Monday, March 31, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-31 [Lent2014] 18. Seeing Jesus clearly (JohnB)

To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, `I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.
The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all." John3:27-30

In this, our final contemplation of JohnB's perspectives on Jesus, we get to see a very beautiful picture of JohnB's understanding of Jesus.

JohnB's disciples came running to him to tell him that Jesus was baptising people too and they were concerned that JohnB was losing "market share."

But JohnB uses a lovely illustration from Jewish marriage feasts to put himself in perspective. In Jewish culture, the bride wore a veil throughout the celebrations. When they retired to the wedding chamber, the friend of the bridegroom would crouch outside one of the windows to hear the groom's cry of delight when he took off his bride's veil.

JohnB isn't in competition with Jesus - he just wants to see the bride (the church) and groom (Jesus) together. His life's ambition is to see Jesus exalted with His bride. Jesus is the one who is "from above" and JohnB knows that he is from earth.

And so JohnB expresses his life-mission: "He must become greater - I must become less."

We have to realise how significant JohnB's statement is: We have seen Jesus from the perspective of the cross, the resurrection and the ascension - JohnB has only seen the beard and the sandals, maybe heard of one or two miracles and seen the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus. To have an insight like this is amazing.

Later JohnB would have doubts - a dark night of the soul while in prison. But Jesus reassures him: The lame walk, the blind see and the good news is preached.

JohnB saw Jesus clearly - Jesus is the bridegroom from above who will rescue and delight in His bride. JohnB sees himself clearly too.

How would the church be if we all got on with serving God and it would Jesus alone who gets the glory?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, March 29, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-29 [Lent2014] 19. Clearly identifies (JohnB)

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! John1:29

JohnB clearly identifies Jesus: "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world..."

JohnB has been preaching repentance and has been baptising those willing to repent. The scholars tell us that his baptism was very similar to Proselyte Baptism. (When Gentiles embraced the Jewish faith - they went through Proselyte Baptism symbolising the washing away of their old lives and the beginning of a new life. When they came out of the waters they were given a new Jewish name, a new set of clothes and they were regarded as a one-day-old-Jew - this was their new birthday.)

Now John explains how the sin of the world is going to be dealt with. The Lamb of God will take it away.
For Jewish listeners there were powerful connections:
1. They remembered that the Passover Lamb's blood kept the Angel of Death from their door.
2. They remembered that the blood of the sacrifices brought atonement for their sins.
3. They remembered that the sacrificial lamb had to be perfect and without blemish.

JohnB will baptise this Lamb of God - the best analogy I can use is that the perfect Lamb of God climbs into our dirty bathwater to take on the sin of the world.

He wants to take our sins far away....

As far as the East is from the West...

So that they are remembered no more...

This is what Easter is all about!!!
Let's worship Him especially this Sunday!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, March 28, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-28 [Lent2014] 20. Somebody's coming! (JohnB)

20 days of Lent to go! In this journey toward the resurrection it is good for us to be reminded who Jesus is...
John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them. Luke3:16-18

The crowds were wondering whether John was the Messiah.

John is quick to straighten their thinking. He's very clear - he is merely a forerunner. There is ONE who will follow him:- SOMEBODY's coming!

What does John have to say about the ONE who is coming?

1. He is much more powerful and worthy than John. John only baptises with water. It's important to realise that John's baptism was one of repentance - it didn't even symbolise everything that Christian baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit represented. (We see this in Acts 19:1-4 where Paul comes across people who have been baptised with John's Baptism but have not been baptised in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit and so Paul baptises them.)

2. The ONE who is coming is glorious - John sees himself as unworthy to unfasten His sandals.

3. The ONE who is coming baptises in the life-changing power of the Spirit.

4. But He also baptises with fire which is the symbol of judgement. When wheat is threshed, it is thrown up into the air with a winnowing fork and the chaff (the husks of the wheat) are blown to one side and burned.

