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