Friday, December 12, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-12 [Apostle's Creed] A Virgin

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God." Luke1:34-37

The Creed tells us that Jesus "was born of the Virgin Mary."

Strangely enough there are many people who have trouble with this.
"Mary a virgin? Sure! Pull the other leg!"
Some have even tried to turn their rejection of the virgin birth into a positive thing, by saying that the merciful Messiah came into the context poverty and brokenness of a young girl who'd landed up with a "bun in the oven."

But Mary was a virgin - The Bible says it - I believe it - and it _is_ important. Not because it makes Mary special, but because it makes the conception and birth special.

If Mary hadn't been a virgin and the child was actually Joseph's then we lose a critical concept that Paul was at pains to make in Romans 5 where he talks about Jesus as the "second Adam." Paul points out that all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve are prone to the same failures and sinful desires. (Irenaeus called this "original sin")

We needed a new start. Jesus, though born of Mary, was conceived by the Holy Spirit and not through human intercourse. He is not part of the chain of human brokenness.

The other important facet of the Virgin Birth is that Jesus is both fully human and fully God. He's born of a very human Mary (who wasn't special or sinless) but He's conceived by God. He's fully human so that He understands our situation and is able to die in our place and He is fully God so that He can be without sin (unlike the first Adam) and that He can bear the weight and sin and death on the cross.

The Virgin Birth isn't about Mary - It's about Jesus and we should recognise how important this is: It means He is eligible and able to take our place and die for our sins. HALLELUJAH!
This brings us to the end of the devotions for 2014 - I will pick up the creed again in the new year. I pray you will have a blessed CHRIST-mas and know God's guidance in the new year. Thank you for sharing in this devotional journey with me this year.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Thursday, December 11, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-11 [Apostle's Creed] Conceived

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!

Sometimes we think that the start of Jesus' life was the birth in Bethlehem. But Jesus didn't "begin" at Bethlehem - He has existed eternally with the Father and the Spirit.

When the Creed tells us that "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit" this doesn't indicate His beginning but it tells us of His incredible sacrificial transformation. In military parlance, a soldier is "inserted" into the area where the rescue mission must be performed. Jesus becoming incarnated in Mary's womb was the start of the ultimate Rescue Mission.

Paul, quoting from an early church hymn describes it like this: "He made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man..."

The writer to the Hebrews put it like this:
"Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: 'Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;'" (Heb10:5)

Do you remember the scene in the movie Aladdin, where the Genie describes having "AWESOME POWER!" (while he looms as a six story high giant) and then he shrinks and curls up inside the lamp and says "itty bitty living space!"

Think about Jesus (the co-creator of the universe who lit the fires of the sun and knows each star by name) who by the power of the Holy Spirit is stripped of glory, majesty and power and is implanted in Mary's womb: Limited, Vulnerable, Humble, and Fragile.

This is love!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

You can see past EmmDevs at emmdev[dot]blogspot[dot]com/

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-09 [Apostle's Creed] Our Lord

...if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans10:9

It's not enough to believe that He was a good man or a great guru...
It's not enough to believe that He was a great role model and teacher...
It's not enough to believe that He was a noble martyr...
It's not even enough to believe that His death saved us.

We also have to believe that He is LORD.
The Greek word "kurios" means "master" - it requires loyalty, obedience and fealty.

The idea of confessing or declaring that "Jesus is Lord" is reflected twice in the New Testament (here in Rom9:10 and 1Cor12:3) it reflects a real issue that the early church faced: As the cult of the Roman Emperor developed, it became a likely scenario that members of the Roman Empire would be required to bow before a statue of Caesar and burn incense in his name and worship him as "lord."

The Early Christians refused to do this.

This could result in a martyr's death, imprisonment, beatings, loss of business or rejection by society. After Nero the persecutions against known Christians became more and more severe, but Christians steadfastly clung to the confession: "Jesus IS LORD" (not Caesar, not Greek Philosophy, not Jewish Legalism, but only Jesus.)

Declaring that "Jesus is Lord" is to draw a line in the sand.
It is to declare a new loyalty and a new direction.
It is to place oneself under His management.
It is to offer ourselves AND all our stuff AND all our time to His direction and purpose.
It's to make Him the boss of my life.
His way - not mine.

It is to say: "I am not my own - I have been bought with a price - I will honour God with my body" (1Cor6:20)

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Friday, December 5, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-05 [Apostle's Creed] Only Son

Apologies for the missed devs for Wed & Thu - I took a bit of leave....
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John3:16

We believe in "Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord..."

In Genesis 22 (the story of Abraham who is asked to sacrifice Isaac) we read: "Then God said, `Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.`"

We know that the account ends with Isaac being spared, but in the account of God's dealing with humanity, Jesus the Son is not spared: He is _given_:

1. Given in the Incarnation to experience humanity as He "made Himself nothing and taking on the form and nature of a servant. (Phil.2)

2. Given in the Crucifixion to pay the price for our sin. (Rom.6:23)

3. Given in the Ascension to live forever praying for us. (Heb7:24-25)

But I'd like to think about the "Only Son" a little more...
While it is true that you and I are adopted as sons and daughters of God, we are not sons and daughters in the same way as Jesus is God's Son. Jesus is in unique relation with the Father.
- He is the beloved Son in whom the Father is pleased.
- He is the unique expression of who the Father is.
- He is uniquely obedient - even to death on the cross.

When I became a parent, I along with Abraham, began to understand a little bit of how difficult it might be to give up my only son. When I believe in Jesus who is God's only Son, I believe in a God who loves and is loved and then shares and sacrifices this love for me who has not loved Him anywhere near as faithfully...

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-12-02 [Apostle's Creed] Two big names. angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us." Matthew1:19-23

Joseph's plans to divorce Mary were upended by the angel who brings him startling news.

There are some interesting facets to this passage:
1. The angel addresses Joseph as "son of David." This alerts us to the distinct possibility that whatever message Joseph was going to receive was going to have something to do with the Messiah who was expected to come from the line of King David.

2. The name Immanuel, which means "God with us", is also used in a prophecy in Isaiah which also relates to the hope of a coming Messiah. This is what Matthew is referring to in v.22-23

3. The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew "Yehoshua" which means "God (Yahweh) saves."

The creed affirms that you and I "believe in Jesus Christ..."
The word "Christ" - means "Messiah" or "anointed One" and indicates the long awaited God-intervention into the human predicament. The name "Jesus" tells us that He is the Saviour. He's the long-expected Rescuer and Redeemer.

This expectation has been present in Old Testament thinking since God promised Eve that her offspring would crush the serpent's head. It is an expectation that became clearer and more ardent as it became evident that the Law could not save and that the human predicament could not be altered by human effort alone.

To believe in _Jesus_ _Christ_ is to affirm that we believe in One who saves and and we recognise that this was God's plan all along.

Not a spur-of-the-moment but a long-term plan.
Not a general intervention but a personal one.
Not a plan but a person.
Not a religion but a relationship.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Friday, November 28, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-28 [Apostle's Creed] Fearfully and Wonderfully MADE.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalms139:14-16

We are not here by accident...
We are not randomly here...
We are not a mistake...

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
This applies generally in the sense that our bodies and the intricacies of our biology are beautifully designed and engineered. But also specifically in the sense that I am a beautiful combination of body, personality and history and that makes me unusual and special.

I'm not the handsomest (although Brenda disagrees :-) )
I'm not the strongest (although a young Caleb used to disagree)
I'm not the smartest (and my teachers definitely agree!)
But I am perfectly me.

I don't have a serial number or a producer's brand-label. I don't even have a "copyright reserved" label on me - because there just can't be another like me...

God made me.
He carefully designed my DNA and moulded my body.
He chose my parents and my geography.
He laid out a pathway for me, allowing me forks in the road where I could draw closer to Him or wander away from Him.
And He lovingly calls and guides me on the way if I would just let Him.

