Friday, November 30, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-30 [Proverbs revisited] A proverb for Christmas

I am the most ignorant of men
I do not have a man's understanding
I have not learned wisdom
Nor have I knowledge of the Holy One
Who has gone up to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the winds in the hollow of His hands?
Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and the name of his Son?
Tell me if you know! Proverbs30:2-4

At Christmas we celebrate God's ultimate generosity, self-revelation, and self-denial.

The One who holds the winds and gathers the waters became one of us. And while none of us could go up from earth to heaven, there is One who came from heaven to earth. When we did not have understanding of the Holy One and when wisdom was far from us, God revealed Himself to us.

Ours is not the shadowy faith of the Proverb writer and the rest of the Old Testament believers. What they longed for we have. What they wanted to know has been revealed to us. What they desperately tried to learn has been revealed to us.

At Christmas we celebrate the coming of the One who embodied the fullest picture of God to us. He gave up all of heaven and all of His glory to give Himself to us and reveal His Father to us.

What is His name, and the name of His Son?
We can tell, because we know: Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Son of God! And because we have seen Him, we have seen the Father!

That brings us to the end of the eDevs for this year.
Thank you for journeying with me and for the kind words of encouragement i have received. Have a good December slow down and a beautifully meaningful Christmas. God bless, Theo

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, November 29, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-29 [Proverbs revisited] Threes and Fours

There are three things that are too amazing for me,
Four that I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky
the way of a snake upon a rock
the way of a ship on the high seas
the way of a man with a maiden Proverbs30:18-19

Proverbs 30 is a fascinating chapter - its sayings are attributed to a man named Agur. It seems that he was fond of the "3 then 4" pattern. It is a literary device which indicates an increasing sense of whatever emotion is being conveyed - in this context an increasing sense of amazement - reaching the high point in the last of the images.

It is easy for us to take our spouses/significant others for granted. It is easy for us to take the gift of romantic love as a right that we deserve. Agur does not fall into this trap - for him the gift of romantic love between a man and a woman is an amazing and wondrous thing!

Look at his three warm-ups:
- The eagle in the sky soars effortlessly on the thermal updrafts that it finds instinctively
- The snake glides across the rocks with incredible speed and agility, its body hugging the rock and finding traction on the smallest of leverage points
- A ship on the high seas seems so small and insignificant and yet it triumphs over the huge waves as it floats to the top of the swells.

When the love between a man and a woman is not hampered by unforgiveness and bad communication it:
- finds energy and beauty that is greater than the sum of the parts
- can have the sensitivity to make incredible progress
- can overcome great and awesome challenges

When last did you look at your marriage/relationship with such wonder?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-28 [Proverbs revisited] The need for revelation

Where there is no revelation the people cast off restraint
But blessed is he who keeps the law Proverbs29:18

Allow me to wax a little philosophical here:
When human nature is left to its own devices it very easily degenerates. This is especially true on a societal level.

Revelation is something that comes from outside us. It is Divine Input. God's law is something higher than what we would have come up with on our own. When it comes, for example, to something like "love your enemies", we, if left to our own devices, would aim a little lower. Our society is in desperate need of revelation. When you look at the stuff being dished up in our theatres and moviehouses, there is not much to write home about.

The more we immerse ourselves in God's laws, God's principles, and God's revelation, the more we will become like the One who revealed Himself 2000 years ago. When we 'expose' ourselves to the bright light of His revelation, His image is left on the film of our lives and we will look more and more like Him.

When last have you delved into His revelation? The Bible is a key part to our growth toward Christ-likeness. Read it often and regularly to prevent truth-decay. You will be blessed if you do!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-27 [Thanksgiving Thoughts] Speaking out

After a week of Thanksgiving Thoughts, we are back to Proverbs. This will be the last week of eDevs for 2012...
He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favour
than he who has a flattering tongue. Proverbs28:25

There comes a time when we need to speak the truth.
There is a point at which we have to tell someone that they're wrong, that they're missing the boat, that we don't agree with them, or that they are headed for trouble.

We had a friend who was going out with the wrong guy. No-one wanted to burst her bubble. I eventually plucked up the courage to talk to her. She was angry with me and it was very uncomfortable for us both. When the relationship did come to a very painful and unpleasant end, everybody was wise after the event, all saying that "they never thought it would work." My friend thanked me for my integrity and sought counsel from me because I had cared enough for her to tell her the truth.

This is a character issue: It is easier to keep quiet than to speak the truth to those we care about. If our motive is real love for the person we are confronting, then the results in the long term will always be good.

There is a caveat here. The truth can be brutal. It can drive people into a corner and leave them feeling defenceless and exposed. Telling the truth is important but love is equally important and when we are busy telling the truth. We should not be guilty of doing it in a loveless way. The fact that my friend was able to come to me after the relationship broke up proved that by God's grace I had not burnt bridges in the truth-telling.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, November 23, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-23 [Thanksgiving Thoughts] Mementoes

mementoes: n. pl. me·men·tos or me·men·toes. A reminder of the past; a keepsake.
Samuel took a stone and placed it between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer saying, “Up to here the Lord has helped us.” 1Samuel7:12

After a long period of being hounded by the Philistines, the Israelites gathered at Mizpah to humble themselves before the Lord. As they did this the Philistines attacked them.

Samuel prioritised worship and continued to make offerings to God before the people, and while he did this God thundered out against the Philistines throwing them into disarray and confusion leaving the Israelites to do the "mopping up" of their fleeing enemy.

Along the way Samuel erects a stone, "Ebenezer: Thus far has the Lord delivered us."

It is worth celebrating milestones, victories and breakthroughs - especially if it allows us the opportunity to acknowledge and praise the God who has brought us "thus far."

Celebrations like Thanksgiving and Harvest can become a "monument" - an opportunity to be reminded to give thanks to God. This is also why we have the Christian Calendar - to remind us of Jesus' birth and death and the coming of the Spirit.

Many people keep mementoes or keepsakes on their desks and shelves to remind them of what God has done. A photo, a card, a rock -- all of these are symbols, tokens and reminders that we did not get here by ourselves.

How will you remind yourself of God's ongoing goodness?
How will you remember?

"Up to here, thus far, has the Lord helped us."

All glory be to God - Soli Deo Gloria!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, November 22, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-22 [Thanksgiving Thoughts] Today!!!

Happy Thanksgiving!
(See the letter I wrote to the congregation about this )
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalms118:24

Psalm 118 is a real gem...
It starts out like this:
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; His love endures forever."
and follows with calls to various parts of the community to echo the cry "His love endures forever!"

Then the Psalmist recalls victories God has given him over the years:
"The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" (v.6) and "I was pushed back and about to fall, but the LORD helped me." (v.13)

Interestingly enough the Psalm also contains two passages that are explicitly quoted in the New Testament as prophecies of Jesus:
"The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone." (v.22)
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD." (v.26) *
Jesus is the ultimate securer of our salvation and deliverance.

The Psalm ends as follows:
You are my God, and I will give you thanks;
you are my God, and I will exalt you.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever

But it is verse 24 that has grabbed me:
THIS is the day the Lord has made; LET US rejoice...

Each day is a gift to be seized, an opportunity to be enthralled at God's providence. When troubles loom and boom we can think back of God's faithfulness and move forward in faith and trust.

This verse has become my battle-cry.
Today is not the day of the criminals or the bad-news headlines.
Today is not the day of Satan and his cronies.
Today is not the day of depression and cynicism.
TODAY is the day that the LORD has made and I _will_ rejoice and be glad in it!!!!
Hope many of you will be celebrating some form of thanksgiving tonight or this weekend and that your day is blessed.

