Friday, February 28, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-28 [Light] Lamp

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
it gives understanding to the simple. Psalms119:105-130

Have you ever walked in the veld with a torch?
Or think about driving your car at night...
The torchlight/headlight only illuminates a few meters in front of you. To see further, you have to walk or drive forward.

God gives us His Word as a lamp to light our life-pathway.
Many people read the Bible and give it up as a lost cause when they don't find what they were looking for.

Part of the problem is that they don't understand how God's light works... The truth is that we don't get to see the whole road even before we take the first step - we have to take steps in the walk of faith. There is light for the pathway in front of us, but to see more, we must walk on the path.

Often when people come to me complaining that God isn't speaking to them, I will ask: "So what was the last thing you felt God was saying to you??" People will respond with answers like: "I need to reprioritise my life" or "I need to forgive someone" or "I need to count my blessings more often." Then I'll ask them: "So, have you done it yet?" Almost every time they sheepishly admit that they haven't!! It's like standing on the path and complaining about a torch that doesn't shine further ahead or shine around a corner, when all that is needed is to take a few steps.

Again, this tells us something about God.
God _chooses_ to give us lamplight rather than total light. We learn to walk in relationship and trust with Him. Our lives work best when we use His light for every step of the way - when we have total light, we quickly forget about Him and become our own gods.

As you you take the next step, be assured of this, God will light up the next bit of the road for you - just learn to listen to His Word.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 27, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-27 [Light] Guidance and Presence

By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take. Nehemiah9:12

Nehemiah is reflecting on the Exodus some 800 years after the event. For him the pillar of cloud and fire ranks with the parting of the Red Sea and the giving of the Law at Sinai. The pillar of fire and cloud was the symbol and pledge of God's presence with them.

The pillar is a very practical expression of presence and provision. The cloud shaded them by day, fire might have taken the chill out of the night and also provided light for them.

It wasn't only about showing the way, it was about reassuring them of His presence and it was also a warning to their enemies. To this day we find the light of a fire comforting and reassuring.

The pillar of fire and cloud tells us about about the nature of God. The pillar was not so much a signpost to show the way (it wasn't _that_ hard to navigate the Sinai wilderness) as it was a reassurance of God's presence, protection and provision.

The night times in the wilderness could be frightening for the Israelites. A fiery pillar providing warmth and light is a powerful reassurance.

Sometimes we must travel through the wild-ness of life. There are enemies, the way isn't always clear and we need to be reassured that God is with us, watching over us and meeting our needs.

God hasn't changed - He's still the same - yesterday, today, forever - He still provides, protects and shows His presence among us. We have His Spirit in our hearts, His Word to light our paths and the community of God's people with us.

If you look back, like Nehemiah did, you will see the symbols of God's presence in your wild-ness.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-26 [Light] A good leader

The God of Israel spoke,
the Rock of Israel said to me:
`When one rules over men in righteousness,
when he rules in the fear of God,
4 He is like the light of morning at sunrise
on a cloudless morning,
like the brightness after rain
that brings the grass from the earth. 2Samuel23:3-4

At the beginning of the chapter, this passage is described as "David's last words." (David does say some other things, but none of it is poetry - so this is David's last song.) He is passing the baton of leadership on to Solomon.

Picture the bright light of a cloudless dawn.
Imagine the brilliant light after an afternoon thunderstorm.

When leaders follow God, their leadership brings hope, relief and peace.

How is this kind of light-bringing-leadership achieved?

David tells us that righteousness is needed. Leaders who are free of corruption, but who also actively do what is right and seek to live morally and ethically.

But there's more: great leaders understand that it is not about them. They are God-fearing. They know and understand that they must one day stand before God and answer to Him. They lead in the certainty that they must account to God for their words and works.

Let's pray urgently for our leaders that they will learn to rule in righteousness and the fear of the Lord.