Every every cell in my body contains DNA that speaks of the miracle of being and the incredible comfort that I am not a random spark generated by some incidental cosmic reaction - I am MADE.

And God doesn't make junk!!!

You can watch a lovely music video by Hawk Nelson about this:

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Thursday, November 27, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-27 [Apostle's Creed] Of HEAVEN and EARTH (Shalom!)

How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron's beard,
down upon the collar of his robes.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore. Psalms133:1-3

(I'm going to stretch a premise this morning, but bear with me - I think you'll agree when I'm done...)

When the creed indicates that God is the "Maker of Heaven and Earth," it is affirming that the totality of creation is a gift from God.

But the totality of creation isn't simply the physical part of creation... Because we are made in the image of God and have His Spirit breathed into us, we also have relational, emotional and spiritual dimensions that are part of creation.

In many ways modern society has inherited Greco-Roman thinking that was analytical and dis-integrative in its world view. We have tended to see life as separate dimensions. We separate physical and spiritual, we distinguish between "sacred" and "secular" and we compartmentalise life. We live life out of tune with nature and our artificial environments leave us out of sync with the seasons and the rhythms of day and night.

Hebrew thinking (the language and mindset of the Old Testament) was integrative in its approach to life. Life is a whole (a "SUM of parts") and not just "some PARTS."

This psalm captures this reality beautifully - the Psalm talks about relationships between people, the blessing of God, the physicality of anointing someone with oil (it can be messy) and the phenomenon of dew that usually falls on Mount Hermon in the North occasionally falling in Jerusalem.

The Hebrew blessing "Shalom" (Peace) means implies wholeness, togetherness and integrated-ness. It means the celebration of Heaven AND Earth. That ALL of life is a gift - our bodies, our time, our seasons, our relationships and our physical world.

The well-loved Welsh preacher Granville Morgan once preached that God's favourite word is "AND": God made heaven AND earth, moon AND stars, flowers AND animals, birds AND fish, you AND me. Life is a glorious gift and it's bounteous Creator should be recognised as the God is is Lord of ALL and God over ALL. And that His blessing is pronounced "Shalom!"

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-26 [Apostle's Creed] Sustained (MAKER)

For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians1:16-17

Here, in his letter to the Colossians, Paul is talking about Jesus who was co-creator with the Father and the Spirit.

Two things to note about this beautiful passage:

1. The extent of creation and attention to detail. ALL things were created by Him: Heaven, Earth, Visible, Invisible, Thrones, Powers, Rulers, Authorities - All things.

There is nothing that has not received the intimate attention of the Triune Creator. Nothing was left to accident. I have a unique finger-print and each zebra has its own pattern. We are cherished creations and God broke the mould when He made me and when He made you.

2. All things hold together in Him. Creation isn't like a clock that the watchmaker builds, winds up and then observes from a distance. He actively sustains creation - He holds it in His hands. He in INterested in His creation. It's just as it was in Genesis 1: The Spirit still hovers above creation.

Jesus reminded the disciples of this: Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God's knowledge and the very hairs on our heads are numbered.

This is easy to believe when things are going well and our prayers are being answered. It's harder to believe when we engage the heartache and suffering in our world and in our lives. Here we have to return to the two circles of "allows" and "wills" that we drew on Friday. We must recognise that, in the flogging, the crucifixion and His God-forsaken death, Jesus is INcarnate to creation and sustains it by conquering sin, death and Satan. It's not the absence of trouble, but that He is at work IN our trouble.

"LORD help us to know You are at work IN our lives even when we struggle to see You."

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-25 [Apostle's Creed] Is there life on other planets? (MAKER)

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. Acts17:24-27

The Apostles Creed reminds us that we believe that He is the "maker of heaven and earth." Paul is talking to the philosophers of the day in Athens. He's addressing the brightest and the best.

Creation is a controversial subject. People argue creation vs evolution. Literal seven days vs figurative seven days. Real Adam vs mythological Adam and so forth.

Paul does a helpful thing when he discusses creation with the scholars: he doesn't talk about "how" but "why". When one gets down to the "why" of creation, the "how" is less of an issue.

Paul gives two reasons for creation:
Firstly creation is a display of the glory and grandeur of God. God doesn't need a temple made by human hands - all of creation is His temple. Creation is an expression of His glory and majesty.

Secondly creation is a signpost that points humanity toward God. God didn't create us because He was lonely. (God enjoys perfect community in the Trinity!) God creates because giving life, beauty and vastness to creation is an expression of WHO HE IS.

Creation is vast and majestic. The astronomers tell us that the universe is still expanding. As we unpack the wonders of DNA and other microscopic wonders scientists are using the phrase "intelligent design" more and more.

So... is there life like us on other planets?
If there is - then the vastness of creation speaks of a God much bigger than they can think or imagine and calls them to worship. If there isn't then creation still serves its two purposes:
- To speak of God's grandeur
- To call us to reach out for Him and find Him - though He isn't far from us.

Creation isn't centred around us - it's about Him.
Creation makes best sense when its creatures know Him.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Friday, November 21, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-21 [Apostle's Creed] ALMIGHTY

The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
2 for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters.
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false.
5 He will receive blessing from the LORD
and vindication from God his Savior.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
who seek your face, O God of Jacob. Selah
7 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is he, this King of glory?
The LORD Almighty-- he is the King of glory. Selah

(You'll need pencil and paper for today's message...)
God is Almighty - another word for this is Sovereign.
It means that He is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.
He is either God over all or He is not God at all.

This has challenging implications and forms the basis of one of the most common and challenging objections that non-believers have: "If God is good and loving then why is there pain and suffering in the world?"

We'd prefer to say that God is God of the good things and that He has nothing to do with evil. The problem with that is that evil would then be independent of God and out of His control...

We have to hold on to a more complex reality. The best way to explain it is to draw two circles, one inside the other. Label the inside circle as "What God wants or wills" and the the outer circle as "What God allows (but doesn't necessarily like)" All of reality fits into one of these circles because anything outside the circles would be out of His ultimate control and then He wouldn't be Almighty.

Psalm 24 paints a picture of an Almighty God, but it also paints a picture of a humanity that may choose. It may choose for or against God - this freedom of choice is what necessitates the "Allows" circle. When God lovingly created us with the freedom of choice, it meant that He allowed us the possibility of choosing against Him. He _allows_ us this freedom and the consequences of this freedom results in the heartache and brokenness in the world that we struggle with. God is not the author of pain. God is good and He gave us freedom, but when we walk away from the light, we find ourselves in darkness and we become the authors of pain.

Take your drawing of the two circles and draw a cross that has its centre in the inside circle of "Wills" but its arms stretch to the outer edges of the "Allows" circle. By coming into our broken world and dying for us, Jesus revealed that He loves us and is concerned about the brokenness. By rising from the dead He conquered and trumped heartache and pain. He can heal the pain of the things that happen in the "allows" circle and bring them into the "wills" circle.

Finally draw arrows pointing outward on the "wills" circle and remember that the King, the Lord Almighty, is coming again and when He does, there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev21:4)

Read the Psalm again and celebrate that He's truly God over all.
Let's resolve to be a generation who "seek Him." Do it with your church family this Sunday!

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Thursday, November 20, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-20 [Apostle's Creed] the FATHER

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 2Corinthians1:3-4

Believing in God as Father is difficult for some whose earthly fathers have been absent, abusive or cold-hearted. Others think about Father Christmas when they think about God as Father - a sugar daddy who spoils us with gifts based on our behaviour but is pretty much absent in times of trouble or pain.

Part of the problem is that we think that God needed to reveal Himself to us and so He said "Well, everyone has a father and fathers are generally good guys so I'll reveal myself as father..." (Theologians call this anthropomorphism - God morphing into anthropological terms to help us understand Him)

What if it was the other way around? That God was Father (and Mother*) first and that we, who are His image-bearers, are to reflect these facets of His nature and we either do it well or badly?