* These are quoted in Joh12:13 and Act4:11; Eph2:20; 1Pet2:7

Apart from its content, here are some fun stats about Psalm 118...
- It is sandwiched between the shortest (117) and longest (119) psalms.
- It contains the so-called "middle verse" of the Bible. Yep, someone went and counted all the verses in the Bible and worked out that the middle ones are Ps.118:8-9 "It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes."
(Now we know that verse numbers were only added to the text later on so we don't build a theology from this, but it is a fun stat!)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-21 [Thanksgiving Thoughts] Healing and Gratitude

14 When he saw them, he said, "Go, show yourselves to the priests." And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him--and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" 19 Then he said to him, "Rise and go; your faith has made you well." Luke17:14-19

Ten lepers came to Jesus as a group. Leprosy made them outcasts. So much so that they banded together to come to Jesus. They found their courage in numbers. One of them was a Samaritan and Jews usually hated them, but their leprosy even overcame their racial bigotry.

They ask Jesus for healing and He sends them to the priest who would certify them cleansed. On the way they are healed - Jesus honours their faithful obedience to His command.

Maybe the other nine (who we presume to be Jewish) simply regarded healing as their right. Maybe they saw Jesus simply as an instrument of God's blessing that was their right as children of Abraham. Maybe they would have made the appropriate thank offerings at the temple. They aren't necessarily "bad" men.

But the Samaritan sees deeper. He recognises that the healing is undeserved and that the Healer is more than an instrument in God's hand. He senses that there is something special about Jesus and, in an act of worship, throws himself at Jesus' feet.

One can sense Jesus' disappointment. He had hoped to do more than simply heal ten broken bodies - he had hoped to reach ten souls. Nine of them were healed in their bodies, but it seems clear that they did not understand undeserved grace.

Only one of ten realised that what he had received was not a right, but a gift. He alone realised that the Giver was even greater than the gift. He alone was healed in body and soul.

Gratitude reminds us that we are not God and that we have no "rights" to "demand." Gratitude connects us to the Giver!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-20 [Thanksgiving Thoughts] Gratitude - start right

Hi everyone
I am taking a bit of leave today, but as this week is Thanksgiving in the USA and I have been challenging folk in the congregation to celebrate Thanksgiving in their own way, I wanted to interrupt the Proverbs series to write on gratitude. Bill Hybels contends that the holiday of Thanksgiving _institutionalizes_ gratitude.
I'm summing up the sermon I preached on Sunday (so I'm not working too hard on a leave day!)
Today's text is longer than usual, but worthwhile:
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
2 O you who _hear prayer,_
to you all men will come.
3 When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you _forgave our transgressions._
4 Blessed are those _you choose_
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the _good things of your house,_
of your holy temple.

5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God our Savior,
the `hope` of all the ends of the *earth*
and of the farthest *seas*,
6 who _`formed` the *mountains* by your power,_
having armed yourself with strength,
7 who _`stilled` the roaring of the seas,_
the roaring of their waves,
`and` the turmoil of the *nations*.
8 Those living far away fear your wonders;
where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy.

9 You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
12 The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
13 The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing. Psalms65:1-13

Selwyn Hughes makes this insightful statement: “One of the worst moments for an atheist is when he feels thankful for some special blessing but has no-one to thank”!

David does not make this mistake:
He is thankful for the rain that has fallen (see the end part of the Psalm) but he starts in the right place. He is not filled with an abstract sense of gratitude - He is THANKFUL TO GOD. He is thankful to the GIVER before he focuses on the gifts. (It's similar to the way we want our kids to read the card on the gifts before ripping off the wrapping.)

In the first stanza (1-4) David is thankful that God:
- hears prayers (i.e. steps into personal relationship with us)
- forgave our sins
- chooses us
- fills us with the good things (blessings) of His house.

In the second stanza (5-8) David realizes the scope of God's greatness extends throughout the earth, the sea and the mountains.

The third stanza (9-13) is about the rain that has fallen to nourish a dry land. His imagery is beautiful and evocative. It creates the impression of walking in freshly rained on fields (something he would have done as a shepherd.) It shows deep reflection on and appreciation of a gift many take for granted!

This week marks a time of focusing on Gratitude as an attitude.
But David gets our thinking straight - more than an attitude, it is a Relationship with God who is an awesome Giver.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, November 16, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-16 [Proverbs revisited] The value of friendship

Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father
and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you
better a neighbour nearby than a brother far away.
As iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens another. Proverbs27:10-17

They say that blood is thicker than water, but that is not always a good thing. There are times that we need the simple uncomplicated love of a friend more than we need the love of a complex historic family structure. The proverb is not against family - it would not promote loyalty to a father's friend if it was - it is just arguing that there are times that a friend can be closer than a brother.

Sometimes we desperately need the objectivity of a friend rather than the subjectivity of a relative. Our friends often see us apart from our history and upbringing and these insights are valuable.

The wonderful thing about friendship is that it is a mutually beneficial thing - iron sharpens iron by friction. Friendship isn't always easy: we have to work at it; there may be friction and heat; and the sparks may even fly, but we come out sharper!

How many friends do you have? Are there any you can phone in the middle of the night? If you have none, then something is missing - begin to enlarge your circle!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, November 15, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-15 [Proverbs revisited] Making love obvious

Better is open rebuke than hidden love Proverbs27:5

"But she knows I love her" is the excuse many men give for not being affectionate and caring.

One of our most basic needs is to be loved. Our children need to be told regularly that we love them. This need is so basic that they will misbehave in order to receive a reprimand rather than to live with no expression of emotion at all.

Hidden love does not give security or comfort. Instead it creates insecurity, lack of confidence, and even rebellion. Our families need the security of being told that they are loved. When last have you told those nearest to you that you love them? I make a point of telling Caleb regularly that I love him and that God loves him.

We might argue that we _do_ things that show our love for those around us, but we should also take time to look them in the eye and tell them that we love them. There is nothing in the world that makes you feel better!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-14 [Proverbs revisited] Grabbing hounds by their ears

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own
Is like one who takes a dog by the ears Proverbs26:17

Grab a dog by the ears and you will in all likelihood be bitten!

This is the balance to the verse we looked at yesterday - there is a time to get involved and there is a time to mind your own business. Unfortunately human nature is slow to help and quick to get involved in loud arguments - just the opposite of what God wants us to be!

One of my favourite sayings is "God has given us two ears and one mouth - go figure!" The problem is that we all have opinions and it is soooo tempting to air our opinions - even when our opinions have not been requested! This almost always gets us into trouble!

There is another well-known saying that is appropriate here: In situations like this people would rather _see_ a sermon than _hear_ one. We as Christians are often guilty of being opinionated and pontificating instead of being gracious and service-orientated.

Let's be people who are quick to help and slow to voice our opinions!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-13 [Proverbs revisited] Do something!

Rescue those being led away to death;
Hold back those staggering towards slaughter.
If you say "We knew nothing about this,"
Does not He who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not He who guards your life know it?
Will He not repay each person according to what he has done? Proverbs24:11-12

It is more and more common these days for people to be less and less interested in or concerned about the fate of others. "It's none of my business!" we say. We don't want to intrude. We don't think we can do anything. And, besides, we have enough problems of our own.

The challenge that comes from these verses is a very serious one. Cain asked "Am I my brother's keeper?" Scripture seems unequivocal - we are our brothers' and sisters' keeper. God will hold us responsible if we stand on the sidelines watching someone go under.

It's important for us to make a decision to get involved to help wherever and whenever we can. It's often complex, it's often messy, it's often time-consuming and energy-sapping, but one day it might be us who needs help.

Greg X Volz, one time lead singer of the Gospel Rock Band, Petra, put out a solo album with this song:

Man Overboard.

