Friday, January 31, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-31 [New Beginnings] A wise man's tragedy

A little late today - sorry!
So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?" 1Kings3:9

Solomon started so well - he asked for wisdom instead of riches. God gave him both.

The early years were wonderful:
- Solomon rightly handling the two women with the dead baby
- Solomon building the temple
- Solomon being visited by the Queen of Sheba because he was so wise

But it didn't last...
- Solomon added wife after wife for political alliances
- He built and expanded his personal wealth until even the stables for his horses were bigger and more impressive than the temple.
- He was taxing his people more and more
- His heart went to other gods and idols.

After his death the kingdom was torn in two - and it was his leadership that laid the foundation for that disaster.

Great wisdom and intellectual "smarts" can sometimes be our worst enemy. When we're gifted in the intellectual department, we often think that the basic common sense rules of life don't apply to us...

Solomon didn't plan to lose his way but he broke three important rules:
- He wasn't careful about the company he kept
- He was sucked in by possession obsession and his own self-importance
- He didn't guard his heart and his relationship with God.

--> Dear Lord
Help me to stay humble and to keep my eyes fixed on You. Help me to choose my friendships carefully and not to be owned by my stuff or my need to be liked and respected. Keep me safe from the wise-man's tragedy so that I can finish strong.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 30, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-30 [New Beginnings] Beginning again

1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise. Psalms51:1-19

David, the man after God's own heart, has sinned. It is disastrous, scandalous, horrific, and cataclysmic. Surely this is the end?

But David's closeness to God has taught him that God is slow to anger and abounding in love. So David rushes to confession and repentance. He knows he needs to begin again.

We know Psalm 51 so well that we have let it become a cliche.
There is even a danger that this beautiful psalm could be considered "cheap grace" - you sin, you say sorry, and then everything's ok and you can sin again.

But a careful reading of this Psalm reveals something different. David isn't merely rebooting his operating system - he is doing a complete reinstall. He isn't simply going through the motions, he really is beginning again.

Let's look at some key features of the Psalm...
* He knows that forgiveness is not a right, but something that is a pure gift out of God's abundant goodness.
* He knows that his sin is serious and terminal. He can't explain it away, sweep it under the carpet or make up for it. He has no leg to stand on.
* He knows that he needs more than forgiveness. He needs a new beginning and he can't make that happen by himself. It is God who creates pure hearts,renews steadfast spirits and restores joy. It is a work of grace. It is God who gives us willing spirits.
* A new beginning can only come from a death to selfish pride and arrogance. It needs contrite brokenness (not hopeless brokenness but contrition)

--> Lord. Sometimes I hide my sins away because I am scared of the new start that you have in mind for me. Help me to be like David - courageous enough to see that when you fix us, you do full and beautiful work.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-29 [New Beginnings] Saul's missing quality

14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD's command. 1Samuel13:14

Saul was Israel's first king. He was tall, he commanded authority, he impressed the people - but he was a disaster - and the problems were not fixable.

Saul was arrogant, stubborn, disobedient and independent in the worst possible way.

A new beginning was needed and Samuel spells out what God requires.
God seeks people who will be after His heart.

What does it mean to have a heart after God?? Looking at the life of the David - the man Samuel is talking about - will help us.

People after God's heart are:
* People who will be hungry and thirsty to do what God wants.
* People whose hearts beat faster at the thought of seeing God's will done in the world.
* People whose priorities, desires, passions and decisions are shaped by a dynamic relationship with the living God.
* People who are willing to give God their best and hold nothing back.
* People who refuse to take short-cuts and are committed to do things God's way.
* People who will lose themselves in passionate worship no matter who may scoff.
* People who will march out toward giants because they trust God.
* People who are humble enough to return to God when they blow it.

There's a sober warning here:
Saul's heart was too far gone...
We should do regular heart checks to make sure we are teaching our hearts to be like David's and not like Saul.

--> PS 139:23 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.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-28 [New Beginnings] Loyalty

But Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me." Ruth1:16-17

The account of Ruth documents one of the most challenging personal new beginnings we find in the Bible. Ruth was a Moabite. Traditionally Israelites and Moabites disliked, mistrusted and even hated each other.

Elimelech, an Israelite, had come to Moab because of a famine in Israel. Ruth fell in love with Mahlon, one of Elimelech's sons. But marrying into this family of foreign refugees would not have been a popular move among her own people...