Could it be that bad fathers obscure the reflection God's nature in themselves and that good fathers reveal more of Him and less of their own brokenness?

The Father Paul reveals here is awesome:
- He is the Father of Jesus, And Jesus loved Him and trusted Him so much that He was willing to say "Not my will but yours be done" and went to the cross.
- He is the God of all comfort. He had to watch His Son carry the weight of our brokenness and His heart was broken over our sin. He understands pain. (As an imperfect earthly father I would rather give my own life than sacrifice my son Caleb's)
- He comforts us. He sent His Son. He sends His Spirit. He finds sulking Jonah outside Nineveh. He finds Elijah burnt out under the broom tree. He finds Hagar and Ishmael alone in the wilderness. He _sees_ and _hears_ and _comes_ down to the Israelites in slavery in Egypt. When the world was broken and lost He sent His Son.

Take the word Father and embody it with the VERY BEST you have seen of Fatherhood and you have only scraped the surface of what God is like.
* The Scriptures portray God as Mother ("Can a mother forget her children" (Isaiah 49:15) "As a mother comforts her child I will comfort you (Isaiah 66:13)) It think it is important to recognise that God transcends male and female but when human beings reflect the nature of God, they often do it as "mother" or "father" and when they do it well, God's nature is reflected.)

** Patriarchal societies have focussed on God as Father almost to the exclusion of the truth that God is also Mother. Some have compromised by talking about God as the "perfect parent" but some of the richness is lost. I believe it is best to just do justice to the concepts as Scripture gives them to us.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-19 [Apostle's Creed] in GOD (Job's encounter part 2.)

Then Job replied to the LORD:
2 "I know that you can do all things;
no plan of yours can be thwarted.
3 You asked, `Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?'
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.
4 "You said, `Listen now, and I will speak;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.'
5 My ears had heard of you
but now my eyes have seen you.
6 Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes." Job42:1-2

If yesterday's devotion left you with a sense of "God is God and you are not so shut up and accept your fate," you would be missing the point of this beautiful encounter.

Job started his journey of suffering with great trust: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised." (1:21) But he had three friends, who were immersed in an "action and consequence" theology, who were convinced that Job had done something wrong and this had brought about the suffering that he was going through.

Their view of God was too small. They saw God as a "cause and effect" God. They simplified Him to a set of rules - "If this, then that." This created a faith of reward or punishment. God was a cold impersonal being who simply applied the rule-book and it was a simple to understand Him - stick to the rules and it goes well and vice versa.

Job wouldn't and couldn't buy his friends' version of a mechanistic cause-and-effect God. So, partly in reaction to his friends' bad theology Job swings to the other side of the pendulum to make God so personal and private that Job could "have his day in court" with God.

Where Job lands up after God reveals His spectacular grandeur and awe-inspiring majesty is that he realises his own finitude and comes to a place of trust in God even though he doesn't understand God's ways.

The story ends with God putting the three friends in their place and He tells them to ask "my servant Job" to pray for them. He restores Job's health and riches and lives happily ever after.

What is powerful about Job's story is that it wrestles with an adequate God picture. Is God a cold cause-and-effect God or a God who is accountable to His creatures? Job discovers that God is neither of the afore-mentioned, but rather that He is sovereign, free and that we must trust Him even when we don't always understand Him.

Theo Groeneveld theo @

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-18 [Apostle's Creed] in GOD (Job's encounter part 1.)

Can you bind the beautiful Pleiades?
Can you loose the cords of Orion?
32 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons
or lead out the Bear with its cubs?
33 Do you know the laws of the heavens?
Can you set up God's dominion over the earth?
34 "Can you raise your voice to the clouds
and cover yourself with a flood of water?
35 Do you send the lightning bolts on their way?
Do they report to you, `Here we are'?
36 Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?
37 Who has the wisdom to count the clouds?
Who can tip over the water jars of the heavens?
40:3 Then Job answered the LORD:
4 "I am unworthy--how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth. Job38:31-40:4

We know the story of Job. He suffered terribly and as he struggles to make sense of his anguish, heartache and pain, he comes to a place where he wears his trouble like a badge and _demands_ a hearing and accounting from God.

It's a crucial tipping point in the story...
While we feel sorry for Job, we have to recognise that he has reached the point where he (Job) wants God to "please explain" (like a naughty school boy) why he (Job) who as already proclaimed his righteousness and innocence should suffer so. Job wants God to explain the universe to him. (See Job31:35-37 below)

Because we know that Job is innocent we feel a certain camaraderie with him. We feel he deserves an answer - but it would come at the cost of making God accountable to Job.

And so God puts Job in his place.
Job is a creature not the Creator.
Job is not infinite - he is finite.
Job can't put the starry constellations in place.
Job doesn't have rain, thunder, lightning and hail at his command.

You can read ch38-41 to see God relentlessly making one simple point.
God is God and Job is not!

To truly be "God" means and implies that any Being carrying that title is not limited by humanity: Such a Being transcends our limitations, conceptualisations and our imagination. Such a Being isn't answerable to us or can even be grasped by us. (In a beautiful illustration of this, in Ephesians 3 we see Paul praying that we have the "power to grasp (understand)" the height, depth, length and breadth of God's love. Even His love is beyond our natural ability to grasp - God has to help us understand it!)

To declare that there is a God is to admit that I am not God.
To declare that there is a God is to recognise His transcendence.
To declare that there is a God is to worship.

Here's Job getting ahead of himself...
JOB 31:35 ("Oh, that I had someone to hear me!
I sign now my defense--let the Almighty answer me;
let my accuser put his indictment in writing.
36 Surely I would wear it on my shoulder,
I would put it on like a crown.
37 I would give him an account of my every step;
like a prince I would approach him.)--

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, November 14, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-14 [Apostle's Creed] Believe (#3) Certainty...

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for. Hebrews11:1-2

(I've re-used an old dev - I can't say it better)

The language of faith is never the certainty of the laboratory litmus-test or the court-room's "beyond reasonable doubt."

The language of faith is hope, trust and imagination.

You're probably are worried about me using the word "imagination"...
I don't mean imaginary (as in "not real") - I'm thinking of the high jumper who imagines themselves sailing over the bar even before they take the run up. I'm thinking of the bride-to-be imagining the wedding.

It's imagination that anticipates a certain future.

The language of faith is trust and relationship.
It's believing when we can't see.
It's trusting when the numbers are too complicated for us to add up.

Faith is about realising that I am not and cannot be ultimately in control, but that the universe is in the good hands of a God we can know.

Faith is not about knowing or controlling the future, but about knowing the One who does.

We live in a "I'll believe it when I see it" world.
But faith calls us to recognise that we can't see it all.
We are not god.
But we can know, trust and hope in the One who is...

This is what it means when we start the Creed with "I believe."

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, November 13, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-13 [Apostle's Creed] Believe (#2) Incorporating Doubt

Jesus asked the boy's father, "How long has he been like this?"
"From childhood," he answered. 22 "It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."
23 " `If you can'?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."
24 Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark9:21-24

The boy had been having seizures or fits since he was little. The man was desperate. The disciples had been trying to help but to no avail. They brought the boy to Jesus and the evil spirit threw him to the ground. The conversation in our reading is happening while the boy convulses on the ground...

Jesus has already rebuked the disciples and the crowd for unbelief. Now Jesus tells the man that anything is possible for those who believe. In a moment of beautiful clarity and outright honesty the man exclaims "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

Faith without doubt is fact - not faith.
Faith requires trust - it's always a leap into the unknown.

The man, with a convulsing child on one side and Jesus on the other, turns and looks Jesus in the eye and asks for help. "I want to believe, but I've been disappointed and I doubt, but I believe YOU can help me."