John must have been tempted to let the spotlight fall on him and to become an end in himself, but he resists the temptation. He realises that even the baptism he performs points toward a greater reality.

Sometimes we are tempted to make much of what we do for God. John puts us in our place - for us SOMEBODY whose sandals we can't even untie _has_ come and He is coming again!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 27, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-27 [Lent2014] 21. Unexpected message (JohnB)

He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
`Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all mankind will see God's salvation.'"
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, `We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
13 "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay." Luke3:3-14

JohnB's message is both expected and unexpected.

On the one hand his coming had been prophesied by Isaiah and we know that he was to prepare the way for the Lord. After 400 silent years and in the midst of Roman oppression one would sincerely hope for a message of valleys filled in, mountains made low, rough ways made smooth and God's salvation revealed for all humankind.

What is unexpected is the strong moral ethical slant of John's preaching. He doesn't spiritualise the kingdom into pie-in-the-sky-one-day-when-you-die. For him the Kingdom is profoundly practical and ethical. He presents God's standard for life here on earth.

Even more unexpected is that his message is a no-nonsense confrontation that urges people to sort themselves out. And this is precisely where we struggle: JohnB sounds like he is asking people to resort to salvation-by-works: to "pull up their socks" and pull themselves up by their sandal-straps.
"Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."
"Don't collect more tax than you should."
"Don't extort or accuse falsely. Be content with your pay."

If all JohnB did was to preach, then we could relegate his preaching to salvation-by-works. But along with his message, JohnB BAPTISED. This symbolic act spoke of cleansing, death to self and a new beginning. None of his hearers could claim to have done all JohnB called them to. So they were baptised as a recognition that they needed God to work in them.

Furthermore JohnB made it clear that while he baptised in water, Jesus would baptise in the Spirit.

When last have you been through JohnB's standards for life here on earth? Have you recently recognised that you can't do it by yourself and come to God in repentant trust for forgiveness and new life?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-26 [Lent2014] 22.A Father's obedience and a son's destiny(JohnB)

LK 1:62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him. Luke1:62-79

After 400 Silent Years (it had been that long since the Israelites had someone come and say "thus says the Lord") an angel appeared to Zechariah to tell him that he and his elderly wife Elizabeth would have a son who would be the forerunner of the Messiah.

The angel also told him to call their son "John" which means "The LORD is gracious but Zechariah was sceptical and so he was deprived of the ability to speak until their son was born. "

When their son was born, the family wanted to name him Zechariah after his dad but Elizabeth was insistent that he should be called John and so they asked Zechariah...
When Zechariah indicated that it would be "John" his tongue was loosened and he burst forth in praise and prophecy.

In his praise Zechariah recognises God as a God of strength and rescue who delivers His people - a God who keeps His promises and allows us to serve Him without fear. It is beautiful praise.

He also recognises a significant destiny for his son, John:
And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."

I also think that you and I, as children of God and filled with His Spirit get to share in this same wonderful calling!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-25 [Lent2014] 23. JohnB - Preparing the way

John the Baptist (JohnB) had the task of preparing the way for the coming Messiah. We'll spend the next few days examining JohnB's life and message...
LK 1:39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah's home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Luke1:39-44

Jesus mother, Mary, was related to JohnB's mother, Elizabeth. We're not told precisely how they were related, but when the angel tells Mary that she is going to bear the Messiah, he also tells her that her relative Elizabeth is pregnant and so Mary travels to see her.

Elizabeth was six months pregnant and when Mary arrived, and the unborn JohnB leaps within her. This is a supernatural event - the unborn JohnB recognises that his Creator, Lord and Saviour (although hidden from sight in Mary's womb) is near. He responds with great joy.

We can wonder how that happened... How is it that an unborn could perceive, understand and respond? It is an interesting discussion, but I'm quite content to leave the mechanics to God. What grips and grabs me is that we have an insight into the core of John's nature and character: the coming of the Messiah brings him incredible joy.

