Friday, August 30, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-30 [Hosea Highlights] It couldn't have been easy

When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim Hosea1:1-2

"Why do you put up with her Hosea?"
"Can't you see that she just uses you?"
"Look at what that tramp is doing now! Another guy?? Who is it this time?"
"C'mon Hosea, stand up for yourself! Divorce that unfaithful hussy now!"

I imagine these were the kind of things Hosea's friends were saying... (The last comment probably came from his mother!!)

It couldn't have been easy to be Hosea.
-To marry a woman who would break his heart and trust again and again.
-To act as father and protector to "children of unfaithfulness."
-To live in the humilation of being the husband spurned.

But God asked this of Hosea to wake Israel up.
Israel needed to see God's heart through the life of the prophet.
I can only imagine that something supernatural happened in Hosea's heart. I think he would trump all the critical comments and questions with one simple answer: "But I love her."

God could crumple us up like a failed experiment.
When we look at how unfaithful and broken we are it seems amazing that He puts up with us... I wonder if one of the angels has very humbly suggested to God that He could start again on Mars...

It wasn't easy for Hosea - even less easy for God, but His answer is made clear on the cross...
He LOVES us.

(Let's celebrate that truth in Worship this Sunday!)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 29, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-29 [Hosea Highlights] Intro

We're going to start a short series on the prophet Hosea. Hosea is one of the so-called "Minor Prophets" whose works are collected in the back of the Old Testament. Hosea is the first of these...
When the LORD began to speak through Hosea, the LORD said to him, "Go, take to yourself an adulterous wife and children of unfaithfulness, because the land is guilty of the vilest adultery in departing from the LORD." 3 So he married Gomer daughter of Diblaim Hosea1:1-2

The name Hosea means "God is my Salvation."
Hosea lived and worked during the time when the Israelites were split into a Northern Kingdom (Israel) and a Southern Kingdom (Judah.) His ministry spanned a tumultuous time because he would see the Northern Kingdom crumble in its sinfulness and rebellion against God and ultimately be overrun by the Assyrians.

The book is remarkable in its portrayal of the God as both husband and father/mother to His people. To make its point, the book tells us about Hosea's marriage (at God's command) to a prostitute. His wife, Gomer, is wayward and unfaithful, and God asks Hosea to be gracious, forgiving and loving.

Hosea's marriage becomes a picture of Israel's unfaithfulness on the one hand and God's faithful, unconditional love on the other.

The book is characterised by the unexpected:
- We would expect Hosea to give up on his wayward wife
- We would expect God to give up on His unfaithful people
- We would expect God to abandon His rebellious child
But the expected becomes the unexpected!!!

We could probably summarise the book in a sentence: "No matter how far we fall or how often we fail, God's love will reach out to us."

The structure of the book is as follows:
Ch1-3 Hosea and Gomer
Ch 4-14 God and Israel
--- Israel's rebellion (4:1-6:3)
--- Israel's punishment (6:4-10:15)
--- God's faithful love (11-14)

We'll go through the highlights of this amazing book in the next few eDevs...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, August 23, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-23 [In the beginning...] It was very good!

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis1:31

The word "good" appears seven times in Gen 1:
- v4 God saw that the light was good
- v10 And God saw that it was good (land and sea)
- v12 And God saw that it was good (plants and trees)
- v18 And God saw that it was good (sun, moon and stars)
- v21 And God saw that it was good (fish and birds)
- v25 And God saw that it was good (livestock and ground creatures)
- v31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. (Everything)

There is beauty, magnificence and majesty that permeates all of creation. In spite of the blight of sin's brokenness, the goodness of creation still recharges our souls when we walk on the beach, stroll through the forest or hike through the mountains.

Even if we were to argue that it is simply the earth rotating on its axis and the various colours of the visible light spectrum bending to different extents around the curvature of the earth and being filtered by the dust and smog in the atmosphere, sunsets and sunrises still move us in deep and inexplicable ways.

Even though we can explain a rose by photosynthesis and plant genetics, it doesn't change the fact that we are filled with a sense of awe and a sense of well-being when we look at it.

We can explain that a lion is just a big cat and that the elephant is an unusual genetic specimen (it's nearest relative being the dassie) but when the lion roars and the elephant trumpets our senses stand at attention and it is as if we are suddenly more alive.

God is GOOD - in the most ultimate sense. Creation is pregnant with that goodness - as we experience its goodness we get just a fleeting sense of how incredibly good God is!!!