Then all the men in Elimelech's family died, leaving only his wife, Naomi, and his sons' widows, Orpah and Ruth. One can imagine the townspeople saying: "Hmmm that's what you get for marrying into a family of foreign heathens!"

But Ruth has started to believe in the God of Israel... Then, when Naomi hears that the famine is over, she prepares to go back and tries to persuade her Moabite daughters-in-law to remain in Moab.

But Ruth is determined to go with Naomi. She says:
"Don't urge me to leave or turn back..." (I don't even want to contemplate it, so don't keep nagging me about it because I'm so scared)
"Where you go..." (I'm willing to _head_ into the unknown and _stay_ outside my comfort zone)
"Your people will be my people" (I'll start from scratch and reinvent myself)
"Your God will be my God" (This is what it is all about)
"Where you die... Be buried" (this is a lifelong commitment)
"May The Lord deal with me..." (She seals it with a vow)

Ruth leaves behind all she knows and all she is to show loyalty to Naomi because she has met Naomi's God. We don't talk about loyalty often when we talk about faith.

Maybe we should.

The story of Ruth is a powerful new beginning.
She, a scorned Moabitess, is the great great granny to king David and features in the genealogy of Christ.
All because of her loyalty in love and faith!

How loyal in love and faith are we???

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, January 24, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-24 [New Beginnings] Owning Identity

At that time the LORD said to Joshua, "Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again." Joshua5:2

It's important to understand circumcision as it was practised by the Israelites. The surrounding nations practised circumcision at puberty as a rite of passage to manhood. When God asks Abraham to circumcise boys at eight days old it marks a significant shift in the meaning and purpose of circumcision: It was no longer a rite of passage to manhood, but a mark of belonging to the covenant people of God.

Imagine a group of young boys (Hittites, Perizites and Israelites) all swimming in a local waterhole (no swimming costumes) the boys from the other nations ask "Why have you already been cut?" The Israelite boys would answer "Because we belong to God!!"

During the Exodus through the desert, they had not performed any circumcisions. There was a whole generation of boys who were now men who weren't marked as belonging to God.

God re-establishes the practice of circumcision - a reminder that we belong to God. A reminder that tiny infants are included in the people of God long before they can reach out to Him. A reminder that even if we neglect this truth (as the Israelites did in the desert), the truth remains the same - we belong to Him!

Strategically this was not a good move. Circumcision is easier for eight-day-old infants than for grown men. Joshua effectively incapacitated his army for a couple days. It required courage and humility from the men to undergo the flint-knife snip snip.

But what a powerful statement of grace! What an incredible gesture of love! God says "You may have neglected the practice but for me the truth has remained the same." Just before the battle for the land begins the army is given a tangible reminder: "They belong to God."

==>Sometimes we forget who we are. We forget that we are children of the King and that we belong to Him. We have to come back to that core truth and sometimes coming back to that truth means that we have to humble ourselves and let something go. But God is there and waiting for us!!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 23, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-23 [New Beginnings] Guided Courage #2

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua1:8-9

Leadership requires courage. That's pretty obvious.
But God's call to Joshua puts things in perspective. It's not only courage that is needed: God repeatedly calls Joshua to be "strong and courageous" (v.6,7 & 9) and in the middle of it all He asks Joshua to be devoted to the Law of the Lord.

Strength and Guidelines (the Book of the Law) are the pre-requisites to courage.

If you don't have a clear set of values and principles then there is not anything to be courageous about. Courage is not only about facing enemies. The hardest task of leadership is leading oneself. God's Word provides the principles and values that one takes a stand for.

But the "Book of the Law" is more than Mao Tse Tsung's "Art of War." It's not only about principles and values. It's about relationship with a God who calls, rescues and forgives. (The Book of the Law (Torah) referred to the stories and commandments that we now find in the first five books of the Old Testament.) The Book of the Law tells the story of God at work with His people.

Strength is needed for courage to go the distance. Strength comes from focus, discipline and training. Most battles are not decided in the heat of the battle but in the hours of disciplined training that has gone before. On the rugby field it is fitness and not talent that will have the final say.

To face new challenges with courage is not enough. There needs to be strength that comes from discipline and preparation and there needs to be an immersion in the truths and values of God that are best discovered Scripture.

==> Lord as I face my challenges let my courage not be mere bravado or trust in myself, but the product of disciplined preparation that is grounded in Your Word.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-22 [New Beginnings] Guided Courage #1

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua1:8-9

Moses has died and Joshua has to take over as leader of the Israelites.

