Tuesday, July 31, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-31 [Treasure Cupboard] Water, Wine and Milk

My apologies for the lateness of the devotion - some technical issues intervened...

Today's devotion, for the last day of July, is an interruption in the resurrection series: It was written by my colleague Andries Combrink and I just HAD to share it with you.
Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Isaiah55:1

In Isaiah 55:1 we are offered water, wine and milk.

These three drinks match our deepest needs. We all are needy and must be taken care of by a loving yet almighty God.

Water relates to our need for refreshment. When you are most thirsty and most desperate and totally dehydrated, water is what you want and nothing else. God invites us to receive refreshment, restoration, reviving and a new beginning which he only can give.

Milk relates to our need for ongoing nourishment and growth. When you want a little baby to grow day after day, you give it milk again and again. God is not just for thirsty emergencies, but even more for sustainable health. He invites us not only to come alive with water, but also to be stable and strong with milk.

Wine relates to our need for excitement, joy and celebration. We want to be truly alive. Yes, we need to be strong and stable. But that is not all we need to be alive. No matter how unemotional, laid-back and poker-faced we may look like to others, there is an excited child inside every one of us that God wants to bring to life for joy and delight: for shouting and singing and dancing and playing and skipping and running and jumping and laughing.

When we come to God, we will find that in our relationship with him we will find more than resuscitation or even growth â€" we will find that a relationship with God, in Christ, brings excitement and joy!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 27, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-27 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 34.Transforming Power

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. Acts4:32-33

The Early Jerusalem Church was a powerhouse! In one day it grew from a small group that could fit in the Upper Room to over 3000. Luke tells us that the church grew daily, enjoyed the favour of the people and that God did mighty miracles through the disciples.

What was the secret to their power, unity and generosity? What was it about the gospel message that transformed people's lives in such a miraculous way and how deep was the level of change?

As Luke describes the early church, one cannot help but be impressed at the depth of the change. As he describes it here, the members of the church are transformed at two significant levels: Unity and Freedom from Materialism.

We are divided over all sorts of things: race, culture, class, habits, style and personality. When people can overcome their differences it is an amazing thing! The early believers were "one in heart and mind."

To shake off the fetters of materialism is not easy. When the early Christians were able to hold their possessions loosely, it made a huge impression. They were willing to share and see the bigger picture.

What was it about the early church that helped it be so significant in unity and generosity?

Luke ascribes it to the fact that the apostles testified to the resurrection. (He does it here and in 4:2 and 17:18 and 24:21) It is the power and grace of the Risen Christ and the triumph of His life over death that transformed the early church.

The more we celebrate that He is RISEN the more we will experience His power. The more we forget, ignore or deny the wonder of the Risen Christ the more we will be depleted by materialism and petty divisions.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 26, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-26 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 33.The cherry on the top

18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. 1Peter1:18-21

Here's the whole story of the Gospel...
We are not our own - we have been bought at a price.

* The value of price paid for us is incalculable.

* The price paid is the very life (precious blood)
of the perfect (lamb without blemish) Son of God (Christ).

* Before the creation of the world, God knew that only Christ could save us from the consequences of sin - He created us anyway!

* He still touches people's lives today and this is because He rose from the dead and is glorified at God's right hand.

* Our God is not a martyr or merely a historical figure.
He is alive!

The gospel story is amazing:
- God created us and gave us free will, knowing that it might cost His Son
- God paid a massive price to save us: the price was not silver or gold, the price was very personal. The price was His own Son.
- He personally came into the world to save us.
- He rose from the dead to give us faith and hope.

The resurrection is the cherry on the top of the most amazing Good News, without it, faith and hope would not find its entry into our hearts.

Thank YOU Lord for Your great love, Your great sacrifice and Your resurrection that puts it all into our hearts!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-25 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 32. Telling Timid Timothy

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. 2Timothy2:8-9

Timothy was a protégé of Paul. Paul was training him up and equipping him to continue the work of proclaiming the gospel. Many commentators have pointed out that Timothy was hesitant and that he lacked decisiveness and courage. Some have even called him "Timid Timothy."

In this second letter to the young Timothy, Paul reminds him "you have not been given a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."

Paul continues telling Timothy to be bold and brave and in chapter two he uses all kinds of images:
- He must _endure_ like a soldier
- He should _strain_ forward like an athlete
- Take all-or-nothing _risks_ like a farmer who spends his savings to plant a crop.

