Thursday, January 31, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-31 [Highlights from Colossians] Who are we?

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians1:13-14

Self-image is an ongoing problem today and it is not only teenagers who struggle with feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem...

The problem is that many of us build our self-image on our opinion of ourselves... (and this is circular logic!) The problem is that we are broken by sin and we know it. So when we are self-referencing (think about ourselves as we see ourselves) it is a downward-spiral.

Remember that the Colossian church is in a tiny town that would disappear after a century or so. It would be easy for the Christians there to have a "small town" mentality: "We're not much..."

But Paul has prayed that they would be thankful (see vs.12) and now he gives them the reason to be thankful and the foundation on which to build their self-image.

Their self-image was not to be based on their achievements, their background or anything they had done. Their sense of self is based on what God has done:
1. He has rescued us from darkness
2. He has brought us into the kingdom of the much-loved son
3. He has redeemed and forgiven us.

This redemption and forgiveness came through the "Son He loves" and the "Son He loves" went to a cruel Roman Cross to obtain our salvation for us.

So... Who AM I?
- I am loved enough to be rescued even though I was in darkness.
- I am lovingly adopted into the family of the beloved Son of God
- I am redeemed (bought back/ransomed) and forgiven at great cost!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-30 [Highlights from Colossians] Prayer Ripples

And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. Colossians1:10-12

The prayer rock that Paul threw into the pond was that the Colossians would know God's will through spiritual wisdom and understanding. In other words that we would change from the INside OUT. That from the core of our being to the work of our fingertips we would be motivated by the desire to do what God wants.

Now Paul describes the ripples of this rock thrown into the pond of our lives. And I really only need to list them for you to see how important the rock - the idea of God's will at work INside us - is:

1.We will live a life worthy of the Lord (People will see Jesus in us)
2.We will please him in every way: i.e.
---> Growing in the knowledge of God
---> Being strengthened with all power so that we will have great endurance and patience
3.We will give thanks with joy for all He has done for us...

So, according to Paul, when we know and act on God's will, our lives will be pleasing and honouring to God, we will know Him better, receive the strength that helps us to endure and be infused with great gratitude for all He has done for us.

Do you want joy and an attitude of gratitude to infuse your life?
Do you want to have an enduring faith?
Do you want to know God better (to learn about Him as you walk with Him)?
Do you want to live a life pleasing to Him?

Then understand this:
It is all wrapped up in the prayer that Jesus prayed in Gethsemane:
"Not my will, but Yours be done."

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-29 [Highlights from Colossians] Prayer Rock

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Colossians1:9

Paul, the early church's great missionary and church-planter, prayed for the church. We have a couple of these prayers preserved in his letters and they are all profound...

In this prayer he has a rock that he throws into the pond and then there are ripples that flow from that... Today we'll look at the rock, tomorrow the ripples...

If you could pray one thing for the church, what would you pray?

For a church he had not founded or met, Paul prayed that they as a congregation would know God's will. They needed to know what God's plan for them was.

But Paul's prayer is not for a crystal ball where they will know God's will as facts or step by step instructions. (e.g. "Tomorrow do this and the day after do that...") This is not horoscope knowledge of God's will as steps along a path. This is not Morpheus watching Neo in the Matrix and saying "turn left, duck under the table, climb out this window..."

Paul's prayer is that the knowledge of God's Will would come through spiritual WISDOM and UNDERSTANDING. It's not that God's will comes to us as a set of directives or instructions, but rather that our thinking processes and reflex responses will become attuned to God's plans and desires for our lives.

Paul prays that the knowledge of God's Will won't come as an external prompting, but rather that it become internalised in our thoughts, values and decision-making processes. His prayer is that the very core of our lives become infused with a sense of:
"What would God want?"
"What would glorify Him?"
"What would He do in my shoes?"
"What would Jesus do?"
And that our hearts, minds and souls will begin intuit the right answers because of our love and understanding of God.