And so we come back to the idea of Leviathan frolic-ing in the vast ocean God created for that purpose. Our awesomely good God has made a beautifully good world for us to glimpse just some of His GOODness - let's learn to open our eyes and to FROLIC.
That brings us to the end of this series - hope you enjoyed it. Any suggestions for the next series?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 22, 2013

EmmDev SEND 2013-08-22 [In the beginning...] Homo Sapiens? #3 Responsibility

O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air,
and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalms8:1-9

The X-men movies series suggests that human beings are still evolving and that homo-sapiens will be surpassed by the next generation of superior humans.

Psalm 8 sees it differently: Humankind, created in the image of God, already has all it needs to be the apex of creation. This is not because of our DNA, the size of our brains or the flexibility of our thumbs. (Some folk are suggesting that the next generations will have more nimble thumbs because of all the sms-texting we are doing!!!)

The Psalm is clear: We are the apex of creation because of one key concept: The responsibility of choice.

* We have the option to praise - and when we do, it silences our enemies.
* We are only a little lower than the angels who were also given the gift of choice (and we know that Satan abused that choice and rebelled.) We have the choice of letting God be our God or trying to be our own gods (that's what Adam and Eve's choice was about.)
* We have the responsibility to look after God's creation - to be custodians of it.

Unfortunately we keep getting this wrong:
- We try to be our own gods
- We abuse creation
- We try to get praise for ourselves instead of praising God.

How do we know when we get it right?
The end of the Psalm makes it clear - we have exercised our choices and responsibilities correctly when God gets the praise.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-21 [In the beginning...] Homo Sapiens? #2 Spirit

...the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis2:7

Genesis 2 tells the creation story again, but from another perspective. This should not unsettle us. When describing a car accident, one witness will say "The red car skipped the stop street and was broadsided by the blue car." Another witness will say "The Audi Cabriolet was hit by the Ford Focus and spun around three times but the airbag deployed and the driver got out ok." They are simply relating different details of the same story.

What Genesis 1 describes in one sentence: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them..." Genesis 2 describes in a couple of sentences, including how God made Eve from Adam's rib.

The point of the description here in Gen 2 is that God breathed life into Adam. The Hebrew word for breath is also the Hebrew word for Spirit and so it is clear that what is implied here is that humankind are set apart from all creatures in that we have the capacity to be filled by the Spirit. We can be given life by the Spirit.

This imagery is Genesis' way of telling us that human beings are created to have a relationship with God through the Spirit. The French mathematician, Blaise Pascal, said: "There is a God-shaped hole in every person - a space that only God can fill." Augustine said: "We are restless until we find our rest in Thee."

Human beings are unique - God has breathed into us.
We are eternal and we can relate to God in "Spirit and Truth." (Jesus confirmed this in his conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4)

So as human beings were are created in His image (to reflect Him) but He breathed His Spirit into us (so that we can relate to Him.)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-20 [In the beginning...] Homo Sapiens? #1 Image

26 Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. Genesis1:26-27

While science postulates that humankind developed from earlier species of evolved creatures, Scripture emphasises a clear line between humankind and the rest of creation.

While the rest of creation can be signposts to the glory and the attributes of God's creativity, beauty and fullness, Genesis tells us that God created humanity IN HIS IMAGE.

What does it mean when we say that we are created in His image? Does it mean that God has arms, legs, ears, eyes and a nose? If so, is God white, black or chinese? Does it mean that God has a beard and a friendly father-christmas smile? If so, then how are women created in His image?

The idea of being created in the image of God is better seen in our nature than in our physiology. Being created in His image means we as human beings reflect some of the attibutes of God's nature. Here are some examples:
- We can compose poetry and music: This is to create "out of nothing."
- We can enjoy the beauty of creation and the fruit of our labours.
- We are able to make moral choices between right and wrong. Choices that are not the result of instinct or conditioning, but because we have been given the ability to choose.
- We can love selflessly - or choose not to.
- We are able to enter into a relationship with God or choose not to.

So whether God used the processes of adaptation and development to bring humanity to the fore, or whether He stepped in and did something new but similar to what came before, we don't know.
What we do know is that humankind is unique - there is a clear line: we are in the image of God - reflecting His nature and capable of a relationship with Him.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 15, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-15 [In the beginning...] Diversity

And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky." 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind...
24 And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis1:20-24

The well-loved welsh preacher, Granville Morgan, (who was Brenda's minister) once preached a sermon on God's favourite word.
What would you guess is His favourite word?
Is it "love"? Is it "grace"? Or is it "forgiveness"?
Granville argued that God's favourite word is "and".

