Friday, April 30, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-30 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Gratitude: Beware of Discontentment

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Timothy6:6
Discontentment is a dangerous offshoot from the path of Spiritual Growth. It all started in the Garden of Eden...
God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the plants and animals. He gave Eve to Adam and all was good. There was one (one only!) tree they could not eat from.
Watch how cleverly Satan the tempter plants discontent in Eve's heart:
"Did God really say, `You must not eat from _any_ tree in the garden'?"
(No, only one... but watch how Eve answers...)
`You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.' "
(Eve starts with a truth but adds a lie. God said nothing about not touching it - Eve is falling into Satan's trap that God is a rule-making fun-spoiler and freedom-thief)
"You will not surely die, for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
(Satan is saying "Poor you! God is holding out on you! You could be so much more than you are now!")
And so Adam and Eve buy the lie. They were king and queen of all the earth, but lost all gratitude for what they had and who they were and became discontent, ever grasping for more.
Discontent says "I'm being done in, I deserve better, I should not have to put up with this." When we give in to the temptations of discontent, we become our own gods, seeking our own fulfilment and satisfaction - even rebelling against our Maker and Provider.
Discontent leads to crankiness, greed, critical cynicism, hate, theft, violence and many other destructive behaviours.
Gratitude is the powerful antidote. Gratitude defuses discontent and puts the focus on God the Giver rather than me the Grasper.
Try it this weekend!
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, April 29, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-29 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Gratitude: Remember His Benefits

2 Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5 who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. Psalms103:2-5
Selwyn Hughes' second law of Spiritual Success is about learning to cultivate a gratitude attitude. This overcomes the weeds of dissatisfaction and discontent that so easily take root in our souls (but more on this tomorrow)
A gratitude attitude is about counting blessings, seeing life as a gift and, ultimately, seeing beyond the gift to the Giver. Selwyn Hughes offers the lovely quote: “One of the worst moments for an atheist is when he feels thankful for some special blessing but has no-one to thank�!
In this Psalm David acknowledges that we easily forget God's benefits. As we will see in tomorrow's eDev, we are very easily prone to rampant dissatisfaction: an entitlement attitude. It takes ongoing re-focussing to stay on the gratitude track.
David gives us a very meaningful continuum of benefits:
- Forgiveness
- Redemption (salvation)
- Love and Compassion (New every morning according to Lamentations 3)
- The gift of blessings and good things that keep our hearts young
A Biblical gratitude attitude is a God-ward one. We are not simply grateful in a general sense, but grateful to the Giver because the abundance that we have learned to recognise in life speaks of the abundance of who He is.
Next week we will talk about being grateful in tough circumstances, but for now the focus is on the Giver.
May it be that we realise that "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:16
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-28 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Worship: Eccentric?

28 Then Jesus said, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light." Matthew11:28-29
Eugene Peterson writes an insightful passage about being eccentric in a Biblical sense of the word. The Greek prefix "Ecc" means "out of" or "out from." Therefore to be "eccentric" is to be "out of the centre."
His argument is that the further away we move from having God at the centre of our lives, the more unbalanced and unstable our lives become. Imagine a the bumpy ride we have when the axle is not in the centre of the wheel. The more we allow other things to take centre place in our lives, the less peace we will have.
Lives that stay stable and fulfilling in the long run are lives that have God at the centre. This is what true worship is all about:
1. To realise that there is no God but Him
2. To realise that life makes no sense if He is not on the throne.
3. To find our rest in Him
Fortunately for us, Jesus reveals the Father to us in a clear way - we don't have to wonder what God is like. There is no lurking fear that God may be a self-serving tyrant who has been ultimately corrupted by ultimate power. God is perfectly revealed in Jesus and we know that God is love and that God is ultimately good.
And worthy of our worship...
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, April 23, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-23 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Worship: Threatened by busy-ness

39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"
41 "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."
Worship is good for us. When we come to true worship of the one and only glorious Creator-Shepherd-Risen-King, we are are re-aligned, strengthened, renewed and clarified.
Mary figured this out. She realised that being with Jesus accomplished more than hurrying and scurrying did. She was opened her heart (a time-taking process) to bask in the warmth and fullness of His presence. Jesus promised that this was a worthwhile investment.
Martha missed it. She was doing a noble thing - a gracious thing. The problem was not her cooking and preparing but her attitude. Have you ever had a chance to read the little book by Brother Lawrence entitled "The Practice of the Presence of God?" Lawrence was a cook in a monastery who learned to become aware of the presence of God wherever he was. He discovered that he could be as close to God when he was scrubbing pots as he was when kneeling in the chapel receiving communion.
Most of us will be unable to learn how to have an inner sense of the presence of God in the midst of the daily bustle of life unless we have learned to take time out and practice quieting body _and_ soul. The secret lies in realising that it is Him and not me. That I don't measure my worth by what I do, but that worth is found in Him.
Selwyn Hughes notes a friend's observation: "When I meet a Buddhist priest, for example, I meet a holy man. When I meet a Christian Leader, I meet a manager." This is trying to find worth in service.
From other pictures in the gospels, we know that Mary could be industrious and active - she was not a glassy eyed mystic. She just knew when to drop busyness for quiet contemplation.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-22 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Worship: Commanded