Tomorrow we will look at the ripples that flow outward from this!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, January 25, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-25 [Highlights from Colossians] We should name our kids Epaphras!

(A little longer today, but I hope you enjoy it!)
You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf Colossians1:7

Have you ever stopped to think about Epaphras?
I wouldn't blame you if you hadn't - Epaphras is mentioned only three times in the entire NT and each time he is only mentioned in passing!

We only know four things about Epaphras:
(The first two come from this passage, the third comes from Col.4 and the fourth comes from Philemon)

He was a fellow servant:
Epaphras was never given the title of "apostle", he does not even have the status that Timothy or Titus had. He was simply a servant with Paul. Paul often refers to himself as a servant of God - the greek word for servant is "doulos" and often refers to a bondslave - a slave, who, when given freedom, chooses to serve his or her master. Epaphras had chosen to serve his God. And he served God in such a way that Paul calls him a dear or beloved fellow servant!

He was a faithful minister:
The word minister has all sorts of connotations for us, but in the early church, a minister, a diakonos was one who served. It is likely that Epaphras, like Stephen the martyr, was appointed to wait on tables or do some other menial service like that in the church. But he was faithful!

There are many things that people expect from those who serve the Lord: They expect God's servants to be wonderful, powerful, careful, resourceful, purposeful, insightful, delightful, beautiful, and successful. But God asks "Are they faithful?"

He wrestled in prayer:
We read about this at the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians: "Epaphras is wrestling in prayer for you" Epaphras taught the gospel in Colosse and he prayed for spiritual growth in Colosse.

I think we are always underestimating the power of prayer - we tend to spend lots of time in many activities, neglecting the practice of prayer - we have theologies of prayer, we read books on prayer, but we don't always pray. Epaphras wrestled in prayer.

He was in prison with Paul: We learn this piece of information from Paul's letter to Philemon. Epaphras went to prison. We don't know whether he was also arrested or whether he chose to keep Paul company while he was under house arrest. But he did not shrink back from the consequences of the gospel. He did not shrink back from following God.

He was pretty much of an unknown figure. A simple person like you and I. There aren't books about Epaphras' theology or his missionary journeys, but a congregation that was full of faith and love grew because Epaphras told them about Jesus.

God wants you and me to be like Epaphras:
To Serve Him Faithfully and Prayerfully to the end.

That's what Epaphras did:
He served
He was faithful
He prayed
He was consistent in his commitment right to the end---
Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 24, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-24 [Highlights from Colossians] Transforming

All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God's grace in all its truth. Colossians1:6

Paul has been talking about the hope of heaven that has given the Colossians their faith and love. He notes that the hope came through the gospel they received.

The word "gospel" means "the message that was preached" and "good news." The gospel is the message of:
- A God who loved
- A Saviour who came
- A cross where sin was paid for
- A tomb that is empty
- An ascended Messiah at the right hand of God who sends His Spirit into our hearts and is coming again

Paul notes that this gospel "bears fruit" and is "growing."

It was happening all over the world and Paul had a ringside seat to this as he preached and travelled. But it was also happening in the Colossian church.

In Acts 16 we read about Barnabas visiting the newly founded church in Antioch. When he gets there he finds "evidence of the Grace of God." I always translate it as "he found God's fingerprints on the people's lives" - one could see that God had touched them.

When one considers the wonder of the message of the gospel as I summarised it above, is there any doubt that we can be transformed by the power, love and forgiveness of Christ?

If we claim to have received the gospel, but it isn't transforming and growing us, then we need to go back to the basic truths and contemplate them until we are once again awe-struck and gob-smacked at the awesome love of God and the incredible things that Christ has done for us!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-23 [Highlights from Colossians] So... what is love based on?

...the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Colossians1:3-6

Yesterday we saw that the faith of the Colossian Christians was rooted in the reality of eternity. Now we must ask the same question about their love for one another. Paul has heard of their love - their reputation of being a loving community has spread. Where does this love come from?

