Friday, May 28, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-28 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Forgiveness: As we forgive

Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Here's a profoundly uncomfortable truth and principle:
Our experience of being forgiven by God and our track-record with regard to forgiving others are linked.
It always remains true that Christ's death is sufficient to forgive all sins. There is no question about His ability to forgive and wash away our sins. Jesus died to pay the price of your and my sin, past, present and future.
But what good is a gift of a billion rand if it is in my bank account and I never withdraw a cent?
If I have a deep sense of forgiven-ness, it is a deep well that I can draw from and I can offer some of that living water to those around me. If I am unwilling or unable to forgive, then the implication is that my well has a locked lid on it and even I can't drink from it.
Understand the principle: we don't forgive others to earn forgiveness - that would be the cart before the horse - we forgive others because we ourselves have been forgiven.
This is the point of the parable about the slave who was pardoned a huge debt by the king and was thrown into prison when he would not forgive a tiny debt incurred by another slave.
If we are UNABLE to forgive, it is because we have not completely understood how great a debt God has released us from.
If we are UNWILLING to forgive, it is because we have hardened our hearts to the reality of our own sin and the grace that sets us free.
In short, complete forgiveness is available to us in Christ, but if we have not fully embraced and connected to that forgiveness it manifests in us being unwilling or unable to forgive. Not forgiving others is a _symptom_ of not connecting to and experiencing God's forgiveness.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-26 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Forgiveness: Forgiven-ness

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. Colossians2:13-14
Here's a basic, fundamental principle underlying the law of forgiveness: Our capacity to forgive deepens as we understand that we are forgiven.
Selwyn Hughes writes at length about how a deep sense of being forgiven has been central to his relationship with God. When he was a young boy he would stand up whenever the pastor asked if anyone had anything to share and he would say "I'm forgiven" and then sit down.
A couple of hundred years ago an English gentlemen played a prank on five of his friends. He sent them anonymous letters saying: "All is found out - all is revealed." All five left the country. Guilt weighs heavily on all of us.
Christ went to the cross to forgive us.
Not for our good points, good looks or multitude of talents.
He went to the cross for our sin: that dark, horrible store of deception, self-centredness, hatred, arrogance and shame that lives in each of us.
He dealt with it decisively. It will never come back to haunt us.
In his book on the Seven Laws Selwyn Hughes, now in his eighties, wrote: "Tears are flowing down my face now as I write. To be forgiven by God and to be reconciled to Him through His Son Jesus Christ is the most glorious thing that can happen to anyone."
Our capacity to forgive deepens as we understand that we are forgiven.
If we find it hard to forgive, we may not understand how much we are forgiven!
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-25 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Forgiveness: An imperative

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians3:13
When I was in primary school, one of the secretaries had a coffee mug that read "I don't get mad - I just get even!" ((Too) many years down the line I still remember it.) Modern society regards vengeance as a right and rage as something we are entitled too.
From God's perspective forgiveness is not optional. It is an instruction and a command. We MUST forgive. It is a Spiritual Law. We can not and may not reserve the right to withhold forgiveness or take vengeance.
1. Because we are unjust people - we will never balance the scales. Our vengeance is usually over the top and we trigger off endless cycles of downward spiralling violence.
Some people quote the Old Testament eye-for-an-eye principle as a justification of vengeance, but they miss the bigger picture. In ancient culture in a scenario where I had a fight with someone and he broke ONE of my teeth, I would go and get my brothers and we would break TWO of his teeth, and then he would get his brothers...
The eye-for-an-eye principle was just the start of limiting the cycles of violence. The Old and New Testaments move us toward a better principle: "Vengeance is mine" says the Lord. He alone can balance the scales with true justice.
2. Because we have a deep well of forgiven-ness (more on this tomorrow)
3. Matthew (6:15) says: "But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." The degree to which we harbour resentment and unforgiveness in our hearts has an impact on our experience of forgiveness (the poison principle we spoke about previously) More on this in the next few days...
4. It's what Jesus did: "Father forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."
So, forgiveness is not optional - we are not making a big concession when we forgive - we're just doing what is required.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 21, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-21 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Forgiveness: What UNforgiveness is.

