Friday, May 31, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-31 [Renewing Strength...] To whom?? #1

To whom, then, will you compare God?
What image will you compare him to?
19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A man too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot.
He looks for a skilled craftsman
to set up an idol that will not topple. Isaiah40:18-20

The next section of Isaiah 40 has a wonderful structure:
* To whom will you compare God? (Idols?) v.18-20
* Do you not know? (He brings down the haughty) v.21-24
* To whom will you compare God? (Astrology?) v.25-26
* INTERLUDE: Why do you complain? v.27
* Do you not know? (He lifts up the weak!) v.28-31

So there are two "To whom will you compare me?" sections alternating with two "Do you not know?" sections. These four penetrating questions bring us to the heart of understanding God in our suffering.

Let's look at the first section...
Idolatry is what landed Israel in their current mess. They had worshipped Baal statutes in their homes. They had worshipped trees and poles erected on high places. They had even sacrificed their children to the idol Molech. This disloyal disobedience landed them in exile...

Isaiah is scathing. What is an idol? A statue made by people. With gold if you could afford it and wood if you couldn't... but be careful how you make it - give it a good footing so that the kids don't bump it over when they are playing in the house!

God is not like an idol, we don't make Him in our image and limit Him with our limitations. We don't decorate Him and cage Him in our lounges.

Our God is majestic and free. He is invisible so that we don't limit Him with our representations. He is not under our control and is not at our beck and call.

The statue in the Israelite home, our modern worship of status and materialism compared to the God of the universe????

There is no comparison.

Let's worship our majestic God this Sunday!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 30, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-30 [Renewing Strength...] Is your God too small?

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
    or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
  Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
    or weighed the mountains on the scales
    and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has understood the mind of the LORD,
    or instructed him as his counselor?
14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
    and who taught him the right way?
  Who was it that taught him knowledge
    or showed him the path of understanding?
15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
    they are regarded as dust on the scales;
    he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.
16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
    nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.
17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
    they are regarded by him as worthless
    and less than nothing.    Isaiah40:12-17

These few verses echo with the same relentlessness that we find in the concluding chapters of Job... Is your picture of God too small?

The Israelites looked at their _circumstances_ and concluded that God had abandoned them. They looked at their _setbacks_ and concluded that God wouldn't (or even worse, couldn't) help them. They were defined by their _limitations_. They allowed their _situation_ to become the yardstick of reality.

Now God thunders into the picture through the questions He has Isaiah ask us:
- The mighty oceans? God holds them in His hand!
- The magnificent universe? God measures it with a handspan!
- Dust uncountable, mountains immovable? God has them under control!

Can we know God's thoughts, His purposes, His plan?
No we cannot.

In the midst of our trouble and our challenges we have to learn to let God be God.

I have struggled with this - I often let my circumstances limit my view of God. But the God we serve is magnificent and mighty. He doesn't do things the way I expect or want, but in spite of His BIG-ness and majesty, He is, as we saw yesterday, a shepherd who holds us.

The first step of trust is to believe that He CAN do all things.
This is what this passage is all about!!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-29 [Renewing Strength...] Good Sovereign Shepherd

9 You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem,
lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid;
say to the towns of Judah,
"Here is your God!"
10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.
11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. Isaiah40:9-11

The message is Good News.
But it is easy to get confused:
- In Isaiah's context they may have thought the return from exile was Good News.
- In our context we may think that the forgiveness of sin and life everlasting is the Good News.
But return from exile and forgiveness of sin are simply the benefits the accompany the _real_ Good News.

The _real_ Good News is God News.
Isaiah puts it like this: `Say to the towns of Judah: "Here is your God!" '

Imagine a throwing a rock into a pond. The Good News about God is the Rock. The ripples radiating outward are forgiveness, deliverance, return from exile and all the other good things God gives.

But the Rock causing the ripples is the character and nature of God.

Isaiah describes Him by reconciling two "opposite" sides of His being and nature. One one side, Sovereign Justice, on the other, Pastoral Shepherding. This God we worship is both...
-Righteous and Rescuing,
-Powerful yet Personal,
-Just yet Justifying,
-Sovereign and Saving.

Judge and Shepherd. Ruling yet Rescuing.
What incredible balance and completeness.
Righteous so that we can trust Him completely.
Gracious and Endlessly Loving to rescue us.