I'm sure that you remember him, he used to come around here a lot,
He never wanted much attention,
but he could hear the things we taught,
He's got a lot of trouble at home,
and I've been trying to give him a hand,
And lately he's been slipping deeper,
and I don't know how long he'll stand.

Somebody help me.

There's a man overboard, sinking in the turning tide,
There's a man overboard,
and I don't know what sent him over the side,
But there isn't much time, (isn't much time)

I know it's easy to shake your head and say,
"Too bad," and walk away,
Done it far too many times myself,
when I couldn't find a thing to say,
But this is my brother, this is my friend;
I love him more than I can tell,
And I can't bail him out all by myself,
and I won't watch him go to hell.

Somebody help me.

There's a man overboard, sinking in the turning tide,
There's a man overboard; well,
I don't know what sent him over the side,
But there isn't much time, (isn't much time)

Why are we here? Why do we live?
How can we take more than we give?

There's a man overboard, he's sinking in the turning tide,
There's a man overboard; don't know what sent him over the side,
There's a man overboard, sinking in the turning tide,
There's a man overboard,
and I don't know what sent him over the side,
But there isn't much time, (isn't much time)

(You can listen to the song here: )

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, November 9, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-09 [Proverbs revisited] Winning battles

The horse is made ready for the day of battle
but the victory rests with the Lord Proverbs21:31

We always quoted this one at exam times! To study and to prepare is to make the horse ready for battle. The peace and the calmness and the ability to express our learned knowledge is God's contribution.

Sometimes we tend only to ask for help when we have not done our homework. Often in His great mercy, God answers us, but His choice and preference is to work with us instead of doing it for us. His desire is that we should grow in maturity and discipline. He wants to take the training wheels off our bicycles so that we can learn to do it on our own and enjoy the freedom of the ride.

Making the horse ready is hard work. It is often also secret work. There is no applause, audience, or fanfare but the results are worth it. This is about character. It is true of exams, work, marriage, and parenting. The hard work we do in secret will bear fruit and make a difference if we combine it with God's power to make us do our best.

Wesley said: "Work as if everything depended on you and pray as if everything depended on God!"

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, November 8, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-08 [Proverbs revisited] The power of wisdom

A wise man attacks the city of the mighty
and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust. Proverbs21:22

I like this one!

Wisdom is connected to the will of God.
It is to think before we act.
It is to be ready to receive advice
It is based on values of integrity, justice, and love.
It needs a clear picture of God and a humble picture of ourselves.

When we are armed with God-given and God-guided wisdom, there are many things we can tackle and overcome.

Wisdom and courage are a powerful combination which will allow us to overcome bad habits, blockages in the work place, and strongholds in our family lives.

I love the way this proverb combines wisdom (which we associate with quiet and contemplative settings) and the hurly burly and chaos of the battlefield. Wisdom is earthy, practical and life-saving.

So, how do we get wisdom?
(We did look at this at the beginning of the series, but to recap:)
- Ask God for guidance
- Get advice from others who are wise
- Base life on the firm foundation of truth, integrity, and God's Word
- Be ready to obey when guidance is received.

When we are equipped like this, Giants will fall.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-07 [Proverbs revisited] Wisdom

Andries Combrink sent this one to me and I just couldn't resist it - especially the bit about the wrinkles at the end!!!! :-)
Wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Proverbs3:15

Knowledge is not the same as wisdom...

We all place a high value on knowledge. We envy people who are highly trained and have scarce skills. We work hard and pay a lot of money to acquire as much knowledge for ourselves and our children, as possible. And we have many resources. We have magazines, books, newspapers and the internet, good schools (in our community) and various colleges! We are an information-oriented society that has accumulated so much knowledge that we had to invent microchips on which to store it all.

We are a society that loves the hunt for knowledge. We want as much of it as possible.

In this way we are like the church in the times of James. The people whom James addresses also placed a high value on knowledge. They actually were too proud of all the knowledge they acquired. They thought that they were superior to the average person on the street, because they had more knowledge than they have. They thought that their knowledge made them wise.

The problem was that they confused knowledge with wisdom.

James, being as direct as he is about everything he writes, also was correcting this misunderstanding. He tells them that knowledge and wisdom is not the same thing. Knowledge is simply facts and information. It is theory without implementation. It is policy that does not come to fruition A with only knowledge without wisdom is someone who has accumulated a lot of facts and information without implementing it. It is like faith without works: dead and useless!

According to James, you can know who is knowledgeable, without having wisdom, by his or her characteristics, which are envy, selfish ambition, and jealousy (James 3:14). In other words, a person of knowledge can use what he or she knows to advance him or herself, only.

But wisdom is knowledge that is used to help others. It is implemented for the sake of others, for the growth of the Church and for extending God’s work. Wisdom is the use of what one has learned in one’s life of faith and experience with God, to impact on others.

James tells us that the characteristics of a wise person are gentleness, sincerity and peacefulness (James 3:17).

In ancient times, unlike the modern day, it was wisdom that was sought after and valued, more than knowledge. The book of Proverbs tells us that "wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her" (Proverbs 3:15). Proverbs also tells us that "the person who trusts in oneself is a fool, but the one who walks in wisdom is kept safe" (Prov 28:26). The book of Ecclesiastes even says: (Eccl 8:1) “Who is like the wise? Who knows the explanation of things? A person’s wisdom brightens their face and changes its hard appearance.” He is saying that foolishness is the cause of wrinkles!”

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-06 [Proverbs revisited] Don't make your commitments lightly

It is a trap for a man to dedicate something rashly
and only later to reconsider his vows Proverbs20:25

I nearly skipped over this proverb and then it struck me that this was a theme that Jesus came back to more than once.

Do you remember His story about the two sons who were asked to do a job? The one said yes, but didn't do it - the other said no but then went and did it. The second son was commended over the first. (Mat21:28-31)

Jesus also talked about putting our hand to the plough and not looking back (Luk9:62), and about counting the cost of committing ourselves to Him so that we would not be like the person who started building without checking if he had the materials and then had to stop half way because the building could not be completed. (Luk14:28-30)

God is not impressed by quantity but by quality. Let us make sure that we are people who finish what we start in His name. It brings His name and Kingdom into disrepute when we are not diligent in completing what we do for Him.

Paul wrote to Archippus ( a soldier in the church in Corinth) "See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord" (Col4:17)

Jesus also talked about our "yes" being "yes" and our "no" being "no".

When we finish what we started and keep our commitments it honours God.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, November 2, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-02 [Proverbs revisited] Revenge

Do not say "I'll pay you back for this wrong"
Wait for the Lord and He will deliver you Proverbs20:22

Someone I knew had a coffee cup that said: "I don't get mad - I get even!"

The desire for revenge is an integral part of our fallen human nature. Unfortunately this almost always ends up in an endless unsatisfying cycle of wronging others and being wronged by others and very often it is the innocent bystanders who get hurt along the way.

The problem with revenge is that when we do it, we do it imperfectly and without clean slates. We do not have the right to sit in judgement and mete out revenge because we ourselves are unjust. God does not indulge in revenge, but He avenges. He acts on our behalf when we are wronged. He will right the wrongs and balance the scales of justice.

The problem is one of timescales. We want justice to be done here and now, whilst God has a longer term view. Sometimes justice happens in this life and sometimes it will only come at the end of the age.

I'm learning to be patient when I am wronged: God will sort it all out - I don't have to perpetuate the cycle of heartache and pain, He will give me the strength and the courage to pick things up and move from where I am.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, November 1, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-11-01 [Proverbs revisited] A happy marriage is not a right

He who finds a wife finds what is good
and receives favour from the Lord.
Houses and wealth are inherited from parents
but a prudent wife is from the Lord (19:14) Proverbs18:22

Marriage: To have a spouse is not a right, but a privilege. To be able to share our lives with someone else - especially if that someone else is working faithfully at the marriage - is a blessing that we should not ignore.