At some level this unborn child recognises the wonder of the Word made flesh. At some level he senses that the Son of God has become the Son of Man ---> and he DANCES!!

How do we think about the wonder of the Word made flesh?
What would JohnB have done if he'd been alive to see Jesus set His face like flint toward Jerusalem?
What if he'd seen Jesus in Gethsemane?
Or being flogged?
Or crucified?
Or risen?

Even before he was born JohnB started to teach us that Jesus' coming unto our world is a wondrous and incredible thing.
We should learn from him and dance!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Monday, March 24, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-24 [Lent2014] 24.Temptations examined... (Conclusion)

And here's today's one!!! Two in one day! :-)
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matthew4:11

I'm very comforted by this verse.
There have been times in my life where I have wrestled and grappled. When by God's grace and with the help of His Spirit I've managed to resist and do the right thing, it has often come at great cost.

I have experienced the sense of relief and comfort that follows and I have attributed it to the angels attending.

There are a number of other verses that comfort me when I am tempted:

1. God doesn't tempt me and I can ask for wisdom
James 1:13-14 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
James 1:5 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

2. Jesus prays for me when I am tempted.
Luke 22:31 "Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."

3. God will protect me from overload and He'll provide a way out.
1Cor10:13 No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

4. Jesus helps me:
Hebrews 2:18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

I hope these comfort you too!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

EMMDEV 2014-03-22 [Lent2014] 25.Temptations examined...(3)

(Again, please forgive the delay - it's been a crazy weekend and hectic week start... :-) )
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. 9 "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

10 Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Matthew4:8-10

Jesus has already been tempted to be self-sufficient and use His power for self-satisfaction. (Turn stones into bread.) He has been tempted to be impressive and to force God to fit in with His plans (Jump off the temple and be caught by the angels.)

Now the final temptation comes.
Satan shows Jesus the kingdoms of the world and their splendour and offers them to Jesus at the cost of worshipping him.

I've often wondered about this temptation...
Would Jesus, who spoke galaxies into being, honestly be tempted by wealth and splendour? Or was it the people?

Did Satan show Jesus the kingdoms of people and the splendour of humanity and offer them to Him? Remember how Paul describes our human condition in Eph 2:1-2 "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."

Satan was the prince of this world, and sin-broken humanity were in his clutches. Jesus' mission was to ransom and redeem us -to buy us out of sin-guilt but that would cost the cross.

I think Satan dangles the people, the world that "God so loved" (Jn3:16), in front of Jesus and says: "You don't have to go to the cross..." Just bow down and worship ME. Take a shortcut! Don't go the route of suffering - take an easier path, just bow down and I'll give them to you!

Jesus is crystal clear - this won't happen! He dismisses Satan: the toughest temptation has failed. Jesus is "hell-bent" (pun intended) on saving us - and He won't take shortcuts!


Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, March 22, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-21 [Lent2014] 26.Temptations examined...(2)

(Apologies for this one being late - I was in long weekend mode - The eDev slipped my mind completely!!)
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" `He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
7 Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Matthew4:5-7

The second temptation takes things to a whole new level and that's not only because they are at highest point of the temple!
Here's why:
1. Satan, having recognised that Jesus uses Scripture as a defence, now also makes (mis-)use of Scripture.
2. Again He tries to appeal to vanity: "If you are the Son of God..."
3. This time, it looks like Jesus' work/ministry could be assisted by doing what Satan suggests, because the people in Jerusalem would see Him on top of the temple and when the angels caught Him, they would know that He was the Messiah.

So what is this temptation all about?
1. It's the temptation to be impressive and grab the limelight by a display of power and influence. ("See! God listens to ME!")

2. It's about making God fit into our agendas and abusing God's promises to make us look good. Had He jumped, the assumption would be that God would be forced to rescue Him. This places Jesus in the driving seat instead of in the passenger seat. It's a case of "Here I go Lord, please bless _my_ plans."

3. It's the temptation to lead by being impressive instead of leading with character. It is significant how often Jesus healed people and then asked them to keep it quiet.