"Here is your God!!!" - It's very Good News

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-28 [Renewing Strength...] What _is_ the message?

A voice says, "Cry out."
And I said, "What shall I cry?"
"All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the LORD blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever." Isaiah40:6-8

"What shall I cry out?" "What _is_ the message?"

This question is critical.

Last week I mentioned that the "reason-for-being" for this chapter is in v.27: Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God"?

In response to their complaint, Isaiah has a message. Isaiah has an answer. He has a truth that he is ready to cry out. He is getting ready to yell it from the rooftops.

What is that message? What is it that he will cry out?
Quite simply it is this:
"Humanity is temporary. God is sovereign and His Word endures."

The rest of the chapter is a "tour de force" of the nature, character and purpose of God.
It is not so much about circumstances and that things will get better.
It is not so much about making sense of the trouble.
It is not so much about what we have to do.

It is about God. The message _is_ about Him.

We can become obsessed by people and problems.
We can dwell on those who have hurt us and lie awake about the challenges we face. But Isaiah makes it clear: People and Problems are temporary. We have to square up with God and the Truth about Him.

For the next few days we're going to be treated to Isaiah's intimate and powerful insights about this God.... Brace yourselves!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 24, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-24 [Renewing Strength...] Messenger and Message

A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." Isaiah40:3-5

Again we see Isaiah's prophecy being true on two levels...

In the immediate context, Isaiah is predicting the return of the Israelites from their exile in Babylon. He is picturing a second "Exodus", this time from Babylon instead of Egypt. He is seeing God's people cross the wastelands from Babylon to return to Israel and he sees himself as the voice calling to them.

But this passage was taken up by John the Baptist as the explanation and purpose of his work which was to announce how the Jesus the Messiah would lead us out of darkness and sin.

The imagery is beautiful:
- in the desert-wilderness (the place of struggle and loneliness)
- a straight highway (not a crooked pathway but one of righteousness)
- the pathway flattened out (all obstacles removed)

Seventy years after their exile began, Cyrus King of Persia (who Isaiah named many years previously) defeated the Babylonians and released the exiles. Five centuries after Isaiah penned this promise Jesus defeated sin and death and pronounced our forgiveness.

And the glory of God is revealed!!!

But there is another angle to this passage...
Not only does this passage describe what God did for Israel and what He did at the cross, it also describes what God does in our lives...
Again and again I can tell you about how God has met me (and others) in the wilderness, straightening our paths and flattening the obstacles. He is the highway-making, mountain-flattening, glorious God who rescues and delivers!

Let's give Him Glory!!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 23, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-23 [Renewing Strength...] At the root of our pain...

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins. Isaiah40:2

At the root of human suffering is human brokenness.
We dig pits and we fall into them.
Sometimes other people dig pits and we end up falling into them.
Or it is humanity in general that has dug the pit and we still fall into it.

We suffer because we are far from God. Brokenness is the power that was unleashed by Adam and Eve's sin and continues to run amok as we as humanity continue to break faith with God.

Sin separates. Israel was in exile because as a nation they had chosen to rely on idols instead of God and so the Babylonians conquered them. Their sin caused them to be separated from the Promised Land, from the Temple, from their culture and traditions. They found themselves in a "strange land."

You and I don't find ourselves in physical exile, but the spiritual, emotional exile of the soul is very evident in us.
We fall into pits: we are fearful, depressed, and insecure.
We dig pits: we are manipulative, prideful, arrogant and spiteful.

We are in need of comfort. We know that there is "something rotten" in our own "state of Denmark."

Isaiah offers hope - when sin is paid for, separation can diminish. But Isaiah speaks with double-purpose: he not only means that Israel's sin was paid for by exile, but he looks forward to a day when the Messiah will come and pay for our sins completely.

When separation is overcome, comfort can be given. The hope Isaiah offers Israel is that the exile had paid for their national sin. The hope he offers humanity is that Jesus will pay for our sins.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-22 [Renewing Strength...] Comfort

For the next few days we're going to examine this beautiful chapter of Scripture that culminates in these words:

"but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."

These words of Isaiah come to Israel at a bad time. They're by the rivers of Babylon in exile. Their temple is destroyed, their enemies are jubilant, their hope is crushed and the future looks bleak. This has caused a serious faith-crisis and the people are pretty cynical.