Joshua was one of two of the twelve spies who trusted God instead of being intimidated. He was mentored by Moses. He'd spent many hours in God's presence in the tent of meeting. He'd been victorious in battle while Moses, Aaron and Hur upheld him in prayer.

But now he begins a new chapter - without Moses and with big challenges ahead.

What does he need???
According to God, he needs strength, courage and to be saturated in the principles and truths of God's Word. (More on these tomorrow)

There are also some things he doesn't need: Terror and Discouragement.

TERROR comes from letting our circumstances and challenges overwhelm us so that our reason and logic fail us. I succumb to terror when I am tired, when my tank is empty, when I don't break my problems into bite-sized chunks, and when I forget how big my God is. Terror grabs me when I allow myself to be overwhelmed emotionally or mentally. Terror is a liar - it blows circumstances out of proportion and it hijacks child-like faith and common sense. Terror is enemy-centred instead of God-centred. We have to _choose_ not to be terrified.

DISCOURAGEMENT is the result of being gradually worn down. Discouragement is faith eroded, courage depleted and strength worn down. Dealing with discouragement requires rest and re-visioning. To counter discouragement we need to be reminded of God's faithfulness and we need to remember His goodness. Discouragement focuses on how weak and tired I am instead of on how faithful God is. We have to find _replenishment_ to overcome it. (See Isaiah 30:15)

Discouragement and terror are the enemies of strength, courage and obedience. Be relentless in rooting them out - it will give you a new start.

Isaiah 30:15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says:
"In repentance and rest is your salvation,
in quietness and trust is your strength,
but you would have none of it.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-21 [New Beginnings] B.F.I.

My apologies if you get this more than once - I tried sending this
earlier this morning and it seems to have lost its way or hit a delay in
which case it may arrive again.
The LORD said, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I
have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am
concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them
from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land
into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey--the
home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and
Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I
have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am
sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of
Egypt." Exodus3:7-10

Many problems can be fixed by what I call B.F.I. (Brute Force and
Ignorance). Suitcase won't close? No need to re-pack - just push harder.
Pickle bottle won't open? Just grip it harder and use more muscle! But
sometimes B.F.I. breaks things...

Moses tried B.F.I. when he saw his people being oppressed. In a fit of
passionate rage and zealous indignation he killed an Egyptian who was
beating an Israelite. This didn't gain him trust and respect with the
Israelites and it certainly didn't win him any points with the
Egyptians. The Israelites saw him as a dangerous loose cannon and
Pharoah wanted him dead.

Moses has to flee...
When he gets to Midian he uses B.F.I. to rescue Jethro's daughters from
shepherds who won't let them water their flocks (fortunately this didn't
backfire on him...) So he stays in Midian where he becomes a husband, a
father and a shepherd. After forty years it would seem that he is ready
to try another way and so God appears to him at the burning bush.

It is interesting how God identifies with Moses' passion. Notice the
verbs: "I have SEEN the misery... I have HEARD them crying out... I am
CONCERNED... I have COME DOWN to RESCUE them." (The heard and seen
elements are repeated in v.9...) God is showing Moses where his(Moses')
passion comes from.

This is Moses' new beginning: He was born with a passion to rescue. He
cares about the people, but now, instead of being a rebel without a
clue, he will become a missionary (in the sense that he is on God's
mission to rescue and deliver.)

God places passions, giftings and desires in our hearts. Sometimes, like
Moses, we don't have to change our mission, we just need to change how
we do it. We need to stop trying to do it in our own way and do it God's

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, January 17, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-17 [New Beginnings] Out of trouble

But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them. Genesis50:19-21

We know the story of Joseph: Betrayed by his brothers, sold into slavery, framed by Potiphar's wife, and forgotten in prison. Then, by Divine Intervention, second-in-command in Egypt and responsible for anticipating and providing for an upcoming famine thus saving many lives.

Now, years later, after his family has been brought to Egypt and his father has died, his brothers are fearful of reprisal from Joseph who is still the second most powerful person in Egypt.

But Joseph displays a force more powerful than vengeance - he displays the power of a life transformed for the better in spite of the potentially harmful experiences he'd been through.

We fear trouble, loss and heartache. We tend to believe that hardship marks "the end of the world" and that "nothing good can come of this." But God can bring new beginnings out of trouble, suffering and tragedy.

