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!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

EMMDEV Second Request

Hi everyone,
I'm sorry to bug you with a second request, but it turns out that there
was a problem with the website and the evaluation page didn't work for a
number of people.

If you haven't yet, please take 2 minutes to complete the feedback form on

PLEASE help me with this as I take the responsibility seriously would
like to improve wherever I can.

Thanks so much!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

EMMDEV Please help me out...

Dear EmmDev Friends

Before I start the next series, I'd be grateful for some constructive
feedback on the devs so far.
Please could you click on the link below and do a quick evaluation?
It's anonymous and shouldn't take more than two minutes.

I'd be very very grateful!

Much love,

Friday, August 10, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-10 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 40.NOT here!

"Don't be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene,
who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where
they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, `He is going
ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'
" Mark16:6-7

"He is not here."
Not in the darkened cave-tomb in the garden.
He is also not in the dried out regulations of legalistic religion.
... not in the calcified institutes of ritual and tradition.
... not in the age old power struggles of institutionalised faith.
... not in cold and dark of past hurts
... not in the sad memorials of pain and brutality

He is RISEN!
Victorious and glorious over the pain, sorrow, injustice and formalised

He is ALIVE.
And He goes ahead of us.

So it is our task to "go, tell..."!
It is our privilege to discover that wherever we go - He is ahead of us
and the joy, power and peace of His resurrected life is ours.
We are alive in Him and we have life in His name.

So now, it is your turn - "GO, tell the world that your Saviour is ALIVE!"
This brings us to the end of "40 days of Resurrection." It has taken
much longer than 40 days to get these devotions written, but now they
will be available to download and print as a booklet and used after
Easter in future years.

As such, this little booklet is dedicated to all who have joyfully
affirmed the wonderful truth of Resurrection in the midst of criticism
and resistance.

My soul has been renewed and restored by this period of reflection on
this one single truth with its many facets. It's my prayer that you too
have been inspired and enthralled by this central truth which is so
powerfully summarised by Matt Maher:

Christ is risen from the dead
Trampling over death by death
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!
Christ is risen from the dead
We are one with him again
Come awake, come awake!
Come and rise up from the grave!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-08 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 39.A Beautiful OT Picture

6 He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 Seven times he shall sprinkle the one to be cleansed of the infectious disease and pronounce him clean. Then he is to release the live bird in the open fields. Leviticus14:6-7

This passage is part of a set of rubrics (liturgies and guidelines) for priests to use for the cleansing and healing of infectious skin diseases (which probably included leprosy and similar diseases.) These diseases were regarded as incurable.

Normally I am careful about taking symbolism too far. One has to be careful about extrapolating imagery beyond what is reasonable. But in this passage there are incredible parallels:

The priest needed two birds, a clay jar with water in it, a piece of cedar wood (to act as a handle), a bunch of hyssop twigs, and some scarlet yarn. (Hyssop is a thin river reed.) He would kill one of the birds, draining the blood into the clay pot. The hyssop was bunched together and tied to the cedar handle with the yarn to form a brush of sorts. The live bird and the "brush" were dipped into the blood-stained water and the sick person was "sprinkled" (brush-spattered) and the live bird was released.

Now let's look at the cross:
-He came to heal us of the incurable disease of sin.
-Cleansing required sacrifice - blood was shed
-In Ezekiel 17:22-23 God talks about a cedar-sprig (a symbol of the Messiah)
-They lifted the wine-vinegar sponge to Jesus on a stalk of hyssop.
-They pierced His side, and blood and water flowed.

But the most significant is the TWO birds.
The priest needed two birds, one to die and one to speak of release, forgiveness, healing and freedom.

The cross only needed ONE Saviour: Jesus died - BUT HE ROSE AGAIN!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-07 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 38.Not optional

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) John20:8-9

Peter and John ran to the tomb after the women told them that the tomb was empty. We know that Peter "walked away wondering to himself what had happened" (Luke24:12) but here we are told that John saw and believed. But, as John himself explains in v9, his belief was instinctive, a gut feel that this was not the end of the story.

So what is John saying in v.9? He is saying that later on they figured it out: --> It _had_ to happen!
Jesus _had_ to rise from the dead.
He is saying that the resurrection was an imperative.