Look at v27 which is the key verse to understanding this chapter:
Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
"My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God"?

Many of us feel this way as we weather the storms of economic upheaval, insecurity, conflict, failure and ill-health.

But this chapter provides powerful assistance - I hope the journey will be helpful to you!
"Comfort, comfort my people," says your God. Isaiah40:1


This is what the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob holds out to the Israelites in exile. This is what is offered to those who find themselves at the rivers of Babylon. This is what is God gives to those who feel as though "God has left the building" or that "God doesn't see or He doesn't care."


Not the absence of trouble, but comfort.

Isaiah will use this word again in 51:3; 57:18; 61:2 (which Jesus quoted about His own mission) and in 66:13:
"As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you;
and you will be comforted over Jerusalem."

God comforts.

No one says it better than Paul:
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6 If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. 7 And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort." 2Cor1:3-7


This is what God offers us. We can reach out and receive it.
Over the next few days we'll explore this truth...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, May 18, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-18 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Wind, Fire and Tongues

(Apologies - this should have gone out this morning!)
Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts2:2-4

For this last Ascension-Pentecost devotion - some stream of consciousness prose/poetry just to open our hearts to the work of the Spirit...

The breath of God over the waters (in Gen 1) that blows wherever it pleases (in John 3) Wind, which speaks of creation, which fills the sails and moves large ships. Wind - invisible, yet we feel it, hear it and see its effects. This is how the Spirit works.

Fire that represents purity and purification. Fire that, in the case of the burning bush, (and the heads of the disciples) burns but does not consume. Fire that warms and lights. Pillar of fire that guided the Israelites, now burns in our hearts.

Tongues of fire, tongues of speech. The boldness to spread the word. The words that need to be spoken. Words that are placed on us and in us. Prophecy. Wisdom. Knowledge. Discernment. These are things that can happen to our tongues when God's Spirit comes on us. The Word preached. Lives changed. Speech transformed.

Wind, Fire, Tongues: - Our lives can be transformed we can experience power, purification, guidance and transformation because God's Spirit works in us.
- But a ship must raise its sails,
- Fire needs something to burn in,
- Fiery tongues need a life to speak through.

Are we available?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 17, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-17 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Not orphans

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever-- 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. John14:16-18

There are times that the noise of the world overwhelms and intimidates us. The disciples were frightened of facing the future without Jesus.

He promised them something better than His physical presence where He is limited to space and time. He promised them the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit will be our Counselor (the word "Paracletos" has overtones of Helper, Comforter, Advocate or Companion) who will guide us and reassure us of Truth. When we are uncertain, when we face heartache and pain, when we are not sure which way to go, He will be with us and prompt us deep within with truths that overcome our fears.

He lives in us and close to us. We are never alone.

The song "Voice of Truth" by Casting Crowns puts it really well:

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of faith it takes to climb out of this boat I'm in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
To the realm of the unknown where Jesus is
And He's holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
Time and time again. 'Boy, you'll never win!'
"You'll never win"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Oh what I would do to have
The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant
With just a Sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors
Shaking in their armour
Wishing they'd have had the strength to stand

But the giant's calling out my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times I've tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
Time and time again "boy, you'll never win!
"You'll never win"

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
And the voice of truth says "Do not be afraid!"
And the voice of truth says "This is for My glory"
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

But the stone was just the right size
To put the giant on the ground
And the waves they don't seem so high
From on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
Singing over me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 16, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-16 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Paddling or Swimming?

The man brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water coming out from under the threshold of the temple toward the east... As the man went eastward with a measuring line in his hand, he measured of 1000 cubits and led me through water that was ankle-deep, he measured of another 1000 cubits and led me through water that was knee-deep, ... water that was waist-deep, ...water that was deep enough to swim in... Ezekiel47:1-12

This is a fantastic vision. A river flowing from the temple that gets deeper and deeper until it was too great to cross. The river then flows through the desert areas of Israel and brings life and hope wherever it goes. Trees, plants and fish abound wherever the river flows and even the Dead Sea comes alive at the incredible touch of God's river.

Many have seen a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the incredible pioneering work the Jews have done with irrigation in Palestine. They have literally greened the desert. But much more is meant here.