But this is not easy to do. And so Paul reveals his most inspiring argument: "Remember Christ, raised from the dead... This is my gospel!"

For Paul it boils down to the resurrection. It is this amazing, incredible and stunning victory that is Paul's "good news" (that's what "gospel" means.)

This isn't a theory for Paul - it is real! Paul writes from the discomfort and uncertainty of prison. He has endured, strained and risked. He has been a soldier, athlete and farmer because the resurrection assures him that the victory is sure.

God's (final) Word (Christ) is not chained - He is Risen.

The resurrection is a stunning victory that we should never never never never take for granted! His resurrection can make us endure, strain and risk! Paul did and we can too!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-24 [Forty Days of Resurrection] The key to the promise

"We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. Acts13:32-33

Paul is in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch. He has been invited to speak and he starts his sermon by going from Joburg to CapeTown via Cairo! (I've pasted the whole sermon below for you to read...)

He goes all the way back to Egypt and Moses and alludes to how God delivered them from slavery. He continues by talking about the entry into the promised land, the time of the Judges (Samson, Gideon, etc) and the appointment of David as the Israel's greatest King.

Then he moves on to talk about the coming of Christ, but even there he takes a quick diversion to John the Baptist, alluding to him as the "second Elijah."

All these digressions are a strategic move by Paul. He is reminding his listeners of the deep-seated and historically-anticipated hope of a Messiah who would rescue them from slavery, be their Judge (the Hebrew word also implies "Liberator") and their great King.

This longing was deeply embedded in the soul and psyche of the nation. As Paul travelled to cities all over the known world, he would always start at the synagogues and his message (when you boiled it down to basics) was: "The promise has been fulfilled!"

But there had been many false Messiahs. Many had hoped that the Maccabbee brothers who rebelled against the Greek dynasty in 164BC would be the Messiah to liberate the people of Israel, but it was not to last.

Why should people believe Paul's claim that a Country Carpenter was the Messiah?? Because God raised Him from the dead.
The Resurrection reassures us:
- The promises _are_ true!
- We _can_ dream again!
- This _will_ endure!

No matter what setbacks we experience, Jesus faced the worst setback of all and He is ALIVE!

H A L L E L U J A H !
AC 13:16 Standing up, Paul motioned with his hand and said: "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God, listen to me! 17 The God of the people of Israel chose our fathers; he made the people prosper during their stay in Egypt, with mighty power he led them out of that country, 18 he endured their conduct for about forty years in the desert, 19 he overthrew seven nations in Canaan and gave their land to his people as their inheritance. 20 All this took about 450 years.
"After this, God gave them judges until the time of Samuel the prophet. 21 Then the people asked for a king, and he gave them Saul son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, who ruled forty years. 22 After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: `I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.'

23 "From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: `Who do you think I am? I am not that one. No, but he is coming after me, whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.'

26 "Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people.

32 "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 20, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-20 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 30. Convincing Proofs

My apologies for the lateness of today's devotion: It is my son Caleb's 12 birthday and so my usual early morning routine made way for a happy celebration!
After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. Acts1:3

In recent times even here in South Africa, serious theologians have expressed serious doubt about the resurrection...

Luke has no doubts.

In the closing chapter his gospel and now in the opening chapter of Acts, Luke is absolutely adamant: CHRIST IS RISEN.

The original Greek is even more striking - if I translate a little more literally: "He presented Himself alive after His suffering by many signposts, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God."

The book of Acts is about the spread of the gospel. It is about the message of the Church. It is about the Kingdom of God. But for Luke there is only one foundation that the life, witness and mission of the church can be built on, and that is the fact that Jesus PRESENTED Himself _alive_ and that He gave them "signposts" (think of the old Roman milestones) that He was alive.

One of the commentators explained the Greek word for "Signposts" (convincing proofs) as follows: supplying indisputable information, "marking something off" as unmistakable (irrefutable).

Why the forty day long delay between resurrection and ascension?
To lay a solid foundation - Christ is Risen.

On Sunday when you go to church, you are participating in a 2000 year old phenomenon: Against all odds, in spite of many show-stopping roadblocks and even though it has been hamstrung by many failures, the Kingdom of God has spread and the church continues - why? Because Jesus is Risen and His ongoing life is the foundation of the Church!