"Then the master called the servant in. `You wicked servant,' he said, `I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
One of the most powerful definitions of unforgiveness I have ever heard goes like this: "Unforgiveness is me drinking the poison and hoping that the person I am angry with will die."
Think about it for a moment... There are people we are still mad and resentful at who don't even know it - they may already be dead (and not even at our hand!) - and we still harbour all sorts of hate, hurt and unforgiveness in our hearts. Who's getting hurt? Not them, but us.
Jesus tells a hard-hitting parable of a servant who owed his master an obscene amount of money and was pardoned and then refused to pardon a fellow servant who owed him a teeny tiny amount.
The master hands him over to the "torturers." Selwyn Hughes and many modern psychologists make a big deal over the havoc unforgiveness can cause in our lives. When our souls are burdened with the baggage of past hurts and resentments, it leads to:
- Destructive behaviour
- Diminished mental and physical health
- Anguish (or Obliviousness) for the one we are not forgiving!
- A warped perspective of God
When we refuse to let go of past hurts, we find ourselves in the hands of the "torturers."
Is there festering rage, an inexplicably poor self-image, a sense of the world being grainy monochrome instead of colour, a constant sense of tiredness or a lingering sadness in your life?
Maybe you need to let someone go - maybe you need to release a past hurt - you may be in the hands of the torturer - maybe you need to forgive.
The worst is when we are drinking the poison of unforgiveness against ourselves...
It's time to stop the poison drinking - it's time to escape the torturer. Next week we'll look at how.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 20, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-20 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Forgiveness: The Power to Forgive

(A longer but important eDev today...)
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans8:28
Where does the power and the strength to forgive come from?
One of the best Biblical frameworks for understanding forgiveness comes from the life of Joseph. If there was anyone in a position to be resentful and bitter it was Joseph:
- Failed by a father who spoilt him and caused his brothers to hate him.
- Betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery
- Treated badly and framed by Potiphar's wife
- Forgotten by the wine-steward who he had helped in prison
- Years of his prime-time life wasted in slavery and jail.
But Joseph does not display the scarcity mentality that is so often present in those who are weighed down with bitter grudges and deep-seated resentment. Two events illustrate this:
- At the birth of his first-born, he he names him Manasseh, which means: "God has made me forget. (Gen41:51)
- When Jacob dies, his brother's fear that the "proverbial hammer" would now come down and the day of reckoning would come, but Joseph gets his brothers together and says: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good." (Gen 50:20)
Joseph found the power to forgive because he trusted that God was at work in the bigger picture:
1. We was willing to let go of pain in order to count his blessings. Many of us, when we are hurt, close our hearts to the good that is still there and our pain becomes our idol. Joseph did not try to hide his pain, he acknowledged there had been pain, but he was allowing God to heal it, one sunrise, one blessing, one child-birth at a time.
2. Joseph was willing to leave vengeance to God.* He trusts that God has worked in their hearts. He trusts God to right the scales and does not enter into the petty destructive cycle of revenge.
3. Joseph is certain that God could bring good out of evil. He was certain that human evil was not a show-stopper to God.
Centuries later, Paul would speak with the same conviction. The power to forgive and overcome tragedy, darkness and betrayal is to trust in a the goodness of God who specialises in transformation: bringing the sunrise after a dark night, spring after winter, and Resurrection Sunday after Crucifixion Friday.
Our power to forgive comes from the big picture that God is ultimately in charge and that He is ultimately good! An unforgiving spirit is ultimately a lack of belief in the transforming power of God.
*Some have interpreted the game Jospeh played by not revealing his identity to his brothers, "framing" Benjamin with the cup in his saddlebag and pretending to arrest him as an attempt to "get even" with his brothers, but it is clear that his real interest is in whether their hearts had changed and whether he could trust them again.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-19 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Forgiveness: Remember to Forget

He who covers over an offence promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (Proverbs 17:9)
A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence. Proverbs19:11