We may not be tempted to jump off tall buildings, but we can be tempted to "strut our stuff" and "show our clout." We name-drop or experience-brag. We like to appear super-spiritual.

We're also tempted to rush ahead of God and ask Him to bless our plans - to reduce Him to a vending-Deity, giving us what we want when we push the claim-a-promise-button.

Jesus refuses to do that - He refuses to muscle into the driver's seat and move God into the passenger seat. He won't hold God to ransom!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 20, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-20 [Lent2014] 27.Temptations examined...(1)

2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
4 Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' Matthew4:2-4

The temptations came after the fast - Jesus had completed His fasting. Satan wasn't tempting Jesus to break His fast - his temptation was more subtle.

Turning stones into bread would have solved Jesus' hunger problem.
On the face of it, it seems innocuous. He'd fasted hard, what would be wrong in Jesus doing something for Himself. Surely He'd earned it?

Maybe in modern day language Satan would have sounded like this: "So, you've done your God-thing waiting and fasting, but now all you have to show for it are some hunger-pains. But that's not a problem! You're the Son of God! (And why would a Father want to make you fast for so long anyway?) Just whip up some Messiah Magic, make some rock cookies and chow down!"

Jesus is being tempted to give in to short-term gratification.
Instead of waiting for God, He must make His own plan.
It's the temptation to rush in and be self-sufficient instead of God-reliant. It's about getting our priorities wrong.

Jesus sees right through the temptation: I'm more than my body and its hungers - short-term gratification needs to be put on hold for better things. I won't use my power for my comfort.

This is always the temptation of power - to use it for my own comfort. This lies at the heart of so much of the corruption we're seeing around us today.

It's also about learning to wait for God's timing. Unlike the husband who was in financial trouble... He prayed all night and handed the problem over to God. But in the morning he went off and sold his wife’s wedding ring, only to find an anonymous donation in his postbox when he returned.

Will we trust God and wait for Him?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-19 [Lent2014] Temptations

At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, 13 and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark2:12-13

A journey closer to God will also be accompanied by temptation.
A relationship with God does not take place in a vacuum. We have an enemy who would try to derail our relationship with God.

When it comes to Satan, we often caricature him ("Nic the Pig","Hot Stuff" or the "Devil on my shoulder") or we make him ghoulish and horror-movie like. The best definition is that he is an implacable enemy who has dedicated himself to "steal, kill and destroy" God's people and God's plans.

Through His baptism Jesus took significant steps towards His goal of carrying our sin-guilt on the cross. Immediately Satan crowds into His desert place of preparation to tempt Him. He wants to corrupt the Sin-Bearer so that He is disqualified from carrying the collective guilt of humanity.

Mark's account is brief and wild â€" it is not a tame encounter. We are reminded that Satan's attack was designed to isolate, expose and intimidate Jesus. But Jesus withstood the temptations and from Matthew and Luke we know that He resisted temptations to be self-sufficient, impressive and powerful. He did this by commitment and obedience to God's Word.

The writer to the Hebrews puts it best: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)

As we journey closer to God we will also be tempted. But Jesus our Saviour and High Priest will be with us!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-18 [Lent2014] 29. Penitence towards self

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John8:34

In John's Gospel these words are in the same chapter as the account of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus confounds the woman's accusers and then releases her with these amazing words: "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?""No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."

Penitence towards self means two things:
1. We have to cease and desist with sin. We must make brave decisions to break the habits, end the cycles and release the poisons and idols we hold on to.

2. We have to forgive ourselves. I'm constantly amazed by the number of folk who believe that Jesus died for everyone's sins but not for theirs. People who hang on to their guilt and shame when Jesus just wants them free!

This is the Good News of the Gospel: We were slaves to sin and we couldn't get out of sin. Jesus died for our sin and made us His children. We don't have to earn or deserve this - it's given to us.

But we stand distant - unwilling to forgive ourselves.