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Thursday, July 19, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-19 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 29. Final Instructions #5

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20 After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." John20:19-21

(We're still looking at the various "commissions" that Jesus issues at the end of Gospels and also from the start of Acts - particularly in the light of the Resurrection.)

There are two significant aspects to the commissioning in John:

Firstly there is the reaction that the appearance of the Resurrected Christ provokes: Joy and Peace. Church becomes a dull and unattractive when its members (you and me) lose the joy and peace that comes from knowing that Jesus is alive.

Joy because He overcame death and we don't have to be without Him. Peace because He was victorious over our sin and guilt. We don't have to fret or strain - Christ is with us and we can overcome because He faced the darkest pain that humanity could produce and overcame.

Joy and Peace is ours through Him.
If we lose our joy and peace it is because we have forgotten WHO He is and WHAT He has done.

Secondly there is a "vibe" or "style" in which we are sent - "As the Father sent me - I am sending you..." We are to go into the world as Jesus did:
- Ready to serve
- Gracious in love
- Not afraid to die - certain that Jesus will raise us into everlasting life.

We don't go into the world representing a tattered martyr - we go into the world in fellowship with a Risen Saviour who gives us Joy and Peace and empowers us to live like He did.

What are we waiting for?

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-18 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 28. Final Instructions #4

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." Luke24:45-49

In Luke's perspective of Jesus' commissioning of the disciples, we see an important emphasis which is also evident in the Emmaus Road experience which is in the first part of the same chapter.

The emphasis is that the crucifixion, resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit are not random or spontaneous events, but events that are clearly described in Scripture.

Luke's emphasis is that the Scriptures provide a solid base for our faith in Christ's suffering, resurrection and promise to send the Holy Spirit.

The resurrection is not only _reported_ in Scripture, but is _predicted_ by the Old Testament. Scripture resonates with the expectation that the Messiah will overcome.

Luke reminds us that Jesus opened the disciples minds so that they could understand the Scriptures. This understanding would help the disciples not only to be "random witnesses" of the resurrection, but that they would see the "bigger picture" of God's overall plan.

This clarity on God's purposes and plan combined with their experience of the Risen Christ would enable them to preach "repentance and forgiveness in His name to all nations."

So, to summarise: The resurrection commission in Luke reminds us that Scripture is the solid foundation for us to understand God's plan and be motivated to go out and tell others.
Jesus wants us to understand the Scriptures, but not only in our heads but in our hearts as well. Our understanding should motivate us to tell others: "It was always God's plan that His Son would overcome our sin! Turn to Him and receive His forgiveness."

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-07-17 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 27.Final Instructions #3

After a break for the holidays, the eDevs are back. Just to recap... we are busy with 40 reflections on the Resurrection and in particular we are looking at the "commissions" we find at the end of the gospels and the beginning of Acts.
These were given by the Risen Christ in the Forty Days between His Resurrection and Ascension...
Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.

15 He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well." Mark16:14-18

Like Matthew, Mark also draws attention to the doubting of the disciples. But Mark doesn't call it doubt, he calls it "a stubborn refusal to believe" (The Greek is "sklerokardia" - hardness of heart). It seems that doubt in the resurrection is a big and concerning issue.

Belief in the resurrection is the _foundation_ of a powerful missionary church. The clearer our picture of a resurrected victorious Christ is, the more likely it is that we will "Go into all the world", that we will see lives changed and miracles will accompany us.

We so easily confine Jesus to the pages of history. Our faith becomes a paging through a scrap book of yellowing photos - Baby Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem, Jesus in the dusty streets, Jesus talking to the crowds at Galilee, Jesus dying on the cross...

But the great hymn says:
"I serve a Risen Saviour - He's in the world today
I know that He is living - whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy; I hear His voice of cheer;
And just the time I need Him, He's always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life's narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart.

As a teenager I was part of a vibrant youth group where we saw young people give their lives to Christ, come out of satanism and go into the ministry. We saw healings, miracles and amazing answers to prayer. Guess what our favourite favourite chorus was...
It was: "God's not dead, NO! He's alive, I feel Him in my heart, I feel Him in my feet, I feel Him on the street - I feel Him all over me!"

Mark links soft-resurrection-believing hearts to missionary fervour and signs and wonders. Hard-hearts that lose sight of the resurrection don't "Go" and don't experience God's power.

Do you KNOW He lives?

Theo Groeneveld theo@emmanuel.org.za
You can see past EmmDevs at http://emmdev.blogspot.com/