Maybe a nice analogy to use is that of the moon and the planets. Mars, Jupiter, the moon and other planets have no light of their own - we can see them because they reflect the light of the sun. Good leaders know that they need to reflect God's light.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 20, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-20 [Light] Light through the night

"Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning. 21 In the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain that is in front of the Testimony, Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the LORD from evening till morning. This is to be a lasting ordinance among the Israelites for the generations to come. Exodus27:20-21

While the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness for 40 years, they built the tabernacle which symbolised the holiness, beauty and presence of the Lord.

They already had the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, but now God asks them to have lamps burning throughout the night in the tabernacle. (We see the same Lamp of the lamp of God in the tabernacle when the boy Samuel hears the Lord calling him in 1Sam3)

Why is this so important?
Because darkness is the absence of light and to keep physical and spiritual darkness at bay we simply need light.

It's really important for us to grasp this concept.
We are discouraged by the darkness of evil, despair and pain in our world.

But it's in the tabernacle, and later the temple, where the lamps were kept burning through the night that the Israelites were reminded that God's light will always drive back the darkness.

From my teen years I remember the little Anglican Church in Irene. It was left unlocked and one could go there to pray at any time and there was a light by the altar that always shone.

The symbolism is powerful: Come to worship and you will find light.
Come to God's presence and you'll find the darkness in your soul will be driven back. God's presence does to emotional, spiritual and moral darkness what physical light does to the night.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-19 [Light] Let there be....

And God said, "Let there be light," (Gen1:3)
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John1:4-5)
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2Cor4:6)

Our series for the next few days is going to be about light.
In particular, how the Bible uses light to illustrate His Creation and Salvation.

Just think about light for a moment...
The gradual growing of light at dawn, tentative at first and then bursting triumphantly across the horizon at sunrise...
Or a candle in a dark room...
Or light refracted in a rainbow...
Or the glorious colours in the hour before sunset as the oranges, yellows and finally indigoes and violet bend around the curve of the earth.

Think about the Tenebrae service at Easter when the hopelessness of total darkness is defeated by the lighting of a single match because we know that Christ is risen!!!

If you were a movie-maker how would you portray the first light of creation? Slow and tentative like the dawn with the highpoint of sunrise and gentle music crescendo-ing? Or would you have dark and then light blazing into the scene with trumpets or even triumphant rock music?

And how about how you'd portray the light of God's forgiveness and love spilling into a human soul? How would you picture the Light as it shone in your own life?

Take a moment to think back on your conversion and how the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ shone in your heart....

And give thanks!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, February 14, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-14 [New Beginnings] Valentine

The LORD said to me, "Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love the sacred raisin cakes." Hosea3:1-2

God asked Hosea to preach a message with his life. He was to marry an unfaithful woman named Gomer. She was a prostitute and kept running after material things, earthly pleasures and other gods. Inevitably these things would shipwreck her life and she'd end up sold in slavery.

Hosea was asked to love her. To go and buy her out of slavery and lavish his love on her. He would do this again and again.

This incredible act of wilful (will-full) love was an "enacted parable" and was to be understood as God's patient journey with the nation of Israel.

Today is Valentine's day and we celebrate the joy and beauty of romantic love all over the world. On Valentine's day, few of us can imagine a grizzled prophet crossing over into a foreign land, striding into a seedy neighbourhood and seeking out a broken and used up prostitute so that he can rescue her, spoil her and love her unconditionally.

Few of us can imagine a God hanging on a cross, dying for a worn out unfaithful bride who has just whipped Him, spat on Him and crucified Him.

Thankfully we don't have to imagine it - it's not a fantasy that needs to happen - it's already been done!! It's fact!! He did all of that for us.

We have been given the greatest new beginning ever.
We are His valentine!
And He has shown incredible love to us!

That's the end of our new beginnings series...
Any suggestions for the next one?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, February 13, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-13 [New Beginnings] Known

47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false." 48 "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you." 49 Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel." John1:47-49

(This is a devotion I wrote back in 2007...)
Jesus called Philip. Philip knew just who he needed to introduce to Jesus: His friend Nathanael.

Nathanael was sceptical when he heard that Jesus was from Nazareth. Nazareth is probably the equivalent of "Pofadder." Philip doesn't argue, he just says: "Come and see."