Legend has it that on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the priests poured a jug of water over the altar in the temple. There was a special channel that would transport the water from the altar so that it would pour out on the east side of the temple. Jesus was at the feast of Tabernacles and maybe it was at this point that He said this: "Whoever is thirsty let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water shall flow from within him."
John goes on to add an explanation: "By this He meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were later to receive." (John 7:37-39)

Ezekiel's vision is of a wonderful transformation of those who know and love God. The river of His Spirit will flow from us in an ever-deepening experience of God's love, grace, and power. The river flowing from us and from the church will bring life to those who are dry and broken and in need of His revitalising touch.

The question is are we paddling in the "shallows" of God's love or are we ready to wade into the depths of His amazing grace?

(This is a repeat of an eDev I sent out in 2005...)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-15 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Transformation

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Galatians5:22-23

Yesterday we saw that the Holy Spirit works in us from the INside OUT.

Paul describes this as bearing fruit.
When God lives inside us by His Spirit, our lives are transformed.
Here's what our lives can look like:

- We can LOVE even those who are difficult to love.
- We find JOY even in the midst of pain.
- We discover PEACE that comes from withIN even when there is chaos withOUT.

- We are PATIENT even when things don't go our way.
- We are able to show KINDNESS to people who aren't always nice.
- Our lives are distinguishable by GOODNESS (in morals and attitude)

- Our FAITHFULNESS means that we keep our word and deliver on our promises.
- We treat the fragile with GENTLENESS.
- And we fly off the handle less because we have SELF-CONTROL.

While this list looks intimidating, these traits are not something we have to produce. We only have to _unleash_ these. They are the traits of the Holy Spirit who lives in us and if we get out of the way, they will grow. If we allow Him to prompt us, move us, inspire us and empower us, then He will let this fruit blossom and grow in us.

In the same chapter, in v.25 Paul says this: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

When we do, then we'll bear fruit!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-14 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Not mathematicians, but engines

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians2:12-13

The English translation of the phrase "continue to work out your salvation" can be misunderstood. When we think of "work out" we think of "calculate" but this is not what this passage is about.

Mathematicians calculate, figure out, solve and work out complex problems. If we read the passage this way, it implies that we are still calculating, solving and figuring out our salvation. It makes it sound as if we are still getting there.

The Greek word Paul uses for "work out" is "katergazesthe" implies production from something that is already there. A steam train has water and coal inside and this can produce motion. A car has petrol in the tank and using that fuel the car can move. A battery has chemicals inside that can produce current and this provides light, sound or whatever other electronic service we require.

The core truth of this passage is the end part: (my translation)
"It is GOD (the Holy Spirit) who works inside you so that you have the power to make decisions and take action in line with His plans and purposes."

Flowing out of that are two important truths:
1. Our lives must be inside-out. We need to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to work in us. It's no good being fully charged or tank-full if we never switch on the circuit or the engine. It's no good having a full head of steam if we're not going to leave the station. We need to allow the Spirit to work in us!

2. We do this in fear and trembling. Not because our salvation has not been obtained BUT because it has! We are loved so much that, in spite of our failure and brokenness, God puts His Spirit in us. He helps us to will and act to His purpose. We tremble with awe and wonder at the magnitude of God's care: He not only saves us, but He gives us His Spirit to help us live out that salvation.

What a truth! What a comfort!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Monday, May 13, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-13 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] He commissions us - but we're not alone

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts1:6-8

On Saturday we looked at the challenging truth that Jesus commissions us with the task of letting "His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven."

The task of being witnesses to the world is our task.
The disciples were hoping for a restored Kingdom.
They were given an incredible opportunity to be God's co-workers instead... They were offered the privilege of being part of what God was doing in the world.

But this is a daunting task:
- How could a rag-tag group of followers be expected to impact the world?
- How could a a small diverse group such as the disciples withstand the might of Rome?
- How could their message penetrate an already saturated religious/philosophical market?

They would need help! They would need power.
And this is what Jesus promises them:
- The Holy Spirit would come upon them. (They would not be alone)
- They would receive power. (They would have the means needed)

The coming of the Holy Spirit was the moment in the history of the church that tipped the balance of power. The coming of the Spirit meant that:
- The rag-tag group _did_ impact the world.
- The small diverse group of disciples withstood the might of Rome
- Their message penetrated the market and changed the world!!!