Selwyn Hughes wrote this in his "Seven Laws of Spiritual Success":
It is another law of life, I believe, that spiritual health and success depend on our ability to forget the hurts and injuries that others have given us -not to have them erased from memory, but to deal with them in such a way that we are not emotionally overwhelmed by them. (p.91)
Forgiveness is about covering over an offence. Many people say: "I can forgive, but I can't forget." They think that forgiveness requires amnesia and they can't seem to blank the painful event from memory.
The biblical take on forgiveness is that we cover over an offence.
Two illustrations may help:
When a child writes graffiti on a wall a parent may paint the wall again, but the writing may shine through and so another coat of paint may have to be painted over when the first coat has dried. This will have to be repeated until the writing doesn't shine through...
When Noah came out of the ark, he planted a vineyard and one afternoon overindulged in the fermented fruit of his labours. He collapsed in an indecent state and one of his sons took great delight in his dad's humiliation and enjoyed telling his two brothers about it.
They handled the matter very graciously and respectfully. They walked into the tent backwards, not looking at their dad and draped a blanket over him.
When we are hurt, wronged, offended or betrayed by another, it is very tempting to nurture the pain and carry it with us, so that whenever we remember the event we feel the heartache, anger and pain all over again.
remembering to forget means we must paint over it, or cover over it until we can remember without pain.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-18 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Perseverance: Entanglements

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews12:1
On Friday we spoke about hindrances in the race. We finish our section on perseverance off with a sober warning about entanglements. An entanglement does not only slow us down or tire us out - it will ultimately trip us up. Sin distracts, entangles and ensnares us and the Greek word used by the writer implies all three.
But there are multiple dimensions to this.
Some of us are being distracted or tempted (the sin is still in the future)
Some of us are caught up in the sin (the sin is in the present)
Some of us are guilt-ridden and paralysed after being tripped up (the sin is in the past)
If it is in the future we need to try to look toward Christ. In the sermon at Grace on Sunday Craig alluded to Dallas Willard who speaks about moving from the idea of "the cost of discipleship" to the idea of the "the cost of non-discipleship." If you give in to the temptation, what's the cost of the entanglement going to be? Is the stumble, the fall and the lost ground worth it? I would rather hear the Master say: "Well done, well run, good and faithful servant!"
If it is sin-in-the-present we have a tough challenge. Entanglements need pruning - we had a creeper that was strangling the tree it had climbed into because we had not kept it on the wall. The only thing to be done was to ruthlessly cut the thick stems that had once been fine tendrils. The longer we delay, the thicker the entangling vines become. We have to deal with sin in our lives - if we do it soon it's easy - wait too long and you need heavy duty shears.
Some of us are struggling to go forward because we have stumbled and have led ourselves to believe that we are out of the race. Once we have dealt with our sin in true and sincere repentance, then guilt is a useless emotion. Either the blood of Christ is expensive enough and effective enough to wash away our sin or it is not! If we say not, then we are placing our opinion higher than that of the One who will judge the world. And that does not make sense.
It's time to get back in the race!!!
And never... never.... never..... give up!
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 14, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-14 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Perseverance: Hindrances

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews12:1
A couple of years ago I rode in a bike race in Grahamstown - it was very cold and looked drizzly and so I decided to wear a raincoat. About 10km into the race the weather changed for the better (Grahamstown can have four seasons in one day) and the raincoat was flapping, causing a lot of drag and cooking me. Fortunately I recognised one of the marshals along the road and so I tossed the raincoat to him and rode the rest of the race unencumbered.
Even good things can be hindrances in the race.
There are many folk in God's race who are hampered and hindered by too much stuff, too full a programme, too many competing priorities and too many voices they listen too. We need to keep things as simple as possible recognising that we are attracted to complexity but that it is seldom efficient. It is better for us to do a few things well than many things badly. It's better to have a small team of trusted coaches (the Holy Spirit and one or two reliable mentors) than to be listening to every voice and every opinion. Sometimes less is more.
On the other hand, a runner can fall out of a marathon because he did not eat all the carbs and proteins his body needed to sustain the effort. Similarly many of us are trying to run the race of life without sufficient soul sustenance. This lack of the basics will hinder our race.
What's hindering your race for God's glory in your life? Remember that a hindrance can be too much or too little of something, and that a hindrance isn't necessarily intrinsically bad - even good things can hinder us as we run for God's glory in our lives.
We will need to take a careful and fearless inventory...
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 13, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-13 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Perseverance: Vision