How arrogant!! God created the entire universe and gave His very best - His Son - to forgive us, but we won't forgive ourselves - effectively saying: "I'm sorry Lord, but Jesus' blood just isn't enough - it isn't enough to deal with MY sin."

Maybe it's time to finally put aside the brokenness of the past and embrace the freedom of being a son or daughter of God!! If the Son sets me free, I am free indeed!!!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Monday, March 17, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-17 [Lent2014] 30. Penitence towards others

"Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. Matthew5:23-24

There are two more areas of penitence we must cover: Penitence toward others and then towards ourselves. We'll deal with the former today.

When we have hurt someone else - when a relationship with someone is broken and we have been the cause of it, Jesus doesn't mince words. "Leave your gift at the altar. FIRST go and be reconciled to your brother or sister."

This requires courage and sensitivity.

When we have hurt or wronged someone, Jesus would have us be penitent toward them:
- "I hurt you - I'm so sorry"
- "Something went wrong between us - I want to make it right"
- "Things aren't the same between us any more - have I hurt you? How can I make it right?"

Wherever possible, we should try our very best to heal any rift that exists between us and others.


John makes it clear in 1John 4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen."

We can't get around this: Broken relationships impact our relationship with God - It's that plain and simple.

One can talk for hours about the specifics of each broken relationship, about who's to blame, and about their share of the blame, but at the end of the day - we have to GO to them and sort it out.

Enough said...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, March 15, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-15 [Lent2014] Penitence clears hindrances

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews12:1-3

There are things that hinder and entangle us. Some of it is sin: habits, attitudes, mindsets that entangle our feet as we run the race of life and faith. Sometimes the entanglements slow us down - sometimes they bring us crashing down.

Sometimes the hindrances aren't outright sin, but just stuff that accumulates in our lives and becomes the baggage that slows us down.

We need to deal with this stuff...
The writer to the Hebrews tells us how:
1. Bear in mind that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. (If you read the preceding chapter, it's all about the Old Testament heroes of the faith.) We can be inspired by their example and by God's faithfulness to them. We are not doing this in a vacuum.

2. Throw off the hindrances and entanglements. They need to be cast aside for the junk that they are. It's a matter of being decisive and deliberate.

3. We must fix our eyes on Jesus. Remembering His example and being inspired by His love and courage.

Penitence starts with seeing God clearly and embracing simple uncomplicated faith in Him. It's about clean hearts and a new spirit. It's about healing.
It's about seeing Jesus and running towards Him...

(Do you remember that scene from Forrest Gump where a young Forrest is in calipers and some boys chase him? The calipers start falling off and he runs faster and faster, free from the hindrances. The key difference is that while he runs away from bullies - we run towards Jesus!)

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, March 14, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-14 [Lent2014] 32.Penitence leads us to healing

Blessed is he
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the man
whose sin the LORD does not count against him
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
4 For day and night
your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, "I will confess
my transgressions to the LORD"--
and you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Selah Psalms32:1-5

Guilt is a heavy burden.
It eats away at us and erodes our joy. David describes physical symptoms: pain in the bones, groaning all day long, and day-night weariness.

Is this physical illness or psychological?
In the context of the psalms it has probably reached the point of physical illness - either because David has let the sin fester and fester to the point that it has manifested physically, or that God has used physical illness to draw David's attention to a spiritual problem.

We don't know what David did, but it seems pretty clear from the Psalm that he'd been in denial about it and had been trying to hide it. When he finally _acknowledged_ it and _UNcovered_ it, he was able to receive forgiveness from God.

Penitence is about coming to the realisation that there is guilt and evil that we hold onto and hide. It's better for us to "come clean" or, more accurately, "come and be cleaned" than to hold it in and hide it.

There is blessed relief for those who stop trying to deal with sin and the guilt it brings by themselves. Holding on to guilt and sin is very bad for us. It can cause us great psychological and even physical pain. Sometimes God will even allow illness or other setbacks to come our way to wake us up to acknowledging the problem.