Taking one another for granted is a definite marriage-killer. When couples are not proud of their partners and thankful for their contributions then the lie of discontentment quickly steps in.

A happy marriage is something to be really thankful for. Sometimes the routine of work, children, and timetables blinds us to the fact that two totally unique individuals have put their lives together and, in spite of all the potential pitfalls, it is working!!!

Can I urge you to thank God for your spouse and to take the time to express your appreciation to them for what they mean to you? Even if things are in a bit of a rut, it is still better than being alone, or in an unhappy marriage. If you are married, your challenge for the day is to buy some flowers or biltong for your spouse and say: "You're doing a great job - I'm proud of you - and I'm very grateful that you're in my life."

If you are not married yet, remind yourself that marriage is a privilege, and wait patiently: God has a great plan for you! Maybe you have a friend who is taking his/her spouse for granted - help them see the bigger picture!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-31 [Proverbs revisited] The value of experience

It is not good to have zeal without knowledge
Nor to be hasty and miss the way Proverbs19:2

This is tough advice for someone like me. I like to make snap decisions and often don't take time to find out all the facts. I am compulsively impulsive and if I leave this tendency unchecked it can get me into a lot of trouble.

Make no mistake - to be zealous is good, as long as one tempers the zeal with patience, research, advice, and wisdom. In our zeal to do great things for God, we should take time to learn from others. It is said that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it!

The two mistakes are:
- To have insufficient knowledge, information, and research
-- To be in such a rush that we miss the warning signs along the way.

I have seen many zealous people who have had their zeal crushed by mistakes they made because they did not do the groundwork properly.

What is the groundwork?
1. Pray about what one is planning to do
2. Do as much research as you can about what you are planning to do
3. Get advice from older wiser Christians who would not be afraid to tell you when you're wrong.
4. Make sure you are reading the signs along the way - opposition to your great idea isn't always just the devil trying to stop you - sometimes you've got it wrong!
5. (This may sound contradictory) Don't give up to quickly - very often the mistake of zealous people make is that they do not persevere. If you have had no stop-signs from God, and you are convinced that what you're doing is His idea and not just yours, then hang in there!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-30 [Proverbs revisited] Spiritual and Physical Health

A cheerful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones Proverbs17:22

The word "Psychosomatic" is an interesting one. It is made up of two Greek words: "Psycho" - to do with the spirit. And "Soma" - to do with the body. For nearly 3000 years Proverbs has been telling us what the doctors have only recently started researching - that our mental and spiritual attitudes can have a profound impact on our health.

Sometimes our feelings exhaustion and tiredness have more to do with our mental and spiritual tiredness than our physical tiredness and sleep is not always the right answer for that sort of exhaustion. Sometimes when I am feeling really run down and tired, the right answer is to take the phone off the hook, put on some good music and read a good book or _the_ Good Book!

Sadness, depression, hopelessness and doubt have a huge impact on our well-being as people. We are not always aware that our spirit has been crushed and so our dried up bones are the warning signal. Inasmuch as we need to nourish our bodies, give them rest, and care for them, so also we need to care for our spiritual and emotional needs as well.

Are you feeling run down and exhausted? Before you run off to the doctor and get vitamins or even anti-depressants ask yourself: "What have I done to meet the needs of my crushed spirit? What have I done to cheer up my heart?"

Please don't misunderstand me - there is a time for a visit to the doctor and/or medication, all I am saying is that we should take the time to see what is happening in our hearts first...

When last did you feed your soul?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, October 26, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-26 [Proverbs revisited] Covering offences

He who covers over an offence promotes love
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends Proverbs17:9

I am sure this proverb comes from the story of Noah: After the ark landed Noah grew some grapes, made some wine and got drunk. He was lying passed out and naked when one of his sons found him and thought it was very funny. He went and told his brothers about it. They did an amazing thing: they walked into the tent backwards with a blanket which they spread over their dad to hide his nakedness.

There are a couple of things we should note:
1. Noah was responsible for his actions and DESERVED to be mocked
2. The first son enjoyed being able to take his dad down a peg or two
3. The other two sons restored dignity to Noah.

When people around us fail - especially if they deserved it - it is tempting to gloat and to gossip and even to embellish the story a bit! We should not!

When we see someone stumble and do something wrong, we should remind ourselves that we are not without sin. With a kind, thoughtful, and corrective action we can lessen the pain of what happened.

It must have been hard for the two sons to contemplate the failure of their father but their love for him was not based on his performance, but their commitment to him.

Is there someone you are angry or disappointed with today? Which of Noah's sons will you be?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, October 25, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-25 [Proverbs revisited] A very misquoted verse

Commit to the Lord whatever you do
and all your plans will succeed. Proverbs16:3

This is one of the most misquoted verses I know. Most people mis-use it in the sense that they make their plans and then at the last moment, before they act on their plans they ask Almighty God to bless their plans.

God is not like holy water that we sprinkle over things to make them holy. When we expect Him to bless our plans, even if they are good and upright, then we reduce Him to the status of a genie who must do our bidding and bless OUR plans.

We are not God - He is.

The verse tells us that we must commit WHATEVER we do to the Lord - this is all encompassing - it involves all of life and we can't be selective about it. To commit something to God means that it belongs to Him and not to us.

When we learn to live lives dedicated to Him, we will begin to see a fruitfulness in our lives that comes from our close walk with Him. Our plans (which have been made with Him watching over our shoulder and sitting at our side) will bear fruit.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-24 [Proverbs revisited] Priorities

Better a meal with vegetables where there is love
than a fatted calf with hatred Proverbs15:17

We are easily afflicted with "Possession Obsession." Many families find themselves estranged and distant because Mom and Dad have worked so hard to maintain a certain lifestyle.

It's easy to overextend ourselves financially (and the banks are very willing to help us do that!) and then be caught up in a frantic attempt to maintain our position. I heard of a young couple who managed to generate debt totalling a million rand before they were 25! Fortunately they had the courage to sell their assets and liquidate the debt - but not everyone does!

The Bible constantly calls us to a simple lifestyle. It takes a lot of courage, but it is the most secure way to raise children. Money problems are a sure way to stress a marriage and alienate children.

Families need time, effort, and commitment to be secure. Money troubles caused by an excessively high standard of living rob the family of the breadwinners' time. It also adds a lot of stress. Make your investments with time, creativity, and love - not with money or status.

The really important things in life are not expensive, but they cost a lot.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, October 19, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-19 [Proverbs revisited] Contentment

A heart at peace gives life to the body
but envy rots the bones Proverbs14:30

Learning contentment is one of the great secrets to living longer. When we continually want what others have, when we are not satisfied with where we are, and when satisfaction is always over the horizon then we are in danger of rotting from the inside.

This does not mean that ambition and the pursuit of excellence are necessarily bad, although they can deceive us and become our gods.

To have a heart at peace is to always carry an attitude of gratitude in our back pockets, so that we are always ready to count our blessings and to enjoy the moment. The people who will rot from within are those who are always focussed on the destination instead of being focussed on the journey.

Are you chasing your tail in an attempt to achieve something that is always out of your reach, or are you willing to stop and smell the roses?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, October 18, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-18 [Proverbs revisited] Our attitudes to the poor

He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker
but whoever is kind to the needy honours God Proverbs14:31

This is one of those bits of the Bible that makes me squirm. There is no argument about it: I have my own home, two cars, a fridge, a stove, a microwave, and more - I am wealthy!

There are many who are not. We can go into the reasons, but that doesn't change anything. What matters is how I view those who have less than I do and how I treat them. If we are all made in the image of God, then I am mocking God when I treat the poor in a manner that robs them of their dignity.