Can I hear an "Amen!!" ?
(For the next few days up to Pentecost Sunday, we'll reflect on the work of the Spirit.)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 10, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-11 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] He commissions us

So when they met together, they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts1:6-8

Having come from heaven to earth, compressing Himself into Mary's womb and then growing through the years of childhood to manhood, Jesus began His public ministry at the age of 30. Although He taught the crowds and did miracles among the masses, His real focus was on the 12 disciples He chose.

Of those 12, one betrayed, one denied and all ran away.

Then He ascended into heaven, leaving His name, His message, His reputation and the responsibility to build His church in the hands of the remaining 11 and their companions.

From a business-strategic perspective it couldn't have looked good. One might imagine some of the angels shaking their heads and saying: "What was He thinking?"

But this is His plan! (And it has been working for 2000 years)

The disciples, horrified at the the thought of His departure, come to a desperate conclusion: "If He's going, it's because He is going to do the Messiah thing and chase the Romans into the sea and bring peace on earth and an end to all this pain." And so they ask: "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"

Jesus' answer isn't what they expected: He promises them power through the Holy Spirit and tells them that they must be His witnesses. The Kingdom is coming, but it is not falling into their laps while they sit around. The Kingdom comes to those who live and love for God and have learned to pray: "Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done (in me!) on earth as it is in heaven.

The Ascension is a commissioning, an entrusting, a baton-passing.
It's calling us to do His work in this world!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

EMMDEV 2013-05-10 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] He prays for us!

Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Romans8:34

The ascended Jesus, who has taken our humanity into the Godhead with Him, prays for us!

What an awesome thought! God is not distant and disconnected from our struggles. His Son, Jesus, who has shared in our humanity, who has lived in our world, experienced our frailty, and faced our temptations now plays the role of Intercessor. He prays for us.

The letter to Hebrews puts it like this: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." (4:15)

He has been tired, hungry, betrayed and abandoned.
He has been tempted, tested, lonely and overwhelmed.
He has suffered pain, gross injustice and cruel death.

There is a moment in the garden of Gethsemane which powerfully expresses the extent to which Jesus has entered our pain and heartache: As He approaches the cross, He asks His disciples to pray with Him - listen to what He says: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." (Mark14:34) (And yet in that moment of stress and sorrow, John 17 shows us that Jesus made time to pray for us!!)

No matter what heartache and trouble we find ourselves in, we can be certain that Jesus connects to us because He entered the heart of the storm of human brokenness.

His prayers for us assure us that He hears us when we pray and so the Hebrews writer says: "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb4:16)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 9, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-09 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Ascension means a Job Well Done!

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews1:1-3

This passage brings together the importance of the the incarnation, the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. It portrays Jesus as our Great High Priest.

A priest has two important functions: to represent and to sacrifice.

As a representative Jesus represents God to us and us to God. In the incarnation He reveals the fullness of God to us and in His humanity He stands in our place before God.

The writer to the Hebrews makes it clear - Jesus is _fully_ God:
1. He is heir of all things;
2. the universe was made through Him;
3. He radiates God's glory
4. He is the _exact_ representation of God's being ("If you've seen me you've seen the Father" Jn14:9)
5. He sustains all things by His Word ("The Word was with God and was God" Jn1:1)

But He also represents our humanity fully: "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us." (Jn1:14)

He represents God to us and us to God.

But He also made a sacrifice. In the Old Testament the High Priest made a sacrifice of a lamb in the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement for the sins of the people. This sacrifice was imperfect and had to be repeated year after year. BUT Jesus' sacrifice of Himself as the Lamb of God was sufficient. He has provided purification.

In the ascension Jesus does not discard His human body, but takes it to the right hand of God. The work is complete. He sits at the right hand of God because the sacrifice was sufficient. The job is well done. He is our sacrifice and our representative forever.


Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-08 [Ascension->Pentecost2013] Prologue

In the Afrikaans speaking churches, observing "Pinkster" (Pentecost) Week is a much loved tradition and re-calibrates the hearts of many of the faithful.

With this next series, we'll be doing an ePentecost week, but we won't wait until Monday to start - we'll jump in as of tomorrow and count-down the 10 days from Ascension to Pentecost Sunday... (Today's dev is a kind of Prologue)
But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. Acts2:24

Our verse is part of the sermon Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost (which is where we are headed) but it takes us back to the significant event that made it all possible: the Resurrection.