Joseph saw the new beginning and, having recognised it, lived a new life. It didn't take away the betrayal, slavery or imprisonment, but he had bigger and better things to focus on and lived graciously as a result. In our own country's history we have seen a similar example in the life of Nelson Mandela.

But Joseph's words point forward to an even greater example of trouble transformed, new beginnings offered and grace extended.
Jesus Christ, God's Son, our Saviour endured terrible pain and suffering to accomplish "the saving of many lives."

If you were to ask Him about trouble, I think He would say:
"It's Friday(crucifixion) ... but Sunday (resurrection) is coming!"
God can give us new beginnings out of the troubles and heartaches of our lives, allowing us to be gracious and to forgive. Will you let Him work in you?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, January 16, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-16 [New Beginnings] The fixer Fixed

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, "Let me go, for it is daybreak."
But Jacob replied, "I will not let you go unless you bless me."
27 The man asked him, "What is your name?"
"Jacob," he answered.
28 Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
29 Jacob said, "Please tell me your name."
But he replied, "Why do you ask my name?" Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." Genesis32:24-30

Years ago the current moderator of our church, Alan Spence, preached on this passage and the antics of Jacob who the Bible portrays as an ankle-grabber, brother-swindler, father-deceiver, uncle-manipulator and all-round-grabber. Alan called him a "fixer." (In the sense of match-fixing - not car-fixing.)

This scene at the Jabbok river is powerful. Jacob is alone, he has already been confronted by his uncle Laban who pursued him after he hot-footed it from the family farm and now he must face brother Esau whom he defrauded of birthright and blessing. He has sent his family and flocks ahead and now in solitude he is confronted by God in human form.

They wrestle (it is a parable in action).
When we read it - we are tempted to think that Jacob has managed to get God in a half-nelson, refusing to let Him go, but a more careful reading reveals something different.

In Hebrew culture knowing someone's name gave you power over them.
It is God who asks for, gets and changes Jacob's name.
This is Jacob's new beginning.
He wrestles and is bested (it looks like God cheats by touching his hip, but its the only way to stop Jacob from foolishly wrestling to his own death.) Although beaten he realises that he does not want to continue life without this Presence in his life and he asks for a blessing.

He asks for a blessing and gets something much bigger - a new name and destiny.
His name (and therefore his nature and destiny) is changed from Jacob (Deceiver) to Israel (He struggles with God). It is a name that implies relationship and God blesses him and spares him.

If we read forward, we see it takes Jacob a little while to stop "fixing" and to trust God, but it happens.
Although we've often been guilty of stubbornly trying to be the master of our own destinies and manipulate our own ways, God will wrestle us to the point where we finally acknowledge that we cannot win (and sometimes God has to touch our hips to help us see truth) When we surrender to God without letting go of Him, He will change our names and our destinies.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-01-15 [New Beginnings] It costs something

Good Morning!
Schools have started and so our EmmDevs for the year start again. If I haven't seen you or had any other form of contact with you, please allow me to wish you a blessed and happy 2014.

Caleb starts High School this year and so I have had "New Beginnings" on my mind. We'll follow that thought for the next week or two...
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. Genesis3:21

In talking about beginnings, one could argue that I've skipped the first beginning in Genesis 1, but I dealt with it in detail in August last year and for me that was a FIRST beginning. I'm using "new" beginnings in the sense that there was an "old" beginning that has been lost.

Creation was still very young when Adam and Eve wrecked it through their disobedience. In choosing what they desired and what their ambitions dictated, they alienated themselves from God.

Their disobedience wrecked four relationships:
With God: - They hid from Him
With themselves: - They were ashamed of their nakedness
With each other: - They blamed each other for their failure
With creation: - They were destined to struggle to till the earth

The picture is terribly sad: When God walks in the garden to be with them, they're hiding and trying to cover themselves with sewn together fig leaves. They've lost the first beginning.

But God gives them a new beginning: God makes garments of skin for them. By implication an animal dies. A sacrifice is made.

The sacrifice of the animal points toward Jesus' ultimate sacrifice. In Rev 7:9-14 we read about how we are clothed in robes that have been "washed in the blood of the Lamb."

This first "new" beginning already shows us something very important about new beginnings - they are not free, but Jesus is willing to pay.
What a comfort to know that we are so loved by God that He gives us new beginnings even when it cost Jesus His life.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at