Friday, January 28, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-28 [Jeremiah's Journey] eyes open worship

Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. Jeremiah32:17

Today's devotion is pretty straight-forward:
Sometimes its helpful if we don't close our eyes when we worship and pray!

If we keep our eyes open when we worship, here's the fingerprints we see on creation:
- It's big - because the Creator is big
- It's diverse - because the Architect abounds with creativity
- It's powerful - because the Builder is matchless in power
- It's beautiful - because the Maker is love and full of light

When we pray - it's good to keep our eyes open because this is what we will see:
- A tiny edelweiss grown on frozen wind-blasted peak
- A rainbow after the storm
- Flowers in the desert
- A mother protecting her young
- The power of the wind and flood
- The calm of a moonlit night
- The joyful song of the birds

And we recognise that God has made us fragile but tough, that there is hope after heartache, that beauty can arise in the most unexpected circumstances, that we are made to need each other, that brokenness can bring devastation but that weeping remains for a night and that joy comes in the morning.

If creation (the work of His hands) can bear the fingerprints of the Creator and so eloquently reflect life's joys and heartaches then surely the Creator is awesome!

Try worshipping with your eyes open this Sunday!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-27 [Jeremiah's Journey] Confession

"I have surely heard Ephraim's moaning:
`You disciplined me like an unruly calf,
and I have been disciplined.
Restore me, and I will return,
because you are the LORD my God.
19 After I strayed, I repented;
after I came to understand,
I beat my breast.
I was ashamed and humiliated
because I bore the disgrace of my youth.' Jeremiah31:18-19

Confession is not a popular facet of modern day faith.
We hide behind the excuse that confession was abused in the church in the dark ages and we raise the problem of indulgences or question the competence of a human priest to hear a confession. We talk about how we are under grace and not under law.

But let's be honest. The real issue is that confession means admitting that we were wrong - and none of our egos like doing that!

The Bible has a lot to say about confession:
* Psalm 32:1-5 The psalmist feels physically ill until he confesses
* Nehemiah confessed the sins of the nation (Neh 1:6) and then the nation did it (9:2)
* In Ephesus people confessed their sins and burnt their occult stuff (Acts19:18)
* James (5:16) encourages us to confess our sins to one another
* 1John1:9 re-assures us that we are forgiven and that the Holy Spirit takes away our desire to sin as we confess.

So what is confession?
Confession is understanding who God is and valuing our friendship with Him. When we bring the smelly stuff of sin into our relationship with God, confession acknowledges the smelly stuff and gives God the go-ahead to help us get free of it. Confession acknowledges our brokenness and need for help.

In the above-quoted passage Jeremiah gives us a picture of good repentance and a productive confession.

Look how God responds in the next verse:
Is not Ephraim my dear son, the child in whom I delight?
Though I often speak against him, I still remember him.
Therefore my heart yearns for him;
I have great compassion for him,"
declares the LORD.

God is righteous and so He speaks against our sin - but His heart always yearns for us. Confession means we are expressing the desire to separate ourselves from our sin and this allows God to heal us!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-26 [Jeremiah's Journey] Responsible but not alone

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares the LORD.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, `Know the LORD,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares the LORD.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more." Jeremiah31:33-34

Yesterday we discounted "scapegoat theology" that abdicates the responsibility for our spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health to our forebears.

Jeremiah and Ezekiel both emphasised individual and personal responsibility. Ezekiel put it bluntly: "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Eze 18:4)

Jeremiah also emphasises the need for each of us to have a personal relationship with God, but he offers us this incredible comfort: We do not have to take the initiative. We do not have to take the first steps. God takes the first steps and we must respond...

God's new covenant with his people is one in which God works individually in each person:
* He will write His truth in our hearts
* He will (re)assure us that He is our God
* He will place an awareness of Him in us - we can "know the Lord."
* He will forgive our sins - we get a fresh start.

So, not only are we free from the past - but God takes 99 steps toward us and even in the 1 step that we take towards Him, He is working in us to help us.