Jesus takes the initiative when Nathanael approaches. He gives Nathanael two big compliments:
1.He is loyal and faithful to his heritage and faith - a true Israelite
2.He is a person of integrity.

Nathanael is still sceptical - but Jesus rocks his boat when he talks about seeing Nathanael under the fig tree.

What is that all about???
Fig trees provided cool, quiet shade. People often used the shade of a fig tree as a place of prayer. We can only imagine that Nathanael had been under the tree praying a tough prayer. Something like:
"Lord, please show yourself to me"
"Lord, when are you coming to save your people?"
"Lord, do you care about our brokeness and suffering?"

By saying that he saw Nathanael under the fig tree, Jesus is saying that He has heard Nathanael's deepest and most intimate prayers.

Nathanael's response is immediate - there is no more scepticism - this is the Messiah.

Jesus assures him that this is just the beginning: "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."

What do we learn from Nathanael's new beginning?
1. Integrity and Faithfulness are qualities are values Jesus rates highly
2. Jesus knows us intimately and hears our deepest prayers and needs.
3. He will answer our questions
4. When we respond in trusting faith, he will do great things in us.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

EMMDEV New Beginnings: Even in Babylon God is with us.

Ezekiel was the prophet who God called to bring hope to those who had been exiled in Babylon. The Israelites believed that because they were in exile and the temple had been destroyed, God was no longer with them. They also believed that because the Babylonians had been victorious, their gods were more powerful.

Ezekiel has a powerful vision by the rivers of Babylon. He sees a storm and four strange four-faced creatures with four strange intersecting wheels that move freely and, above the wheels an expansive platform, and on that platform, a throne:

"Above the vault over their heads was what looked like a throne of lapis lazuli, and high above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him." (Eze.1:26-28)

In short, Ezekiel sees a chariot bearing God on the throne.
- the wheels are within wheels giving free movement in any direction.
- the four creatures who pull the chariot look remarkably like the gargoyles carved on the stone pillars in the Babylonian temple
- the platform of the wagon-chariot is expansive
- the throne is magnificent and the One who is on the throne is magnificent
- His appearance is like a brilliant rainbow, bringing to mind the faithful promise made to Noah.

Why is this new beginning so significant for Ezekiel?
The Israelites had come to see God as being stuck in the temple. But now with the temple being destroyed, God is portrayed as a mobile God who comes to be with his people. Secondly, the Israelites thought that Babylonian gods were more powerful but here they are simply portrayed as the beasts of burden who pull the throne-wagon. History is God's servant. Thirdly, as glorious and majestic as this vision is, the final impression of this God who is with us, is that the storm is over and that the promises will come true.

This is a very encouraging new beginning for Ezekiel the prophet as he rebuilds Israel's hope and understanding in God:
- God is with us wherever we are
- God is in charge of the forces of history and uses history to do His bidding
- God comes to end the storm and keep his promises

Sent from my iPad... Pls excuse brevity and typos...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

EMMDEV New Beginnings - the best place for a new start...

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. (Isaiah 6:1)

Where is the best place to have a new beginning?
What thoughts need to be foremost in our minds?
If you have time go and read Isaiah 6 slowly and thoughtfully... Isaiah is about to be called to be a prophet...

The king has died, the future looks uncertain and Isaiah does an unusual thing: he goes to the temple.
Was he frightened and needing solace from God?
Did he have have political aspirations and wanted God's blessing?
We don't know.
But there in the temple Isaiah is met by God and called to be a prophet. This was to be his life's work: tough, challenging, but glorious.

But how does this calling start?
How does God open the discussion?
What is the foundation of Isaiah's call?
---> The glory and majesty of the sovereign almighty God.

That's the starting point!
- not Isaiah's wishes or his great talent
- not the immensity of the need
- not Isaiah's qualifications or experience
But God on the throne: holy and majestic

Isaiah's calling is rooted in God's greatness. More of God less of Isaiah.
After seeing God's great glory Isaiah will say "Woe is me I am undone!"
John the Baptist will say "He must become greater and I must become less"
Peter will hear Jesus speak of the Kingdom and say "Go away from me Lord, I am a sinful man"

When we see God's glory so clearly that our own brokenness is apparent, then we are ready to be used by God.