Faith is never without some element of doubt. Faith is not the "power of positive thinking." Faith is always a plea for help. It's an expression of trust. It's realising that whatever the circumstances two things are sure:
1. Jesus is _good_.
2. Jesus can _help_.

That evening that man walked home with his arm around a healthy boy: The awesome outcome of doubting faith brought to trustworthy Messiah.

This is what "Believe" is all about.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-12 [Apostle's Creed] Believe (#1) Take a step towards Him

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."
29 "Come," he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"
31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"
32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." Matthew14:28-33

The second word of the Creed is "believe."

We've already seen that faith is personal and intimate - a relationship. Now we move to the foundation that this relationship is based upon: Faith.

But faith is a tough word to define.
Our gospel account of Peter's Galilee-stroll is a very valuable lesson in the nature of faith.

It's the fourth watch of the morning (3AM-6AM).
The disciples have been pulling against the oars all night.
Their body clocks are at their lowest ebb.
Then a scary apparition comes across the water.
But it's Jesus - they recognise His voice and it looks like Him.

Peter calls and is invited to do what he asked to do.
And so Peter hoists his leg over the gunwale and plants his first foot on the water and takes his first step.
Towards Jesus.

Maybe Peter's faith is best described as his trust in Jesus.
Maybe faith is not about a complex set of beliefs.
Or even the tight set of a determined jaw...
It's not about mind over water.
It's that Peter sees Jesus and wants to be with Him.

Faith is a relationship with One who is Trustworthy.
Faith is trust. It's wanting to be where He is.

Peter is fine while he's moving TOWARD Jesus.
It's when He looks elsewhere that he sinks.
But even then Jesus has him - because Jesus is trustworthy.

Faith is not a cranial mindset - it's a trusting relationship where we move toward Him. It's taking another step closer to Him and knowing that no matter where He's standing - on water, in the fire, or in the tomb - He is able to catch us.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-11 [Apostle's Creed] Me, myself, I (part 2)

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there...
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalms139:14-16

On Friday we recognised that faith is a personal thing. Not personal as in private and not to be talked about, but personal in the sense that it is INtimate, INdividual and INteractive.

Faith is not merely an intellectual assent to a corpus of institutes. Faith is a relationship. Declaring, as the Apostles' Creed does, that "I believe" is to recognise that we are the relational quarry (object of pursuit not a place where you collect stones) of a relentlessly loving God.

David recognises this - God has made him, God pursues him, God has a purpose for him and God will transform him.

Faith is a personal thing. I cannot talk about God objectively - He is not distant, disconnected or dissociated - He is passionately personal, intensely intimate and relentlessly relational.

The late Prof Johan Heyns was my Dogmatics lecturer when I was a student. He opened every lecture with prayer. His impassioned prayer was that God would open our hearts to His majesty and love.
He used an analogy that has always stayed with me. He suggested that many theologians try to objectify God: to examine God as though He were the object and that we were the scientific subject. He said that it was like trying to put God on a microscope slide and examine Him. He argued that whenever we talk about God we should realise that we are on the microscope slide looking up into the loving eyes of God who is the ultimate Subject and that we are the beloved object.

This analogy suits Psalm 139 perfectly.

Let's go into today recognising that we are the object of God's passionate pursuit and that He knows us and longs for us to know Him.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, November 7, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-11-08 [Apostle's Creed] Me, myself, I (part 1)

For the next couple of weeks we're going to explore the Apostle's Creed which dates all the way back to the First Century AD.
What I'm hoping to do is to reflect more devotionally than theologically and to apply the precepts of the Creed to our lives.
O LORD, You have searched me and You know me.
2 You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
3 You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
4 Before a word is on my tongue
You know it completely, O LORD.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms139:1-24

We start with the very first word of the Apostle's Creed: "I"

As Christians we are in the awesome position that while we can talk about the faith of the church - we can also describe faith as a beautifully intimate and personal experience.

Faith is not merely a cerebral assent to a doctrine subscribed to by a community. Faith is a relationship at its most intimate: An encounter between the imperfect me-myself-and-I and the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Spirit.

Psalm 139 is an exploration of this intense intimacy. David explores this intimacy thoroughly in the Psalm. If you read it in its entirety there are moments that one senses how white-hot the Divine Interest in David is and it is as if David struggles to cope with God's loving attention to detail: He says
"5 You hem me in--behind and before;
You have laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Where can I flee from Your presence?"

But by the end of the Psalm David responds to Divine Interest - let's call it by its true name - LOVE. He opens himself to the fullness of relationship: Search me, know me, test me, lead me!

To believe is a personal thing. Not personal as in private and not-to-be-shared but personal as in INtimate, INterested and INvolved. To believe is a relationship between the "i" and the "I am" and the deeper the relationship is the more I am truly me.

(More on Tuesday)
I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God's only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again:
he ascended into heaven.
He is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, October 31, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-31 [Month of Mission] Salt and Light

Our devotion is by BOET VAN SCHALKWYK who is seconded to the International Sailors' Society of Southern Africa.
You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew5:13-16

We're called 'salt' and 'light' for the Glory of God.

Of salt and of light we have heard often - their source, effect, constitution, value and abilities/uses - but what are we do do with the "being salt and light"?

What/who are we? We are created in God's image to be His disciples [the objects of His love and blessings] i.e. He is our source who gives us our value [incredible value], constitution [gifts and the Fruit of the Holy Spirit] and uses [our mission and a task to do].

Who is God? - well we can be elevated into the glorious realms of discovering Alpha and Omega, Abba and YHWH - But.... Who is God to YOU and ME? According to Psalm 121:5 the Lord is your Keeper - "keepers" referred to keepers of the sheep i.e. Shepherds; keepers of the household; keepers of the city gates - all were special people. The keeper of the city gate would be the best Centurion in the Legion - best at battle tactics, best at combat, marksmanship, weaponry and most loyal. He was in the high pay grade category because of his huge responsibilities e.g. If an intruder came into the city on his watch and killed a citizen, the Centurion would pay with his life. So with the best man as their keeper the citizens felt safe.

Yet the Lord said that such a keeper couldn't be good enough when it came to His sons a daughters. Good as that centurion may be, He couldn't risk the well-being of His loved ones to a keeper who may fail. The had to have a more competent keeper One who was omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and all loving. "Therefore," proclaimed our Lord. "I will be their Keeper".
And what's more any other keeper will one day die, and then what would our lot be? No, as the Psalmist says, "the Lord is your Keeper both now and for ever more".

Therefore we can "let our light shine before others so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in Heaven". For the chief purpose of mankind is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. (1 Cor. 10:31, Ps. 73: 24-26, Jn. 17:22-24).

That brings us to the end of our Month of Mission Devotions. A big thank you to all who have followed this series and A HUGE BIG THANK YOU to Andries Combrink, Jackie Barker, Chris Judelsohn, Brian Smith, Jaco Bester, James Gray, Sibusiso Zungu, Mukondi Ramulondi, George Marchinkowski, Lungile Mpetsheni, Lentikile Mashoko, Glynis Goyns, Glen Craig, Alan Maker and Boet van Schalkwyk who took time out of their busy-ness to bring their thoughtfulness and insights to this journey. I know I have grown in my understanding of Mission and the God who takes us on this adventure with Him.
SOLI DEO GLORIA - To Him alone be all the glory!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, October 30, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-30 [Month of Mission] We have the power...

Our devotion is by BOET VAN SCHALKWYK who is seconded to the International Sailors' Society of Southern Africa.
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. Acts1:8

Do you remember, and if not, do you remember learning about those amazing speeches that Sir Winston Churchill made during the Second World War - when he encouraged and urged a brave but war weary British nation onwards. The Nazi threat of invasion endangered their continuing existence - challenging their standards and values and principles and all their beliefs.