We are the ones who must take responsibility for our walk with God.
BUT we don't have to do it alone!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-25 [Jeremiah's Journey] Scapegoat Theology

29 "In those days people will no longer say,
`The fathers have eaten sour grapes,
and the children's teeth are set on edge.'
30 Instead, everyone will die for his own sin; whoever eats sour grapes--his own teeth will be set on edge. Jeremiah31:29-30

Many people (many of them very well-meaning) have built what I call a "lopsided scapegoat theology" out of Exodus 20:5 which reads:
"for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me"

The lopsided theology is that if I suffer from arthritis or asthma or cancer it may well be because my great-great grandfather was involved in some occult activity that I didn't even know about. (Some people call these "bloodline curses.") It is a scapegoat theology that seeks to apportion blame in what is often the wrong place.

Here in Jeremiah (and Ezekiel 18:2-3) we are offered a valuable counter-balance: If sour grapes make our teeth ache, let's check our own teeth for holes before we look at Grandad's teeth!

Please note that I am not saying the Ex20:5 isn't true - but we shouldn't take it out of context or take it too far. Christians are very quick to apply it to themselves - but read it carefully: who is it is directed at? God says it is directed at "those who _hate_ me."

We know that there are legacies that can be passed down generations. Alcohol abuse, family violence and genetic defects can be passed down from parent to child. BUT there are some things that we must take responsibility for. AND there are some things that are simply the result of living in a broken world and we (and our forbears) have done nothing to "deserve" it.

Both Jeremiah and Ezekiel were making a very sad point: previous generations had made tragic mistakes, but even with the history lessons available to them, the current generations were doing the same and worse. Both prophets were emphasising personal responsibility. We are responsible for our walk with God.

More on this tomorrow...1

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 20, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-20 [Jeremiah's Journey] The God who restores

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying:
"I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with loving-kindness.
4 I will build you up again
and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel.
Again you will take up your tambourines
and go out to dance with the joyful.
5 Again you will plant vineyards
on the hills of Samaria;
the farmers will plant them
and enjoy their fruit.
6 There will be a day when watchmen cry out
on the hills of Ephraim,
`Come, let us go up to Zion,
to the LORD our God.' " Jeremiah31:3-6

Israel had failed, failed and failed again.
They had sinned, cheated and rebelled.
They rejected the prophets, broken the law and disregarded their God.

But God continues to love!
They won't initiate a return but He is willing to draw them back to Him.
And He will build them up again.

Because He is just a big softy and just takes our nonsense?
But because He paid an incredible price to forgive and restore us.
Jesus' life, death and resurrection secured our forgiveness.
The Holy Spirit living in us secures our restoration.

The promises Jeremiah offers his people are based on God's plan.
His goodness and patience with His people stems from His plan for us.
What a good and gracious God!

No matter how we have failed and no matter what we have done, God wants to renew and restore us! Now, go and read the passage again and see what God would do with the broken areas of our lives...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-19 [Jeremiah's Journey] Passionate Response

Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: "The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. 13 Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. 14 As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. 15 Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the LORD has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing." Jeremiah26:12-15

Yesterday we looked at God's passionate call to Israel.
Today we see the effect of that passion on Jeremiah.

There are three important things to note from Jeremiah's words here:

1. He is crystal clear that God has sent him and called him to this ministry. This call motivates, drives, inspires and focuses him. Jeremiah knows there is nothing better that he can do with his life than follow this call. Jeremiah's passion comes from his sense of being privileged to have received a call.

2. The stakes are very high! If the people hear him, disaster will be averted. This is an important and urgent message. The analogy often given is "What would you do if you found the cure for cancer?" Here Jeremiah has found the key to turn back the Babylonian invasion, prevent the 18 month siege of Jerusalem and avoid the exile of Israel's brightest and best. His passion stems from the urgency of the message!

3. He is willing to lay down his life for this call. Notice how in v.15 he speculates "if you put me to death you will be guilty of shedding innocent blood..." but their guilt won't bring him back to life! His passion is so hot that self-preservation fades into the background!

You and I have been called by name by a God who meets us in the quiet of prayer and Bible Study. He meets us in worship and in sunrises and sunsets. He has made us His children and has called and entrusted us with the message of the gospel which is the cure for sin and the key to life and peace. It is an urgent and important message! We have our one life here on earth to devote to this message, but this one life (even if it is cut short on earth) stretches into eternity because of Christ's resurrection.

Shouldn't we be PASSIONATE?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-18 [Jeremiah's Journey] Passionate Call

2 "This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD's house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from his evil way. Then I will relent and not bring on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. Jeremiah26:2-3

Today we look at the passionate call that was extended to Jeremiah. Tomorrow we'll look at his passionate response...