3 "You shall have no other gods before me.
4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God Exodus20:3-4
There is only one logical response when we clearly see how great God is: worship.
The problem is that we are often blind and insensitive to God's awesome and majestic holiness. We are blinded and dulled by our own brokenness and distracted and misled by the temptations and desires that clamour for our attention. Worst of all, we are so busy trying to be our own gods that we lose sight of the One True God.
In the midst of this God calls us, no, more than that, He commands us to worship Him.
Does that sound narcissistic? Does it seem that God's ego might be excessive? Not at all. The commands are based on truth.
God is so big, so awesome, so incredible, so amazing, so perfect in love, so glorious in power, so majestic in grace and so holy in righteousness that we were to see it all clearly (and our brains didn't explode at all the information) we would know that not to worship would be a tragic denial of the truth that is right in front of our noses.
To use a simple analogy: it's like a child who says he doesn't like ice-cream! We would probably conclude that the child has never tasted real ice-cream. It is almost a universal law that children love ice-cream. It would almost seem criminal for a child _not_ to like it!
It would be a denial of the patently obvious if we refused to love and worship the one, true and living God.
But there's more: Worship is a built-in desire for us as humans. We want to offer our devotion, love and loyalty (that's what worship is) to something and when we offer it to anything but the one true God, it will destroy us.
So God commands us worship Him:
- because it makes sense
- because it reminds us not to point our built-in need to worship in the wrong direction.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-21 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Worship: True Language

My apologies for the gap in the devotions - things have been hectic and, to be very honest, I have been a bit betwixt and between as to the next theme for the eDevs!
After some reflection, I've decided to pick up some key passages from our "Seven Laws of Spiritual Success" Course. The course is based on a book by the same title by well-known devotional author Selwyn Hughes, who in his late 70s with terminal cancer, decided that there was one more book in him and felt led to try and put into book form the irreducible minimum of habits or principles that a Christian should have in their lives.
Here are the Laws:
1. Put Worship of God First.
2. Learn to live with a Gratitude Attitude.
3. Push through and Persevere.
4. Learn to Forgive.
5. Make Service a Lifestyle.
6. Stay Close to God.
7. Cultivate your Soul.
The course has been well-received and we are on Law 6. The devotions will pick up a few verses on each of the laws.
"Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks." John4:23
Jesus spoke these words while in a discussion with the Samaritan Woman at Jacob's Well near Sychar. There were all sorts of things wrong with the picture:
- She was a Samaritan (not a pure Jew)
- Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim and not the temple on Mount Zion
- She had a poor moral track-record
- She didn't fully understand all that Jesus was saying to her.
But Jesus answers the woman's argumentative theological question ("Which mountain are we supposed to worship on anyway?") with the statement that true worshippers will worship in spirit and in truth. The awesome implication is that this is an invitation very clearly indicating that as far as Jesus is concerned, the woman could be one of those worshippers!
Worship is the true language of the soul: It's about responding to God at the most basic level and being completely real with Him.
By the end of the interview, the woman has acknowledged that she has no husband, that she has been cast aside by men and is currently in an abusive situation (the man she was with wouldn't even give her his name) and she has aired her cynicism with regard to organised religion. She has questioned and challenged Jesus and His responses have opened her heart and touched her soul. Listen to what she says in v.29: "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?"
But the eloquent language of her worship is in v.28: She _left_ her water jar and went to call the people to _come_ and _see._ She had gone to fetch water during the hottest part of the day to avoid the crowds, now she was calling the crowds to taste and see that the Lord is good.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-04-13 [Self-image] Conclusion: Good Habits

After the Easter break (which I hope was a good one!) here is the last in our series on self-image...
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrificeâ€"the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans12:1-2
In his beautiful children's story about a community of wooden puppets called the "Wemmicks", Max Lucado tells how the Wemmicks devised a system of stars and dots. They would stick stars on the Wemmicks who were pretty or did clever things and dots on those who were not cool or fashionable or clever.
The result was self-fulfilling prophecy: those who received dots were downcast and their gloom earned them even more dots, while those who got stars felt good and their contentment resulted in confidence which earned them more stars.
One dot-covered Wemmick named Punchinello met a Wemmick who didn't have dots or stars and was truly happy. When he asked her why, she replied that she spent a lot of time with the Carpenter who had made them.
Although Punchinello was scared that the Carpenter would be cross about all the dots, he decided to visit the workshop. His visit with the Carpenter was wonderful, he wasn't cross with Punchinello and they spoke together and spent a lot of time together. The Carpenter told Punchinello that he was special and that there was no other Wemmick like him. And the Carpenter should know: He made Punchinello and he loved him.
As Punchinello left the Carpenter's house with the promise that he would visit again the next day, he noticed that some of the dots had fallen off...
Here are some keys to a healthier self-image:
1. Spend time with your Maker and know that He loves you.
2. Spend time soaking in God's Word - it gives perspective
3. Deal with your past in a concrete way - get help if you need to
4. Identify where negative self-perceptions come from: Brokenness, a warped mirror or a filter? Then deal with it appropriately.
5. Replace negative patterns with healthier Biblical ones.
e.g.: "I am a sinner - but I am a _forgiven_ sinner! Hallelujah!"
6. Determine God's will for your life and get busy with it.
7. Join a healing community - a church or fellowship group.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at