Do you remember Churchill saying "..........we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; ........ we shall never surrender...........!

It is said that immediately after giving the speech, Churchill put his face into his hands and wept ...... "yes" he said, "we'll fight them in the air and we'll fight them in the streets and we'll fight them everywhere ........... but we have no ammunition to fight them with, except the butt ends of broken beer bottles because that's jolly well all we've got!"

I understand that it was after that, that he penned the now famous signal to the U.S. President........
"Give us the tools and we'll do the job!"

My dear brother and sister, we the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ hold in the core of our being the greatest Commission of all - see Mt. 28;18-20 ..... and all too often we feel a little overwhelmed and ask "But HOW Lord?" "With WHAT Lord?" "When Lord?" "I don't know if I can Lord!"...... and that calm, sweet voice comes through "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to ME - go therefore.............fear not for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name.... and I AM THE WAY ,THE TRUTH and THE LIFE".

Our response "Give us the tools and we'll do the job!"
And Jesus says "It is Done......"you will receive power when the Holy Spirit [all the Gifts and the Fruit of the 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 ....and be assured on my word of honour - I will be with you until the end of the age." [through every 'joy' and every 'challenge']

We have the POWER of the HOLY SPIRIT ....omnipotent omniscient omnipresent all loving eternal God fulfill THE TASK.

Let's join hands and let's Know - Grow - and Go!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-29 [Month of Mission] Our Commanding Officer's final instructions

We've concluded our thoughts on passing faith on to the next generation...
Our last three devotions will focus on the great calls to Mission that we find in Scripture.

Our devotion today is by ALAN MAKER, one of our retired (but still very active) ministers.
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew28:18-20

The second Creation Story in Genesis centres God's action in a garden. We spend too much time arguing about whether it happened neglecting to try to extract the meaning. Paradise is the place of what AN Whitehead, the British philosopher, called the "manifold harmonies" -- God at peace with humanity, humanity with nature, and nature with God.

The forbidden tree was the one opening the way to the knowledge of good and evil, a Hebrew idiom for everything. If you know everything, you are God. Humanity, unhappy with being a creature, wants to be the creator. Something very similar is told in the story of the tower of Babel. That desire leads to disharmony. The garden is destroyed. The Bible is the story of God's trying to get humanity back into the garden.

God called Abraham to found a people to be be God's instrument to restore harmony to the world. In Genesis 12:3 we read: "I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing". God gave the people a specific task -- to be a blessing to all humanity.

Some within Israel interpreted the blessing as an end in itself. They created an exclusive and nationalistic attitude. Within Israel great souls, the prophets and especially Isaiah, held fast to the wider vision. They saw the larger truth and dared to proclaim it.

Jesus came preaching the kingdom, another word for the garden. In that kingdom God's will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Perfect harmony would be restored. Jesus' teaching so offended the leaders of his time they executed him but God had the last word by raising him from the dead. This gave the assurance good will triumph over evil, justice over injustice, love over hate, and life over death. That is the good news

Jesus handed on to the church (his followers) the task of working with God to make that kingdom a reality.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-27 [Month of Mission] Children be open and teachable.

OOPS! I swapped yesterday and todays devs around. My apologies!
Our devotion is by GLEN CRAIG who is a retired but still very active minister.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. Proverbs1:7-9

Isaiah and then Jesus later on, warns us about those who "hear and hear not, see and see not." (Isa6:9 & Mt.13:13-14) This is not only a problem for children but for all of us who do not listen properly and do not learn from what we hear or see.

In Psalm 2:10 we read: "Therefore, you kings, be wise". There are a number of Hebrew words for be wise. This one implies be _teachable_. Even kings, even politicians, even Ministers, even parents need to be teachable. Even in our old age, I believe we need to be teachable. And as we who are older remain teachable, so those whom we mentor, whom we train, for whom we are responsible, also become teachable. This means that if our children or grandchildren, or any other young people, are to learn from or through us, we have to be a good example -- a role model of one, who him/herself is teachable. Then, also, if young people are to learn from us, they will need to _trust_ us. We will need to be their friends to whom they can relate.

The Apostle Paul, writing to the Church at Ephesus about children obeying their parents, continues: "Fathers do not exasperate your children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the LORD." Eph 6:4.

The best thing you can be for your children is a friend and role model.

It is also true that as we encourage our children/grandchildren to trust us, so we point them to trust in the Lord Jesus; to trust also in God as their Heavenly Father. It really is a tremendous responsibility, but remember that Jesus said: "Unless you become as a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven", and again when pointing to a little child: "of such is the Kingdom of Heaven." Yes, if we are to teach and be a role model for those younger than ourselves, we (the older folk) must have that trust and wonder of a little child.

I have focussed in this study on Fatherhood; being a Father and Grandad. Let me turn now to the Mother. Our text says: "do not forsake your mother's teaching" Prov 1:8. Of course, the same principles apply. However, the book of Proverbs has a wonderful affirmation for Mothers, who have this relationship with their children. Right at the end Prov 31:28 "Her children arise and call her blessed."

How wonderful for Parents or Grandparents to have the kind of relationship with their children or grandchildren where they honour them and call them blessed, for all they have learnt from them -- not only listening, but also seeing.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Monday, October 27, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-28 [Month of Mission] God blesses families

Our devotion is by ALAN MAKER, one of our retired but still very active ministers.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams. Isaiah44:3-5

The symbol of the old South Africa was "separateness". When we became a democracy we had to find new ones -- a new flag and a new national anthem. Desmond Tutu came up with the symbol "a rainbow nation". That can be interpreted as a family of many different colours, opinions, histories, and culture. The "family" is an excellent symbol for our new dispensation.

Some years ago the Presbyterian Church embarked on a two year evangelism programme for which the chosen symbol was "the family". The critics had a field day. The denomination was accused of returning to an exclusivism, separateness.

A true family, however, is open and not closed. We have three daughters. One of the delights over the years has been the people they have brought into our home. Long after they had all left to celebrate their independence, one of our daughters was coming from England to visit us. I bumped into an old friend of hers, told her the news, and her immediate response was, "Please wont you make a potjie as you used to do?" She remembered a warm, welcoming home.
We are families at every level -- our closest kin, a church family, a family of rainbow dimension in our country, and a family of nations in the United Nations.

Families are not perfect. In his book "Reaching Out" Henri Nouwen discusses the movements of the spiritual life. In one section he deals with families in which he makes the point that within families we need to move from hostility to hospitality. We can all testify to hostility within our own families. That is inevitable. The challenge is not to allow the hostility to separate us but to work towards reconciliation. The only reason the prodigal son came home was he knew he could.

God, the Creator, wants us to work for reconciliation, peace, and harmony in all the families to which we belong. St. Paul told us that Jesus broke down the dividing walls of hostility between traditional enemies. We can be sure that any and every effort towards harmony will receive God's blessing.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Sunday, October 26, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-26 [Month of Mission] Think about the next generation

Our devotion is by GLYNIS GOYNS who serves St Marks in Moregloed and also works for the South African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI).
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old--
3 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
5 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
6 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
7 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands. Psalms78:2-7

Ps 78:4 is a commitment not to hide God's power and his amazing actions from _their_ children, not _ours_. (The "their" is "our fathers") What does this mean? The generation gap and cultural divide are overturned.

The truth is that we're much better at living in the certainties of the present, and looking back to what is known and proven in the past than we are at envisioning and embracing the unexplored in the future. Yet we're called to wrap the message of the gospel, to package the teachings of God's Word so "the next generation" and "even the children yet to be born" will "know them" and, in turn, will "tell their children". Mission isn't only reaching out across geographic space from one nation to another; it's stretching across the vast reaches of time, bringing God's love and justice to all creation.