God created all the creatures that the waters _teem_ with AND He created every winged bird according to its kind AND He created all the creatures of the land: livestock AND creatures that creep on the ground AND wild animals each according to their kind.

Think about it:
God created red AND blue AND yellow AND green AND pink AND ...
Our new HDMI television monitors can display 281.5 trillion colors - and yet if God only gave us two colours we'd be none the wiser - and 281.5 trillion colours still aren't enough to show a sunrise the way our eyes can see it.

God created whales AND dolphins AND jellyfish AND clownfish AND tuna AND sardines AND ...
God created swallows AND vultures AND ostriches AND parrots AND budgies AND ducks AND duck-billed-platypus AND ...
God created elephants AND kangeroos AND giraffes AND ants AND lions AND springbuck AND ...

The sheer diversity and creativity revealed in creation bears wonderful testimony to God's power, creativity and sense of humour (just look at the aardvark, the clownfish and the dung-beetle) It reveals His richness and awesome depth. Biologists are still discovering new species, astronomers are finding new stars and galaxies, and physicists are still discovering amazing truths in the quantum mechanics that govern our universe. We will never get to the end of what He can do!

So with the hymnwriter we must sing:
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-14 [In the beginning...] Frolic

There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number--
living things both large and small.
There the ships go to and fro,
and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. Psalms104:25-26

Leviathan is an Old Testament catch-all phrase that seems to encompass all creatures from whales or sea monsters to huge gliding serpents and such-like creatures. (A bit like the loch ness monster)

Leviathan comes from Caananite myths and was one of the terrifying creatures they had to ward off by sacrifices and offerings to placate the gods.

In sharp contrast to Canaanite superstitions Psalm 104 paints a wonderful picture of God creating the universe with Power, Precision and Purpose. (I have pasted the first 11 verses below - read them to see what I mean)

But it's the sense of purpose in the Psalm that I love. Vs 10-11 talk about the streams that pour into the ravines and flow through the mountains to "give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst."

And then our text which speaks of the ocean as a transport medium and playground for Leviathan. Leviathan is not a dark primordial monster to be feared - he is a creature God created to FROLIC.

What a lovely picture of a God who creates with purpose and that part of that purpose is to FROLIC!

Let's frolic through today as we consider the awesome space God has given us to play in! Creation is given to be enjoyed!

PS 104:1 Praise the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, you are very great;
you are clothed with splendor and majesty.
PS 104:2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment;
he stretches out the heavens like a tent
PS 104:3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.
He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
PS 104:4 He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.
PS 104:5 He set the earth on its foundations;
it can never be moved.
PS 104:6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
PS 104:7 But at your rebuke the waters fled,
at the sound of your thunder they took to flight;
PS 104:8 they flowed over the mountains,
they went down into the valleys,
to the place you assigned for them.
PS 104:9 You set a boundary they cannot cross;
never again will they cover the earth.
PS 104:10 He makes springs pour water into the ravines;
it flows between the mountains.
PS 104:11 They give water to all the beasts of the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-13 [In the beginning...] Orderly

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light "day," and the darkness he called "night." And there was evening, and there was morning--the first day. Genesis1:3-5

Did you notice? Sun, moon and stars are only created on the fourth day, but there are days before then "there was evening, and there was morning -- the first day." Although the component for morning and evening (the sun) is not yet created, God has the concepts firmly in mind.

There is an orderliness about the creation account:
- A rythmic cycle of days,
- God, the constant in the equation, who speaks it all into being
- The span of seven days indicating that there was a plan
- The emphasis of seven symbolising completeness
- The repetition of "God saw that it was (very) good" vv.10,12,18,25,31
- The rest on the Sabbath implying satisfaction and completeness.

Creation is not random, circumstantial or chaotic.
The picture that Gen 1 gives us is that God is firmly in charge, that God delights in His creation and that He is working with a plan.

Again, we are not getting hung up on the HOW in the sense of the methodology of creation, but we are more concerned in WHO created and that His divine and sovereign qualities are beautifully reflected in the account of creation. We see God's creativity, power and internal-integrity portrayed as orderliness.

Also woven into the orderliness of creation is DELIGHT.
God is enjoying His creation. It is good and it gives Him joy. (We'll look at this more tomorrow)

We are not here by mistake or accident.
We are the end result of a carefully thought through plan where the Creator made a world that was good....!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 8, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-08 [In the beginning...] Spoken

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. Genesis1:3

I saw a lovely t-shirt once. At the top it said "God said:" and then it was followed by a monster mathematical equation that was full of pi's, thetas, deltas, square-roots and other mathematical symbols and went on for a few lines and at the bottom it said "... and there was light."