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews12:1
The writer to the Hebrews identified the following obstacles to perseverance:
- we lack clarity and vision on the race
- we are encumbered or entangled as we try to run.
Yesterday we considered the clarity of the heritage of faith that has been passed on to us. We are surrounded by witnesses who bear testimony to the faithfulness of God. In the race of life there is a chain of historical events that lead to the faith being passed on as a baton to you and me.
But more than clarity, we need vision. There is a race marked out for us. Our faith is not a historical backward-looking faith, but a faith that is passed from the past into the present and takes us into the future. Many people do not persevere because they don't have an idea of how God wants to use them in the future!
There is a race for us to run, a purpose for us to fulfill. Some will run a sprint, others a marathon, others will run an obstacle course and others will have hurdles to leap over.
But know this: God has chosen a race that is suited to your gifts, talents and circumstances. He has equipped you for the piece of road you are to run and He has full confidence in you and will empower you for the task by giving you the Holy Spirit.
You may ask: "But what is my race?" God will make this clear to you if you are open and receptive. Here are some guidelines:
1. Make sure you are willing to go where God leads. Busy-ness is an enemy here.
2. If you think you have an idea of what God wants you to do, start taking small steps in that direction. If it is God's direction, you will feel it.
3. Check with spiritually mature people who know you well.
4. Don't be discouraged by opposition.
5. Keep listening to the promptings of God in the quiet of your soul.
Running God's race instead of the rat race is the most exciting and fulfilling thing you can do with your life - so get your vision clear!
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-12 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Perseverance: Clarity

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews12:1
If it were easy, it would not be called perseverance!
When trouble comes and we need to "hang in there" and "stick it out" and "keep going" we struggle to persevere. The writer to the Hebrews gives two main reasons:
- we lack clarity and vision on the race
- we are encumbered or entangled as we try to run.
Today we'll talk about clarity...
When he refers to the "great cloud of witnesses", the author is pointing back to ch.11 where he has listed some of the well-known Biblical characters like Abraham, Moses, David and the prophets of old. He has recounted their perseverance and God's faithfulness. In effect he is saying: "We have a wonderfully rich heritage of faith - we have seen how God answered their prayers and delivered them. The baton is in our hands. We must run with it.
How did you come to faith? Who passed faith on to you? Think about the 2000 years of church history that brings you to this place where the message came through generations and generations of fallible but faithful people just to get to you. Who brought you to Christ? And who brought them to Christ? And who brought them?? God has guided and managed HIS-story and His people so that you could be in the race - so why lose heart?
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-11 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Perseverance: Inspiration

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews12:2-3
Selwyn Hughes tells the story of Sir Winston Churchill who was late at a graduation ceremony and arrived at the last moment. When asked to speak, he got up, glowered at the audience in his bulldog fashion and after a pause said "Never... give up." After about 30 seconds he said "Never... never... give up!" and after an even longer pause he thundered "Never... never... NEVER... give up!" He then sat down while the audience gave him a standing ovation.
Perseverance is the third of Selwyn Hughes' Seven Laws. It is about persisting in faith and finishing the work God has given us to do. It is about being courageous and determined for God's Will and God's Glory.
While people like Winston Churchill are great inspirations, our most significant example is Jesus Christ. He came into our world although He didn't have to. He loved the broken and the wounded even when they failed Him. In John 17 He declared that He had completed the work that His Father had sent Him to do. In Gethsemane He submitted to the Father's will even though He would have preferred to let the cup pass from Him.
He hung on the cross when He could have called ten thousand angels. He forgave those who had hurt and humiliated Him. Right at the end He gave up His spirit - not because He had finally been defeated, but because He chose to complete the work of being the sacrifice that would forgive our sins.
I remember seeing a very striking t-shirt on a body-builder that had a picture of the Christ on the cross with the marks of the scourging and the crown of thorns. The caption to the picture was "Can you bench-press this?"
Enough said: Jesus is the ultimate hero and we can be inspired by Him.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 7, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-07 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Gratitude: A song in your head