If we're to be effective ambassadors for God far into the distant reaches of time, we need to be more adventurous about the unknown and the unfamiliar. We need to picture the church in 50 years' time and far beyond. We need to be creative in how we shape the message so it can be received and understood by those who speak a different language and live in a different context, or those who respond to a different style of worship, but without losing the essence of the message spoken by a God who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I've just completed a three month journey with a group of confirmation candidates, culminating in a weekend camp. The Apostles' Creed formed the solid basis of all we discussed along the way. At the weekend camp, the group was challenged in the words of Eugene Peterson contemplating Jeremiah 12:5 to "run with the horses" as they participated in a horse trail in the Magaliesburg. They then physically explored the nature of faith and journey out of darkness into light as they went on a twilight bat cave adventure at Sterkfontein. Finally, they were challenged to explore their own faith as they wrote a personal, modern creed to explain the essence of their belief to their contemporaries. The Creed-writing was a thought provoking exercise and while some might find issues for theological debate in the content of these personal creeds, this was how they understood their commitment in faith as teenagers ready to share their beliefs with their friends in a modern context.

"Father, help us to be creative in how we pass on your message of hope so our children may be inspired to carry the torch of faith in the darkness with strength and courage, and to engage with the unexplored, passing your teachings on to future generations far into the distant reaches of time as they follow the way of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. Amen

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, October 25, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-25 [Month of Mission] Surround yourself with reminders

Our devotion is by GLYNIS GOYNS who serves St Marks in Moregloed and also works for the South African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI).
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy6:4-9

I'm not sure why, but Deuteronomy 6:4-9 always raises a picture in my mind of God walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of evening, chatting in the beauty of the garden about the joy of the day past, and anticipating the wonder of a new day to come... God present in the most natural way. I have the same sense of wonder about the normal everyday manner in Deuteronomy of bringing our children into God's presence.

An early childhood memory of mine is of my mother, widowed in her thirties, taking my brother, sister and I walking in the veld. She would find a sunny spot with a view, sit us on a rock or tree stump, and put her finger to her lips: "How many silent sounds can you collect?" she would whisper. Eyes alight with a deep sense of mystery, we'd listen for the sound of the wind stirring the grass; a beetle's wings whirring in the heat; a distant bird call; or our own hearts beating. We would hear God's voice shaping His creation as we listened to the hushed tones and long silences of peace in the afternoon. Without realising it, my mother was giving us a precious gift... to listen to the silences, to the meaning behind the sounds, to the unspoken. Such a gift is at the heart of love, the simple willingness in everyday life and ordinary surroundings to slow down, to be still, and to know the mystery and wonder of the Creator God; to hear the unspoken cry of a brother or sister, the dejection in a sagging head, the loneliness of a single tear tracking through the dirt on a grimy cheek, the confusion of a heart unable to express its deepest feelings.

That memory is imprinted in my very being, part of who I am. As we share the teachings of the Almighty and His precious Son with our children in the most ordinary ways as an intrinsic part of everyday life, so those lessons become an integral part of their identity rather than a distant wisdom to which they turn on the odd occasion when they're out of their depth. Children raised on the Word of God as they sit and as they walk along the road, when they lie down and when they get up come to know that this is the very essence of life itself.

Is this not the heart of mission in the home as one generation after another passes on the wondrous ability to "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One" and the understanding that there is no other way but to love Him "with all our heart and all our soul and all our strength"?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, October 24, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-24 [Month of Mission] A Mom and Granny who taught Scripture

Our devotion is by GLEN CRAIG who is a retired but still very active minister.
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." 2Timothy3:14-15

Timothy had a Mom and Granny who taught him Scripture. His Mom was Eunice and his Granny was Lois. (2Tim1:5) Paul urges his protege, Timothy, to continue in his growth in the Spirit that he had inherited from his Granny and his Mom.

Ever since I can remember, I attended Sunday School at Trinity in Grahamstown. I loved Sunday School. I loved the sand trays and the choruses we sang. Quite honestly, I don't really remember much of what I was taught, BUT I well remember that my Sunday School Teachers loved Jesus, and so I learnt to love Him too. My Teachers were Mrs Monica McRobert (the Minister's wife) and my own Mother. I believe that the seeds of faith were sown in my life in those early years.

So Paul writes to Timothy: "continue in what you have learned ... because you KNOW those from whom you learned it." Paul also writes: "I know Him whom I have believed". II Tim 1:12.

There is a big difference between knowing _about_ someone and KNOWing someone. The fundamental importance of Scripture is that Scripture helps us to know God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit: as Father, as Saviour, as Helper.

Even an Atheist can know everything about God from Scripture, but only the Believer - the Christian, will know God. When Paul was writing to Timothy, there was no New Testament. The Scripture he was referring to was the Hebrew Scripture - what we call the Old Testament. It was the only Scripture the early Church had.

I pray that you and I, as we continue to study the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments may continue to grow not only in our knowledge of God, but that through Jesus and the promised help of the Holy Spirit, we may KNOW Him better and grow in our relationship with Him. Thus grow, too, in our relationship with one another and strangely enough, with all His creation.

This means that as Parents, Grandparents, Elders, Ministers, Teachers, Mentors, we can only help those who look to us, if we KNOW Him, in whom we believe.

Someone once said: "I would rather see a sermon than hear one any day." Those, for whom we are responsible, need to see the Lord Jesus Christ in us - not just hear about Him from us. Jesus says: "By their fruits you will know them." James, in his Letter, writes: :"Faith without works is dead."

When we KNOW Him and are blessed by that relationship, we, in turn, become a blessing to our children and grandchildren, that they, too, may KNOW Him.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, October 23, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-23 [Month of Mission] Joshua makes the stakes clear

Today's devotion is by LENTIKILE MASHOKO who serves the Mabopane congregation.
Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. Joshua24:14-15

The book of Joshua is a story of how God led and protected the children of Israel who were surrounded by hostile nations. The book is totally Theocratic, in the midst of Monarchy, Aristocracy, Anarchy and so-called Democracy. It is the kingdom of God in its fullness: people depending on and trusting in His power to demonstrate his Love and Mercy. All the battles of Israel, were Yahweh's business, they had a mission to fulfil and God saw them through. It is a story of a commander of the army of Israel (Joshua) taking a role of a political, spiritual and moral leadership.

Joshua trusted in the power beyond himself. He allowed God to use him in His mission (Missio Dei), and he took his family with him.
It is indeed true to say "a family that prays together, stays together". The truth of the matter is that worship is not only a Sunday thing: it continues throughout the week, in our households. A Christian family carries a light, to lighten the world and to make it a better place throughout the week.

Joshua was a leader of the nation but he was also led his family. When he gave the nation a choice, he already knew that his family was with him in serving the Lord. It is obvious there were no debates in his family about this matter, God was the choice of Joshua's family. It is never easy to serve the people of God if our (family) devotional life is not in order.

How can we bring our families to be a family of prayer and devotion to God? The answer might be "we need to serve together as a family to touch lives, so that God will change lives". How do we introduce this? It is not simple, but we may begin to have family devotions and prayers together. This will lead us to serving in our church and community as a family.

My wife, Tumi, and I struggled for a long time with our devotional life together. I always go to bed early and and wake up and Tumi is the opposite of that. She has her devotions at night, I have mine in the morning. So we decided to have Saturday evenings as family devotion time. We read the Word, share and pray together. This time has become the most important in the family, and has brought our family close together, for we grow spiritually and can serve God better. In Mission, our devotional life as a family must be a driving force to serve others. Otherwise we become so busy serving the kingdom and forgetting about the Master.