How do you treat the person handing out pamphlets at the traffic-lights? He or she is actually trying to earn an honest living - but I see many people staring ahead as if these people don't even exist. This is a denial of basic human dignity and in one way or another we have all been guilty of it.

I once saw a young man make the shape of a gun with his fingers and "shoot" (with sound effects) the little boy who was begging for money. What damage must have been done in the heart of that little boy! (And to my shame I said and did nothing!)

We don't always have to give. Indiscriminate giving to those who beg often creates dependency, reinforces alcoholism and drug abuse, but even when we refuse, let us do it in a manner that acknowledges the humanity of the person and gives them some dignity - this honours God.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-17 [Proverbs revisited] Making amends

Fools mock at making amends for sin
but goodwill is found among the upright. Proverbs14:9

To err is human. We all make mistakes. We all fall short from time to time. How we handle our shortcomings is an indication of our character.

If I wrong someone and I know I've done it and I make no attempt to make amends I am saying the following:
1. What I did wasn't really that serious

2. I don't consider the feelings or dignity of the person I have hurt at all

3. I am not concerned about the long term impact of this behaviour on my character

4. I will eventually be surrounded by animosity because of the un-amended hurts I have caused

Proverbs considers this behaviour and these attitudes foolish (and remember that the word used for fool also implies moral deficiency)

The upright are people who make amends - they apologise and make right when they hurt others. The benefits are goodwill, respect, and healing.

It takes a lot of courage to say "I was wrong. I acted thoughtlessly. I am sorry." But it is vital.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-16 [Proverbs revisited] Encouragement

An anxious heart weighs a man down
but a kind word cheers him up Proverbs12:25

As stress levels are on the increase, our support structures are on the decrease. Longer hours means we spend less time with our families who strengthen us. When both spouses work it is harder for them to support each other. With people's increasing desire for privacy, they are not letting people get close to them, and people are not willing to intrude.

We are getting lonelier and lonelier and with the loneliness comes discouragement.

Stress can break us. Encouragement reverses the effects of stress. To speak a kind word costs us very little and to encourage someone only takes a bit of time. Can you think of someone who has really encouraged you? Can you remember how much it meant?

Maybe you can take a moment to pick up the phone, drop by someone's office or room, or send of an email and say:
"You're doing a great job!" or
"Thank you for what you're doing - you're making a difference" or
"You're a great wife/hubbie and I'm so glad to have you in my life"
"You're a fantastic son/daughter and I'm proud of you."

It will make a difference!
Don't hesitate.... JUST DO IT!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, October 12, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-12 [Proverbs revisited] Short fuses

A fool shows his annoyance at once
but a prudent man overlooks an insult Proverbs12:16

Someone I admire very much taught me that it is better to be too slow to respond than to be too quick.

We often mean it is a compliment when we say of someone that they don't suffer fools gladly. Unfortunately this often means that the person we're referring to is a bully who uses his or her superior position or intellect to deflect damage onto others.

It is better to be quiet than to say things that we might later regret! It is better to be slow to anger and quick to forget. It is often more effective to be quiet than to become defensive or abusive. There are times when our refusal to get involved in mudslinging marks us as people of character.

When next you are irritated or insulted by someone who seems foolish, take three mental steps back before you drop down to their level. When the situation pans out, you may be very very glad you did.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, October 11, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-11 [Proverbs revisited] Lasting Fruit

The fruit of the righteous is the tree of life
and he who wins souls is wise Proverbs11:30

We are sometimes so caught up in the here-and-now that we lose the long term perspective.

Jesus made it absolutely clear that we should store up treasures in heaven, and yet we easily get sucked into the hurly burly of present. Sometimes the immediate benefits of righteousness are not clear and the costs of doing the right thing can be so high that we are tempted to give it a skip.

But when we live out our faith and when we reach out to others, we are making an eternal difference. We cannot take our money, shares, property, or social status to heaven. The only thing we can take with us is people. When we reach someone with God's Good News, we will see them in heaven.

It is our righteousness (with God's help) that will attract others. It is our willingness to love that will reach others. To live for Christ will bear fruit and that fruit is almost always going to bring others to the tree of life. Reaching others with God's love is the most enduring thing we can do on this earth.

The prophet Daniel said a similar thing:
"Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever."

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-10 [Proverbs revisited] Generosity Benefits

A generous man will prosper;
He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs11:25

Generosity is a Godlike quality.

The well-loved Welsh preacher Granville Morgan said that God's favourite word is "and." God made birds _and_ animals _and_ plants _and_ trees _and_ green _and_ blue _and_ moon _and_ stars _and_ ... _and_ ... _and_....

All of creation is a breathtaking testimony of the awesome abundance of divine generosity. Are we all alone in the universe? We don't know. Scripture does say that the heavens declare the glory of God, and so, if we are all alone in the universe then its abundance is just part of the awesome generosity of God, who after giving in Creation also gave us His Son, and then gave us His Holy Spirit.

When we learn to be generous, we discover that we have more than we think we have. When we learn to have an abundance mentality instead of a scarcity mentality, we discover a fullness in life that we simply never knew was there.

When we spend our time, talent, or treasure in service of others, we will find that God will renew us with fresh stores of His grace and love. For we are learning to be like Him!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-10-09 [Proverbs revisited] Making the Victory sure

For lack of guidance a nation falls
but many advisors make victory sure Proverbs11:14

Seeking advice is going out of fashion! Seeking advice from people older and more experienced than ourselves is something that very few people do these days. And yet there is much wisdom to be found in the people God has placed around us!

When we have difficult decisions to make, many of us ask God to help us make the decision, but we are not willing to entertain the idea that God may be speaking to us through the people He has placed along our path.

Of course listening to the people who will tell us what we want to hear is an option many people take, but I am talking about wise counsel coming from those who have experience, wisdom, and insight.

How do we find good advisors?
- They are usually not the opinionated ones who give advice even when it has not been requested.
- They are the kind of people who would have the courage to tell us if we are being stupid.
- They also have the courage to tell us what we don't want to hear.
- They are people who have integrity and wisdom.
- They will not pry into our lives unnecessarily and will not go further than we ask them to
- They will maintain confidentiality

If you have people like this in your life, then God has given you a wonderful way to make wise decisions.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, September 28, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-28 [Proverbs revisited] The dangers of pride

When pride comes, then comes disgrace
but with humility comes wisdom. Proverbs11:2

It is said that the middle letter of the word `sin` is `I` and that pride is at the heart of Adam and Eve's sin in their wanting to be like God.

Pride is one of the most difficult vices to deal with. It is subtle and cunning. It is good, for example, to take pride in our work, but it is dangerous for us to become arrogant and think that we are the be all and end all in the work place.

Healthy pride (maybe the right word is `dignity`) makes us be and do our best. Unhealthy pride puts us at the centre of the universe where everything is supposed to revolve around us. Disaster is not far away!

Many think that humility is self-abasement or being negative about ourselves. This is in fact just a perverse form of pride, because it means I get others to praise me instead of praising myself. True humilty is to have a clear picture of ourselves, but understanding that I am not the centre of the universe.

It is a Copernican revolution. We have to acknowledge that the universe does not revolve around us but that others are very important. If pride is self-centred, humility is other-centred. When we master other-centeredness, we'll be amazed at how much we can learn from them!

CS Lewis said: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less."

It takes the strong to be humble. Jesus knew who He was and yet counted Himself as a servant and even submitted to the indignity of the cross.