You might argue that this passage does not seem so passionate. If you read it in isolation it doesn't seem too intense, but it is just another brick in a big wall of texts that portray God as very reluctant to bring wrath and very eager to forgive a repentant Israel.

The whole of Jeremiah's call is a desperate outreach to a people that many would consider "long gone" and "dead on arrival" and yet Jeremiah is sent to desperately attempt to resuscitate the faith of the people of God.

This time Jeremiah is sent to the courtyard of the temple. This is the centerpoint of the nation's religious and political life. Jeremiah was doing the equivalent of the country bumpkin preacher who suddenly demands to be on prime time TV with all the notoriety that could earn him.

Not only is Jeremiah called to rush in where angels fear to tread, but he is sent with an uncomfortable message - a call to repentance. It's a call that could endanger the messenger's life, but there is a fervent longing and hope: that Israel would _turn_ (the Hebrew word is "shoev" and is repeated with metronomic regularity through Jeremiah)

Here is a picture of powerful and relentless love - a God who would send Jeremiah His servant all the way to the temple courts and who would send His one and only Son into the world and to the cross.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, January 14, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-14 [Jeremiah's Journey] The LORD our Righteousness

5 "The days are coming," declares the LORD,
"when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,
a King who will reign wisely
and do what is just and right in the land.
6 In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name by which he will be called:
The LORD Our Righteousness. Jeremiah23:5-6

We do not generally associate Jeremiah with Messianic prophecies, but there are a few Jeremiah passages that foreshadow the coming of Jesus the Messiah. This is one of the most significant.

Jeremiah lived in a time of puppet kings, fallen kings, defeated kings and evil kings. The history that he recounted to Israel as their "fall from grace" was littered with the stories of corrupt, greedy and godless kings.

This makes the longing and beauty of this prophetic passage even more poignant.
The king Jeremiah forsees will be righteous, wise, just and a saviour who provides security. He will be called "The LORD our Righteousness."

Jesus fulfilled these hopes but not quite as the average person expected:
- His Kingdom is not an earthly Kingdom but transcends earthly regimes which come and go.
- His life was an awesome example of closeness to God (wisdom) and love for people (doing what is just and right in the land)
- He paid an incredible price to save us and offer righteousness to us.

Righteousness is a tough Old Testament word. It was a high call and, as history proved, people were not up to the call. Evil kings didn't attain it and even the good kings fell short. Not only did Jesus live righteously but He died for our unrighteousness and then shared His righteousness with us - therefore saving us.

So here we have it - some 600 years before Jesus would go to the cross as our King of Righteousness - God has already whispered this hope into the heart of His prophet. What a God and what a Saviour!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 13, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-01-13 [Jeremiah's Journey] Far and Near

Greetings and a very blessed 2011 to you!
After a long break we start the eDevs again. We're going to carry on picking up some nuggets from Jeremiah.
23 "Am I only a God nearby,"
declares the LORD,
"and not a God far away?
24 Can anyone hide in secret places
so that I cannot see him?"
declares the LORD.
"Do not I fill heaven and earth?"
declares the LORD. Jeremiah23:23-24

For most of us the question is not if God is a far away God, but if He is a God who is near! For us, the question is "Does God care?" for Jeremiah the question was "Is God able?"

Jeremiah lived in a world where the "effectiveness" of a nation's god was measured by their military success and divine "turf wars." If your nation was defeated by another nation and you were taken into exile into their god's "turf" was there any way that your nation's god could be with you? To contemporary answer was "No way!"

God brings an amazing comfort to Jeremiah: No distance and no circumstance can prevent God from being with His people. He is not a local god confined to Palestine or a Jerusalem temple. His plans are not effected by the unfaithfulness of people or the schemes of nations.

Although Jerusalem and the temple have been destroyed and although Israel's leaders are in exile in Babylon, Yahweh (the Hebrew name for the God of Israel) is not a local or limited God. He is the God of the near and far.

Even when we have hidden in the secret places of sin and failure He can see us and He can save us. He does care - He sent His Son for us and that is what we celebrated at Christmas. And He is able to save us - no matter how far we have wandered - He is the God of far away too!

This is awesome comfort for 2011. Not only does He care, but when we were far from Him - He came to us! As He fills heaven and earth, may He fill your and my 2011!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at