When last have you come to be cleaned by God?
Forgiveness is FREELY available because of Jesus' death on the cross. We just have to ask.

David says it's worth it...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 13, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-13 [Lent2014] 33.The Purpose of Penitence

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.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
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. Psalms51:3-12

No discussion about penitence is complete without considering Ps.51.
David has sinned breaking various of the Ten Commandments...
-He sees Bathsheba bathing and desires her (10th)
-He summons ("steals") her from her home to the palace. (8th)
-He commits adultery with her (7th) getting her pregnant
-He has her husband to come home so that it will look like the baby is his - but he doesn't sleep with his wife. (We could argue this attempt at deception breaks the spirit of the 9th commandment)
-He arranges her husband's death (6th)

In the light of extent of his sin-full failure, there are some valuable lessons from Ps.51:

1. Although David's sin is against Bathsheba, Uriah and even against those who he uses to get Uriah killed - David recognises that it is ultimately failure before God ("against You only have I sinned"). These are God's people he has sinned against, God's commandments He has broken, and as God's anointed king, he has dragged God's name through the mud.

2. He asks for forgiveness (complete Divine Forgetfulness) - "Hide Your face from my sins..."

3. But he asks for more: He asks that God will transform him - make a better person of him and he asks God to keep His anointing (Spirit) on him. On the surface this could look like he's asking that God keeps His Spirit on him that he can remain king, but David is asking for pure heart and a steadfast spirit and a return of the joy of salvation (close relationship with God)

This is the ultimate purpose of Penitence - transformation and closeness to God. We'll explore this further in the next day or two.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-12 [Lent2014] 34. Keeping it simple (Penitence towards God 2)

1 My heart is not proud, O LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
2 But I have stilled and quieted my soul;
like a weaned child with its mother,
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore. Psalms131:1-3

Sometimes Penitence means "Slow Down" or "Simplify".

We get so busy - even in our relationship with God.
We try to impress Him with our good deeds and efforts.
We try to wrap our heads around His greatness and try to understand all He does in the world.
We pray, fast, read our Bibles, go to church, and tell others about Him.

Did you notice the first word in each of the above sentences?

David uses a powerful analogy: An UNweaned baby cries when it is hungry, because it is not sure that the food will come. A weaned child has learned to trust Mom to provide a meal - even if it is not served _immediately_.

Oft times we are guilty of trying to be in control of our relationship with God. (Think about how nonsensical that is: us trying to be god over the Almighty.) But David warns us against this kind of pride.

We won't always be in complete control - we won't always have all the answers. We don't have to do all the talking and we don't have to understand everything. We have to grow up from being the insecure and demanding baby to the trusting child who has learned from experience that God is faithful.

Penitence means slowing down, simplifying and coming to a place of saying: "I trust You Lord. I don't have all the details. I don't know all the answers. I know I am not God so I'm putting my hope in You."

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-11 [Lent2014] 35. Excursus: Finding God's Will

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans12:1-2

Yesterday we saw that Penitence towards God starts by doing things His way. The difficult question is: "How do I know God's will?"

The answer to that question is a bit roundabout because the answer is that I know God's will by doing it! But you ask: "How can I do His will if I don't know what it is?"

Imagine travelling in a circle that slowly grows larger and moves upward. An upward, expanding spiral. When we start off by doing whatever it might be that we believe God is telling us to do, we are starting to WORSHIP Him (offering our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Him). When we _choose_ to worship, we are NOT CONFORMING to the pattern of this world (which chooses to be self-centred and self-worshipping). This conscious decision to worship TRANSFORMS and RENEWS our minds - we are reformatting and reprogramming our lives and habits. As we do this we discover that some things bring us closer to God and others drag us away. In so doing we TEST and APPROVE what works in our relationship with God and this leads us to knowing His good, pleasing and perfect WILL.