Let's think it through...
* It was an ontological imperative (ontology is about the "being" of a thing or person.) If Jesus is part of the Trinity, was the WORD by which the world was created, if He was the perfect sacrifice and the fulfilment of prophecy, then resurrection is simply part of who He IS. He is the Way, the Truth and the LIFE.

* It was a theological imperative - how can the Author of Life lose His life?? How could the perfect sacrifice not be sufficient??

* It was a prophetic imperative - the Scriptures made it clear: "You will not let your Holy One see decay!" (Ps16:10)

* It was a truth imperative - Jesus said: "Destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days." Could He have been a liar??

It took a while for the disciples to get it, but eventually they did. It took them time because Jesus really died - and He died horribly - it wasn't a "pretend" death - He really died at the hand of our guilt and sin. Resurrection wasn't a short-cut, but it was a victory He was going to achieve. Because of who He is and because of His great love for us, He _had_ to rise. He _had_ to overcome!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, August 3, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-03 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 37.Part of His Mission

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew16:21

I've heard many a preacher say that "Jesus was born to die" or that the "shadow of the cross, fell over the manger." This is an awesome truth that should be celebrated because it is a Great Truth: God's Son paid a tremendous price for us.

But, at the risk of sounding flippant, Jesus didn't wake up Easter Sunday surprised that He was alive. He was also born to rise.

This passage is one of at least four times that Matthew records Jesus predicting that He would rise. (See also 17:9; 17:23; 20:19)
What is interesting about this passage is that it precipitated by a specific event because Matthew tells us the "From that time on" Jesus explained His mission.

What was the event??
Peter's confession that Jesus is the Christ - the Messiah!!

Yes, the cross was part of the Messiah's mission, but so also the resurrection. Jesus' explicit intention was not to be a martyr, but a Conqueror. He would face our most implacable enemies: sin, death and Satan and He planned to be victorious.

Sometimes, if you watch a movie on DVD, you can go to the extra features where they will often have an alternative ending. They often do this if the final cut has a sad ending, they provide an alternative happy ending.

These predictions of suffering and resurrection make it crystal clear:
The resurrection is not optional, it is not a "happy ending" tacked onto a sad story. It is part of the mission of the Son of God.

The early church moved worship from the Jewish Sabbath (Saturdays) to Sundays to celebrate this awesome truth. Go to church on Sunday with a song in your heart - He rose - He won!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 2, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-02 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 36. Temple re-defined

Then the Jews demanded of him, "What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?"
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."
The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. John2:18-22

The Jews believed that the physical temple in Jerusalem was God's earthly address. They were sadly mistaken. The Old Testament describes the temple (and sometimes the whole earth) as merely God's foot-stool. Even Solomon, while dedicating the temple, realised that God is much too great to be contained in an earthly building.

In 1Kings 8:27 he says "But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!"

But God has another temple in mind: He wants fellowship with us. He wants to live IN us. Paul explains this to the Corinthians: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1Cor6:19-20)

Jesus' describes His resurrection as "rebuilding the temple." His resurrection is our certainty that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.

"For I am convinced that neither DEATH nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom8:38-39)


Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

EMMDEV 2012-08-01 [Forty Days of Resurrection] 35.A new life available to us

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians3:1-4

Jesus' death and resurrection makes a new life available to us.

In Ephesians 2:1-2 Paul describes the world like this: "you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."

We were stuck! We lived as broken people in a broken world where Satan (the "ruler of the kingdom of the air") runs amok and we fell under his dominion. But Paul explains that Jesus' resurrection makes a new life available to us:

1. We have been raised _with_ Christ. As certainly as He is alive, we have the assurance that for sin is forgiven and that we do not have to face eternity without God. We will "appear with Him in glory."

2. We now have a new regime/management/allegiance available to us. We don't have to follow the "ruler of the kingdom of the air" - we can follow the One who "is seated at the right hand of God."

3. His resurrection means we have a larger vision. We do not have to focus on the hurly burly of this broken world as our destination. We have _hope_ and _purpose_ because He has made the "things above" available to us. I don't work for a pay-cheque and an earthly boss any more, I work to hear Him say "Well done, good and faithful servant." I don't labour to "keep up with the Joneses" - I labour because it glorifies Christ.

4. I have died to an old life of trying to save myself and I live in the blessed assurance that my life is now securely hidden in the life of the Risen Christ.

This is the resurrection life that is ours! Hallelujah!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at