- J esus first
- O thers second
- Y ourself last

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, September 27, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-27 [Proverbs revisited] Words

In the multitude of words sin is not lacking
But he who restrains his lips is wise Proverbs10:19

When I typed the verse above - I accidentally typed `retrains`

Maybe not so accidentally! I think most of us need some retraining in order to restrain. There are three ways in which a multitude of words are the symptom of character failure:

1. We gossip - we use many words to share our thoughts and opinions of others.
2. It shows that we do not know how to listen: God gave us two ears and one mouth - go figure!
3. We are proud, arrogant and full of our own opinions and will make others listen by drowning them in words.

So how do we re-train?
1. Make sure brain is engaged before putting mouth into gear.
2. Ask ourselves if what we are about to say will build or break down.
3. Ask ourselves if we have really listened.
4. Remind ourselves that ours is only one opinion of many.

Watch your words today.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-26 [Proverbs revisited] Be careful of these!

These six things the Lord hates, yes seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look
A lying tongue
Hands that shed innocent blood
A heart that devises wicked plans
Feet that are swift in running to evil
A false witness who speaks lies
And one who sows discord among brethren Proverbs6:16-19

I think the purpose of the six and then seven is to indicate progression. We are being given an analysis of how we get into trouble.

1. It starts with pride,
2. and is followed by dishonesty,
3. then in looking after number one we hurt others.
4. This leads to actively planning evil
5. and the active pursuit of evil,
6. Our dishonesty becomes slander of others (dragging them down to our level)
7. We become people who drive people apart.

In big and small ways all of us have found ourselves on this downward spiral.

If you're there now, maybe you can stop where you are and escape.

Maybe you know someone who is starting this process - reach out and rescue them!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-25 [Proverbs revisited] Working like an ant

Go to the ant, you sluggard
Consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest Proverbs6:6-8

The last thing I need to tell you is to work harder! If anything, most of us work too hard!

But the ant is not only an example of hard work. There are two important aspects of ant-labour that I find helpful:
--- Ants are self-motivated
--- Ants work rhythmically

The ant does not work for a boss, the ant works because it finds meaning in that. When our work becomes slavery to a boss (who often takes the role of slave-driver) then the work experience is demeaned and impoverished. The answer is not necessarily to change bosses or jobs, but to examine the work ethic in ourselves. We have been created to find fulfilment in our work and so our enjoyment of our job is our choice and not the choice of our superiors. Our attitude is a very important part of our experience of work. We don't work for our bosses, but for ourselves and God.

The ant also works according to the seasons. There are times for hard work, and there are times to slow down. If we work frenetically all year, something will break. Either our families, or our health, but something will break. We need seasons of hard work and times of rest. If you know there is a period of rest in sight it is easier to work hard, and if there has been a time of rest we can prepare ourselves for a hectic time.

I haven't even explored the principle of teamwork which is another thing we learn from ants. But have a look at your experience of work: what are your motivation levels like and have you learned to work smart - with times of rest and times of concerted effort - just like ants do?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, September 21, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-21 [Traders] Conclusion of Series

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews11:1

Today we conclude our series on being Traders. Here's the definition we have been working with....

A Trader is a new kind of Missionary - not defined by Geography - but willing to apply the parable of the Good Samaritan
and to go and do likewise.
A Trader is intentional with their
time, talent and skills.
They trade-in their pursuits for His pursuits.
They trade in time, money and comfort for a world that needs Christ.

A Trader looks beyond the temptations of the here and now.
A Trader resists the temptation to settle for temporary satisfaction in the present. They see a bigger picture - they long for something more permanent.

The whole of Hebrews 11 is a list of trades! e.g.:

v4 By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did.

v7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

v8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

v24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.

And so on...

To have faith is to be a Trader.
To walk in faith is trade our purposes for God's purposes
To be a Trader is to TRUST that God's plan is better than the (empty) promises of materialism and comfort.

Are you a TRADER?
Hope you have enjoyed the series!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, September 20, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-20 [Traders] Where it all is headed...

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians4:2-6

Paul has been talking to everyone: Husbands, Wives, Children, Parents, Slaves and Masters. He has been urging them to wear the "new clothes" of compassion, gentleness, kindness, humility and patience that we talked about yesterday.

But where is this all headed? What does this trade represent?

In these verses Paul makes it clear that it is all about reaching others:
He asks the Colossians to pray for him SO THAT a door for proclaiming the message might be opened and that he will proclaim clearly.

He urges them: Be wise, use every chance you get, let grace and gospel saltiness be in your words.

This is our trade: To move from being self-concerned and self-absorbed to reaching others. This is the bottom line of why we are here.

We trade the pursuit of our own pleasures, agendas and ideals for:
- Our spouses knowing and growing in Christ.
- Seeing our children accept Christ and following Him.
- Seeing our parents willing to accept Christ because of our example.
- Our workers, bosses and colleagues seeing Christ in us.

What opportunities do you have today?
Can you swallow the biting words you may be tempted to blurt out and let your speech be full of grace and saltiness?
Are you ready to answer: "Having God in my life is the best thing I have done."

That's the trade for today...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-19 [Traders] New Clothes

Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Colossians3:12

Paul has been talking about taking off the "old clothes" or "old self" of lies, greed, malice, etc. He is talking about being a Trader.

The temptation that makes trading difficult is the temptation to focus too hard on what we are giving up. When we look at what we are taking on it gets easier.

The worship song we sometimes sing puts it so well:
"Turn your eyes upon Jesus - Look full in His wonderful face:
And the things of the earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace."

Here Paul offers us a better wardrobe than the "emperor's clothes" of self-obsession and self-centredness. Let's look at the garments briefly:

Compassion: Literally "sympathetic organs" - allow yourselves to feel for others in the guts. We allow the heartache of the world to move us. We don't insulate or medicate compassion but allow it to move us to action.

Kindness: The Greek word here is elsewhere often used of God and implies "undeserved kindness." We are kind to those who have not earned or deserved it.

Humility: From the same root that Paul uses in Philippians 2 when he urges us to imitate Christ who gave up the glory of heaven and humbled Himself to humanity and the cross.

Gentleness: Is also translated meekness and even courtesy. It implies controlled strength. It is the diametric opposite of harshness.

Patience: Long-suffering, endurance, forbearance. It recognises that life is a marathon - that we must persevere and take a long-term view.

Imagine if more of us wore this five-piece outfit! As Christians, and Traders, let's trade the me-first Emperor's clothes for this five piece work outfit! The world would be a much better place.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, September 14, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-14 [Traders] An ALL IMPORTANT question.

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Mark8:36

Enough said...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, September 13, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-13 [Traders] Self-sufficiency

And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. 17 He thought to himself, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'
"Then he said, `This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." '
20 "But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'
21 "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Luke12:16-21

This is not a comfortable parable.
It confronts one of the basic pillars of society:
The pursuit of success.

Jesus makes it clear: The _ground_ of a rich man produced a good crop.
The rich man didn't produce it - it was a blessing logically resulting from good soil, good weather, good rain and the absence of pestilence. In other words, the rich man's bounty was the result of Divine Providence.

The man is arrogant. He thinks he is self-sufficient, self-contained, self-fulfilling. He thinks he has it all together: Look at the number of times he refers to himself in 17-19. It's "I" and "my" all the way through it.

The building of barns and storing of goods isn't the real problem. The real problem is the self-centered independence that excludes gratitude and dependence on God.

Recently I was listening to the stunning album by Louis Brittz, Retief Burger and friends ("In Verwondering") where they point out that even the breath that we use to sing praises comes from God.

The rich man has lost perspective: He places himself at the centre of his world. He has plenty of things that will not last, but at his death someone else will receive it. What has he stored up for eternity??

What is your attitude? Are you aware that the very breath that you breathe to succeed comes from Him? Is there a sense of dependence and gratitude? Are you frantically collecting stuff that won't last?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-12 [Traders] Trading Comfort for Intimacy

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. Daniel6:10-11

Daniel traded comfort for intimacy.
He had political enemies who couldn't find any "dirt" to discredit him. So they flattered the king into making a decree that outlawed prayer to anyone but the king. The consequence was the lion's den.