From the hope of ETERNITY.

1.Their love for each other was not based on soppy sloppy sentimentality but on the simple premise that we are created to spend eternity with God and one another. (Relationships continue into eternity.)

2.Their relationships were based on the simple understanding that they would spend eternity with each other and that they would have eternity to consider how they had treated others. (The sheep and goats parable tells us that how we treat others matters to God.)

3.They reflected on the fact that the HOPE of eternity had been obtained by Jesus' supreme act of love on the cross. (We love because Jesus loved us.)

4.They recognised that we cannot take possessions into eternity, but we can bring our friends, neighbours, colleagues and family with us if we treat them with sincere love that points them toward the cross which is the epitome of love. (People matter more than things)

When we consider the person who drives us crazy or who has hurt us we should consider the following picture: We're in heaven, sitting at the feet of Jesus, experiencing His closeness and love, looking with gratitude at His nail-scarred hands... Next thing, along comes _that_ person and sits down next to us... At that moment the old hymn comes true: "The things of the earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace..."

The Colossians were learning to love on earth like we will love in heaven...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-22 [Highlights from Colossians] What is faith based on?

...the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. Colossians1:3-6

Paul has heard about the faith and love of the Colossians. In what way would the Colossian Christians have had faith that caused people to talk about it? What kind of faith gets people talking about it?

Before we can answer that question, there is an even deeper question that must be answered:
What is the source/root/foundation of their faith?

From what Paul has observed and heard about, he comments that theirs is a faith and love that "SPRING from the hope that is stored up in heaven..."

But what does that mean?


* There is more to this life than living and dying.
* That in spite of our current brokenness, God has made us for something bigger and better.
* Life is not accidental or purposeless
* We have hope stored up in heaven
* This hope is made real for us in the gospel.

The gospel is the incredible account of God who sent His Son into the world to be with us, die for us, and rise for us so that we can be with Him.

Faith, by Paul's definition in this passage, is the life-altering conviction that we are destined for eternity - that there is meaning to life and that there is a God who gave everything to give this to us...

When faith is thus defined - it leads to a life that is hope-full, purpose-full and meaning-full.
This is the spring from which a river will flow!
When we live like this, people will talk about it!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, January 18, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-18 [Highlights from Colossians] What do they see in you?

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints-- Colossians1:3-4

Although Paul hadn't met the Colossians, he knew of them by reputation. He gave thanks for them whenever he prayed for them and the Greek he uses implies that he prayed for them regularly.

Why is Paul so grateful for them?
Because he has heard of their faith in Christ and love for each other.

We will look at each of these characteristics in more detail next week, but here is the interesting question:
"Do people see faith and love as to primary characteristics in us?"

What do people see in us?
Are we different from the crowd?
Does our faith influence our speaking, attitudes and perspectives?
Do our actions and words convey love, respect and kindness to others?

These are tough questions...
I know I need to constantly check myself:
- I wrestle against the cynicism that brokenness and fatigue try to inject into my soul.
- I struggle against the tendency to live a "me-first" life.

In the big things I can often respond in faith and courage...
And I am quite good at loving people who are in tough places...
But what about the little tests and temptations? How do I handle the little niggly things? I must be honest and admit that I still have some way to go...

So my prayer for me (and you) is that faith and love become characteristics that people will see in us. That we will walk more closely to God and be more loving to others. (We'll explore what that means more practically next week...)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 17, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-17 [Highlights from Colossians] Grace and Peace

Grace and peace to you from God our Father. Colossians1:2

Paul starts all of his letters with a wish that his readers will experience Grace and Peace. Sometimes he adds "mercy" to the blessing and in just about all the others he includes the Lord Jesus in the "from" section.*

Let's talk about Grace and Peace.

Grace is to receive unmerited favour. To experience grace is to discover that God's goodness is coming our way even though we have done nothing to deserve it. Grace is to be pardoned and acquitted when the case against us was watertight. To experience grace is to be given all of God's kindness when we deserved the opposite.