More and more physicists are marvelling at the beauty and orderliness of the mathematics and physics that underlie the "_Laws_ of Nature." More and more the clever people are talking about "Intelligent Design." More and more scientists are admitting that this just can't be an accident. This is well illustrated by the wonder of DNA and its incredible complexity and storage capacity. The deeper we dig, the more order and structure we find.

Creation and Science are not mutually exclusive.
For me it is easy and inspiring to believe that God conceived and created the laws of physics and then used these beautiful laws to drive the process of creation.

This is even more relevant if we return to the idea I suggested a few days ago that Jesus is the Word ("Logos": Reason, Logic) behind creation. If as Colossians says "in Him all things hold together", then seeing Jesus as the architect of the laws of physics that hold our universe together, then our wonder at His power and majesty simply increases.

Einsteins E=MC(Squared), Pythagoras' Theorem, Planck's constant, Boyle's Law etc are not inventions but discoveries - scientists are just discovering the laws that God decreed as He spoke creation into being.

If you click on the link below, you can see a t-shirt with Maxwell's equation for light and Gen 1:3.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-07 [In the beginning...] The Science of Creation

And God said, "Let there be light," Genesis1:3

(I realise this dev might have some of you are clutching your chests in horror - bear with me...)
In the evolution-creation debate, well-meaning Christians often try to explain Genesis 1 as a scientific step-by-step. But it comes across as contrived.

Just two small examples of how this comes unstuck:
Firstly if the sun and moon where only created on day four, then where did the day and night come from? And for that matter, where did the light from light and dark on day one come from?
Secondly if Gen 1 is the exact explanation of how creation took place then why is there a second creation account in Gen 2 and how we explain the differences?

As we said at the beginning of the series, Genesis is not about the HOW but the WHO of creation.

The first hearers and readers of Genesis 1 had a pre-scientific world-view: they believed the earth was flat, had four corners and stood on pillars with a dome above it that held back the water that sometimes fell as rain. Bearing this worldview in mind we can't make Gen 1 speak into the language of modern day physics and quantum mechanics.

So we don't get into debates about how long a creation day was or where light came from when there was no sun. Rather we have to recognise the timeless principles of creation.
1. Creation was spoken into being
2. Creation was orderly and systematic
3. Creation was wonderfully diverse
4. Creation of humankind was wonderfully unique.

This doesn't diminish Gen 1 in any way - in fact, when we stop trying to use Scripture as a science text book and we allow it to speak of who God is and not how He did it, we get an even more glorious picture.

We'll look at the above-mentioned principles in more detail in the next few days.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, August 1, 2013

EMMDEV 2013-08-01 [In the beginning...] A Triune Work

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.3 And God said.... Genesis1:1-3

I need to make a very important distinction before I start...
I'm not using Gen 1 as a proof text for the Trinity. (Any attempt to do this comes across as contrived and is usually based on God's name in Hebrew (Elohim) being plural and God saying "Let _us_ make man...")
Rather, I am taking a wide Biblical-Theological view that affirms again and again that Creation was the dream, desire and work of Father, Son and Spirit and then recognising this truth reflected in Gen 1.

In talking about Jesus, John's gospel opens with this affirmation: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." John calls Jesus as the WORD. The Greek word "Logos" implies word, reason, and at a deeper level the underlying logic. John is saying that Jesus represents the purpose and creative ability of God. Colossians tells us that "In Him all things were created and hold together"

The Holy Spirit is described as the life-giving force throughout Scripture - the most poignant being in Ezekiel 37 where the Spirit gives life to the valley of dry bones and in John 3 where the Spirit helps us to be born again.

Scripture presents God the Father as compassionate, determined (He has a plan and a purpose) and majestic and Holy. In Job the Father delights in the antics of the creatures He created and in Isaiah we are reminded that His ways are above ours and that He is majestic and Holy.

So lets take what Scripture teaches about the three persons of the God family and apply it to Gen 1.
God the Father is the one who lovingly initiates creation and has a purpose for it.
Jesus the Son is the Word. When God _speaks_ it is Jesus who is the agent of creation - not just a carpenter in Nazareth, but the Builder and Maker of the world. Graham Kendrick says "Hands that flung stars in place to cruel nails surrendered."

The Holy Spirit is hovering over the waters
- He is present
- He is free
- He is eager to get going with bringing life!

Creation is a glorious work of the even more glorious Triune God!!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at