17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians3:17
Have you ever had a happy little song get stuck in your head? I had that kiddes song "When I remember that He died for me" a while ago. It can perk up your whole day.
Selwyn Hughes tells the story of a preacher who was well-known for an attitude of gratitude. One cold and miserable Sunday morning he arrived moments before the service started and was sopping wet due to the downpour outside. Being the punctual type he did not tarry to dry himself off, but went into the pulpit dripping wet and cold to start the service. In his opening prayer he started off praying "We thank You Lord..." and after a pause in which the congregation wondered what he could possibly find to give thanks for, he continued "... that not every morning is like this!"
It's a funny story, but it reflects a desire to sincerely give thanks in all circumstances. It is about valuing what we have instead of pining over what we don't have.
Hughes also tells of well-known financier and philanthropist Sir John Templeton who spends his first waking moments thinking of five new things for which he is grateful.
Steven Covey talks about an abundance mentality instead of scarcity mentality. Gratitude recognises that life is rich and full and we should recognise it.
The Old Testament has a song stuck in its head: David taught it to the people, Solomon knew it, it's in four of the psalms and Jeremiah knew it too:
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.
His love endures forever."
A gratitude-attitude points us toward God and underscores His goodness - When we learn to be grateful for all we have it is hard to doubt His goodness!
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-05 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Gratitude: Contentment

12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians4:11-13
Today we assume contentment has to do with circumstances. Paul understands it as a mindset. Many of us operate from a perspective that says that we have a _right_ to a trouble-free life. When trouble comes, we feel cheated and discontent.
Paul says contentment is not circumstance-defined but a choice. Sometimes we will need Divine help to be at peace in tough circumstances and Paul is crystal clear that this help is available.
A lot depends on what we are looking for:
A king once sent out two servants to travel through his kingdom: one to find flowers and one to find weeds. One came back dejected, shoulders drooping and feet dragging: "Your majesty, your kingdom is infested with weeds." The other came back with a smile on his face, wonder in his eyes and a sense of awe in his voice: "Your MAJESTY, your kingdom is just full of beautiful flowers!"
Trouble is certain to come our way and infirmity and weakness are realities we must deal with just as surely as each one of us gets older day by day. But Paul is adamant that contentment is found on bedrock more solid than our circumstances. That bedrock is the love of God and our relationship with him.
This bedrock of relationship with God enabled Paul and Silas to sing after being beaten and motivated Paul to write upbeat letters even when he was in prison.
Discontent focusses on what I don't have when I believe that I deserve it. Contentment has discovered the bedrock of knowing God's love.
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

EMMDEV 2010-05-04 [Seven Laws of Spiritual Success] Gratitude in Hardship

16 Be joyful always; 17 pray continually; 18 give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
These are verses that many people struggle with. It just does not seem possible to be happy at all times and grateful for everything. How can one be happy in bereavement or grateful for illness or infirmity?
The quick and absolutely true two-part answer is that joy is not the same as happiness and that we give thanks _in_ and not _for_ all circumstances.
While this quick answer is correct, it often feels artificial and superficial to those who find themselves in the midst of tough circumstances. If I have been diagnosed with a dreaded disease it is difficult to imagine joy or gratitude in the heat of such news. To talk about being grateful in and not for my illness can often feel like pointless hair-splitting when I am overwhelmed by the current onslaught of bad news.
But Paul is not a stranger to bad news and tough circumstances. His is not ivory tower writing: Paul has experienced beatings, storms, betrayals, setbacks and debilitating ongoing personal illness.
His hope, confidence and unquenchable joyful gratitude stem from three rock-solid theological truths:
1. God knows and understands what I am going through because Jesus has already been there and my suffering is not an unexpected anomaly but a way in which I share in the suffering of Christ.
2. Christ with us in our suffering and there is nothing (no thing!) that can separate us from His love.
3. The biggest picture is clear that my suffering will not have the last word!
It's about embracing contentment instead of discontent.
(More on this tomorrow!)
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at