God has a Mission and He wants us and our families in this Mission.
The question is, Are you ready?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-22 [Month of Mission] Faith Shapers

We start the fourth week of our Month of Mission where we concentrate on passing our faith on to the next generation.
Today's devotion is from JACO BESTER who serves St John's Presby in Middleburg.
I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands...
(2Tim3:14-15) for you , continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings..." 2Timothy1:5-6

There is an old Spanish proverb that says: "an ounce of mother is worth a ton of priest." This proverb was born not so much out of a disdain for the work of priests, but rather out of an appreciation for the fact that there is none more important, when it comes to the spiritual formation and grounding of a child, than the parent. Our parents, if they fulfil the biblical call made of them, are the ones who form and literally shape our faith.

Let me say from the outset; there is not one model for parenthood, there's no recipe or twelve-step program that will offer a fail-proof system for being a good faith-shaping parent. The challenges faced by parents differ from one family to another. Every parent's context is unique, and so the challenges of parenthood that we face are unique too, and no one can offer us a recipe to deal with those challenges.

But one thing is certain; the one universal truth of parenthood is the fact that we shape the faith of our children -- for better, or for worse -- this is what I like to call the missional dimension of the family. There is a very real sense in which every parent is a missionary (of the most precious kind) to their children.

The first step in celebrating biblical parenthood is to understand and accept (even embrace) the influence we have on our children's spiritual formation. Paul reminds Timothy that his faith is worth fanning into flame because of the fact that it has been handed down to him by his mother and grandmother (chiefly) and also by himself as his spiritual father.

Timothy's faith was no accident; it was the result of the example set by his mother (and grandmother). It arose from the fact that his mother helped to "acquaint" him with the scriptures from childhood and how he "learned" about faith from her (3:14-15).

We are missionaries, faith-shapers, to our children.

A final thought...
When Robert Ingersoll, the notorious sceptic, was in his heyday, two college students went to hear him lecture. As they walked down the street after the lecture, one said to the other, "Well, I guess he knocked the props out from under Christianity, didn't he?" The other said, "No, I don't think he did. Ingersoll did not explain my father's life, and until he can explain my father's life I will stand by my father's God."

Parents, please introduce your children to a God that even the greatest sceptics cannot undermine. Please live lives that show forth the glory of God for the sake of our children, for the sake of their faith, because we are the ones who will shape their faith -- by the grace of God and with his help. Let us be good missionaries, faith-shapers, to our children.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-21 [Month of Mission] Tell! Bear Witness! Declare!

Our devotion is by LUNGILE MPETSHENI who is our newly appointed denominational General Secretary.
We write to you about the Word of life, which has existed from the very beginning. We have heard it, and we have seen it with our eyes; yes, we have seen it, and our hands have touched it. 2 When this life became visible, we saw it; so we speak of it and tell you about the eternal life which was the Father and was made known to us. 3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you also, so that you will join with us in the fellowship that we have with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 1John1:1-3

The vision of the UPCSA is "To be a reconciled community of Christians exercising a prophetic witness to Christ." John captures this vision lucidly. We are called to join in the fellowship and to tell (witness) about the Word of life and Eternal life.

John reiterated what he presented in his gospel that in the Word that became flesh there was life and that the Word existed from the very beginning. In the human form, the Word became visible and tangible. The human senses were activated, so as to qualify the claim that the Word became flesh. This reinforces the call for faith and reason to work together towards a holistic and balanced Christian life. We need to see and feel the presence of Christ among us.

In a situation of chaos, disorder and confusion, there is need for Christianity that brings life to the people. Spiritual death results in the corrosion of the moral fibre in our society. We succumb to the 'prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience'(Eph2:1-4). Human beings have hardened their hearts and are in constant search of that which is carnal. The search of eternal life has been substituted by the search for prosperity and materialism. The testimony of those that have seen this "life that became visible" is more often than not rendered suspect and despised.

Those that inherit the eternal life become 'a reconciled community of Christians'. We join in the fellowship (koinonia) with the Father and the Son. We understand what Jesus means when he says in John 17 that he and the Father are one; therefore praying that we should also be one. The call to fellowship implies closing the gap between people and the destruction of the wall that separates us. The rich and the poor, the oppressor and the oppressed, the powerful and the powerless, women and men, young and old are brought together to the unity of the Father and the Son.

Christianity is an answer to our society. The reconciled community of Christians should 'exercise a prophetic witness to Christ'. John says we write about him, we have seen, we have looked upon him and touched him. Therefore, we TELL/BEAR WITNESS/DECLARE, so that many may come into the fellowship. Christ should be at the centre of the Church life, work and proclamation. The prophetic messages should be healing and liberating to both the rich and poor, oppressor and oppressed.

I urge all Christians not to prophesy anything negative about themselves as a reconciled community (eg "our church has no future"; "I don't know which direction this church goes"; "I don't even know why I go to church"). Let us instead stand together, isolate and neutralise the elements that destroy our hard earned fellowship. Ours is to TELL/BEAR WITNESS/DECLARE 'the Word of life, which has existed from the very beginning'. The world will then be a better place for all.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Monday, October 20, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-20 [Month of Mission] Paul's unquenchable desire for the salvation of others

Our devotion is by LUNGILE MPETSHENI who is our newly appointed denominational General Secretary.
But to this very day I have been helped by God, and so I stand here giving my witness to all, to small and great alike. What I say is the very same thing which the prophets and Moses said was going to happen: 23 that the Messiah must suffer and be the first one to rise from death, to announce the light of salvation to the Jews and to the Gentiles... 28 Agrippa said to Paul, "In this short time do you think you will make me a Christian?" 29 "Whether a short time or a long time," Paul answered, "my prayer to God is that you and all the rest of you who are listening to me today might become what I am -- except, of course, for these chains!" Acts26:22-32

As I reflected on this passage, I was overwhelmed by the liberating power of the gospel message. I was also excited by the image of a liberated prisoner. I was further reminded of what my father used to say, "If you speak truth, you speak it once; yet if you lie, you lie many times."

Paul stood as a prisoner before King Agrippa. Normally his space and life would have been so limited and constrained. Being a free man, Paul saw his territory so enlarged. Instead of being ashamed of the situation that people put him in, he celebrated the liberating power of the gospel. He saw and used that moment as an opportunity to proclaim and "give testimony" -- not in the normal court terms but in the heavenly way. He was a prisoner in human terms, but liberated according to the divine plan. God does broaden our territories. We get thrown into situations that we need to capitalise of and proclaim the message. A supposed-to-be situation of shame may become a moment of glory.

Paul could have been threatened by the panoply of royalty (King Agrippa, Queen Bernice and the Governor Festus.) Many preachers change their testimonies when they find out that there are celebrities and/or senior government officials in the crowds that they are to speak to. They like to give messages that are to impress such figures. This we do at the expense of the true gospel message.

Paul knew that he/she who kneels before God can stand before any and every man. Paul was small in stature, but a giant spiritually. He saw the King, with his mastery of the Jews religious practices and his cohorts as spiritual dwarfs. He gave a pure gospel to the King, announcing the light of salvation to the Jews and the Gentiles. Praise God for this bravery. We, preachers of the gospel are called to stand firm and not to compromise the liberating power of the gospel, even if the EMPIRE presents itself as a threat to us. The EMPIRE and its subordinates must hear the gospel and become Christian.

Lastly, Paul presents a seamless continuous message of liberation, which started in the messages of Moses and the Prophets. God has throughout history been in the enterprise of saving humankind. Paul stated this truth to Timothy, thus, God "wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. For there is one God, and there is one who brings God and human beings together, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself to redeem everyone. That was the proof at the right time that God wants everyone to be saved." (1Tim 2: 4-6).

Let all the nations receive salvation through our proclamation.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Sunday, October 19, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-19 [Month of Mission] That beautiful moment of conversion.