Sent from my iPad... Pls excuse brevity and typos...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-06 [New Beginnings] I'm only a ...

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, `I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD.
9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." Jeremiah1:4-10

Very often God's word comes to us and we're tempted to answer with a "But..."
- "But I'm only a child..."
- "But I'm already retired..."
- "But I'm only a housewife..."
- "But I'm only a young Christian - I don't know the Bible..."
- "But I've made so many mistakes..."
- "But the challenge is so big and I'm so afraid..."
- "But I'm so tired..."

God has had his eye on Jeremiah since before he was born.
And He answers Jeremiah's "but" with a command to be brave and an assurance that he is not alone.

When we look at his commission it's clear that Jeremiah needed a strong sense of call - he was asked to "uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant." Jeremiah was going to have to re-shape the Israelites' thoughts and perceptions about God. It would make him unwelcome and unpopular, but he would also be able to explain and unpack the glory of the new covenant and reveal God's plan for His people to prosper (more on this tomorrow...)

What are the "But's" that we have in our hearts?
What are the excuses we are making?
Maybe it's time to get off our "But's" (Pun intended!)

After all, He's been watching us before we were born - he knows us better than we know ourselves and he knows what we can handle.

And He's promised to be with us and rescue us!

--> Lord, with Your love and mercy it is never to late to start doing what You have been asking us to do. Help us to step and trust You.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-05 [New Beginnings] Making it happen

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 28 You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God. Ezekiel36:26-28

One of the toughest things about new beginnings is making them actually happen - taking the first step. Although we know we need a new beginning - we find that the "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." And sometimes even our spirit is not so willing!!!

Ezekiel is writing to God's people in exile, promising that God would be at work in His people. (He is also anticipating the coming of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit.)

Bear in mind that this is the chapter just before the beautiful picture of the valley of dry bones brought to life by the power of the Word and the Spirit.

When it comes to new beginnings, we think that we have to do it all on our own. We think that we have to impress God and prove our worth to Him -- as if God is impressed by the height, depth or width of our devotion and service!

But Ezekiel teaches us something different:
God will not merely try to teach our dead hearts new tricks - He will totally transform our hearts and put His Spirit in us.

Look at these powerful transformations:
From "heart of stone" to "heart of flesh"
From struggling to obey to being "moved to follow His decrees."
From being far from God to being "my people."

It's God who takes this initiative.
It's His Spirit who transforms us.
It's God who makes us new.

We are not on our own.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-02-04 [New Beginnings] Who God can use...

They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire."
4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. Nehemiah1:3-4

Solomon's reign led to a split nation. The faction in the North (Israel) were destroyed by the Assyrians in 721BC and the faction in the South (Judah) suffered defeat at the hands of the Babylonians in 586BC and were dragged off into exile. After 70 years the Babylonians were defeated by the Persians who let the Israelites return to Jerusalem.

But Jerusalem just didn't get going again. The people were depleted, deflated, depressed. They didn't rebuild the temple or the city walls until God sent people who would RE-START them.

Nehemiah is the hero who united them to rebuild the city walls. It's important to note that Jerusalem was a formidable city when the walls were intact (it took the Babylonians 18 months to get into the city and in 70 AD the Romans had a similar struggle.)

What kind of person was Nehemiah to bring about such a wonderful RE-START of the nation?
Our two verses give us a clue:
Nehemiah cared deeply and Nehemiah prayed passionately.

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the Persian King. His future in Persia looked rosy. Why should he care about a burnt-out has-been people in a defenceless wreck of an old defeated city? But he did. He was the one who made the enquiry in the first place and the reply broke his heart.

He turned to God in hungry and passionate prayer (not only physically hungry because he was fasting :-) but because his soul longed for God!)

--> Lord, you can bring powerful RE-STARTS with passionate and prayerful people - change my heart O God!!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at