This acronymn says it all:
G od's
R iches
A t
C hrist's
E xpense

Peace is the sense of well-being, safety and comfort that springs from experiencing Grace. It is the comfort of knowing that our debts are cancelled. Peace takes its cue from Jesus' mighty shout "It is finished." (The Greek "Tetelestai" implies - "the debt is paid")

Why does Paul start all his letters with this prayer/blessing/wish?
Because we should never forget that we have received GRACE and when we build our foundation on GRACE, we will have PEACE.
This is our lifestyle as children of God the Father.

(It may well be that Paul leaves out the Lord Jesus, because of the strong emphasis on Jesus' identity later in chapter 1. (But more about that in devs to follow...))

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-16 [Highlights from Colossians] What we are and how we respond

To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse Colossians1:2

Are you intimidated by Paul's greeting?

The word "holy" is a tall order for us. It is to be blameless, righteous, completely pleasing to God with nothing that blemishes our record. It is to be without fault, completely in line with God's will. It is to have actions and motives in tune with undivided love for God and unselfish love for others.

And we can't do it...

Fortunately for the Colossians (and for us!) holiness is not something we attain, earn or achieve. Holiness is imputed to us by Christ. We are holy because this is a status and condition that is given to us by the crucified and resurrected Christ:
- _He_ was blameless and completely pleasing to God.
- _He_ was without fault and line with God's will.
- _He_ lived a life of total love toward God and others.
And He covers us in His achievement (holiness) when we are IN Him.

So, if we can't "do" holiness but only wear the holiness Jesus gives us, then what about faithfulness? Is this also a status conferred on us by Jesus?

While holiness is a blood-washed-robe* we wear (a STATUS we have), faithfulness describes the RELATIONSHIP we have with Jesus. To be faithful is to be devoted, dedicated and committed to Christ. Faithfulness is about _responding_ the the status we have been given.

Here's how it works: When I realise how much Christ loved me - that He went to the cross to make me holy - it makes me want to be faithful to Him.

Have you considered what Christ had to do to make you holy?
Does it make you _want_ to be faithful to Him?
(If it does, then you've understood Paul's greeting and you're a Colossian!)

* Rev 7:14 "...they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-01-15 [Highlights from Colossians] Does God care about me?

Hi everyone!

Allow me to wish you a blessed and God-guided 2013. The schools have re-opened and it is time to re-start our EmmDevs! It's my prayer that our weekly Tue-Fri email contacts will be a helpful "tank-filler" on the journey...

For the next couple of weeks we're going to look at some highlights from Paul's letter to the Colossians.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,
To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Colossians1:1-2

Many people suffer from small town blues. When a bustling mini-metropolis shrinks down and slows down it can be very depressing. People say: "Make sure you don't blink when you drive through this or that town - or you will miss it!"

Colosse was a town like that. It was a town that once had military and commercial significance but was now winding down... Within a century or two it would disappear completely.

But the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to a small church in Colosse!
Now let's see... Paul wrote to:
* Rome - A church in the capital of the Empire
* Corinth - A church in a powerful and wealthy harbour town
* Galatia - The church that looked after him while he was sick
* Ephesus - A church in a very influential harbour city.
* Philippi - A church in a city of retired Roman army officers.
* Thessalonica - A church in a prosperous, Greek cultured, free city.

Colosse is probably the least important of all the churches Paul wrote to!

Paul had never been to Colosse - the church was started by a man named Epaphras who had been in under Paul's teaching during the three years he taught at Ephesus.

But the church was going through a tough time - false teachers were confusing them and when Paul heard about it, he decided to write to this small country church.

The letter is a real gem - a blend of pastoral comfort and good theology.

Does small matter? Does God care about the "backroom boys" and "wallflower girls"??? The letter to the Colossians is proof that He does.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at