Our devotion is by GEORGE MARCHINKOWSKI who serves at St Mungo's in Bryanston.
The eunuch asked Philip, "Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, "Look, here is water. Why shouldn't I be baptized?" 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. Acts8:34-38

"On my way through adolescence to adulthood, I caught something, and I haven't been able to shake it since. The symptoms developed gradually, so I can't point to a single moment when it began for me... The infection was a good thing, a kind of anti-infection, really, because the worst case of it you had, the better, healthier and more alive you became. (Brian McLaren)

How were you "saved"? Was it a moment you can remember or was it a gradual process of getting to know Jesus, so that his grace slowly changed you? Was it a tragedy that got you thinking about the things that really matter? Can you remember?

The story of Philip on the wilderness road beautifully parallels another "road story": that of Jesus "opening the scriptures" to the two on the road to Emmaus. Now Philip, one of the leaders of the early church, meets a foreign diplomat on a similar quest - he is searching the scriptures to find something. I'm not sure that Ethiopian diplomat knew what he was looking for but he's searching.

Acts describes the man as a "eunuch", a castrated male. Eunuchs were fairly prevalent in the ancient world - they would never marry and therefore give loyalty to a royal court or household. This eunuch had come to Jerusalem "to worship" and is now reading a suffering servant passage from Isaiah. Philip, again a travelling stranger, asks if the eunuch needs help with interpretation. An invitation is given for Philip to travel alongside the eunuch.

The unreported part of the story is that the eunuch, having travelled to Jerusalem to worship, was probably not allowed that privilege. Deuteronomy 23:1 graphically prevents any eunuchs from entry into the temple. The high official of Ethiopia has come a long way only to be prevented from "worshipping" Yahweh. It's likely that his skin colour also made entry into the temple impossible (See Paul in Acts 21:28-29). With Philip, the Eunuch finds an altogether different response - Philip explains as he is able, witnessing to a new dispensation which is open to all who earnestly seek redemption. Jesus saves. Now, all are accepted: Samaritans, Gentiles, Africans and even the "sexually other".

When Philip and the eunuch knelt beside that bit of water and then experienced the Spirit of God making something ordinary into something extraordinary, they experienced the beautiful moment, that moment when heaven and earth didn't seem so far apart, the moment when eternity touched time. The eunuch 'caught something' (a good something) that would change his life. A new friend of Jesus found welcome on the road to Gaza, yet another example of a new reality coming among us.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, October 18, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-18 [Month of Mission] And we can participate...

Our devotion is by MUKONDI RAMULONDI who is the Moderator of our General Assembly and serves at St Mungos and Diepsloot.
How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the Good News. Romans10:14

Paul asks three rhetorical questions, and these questions present four steps that are critical in sharing the Good News.

God calls Men and Women from among ourselves and expects us to join hands with him in sending out those who are responding to the call. There are many ways of participating in sending out preachers: We may commit ourselves to pray for them and by providing financial resources to them.

Those who are called should preach the Good News. This can be done by almost all of us. Each one of us should be able to share our personal stories of our relationship with the Lord. This can be done in different ways. St Mungo's in Diepsloot touches so many lives in the community through different actions. This includes empowering local persons with life-skills, feeding the hungry, and caring for the sick. Through community action the church is able to restore lost hope and dignity to the people.

Faith without works is dead. People will never make sense of our Christian message if it does not translate to their day to day challenges. How we proclaim the gospel is critical.

This is about believing in the Lord. It's all about people putting their trust in the Lord. If we do our mission properly those who hear us will put their trust in God and give their lives to him.

William Temple, Arch Bishop of Canterbury described evangelism as; "To evangelize is to present Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, that people may come to put their trust in God through him, to accept him as their Saviour and serve him as their King in the fellowship of the church."

We participate in Mission because:
- Jesus asks us to,
- out of love for others,
- because Jesus was and still is committed to the salvation of human kind and growth of the church,
- because the Bible says this will happen before Jesus returns.(Mt24:14)

PRAYER: Dear God, creator and redeemer of the world, thank you that you are interested in us joining hands with you in the sharing of the Good News. Give us strength when we neglect to carry out what you have commissioned us to do. Help us to encourage each other to participate in the sharing of the Good news. Forgive us of our past failures and lead us to new life and hope for the future. Inspire us to be courageous carriers of the Good News. Amen.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, October 17, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-17 [Month of Mission] It's not earned...

Today's devotion is by LENTIKILE MASHOKO who serves the Mabopane congregation.
5 Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." 6 But the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?' " (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 "or 'Who will descend into the deep?' " (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Romans10:5-13

Paul is writing to the Church in Rome, who were predominantly Gentiles with few Jews among them. The book deals with God's plan for salvation for all humankind. Jews and Gentiles alike are sinners and are in need of salvation of God.

This salvation has been provided by God in Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary and through the power of resurrection. The fact of the matter is that salvation is not something we must earn by ourselves. It is not about the good works we are doing, the good works are just the fruits of our faith. We need to understand that there is nothing we can do that will guarantee our salvation outside faith. This provision that God made, must be received only by faith.

Genesis 15:6 says "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness". Salvation when received by faith, produces the righteousness of God in us. This righteousness makes us bear the fruits of the Spirit(Gal.5:22-23) and change the world. That means our faith must work out in practical ways, both in the church and in the world.

The Word is near us, it is in our mouths and in our hearts. We have what it takes to go out and practice our faith to draw the world to Jesus Christ of Nazareth. We need to confess Jesus Christ of Nazareth as our Lord and Saviour. We need to walk the talk and let the Spirit convince those who are called to this salvation.

It is by faith, not by works that we are saved... but when we are saved, we become righteousness of God and are compelled to proclaim it to the nations, to call unto him those whom he died for on the cross of Calvary. To reach out to those who need our help and open our arms to share his providence.

An American Gospel singer, Shelly Caesar in her song "I remember mama in a happy way" says "It is hard to come into contact with Jesus and still remain the same, I don't care whether you are a chief of sinners, you will never be the same...". Even you; can come and receive Jesus Christ of Nazareth by Faith and be saved. Just believe in him, give him your life, and let him change you.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, October 16, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-10-16 [Month of Mission] A decision that everyone must make

Unfortunately our Dev-Writer for today has had computer trouble and couldn't get his devotion to me in time. Hope this reflection is helpful....
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "
4 "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
5 Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, `You must be born again.' 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John3:3-8

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night... Was he just curious?
Or was he hungry and thirsty for righteousness - desperate for something that the Pharisees and the Jewish Council couldn't give him?

Jesus cuts straight to the point:
Entering God's Kingdom isn't an inherited right or something that happens by loose association. It's not something that comes to us by default if we live good lives. Entering God's Kingdom happens by new birth.

Jesus goes on to explain it with three images:
* It's a SECOND Birth - a new beginning. It is followed by growth and leads toward maturity where we "have children" by leading others to God.

* It's a SPIRITUAL Birth. Blaise Pascal talked about the "God-shaped hole" inside all of us. Being born-again is to invite God's Spirit to fill that hole.

* It's a MYSTERIOUS Birth. You can't see the wind, hold the wind or tell the wind where to blow. Being born again means that we are no longer our own - we belong to Him. We go where the Wind blows.

Jesus was announcing the coming of a Kingdom.
Entry into His coming KINGDOM (where His will is done) is initiated by an event or a process (that in my case took a few months) where I had to recognise that:
- This life is not enough and I can't find fulfilment in myself.
- There is a God-shaped hole in me and I need Him
- Being born-again means I throw myself into an amazing voyage where I'm not in charge but His Wind takes me into the life He has prepared for me.

Nicodemus came at night: frightened of what others thought. We meet him again in John 7 - half-heartedly trying to stand up for Jesus. He appears a last time in John 19 carrying an armload of spices to bury Jesus. My picture is of Nicodemus in the "spiritual womb" he's hungry and thirsty and instinctively knows that Jesus holds the answers, but he just won't let go, he doesn't let the birth happen and that's just a great pity.

Do you know someone like that?