Daniel learns about the decree:
- There is considerable risk (the lion's den)
- There is a lot to lose - his position, status and influence
- There is the voice of "reasonable compromise" ("You can just pray in your heart with the windows closed - there is no point in losing your position of influence, surely God doesn't want you to squander the position He has put you in. Just be strategic about this - don't rock the boat unnecessarily")

BUT intimacy with God is worth more to Daniel than comfort and he is willing to take the risk...

And so, "having learned" about the decree, he still prays three times a day and he still opens the windows and he still gives thanks. (I wouldn't even be giving thanks, I'd be pleading for tooth-proof skin!!!)

We know how the story ends... Daniel vindicated, enemies eliminated, King Darius humbled, and God glorified.

And some of us would consider this a small issue - it's merely Daniel's daily devotions, but it is a big issue for him - one he was willing to face lions for.

What have we traded daily intimacy with God for???
Busy-ness? The newspaper? TV? Facebook?
Maybe it's time to take a stand!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-11 [Traders] What Jesus traded

5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross! Philippians2:5-8

We are called to trade things that don't last for things that have eternal significance. But this call does not happen in a vacuum. It comes in the wake of an exchange that Jesus made.

Jesus exchanged the glory of heaven for the agony of the cross to save us. It was the most biased trade that could ever happen - the Creator giving everything for His creatures who could give nothing in return.

Scholars suspect that Paul is quoting from an early Christian Hymn, which is why this passage is often printed in poetry format in our Bibles...

But let's look more closely:
- He gave up equality with God (This was His "right" to say "No!" when God the Father asked Him to go to the cross.)

- Although in nature God, He became a tiny baby in Mary's womb, He sacrificed power, knowledge, status. He limited Himself. John makes it clear that God created the world through Jesus, the Word (Logos). Imagine going from being the agent of Creation to being a creature!

- He took the nature of a servant. From Heaven He went to Mary's womb, to the humble stable in Bethlehem, to being a fugitive in Egypt, to the dusty streets of Nazareth, to the everyday-ness of an itinerant preacher, to being swamped by the masses for healing and hated by the establishment for being controversial. He deserved better. He deserved recognition and respect. He spent 30 years preparing for a three year ministry. He spent 33 years in weakness for us.

- He went to the cross. We cannot even begin to imagine what that was like!!

In the light of what He traded for us - how sad it is that we balk at the slightest interruptions or minor sacrifices that He asks us to make!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, September 7, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-07 [Traders] We don't belong here.

"I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it." John20:13-16

Whenever John uses the word John uses the word "World" in his gospel and his letters, he is almost always talking about a SYSTEM and not a physical place or location.

In his thinking, the "kosmos" is dominated by darkness, evil and Satan and is opposition to God.

Maybe today we would describe "kosmos" as rampant materialism. The folk at the Right Now Campaign have described "kosmos" as the "New American Dream" where "more", "mine" and "supersize" are the keywords.

The "kosmos" is a system - a system that places me and my pleasure at the centre.

In our passage Jesus is praying for us. He is talking to God and He indicates that He has lived _in_ the system and the system will soon crucify Him because He has not played by its rules. The system doesn't have room for those who do what God wants instead of "more", "mine" and "supersize."

Jesus wants us to be "IN" but not "OF" the world.
We are to be traders:
trading "more", "mine" and "supersize"
for "love", "serve" and "sacrifice."

It is a tough challenge - but Jesus has prayed (and continues to pray) for our protection.

Will you be a trader?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, September 6, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-06 [Traders] Loss

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ Philippians3:4-8

Paul was a trader!
He traded all the earthly milestones and monuments (genealogy, education, achievement and position) for the awesome privilege of having, knowing and gaining Christ.

Many people have spoken and written about the Greek word for "rubbish" that Paul uses in v.8. According to my Greek Dictionary, the word means "dung", "smelly garbage", "excrement" and implies "contemptuous rejection."

But I am interested in the other word, the noun "loss" ('zemeian'), that Paul repeats twice in this passage. The same word also appears as a verb ("lost") in v.8. The noun form of this word also appears in Acts 27 in connection with the shipwreck that Paul is in on the way to Rome. In the account Paul assures the captain and the crew that the ship and cargo will suffer loss, but that all lives will be spared.

In Afrikaans we talk about "aardse goed" (earthly things) when we have a break-in or accident or some other disaster. We remind ourselves that our "stuff" is temporary and temporal. What matters is people and what matters is our character and our soul.


Paul would rather have Christ, know Christ and gain Christ.

Are we hanging onto stuff and hubris when we should consider them as "loss" and "rubbish" in the light of Christ???

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-05 [Traders] Know that life is a gift

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James1:17

Traders know that life is a gift.
They don't hold on to life too tightly.
They understand that ownership is over-rated and over-reaching.

I had a friend who said this about owning land: "How bizarre it is to think that we can _own_ a piece of God's earth!"
We think we buy things that we can _possess_ with money we have _earned_ from our work. But where did the talent, health, ability and oxygen that we breathed while we worked come from?

Traders understand that all we are is a gift from God,
that all the opportunities that we have come from Him,
that all the good circumstances that we experience are from Him.
Even our ability to praise God comes from the music, poetry and revelation that He gives us!

Life is a gift.
We can't claim it as ours and it is bizarre to hang on too tightly.
When we go through life with an attitude of giftedness, when we develop an attitude of gratitude, it becomes easier to SHARE.

Someone (I can't remember who) told a story of taking some rice to a very poor family in a very poor area. He was taken aback when the mother of the home grabbed the rice and then ran out of the shack. As he was about to leave in disgust, she returned and thanked him for the gift. He asked her where she had rushed off to and she answered that two of her neighbours were also struggling to feed their families and so she had divided her rice into three and shared with them.

God's generosity in giving us life, breath, opportunity and then His Son and His Spirit should inspire us to trade the things we cannot keep for things we cannot lose.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-09-04 [Traders] God's Awesome Trade

We are running a BIG IDEA* series at church and so I am interrupting the Proverbs series to reflect on our Big Idea for the next three weeks.

Our Big Idea is a concept I was exposed to at the "Right Now Campaign" ( and involves being a TRADER.

Here's a working definition:
A Trader is a new kind of Missionary
- not defined by Geography -
but willing to apply the parable of the Good Samaritan
and to go and do likewise.
A Trader is intentional with their
time, talent and skills.
They trade-in their pursuits for His pursuits.
They trade in time, money and comfort for a world that needs Christ.

Hope you are stimulated by the series!
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again...
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2Corinthians5:14-21

Why should I be a TRADER?
Why should I trade my time, talent and skills for His purpose rather than my own?

BECAUSE God did an even bigger trade!
- The Sinless One - the Son of God - took on our sin and gave us His righteousness.
- One Person - God's own Son - died (effectively again and again and again) for each of us.
- He died our death so that we could live for Him. He made a life that we did not have before available for us!

Before this trade, we were only able to live for ourselves: Selfish, Materialistic, Temporary.
Now, because of the trade He made, we can TRADE the things that will not last for things that will last forever.

I want to be a TRADER!

* The Big Idea is a when we as a congregation focus in on one key and critical focus in our sermons, Bible Studies and Daily Devs for a period of three weeks...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, August 31, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-31 [Proverbs revisited] The Wellspring of Life

Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Proverbs4:23

Our control center (in Hebrew Culture it was the heart) is the place where life flows from. Our heart is where character, values and worship originate. God wants to be in our hearts!

