.

Questions:

  1. What does this passage reveal above God’s character / heart?
  2. What inspiring aspect of God is highlighted by this lesson?
  3. What am I saying about God that is unique to him?
  4. Is God’s love for me/the world clear in this lesson?
  5. Is God the core of this lesson?
  6. How does this lesson inspire a God-vision?

What do you think about these questions? What helps you to keep God at the centre of your lessons? Do you think I’m over-egging the point here?

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

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

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 

“Where does your gate lead?”, Malcolm Cox, Thames Valley churches of Christ

Looking at two ‘gates’ today and what they mean for us and the world….

1. Gate of Confusion, Gen 11.1-9    

“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”     But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel —because there the LORD confused the language of the whole world. From there the LORD scattered them over the face of the whole earth.”

A. What are they trying to do?

“one language / common speech” about outlook, not just words East – away from Eden, away from God Desire to control destiny Idolatry / Pride Our world devastated by human pride, selfish ambition and attempt to control destiny

B. Why does God do what he does?

God’s mercy in action For humanity’s protection – rushing headlong to destruction Imagine it had not just been Nazis in WW2; or Stalin, or ISIL? But whole world united against the Jews, the intellectuals, those of free thought, the Christians….. They did their worst, but it could have been much worse. How much evil can you do if you can’t understand each other? One united voice without respect for God will lead to terrible things.
Bab-El – “gate”; Babel – “confusion”

2. Gate of Satisfaction, Jn 10.7-10

“Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Voice: “Enter my gate and you’ll experience love, meaning and safety.” Safety: “I have a place of safety in a world of savagery.” Sustenance: In, out, find pasture – what you need Salvation: Because close to the shepherd. He considers my salvation more important than his safety…..

““I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:11–13 NIV11)

  • Jesus came down
  • To gather
  • To open the gate
  • For all nations
  • To be brought together under his protection and love
  • If we are united in Christ we are united in love and truth and thus united under the sovereignty of our maker who knows best how we are to function and his life can then be experienced, and shared with others. This unity is not dangerous because it is a humble unity. Partly seen in this life in the kingdom, through the church, fully expressed in the next life as revealed in revelation.

Conclusion…., Rev 21.22-27

“I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. The glory and honour of the nations will be brought into it. Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”

CHOOSE YOUR GATE

Choose carefully Your future depends on it The world’s future depends on it

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 89. “Posture in Corporate Worship”, Part 7 – Prostration.

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

Today we look at the issue of prostration. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community. 

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

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

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

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

God bless, Malcolm

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