There can be no underestimating the critical importance of the resurrection. Peter uses a very interesting Greek phrase when he talks about the "agony of death." Literally he says that God freed Jesus from the "birth pains/pangs" of death.

This implies that Peter saw the crucifixion and death of Jesus as a "labour" that would bring about the wonderful birth of our salvation and the birth of the church.

It is also interesting to note that this word is used only 3 other times in the NT in Matthew Mark and Thessalonians where the word describes the labour pains of the world as it awaits Jesus triumphant second coming.

So there are three "births" that are important to us.
1. Our physical birth
2. Our rebirth as sons and daughters of God, made possible by Jesus death and the pouring out of His Spirit to form the church.
3. The birth of the new heavens and earth when Jesus comes again.

So crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are all part of the glorious rebirth of the believer.

But Peter reminds us that the resurrection is critically important: If Jesus truly is the Son of God, then it would be IMPOSSIBLE for death to hold Him. To deny the resurrection is to deny the deity of Christ. If we follow Peter's argument in the rest of Acts 2, the resurrection leads to Jesus ascending to God's right hand signifying His completed work and His authority to send the Holy Spirit.

We'll explore these wonderful truths over the next 10 days!!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, May 3, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-03 [Highlights from Colossians] Closing 5: Peace

After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.
17 Tell Archippus: "See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord."
18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you. Colossians4:16-18

And so we get to the end of Paul's letter to the Colossians.

It has been quite a journey! We have heard Paul's passionate prayers for the congregation. We've heard him extol the majesty and glory of Christ. We've witnessed the threats the congregation has faced and we've seen Paul call them to a life of gratitude and praise lived in the presence of our loving God. We've met some of Paul's co-workers and have been inspired by them.

And now the final greeting comes with three notable points:

1. Paul asks them to pass the letter on to the church in Laodicea and that they read the Laodicea letter. This is an important principle: to share what we have learned with others and to be willing to learn from others. We are not Christians alone and we are not even congregations in isolation. We are in partnership in the gospel. This is a critical issue for Paul.

2. Archippus must finish his work. The only other mention we have of Archippus is in the letter to Philemon where he is called a fellow soldier. We don't know what the task was that Archippus had received.
Was it a church he was establishing?
Was it a matter of personal spirituality?
Was it pastoral care that he was to offer to others?
We don't know. What we do know is that Paul challenged him to get it done. Don't put it off, don't procrastinate, don't delay, get... it... done...! (What are you delaying? Get it done!)

3. Paul asked them to remember his chains. He was under house arrest in Rome. He is being vulnerable here. He is asking them to remember that he is not perfect and that his circumstances are challenging. Sometimes we assume that spiritual leaders have it all together and that everything is going well in their lives. Like Paul, many leaders work under tough circumstances. Remember them in your prayers.
That's it - we've worked our way through this amazing letter. I pray that you have been inspired and challenged by the journey!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, May 2, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-05-02 [Highlights from Colossians] Closing 4: More partners

My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house. Colossians4:10-15

There are even more names in this passage... and there are some important lessons:

1. Relationships matter: We don't do God's work alone. There are people who are known to Paul and those who are known to the Colossians and Paul recognizes the value of these relationships.

2. There is restoration in relationships. In one of his earlier missionary journeys, Paul and Barnabas went their separate ways because they disagreed over Mark, whom Paul seemed to consider as unreliable. Now Paul and Mark are working together and Paul asks them to welcome him.

3. There is diversity in these relationships. Among the names mentioned are Jews, people from Colosse, Luke the Greek doctor, and Nympha, a lady who hosted a house-church. These diverse people are brought together by the cause of Christ.

4. There is risk in these relationships. Although Demas is mentioned here, he also gets a sad mention in Paul's second letter to Timothy, where we learn that Demas deserted Paul because he "loved the world." This risk does not prevent Paul from relating to his fellow believers and rejoicing in these relationships.

5. We can learn a lot from Epaphras' prayer: He wrestles in prayer for his people that they "may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured." This is a good prayer to pray for your fellow Christians.

We don't work for God alone. Take time to thank God for those who share in God's work with you. Celebrate the diversity. Pray for them.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at