The warning is clear - if we do not guard our hearts, then we could lose our focus on that which matters. We should guard our hearts against the things that would rob us of our experience of Christ in our lives. Here are a few of the enemies of the wellspring that God would plant in us:

* Busyness and Self-Importance: "I can't take a break - they _need_ me!" We become our own little gods and we let our circumstances squeeze God out of our lives.

* Addiction to Pleasure and Comfort: This is when we avoid the challenge of Jesus to take up our cross. We become resistant to the change He desires to bring in us, because we are comfortable where we are thank you very much!

* Filling our hearts with garbage: There is plenty of garbage floating around, bad morals and values are expressed in our newspapers, on our tv's, and now even in the emails we send around. We might think that the odd off-colour joke or a bit of pornography is funny, but if the saying "you are what you eat" is true of our bodies, then "You are what you think" is true of your mind. The same holds true for our speech - have you listened to yourself recently? What does what you say have to say about you?

* Bitterness and Cynicism: When these take root in us, it is hard to be the kind of people God designed us to be. Cynicism spreads like gangrene in any group of people. It takes a courageous decision to be a person of hope.

Can you think of other enemies?
Guard your heart!
It is the well-spring where God wants to give us life.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 30, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-30 [Proverbs revisited] Discipline

My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
and do not resent His rebuke
because the Lord disciplines those He loves
as a father the son he delights in. Proverbs3:11-12

Unfortunately many people have a picture of God that makes Him seem to be a hard taskmaster with a tick-list of the rights and wrongs that we do. There are others, who in reaction to this, have a picture of God as kind of heavenly sugar-daddy who condones all our wrong-doings with a shrug saying "Oh well, to err is human."

Neither is accurate! The truth is that God takes our sin so seriously that He sent Jesus to die for us. When He looks at us from a legal perspective, God sees us as purified by Jesus' sacrifice. When we looks at us with a Parent's perspective, He sees the habits and behaviours in us that are not helpful and that hurt us and hurt others.

God will do what it takes to get the sin out of us and to bring us closer to Him. Discipline is not punishment. Discipline is God's way of bringing us back to Him and God will sometimes allow us to experience the consequences of our waywardness because it humbles us and brings us back home.

For example: God is sometimes silent when we pray because our hearts are full of darkness. The experience of His absence makes us hungry to be with Him. If we have been greedy and addicted to money, God will sometimes allow financial setbacks to get our focus back on the things that matter.

BUT... (and it is a big BUT...) not all hardship is discipline. Sometimes hardship is simply the result of living in a broken world and we should always check with a wise Christian friend if we think that God may be disciplining us. If it is discipline it is only because God loves us and is wanting to get through to us!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-29 [Proverbs revisited] Walk with God

Trust in the Lord with all of your heart
And lean not on your own understanding
Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways
and He will make your paths straight Proverbs3:5-6

In Hebrew culture the heart is not the seat of emotions but the control centre of life. In Hebrew poetry one often has parallel lines. So
--- Trust in the Lord with all of your heart (and)
--- Acknowledge the Lord in all of your ways
are parallels - they're driving at the same point.

The core thrust of this passage is that we are to place all our trust in Him we need to involve Him in our day to day decisions. We need to be willing to sign the name of Jesus next our name on every credit card slip and every contract and letter.

In Hebrew culture life is often represented as a pathway. The image created here is that it is better to walk a pathway _with_ God than to blaze a trail on our own. With God at our side, our pathway will be straight and not crooked.

When we _lean_ on our own understanding without Trusting and Acknowledging Him, our pathways start to twist and turn. Even if we mean well and start straight, our lives are not meant to be lived for ourselves - we are designed and created to Trust and Acknowledge Him. When we _lean_ on our own understanding, it is mutiny.

BUT let's be clear: This is not mindless Christianity. We don't have to leave our brains at the door. It is about reliance on God. We _lean_ on a walking stick when we are injured, tired or going through heavy terrain. We should thoughtfully and mindfully lean on God.

When we do that and refuse to be led by our own thinking and desires, then God is able to make our paths straight - not necessarily smooth, but straight!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-28 [Proverbs revisited] In pursuit of wisdom (part 2)

So give your servant a discerning heart to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? 1Kings3:9

The main collector of Proverbs was Solomon. Let's look at his approach to wisdom.

When Solomon had newly been made king, God came to him at Gibeon and gave him an incredible offer: "Ask for whatever you want me to give to you."

Solomon didn't ask to win the lotto.

He had his eyes fixed on something more enduring.
He wanted wisdom.
He wanted his actions to be informed by God's insights and perspective.
He wanted God's guidance and God's fingerprints to characterise every step of his life's journey.

God answered Solomon's prayer, and, building on the foundation laid by his father David, Solomon built the nation of Israel. Never before and never again had Israel been so great!

If only Solomon had finished in the way that he had started!

Unfortunately he became distracted by success and intoxicated by power. Towards the end of his life Solomon made self-centred and short-cut decisions that sowed the seeds of destruction which would germinate after his death.

The pursuit of wisdom is something we should continue throughout life!
- When last did you read something to make you grow?
- When last did you review your values and principles?
- When last did you look at obstacles in your life as a learning opportunity?
- When last did you seriously and intentionally ask God to give you wisdom?

It's a prayer He loves to answer. (See James 1:5 - below)
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, August 24, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-24 [Proverbs revisited] In pursuit of wisdom

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you
turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding
and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God
For the Lord gives wisdom
and from His mouth come knowledge and understanding Proverbs2:1-6

Yesterday we looked at the fear of the Lord as being the thing that keeps us from putting God in a box or a cage. Today our reading shows us that the fear of the Lord also includes the dimension of moral, mental, and spiritual excellence.

The best word for this is wisdom. And it is an endless loop: The more we pursue wisdom, the better we will know God, and the better we know God, the wiser we become!

How do we do it?
1. Turn to God's Word: His commands and His Words.
2. Store them inside you - i.e. think about it, reflect on it.
3. Strive to be always learning and growing. Hunt understanding down, search it our, hunger and thirst for it!
(More on this next week!)

The search for Wisdom is a search for God.
When we do it with all we have, the rewards are worthwhile.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 23, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-23 [Proverbs revisited] The foundation of a wisdom

For the next few weeks I am going to be re-working and adding to a series I did on Proverbs way back in 2002...
Hope you enjoy it!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge
but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs1:7

Proverbs contains some wonderful nitty gritty earthy wisdom...

We had a teacher at school who was not a Christian. To be `safe` when he had to conduct devotions in assembly, he would always read from Proverbs. Many people turn to wisdom writings as self-help material to 'get ahead', but the Proverbs aren't really intended for the self-help category.
They are intended to help us live closer to God.

In the introduction to Proverbs, Solomon clearly points out that true wisdom springs forth from the foundation of a right relationship with God. When we have that foundation we will automatically be living closer to ourselves and to others.

To fear the Lord is to remember who He is and who we are.
To fear Him is to know that He is not a comfortable God who we can put in our pockets or on the shelf when we want Him to look the other way. In CS Lewis' `Narnia Chronicles` where Jesus is depicted by Aslan the lion, one of the characters says `Aslan is not a tame lion.`

When we read the proverbs we are being introduced to the character of God. The advice that we are given is advice that connects us to the very heartbeat of the living God.

My teacher was very wrong when he thought reading Proverbs was safe!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

EMMDEV Some Emm-Dev Info...

Hi everyone
Thanks so much to all of you who filled in the feedback form. It helped me a lot to see if I was on track and where I need to tweak and adjust.
Many of you requested devotional material on the Holy Spirit...
I have good news!
I did a number of series on the Holy Spirit a few years ago and you can find them by clicking the links below:
You can find all the old EmmDev Series at:

I'll be starting our next series tomorrow...
God bless!