An analogy: Brenda and I were married 21 years ago. Back then I made a commitment to love, honour and cherish her. That commitment started out with the simple things: which side of the bed she likes to sleep on, where she'd like the toothpaste to live, and so on. As I have shaped my life around hers (and she around mine) my knowledge of her has deepened. I have learned that some things drive her crazy and some things make her feel appreciated and loved. After these many years we complete each other's sentences and make a formidable charades team. One would say we know each other's will. I know Brenda because I have listened and looked, but also because I have deepened my commitment to her over the years.

My point??? Knowing God's will is best achieved by ongoing friendship with God. As we DEEPEN the relationship, we'll know His will better.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Monday, March 10, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-10 [Lent2014] 36. Penitence towards God 1

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said (quoting from Ps.40):
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, `Here I am--it is written about me in the scroll--
I have come to do your will, O God.' " Hebrews10:5-7

What does it mean to turn towards God?
How should we be penitent in our relationship with Him?

The author of the letter to Hebrews singles out the key characteristic of Jesus' life that made it possible for Him to be the sinless Saviour of the world: He was willing to submit His will to the will of the Father.

When it comes to our relationship with God, this is the bottom line: Whose will is going to have the upper hand? Adam and Eve were given complete freedom with only one restriction but the serpent deceived them into exerting their own desires against God's good, pleasing and perfect will.

It's been this way ever since Adam and Eve...
Jacob deceived to get what he wanted,
Joseph boasted about his destiny,
Moses struck the rock when God asked him to speak to it,
Saul disobeyed,
David grabbed,
Solomon accumulated
and today you and I still sing the theme song of Hell: "I did it myyyyy way!"

Jesus humbled Himself and took on our humanity in submission to the Father's plan. He began His public ministry by being baptised by John (in so doing, He identified Himself with our brokenness) and heard the Father's voice: "This is my Son and in Him I am well-pleased". In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before the cross, He would pray: "Not my will, but Your will be done."

Penitence is the choice to put God first. We are second to ONE!

(Have a look at )

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Saturday, March 8, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-08 [Lent2014] 37. Search your hearts... (Penitence)

4 In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
Selah Psalms4:4

Yesterday we saw that penitence begins with seeing God more clearly.
Penitence is more than introspection. Introspection without an awareness of God leads to depression (we see our failure and feel hopeless about it) or denial (we see our brokenness and make elaborate excuses.)

Penitence starts with God - He is the Constant One. He is the standard that we compare ourselves to. But as we look to Him, we also search ourselves and take responsibility for our own spiritual development.

David captures it well here in Ps.4.
"Search your hearts and be silent."
If this were a self-driven exercise it would read - "Search your heart and have a talk to your soul..." But we are asked to search our hearts and then to be silent to listen for the Still Small Voice of God as He may point out something we have not seen or reassure us of His forgiveness.

We're being invited into a DIALOGUE:
Ps139:23-24 captures it well:
"Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting."

In both Psalm 4 & 139 David portrays penitence as a conversation. We are brave enough to search our hearts and to listen to the prompting of God.

It's a bit like a camera: The shutter opens, light flows in and leaves an image on the film or sensor. When we search our hearts we are prayerfully opening the shutter of our hearts to let God's light shine in and change us.

Will you open your heart and let God's light shine in?

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Friday, March 7, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-07 [Lent2014] 38. Seeing God. (Where Penitence starts)

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Luke5:4

Jesus was teaching at the see of Galilee. The crowd were overwhelming Him and so He asked Simon Peter to let Him use his boat as a pulpit. Peter would have heard what Jesus was teaching and so when Jesus asks him to put out to deeper water and throw his net over the side, the fisherman takes the carpenter's advice with only a small amount of protest:
"Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."

The Greek word Peter uses for "Master" could mean "Chief" or "Superintendent." It appears seven times in the New Testament, four times in the mouth of Peter, spoken by the disciples during the storm on the sea, by John and by the ten lepers.

Peter is not being sarcastic - something about Jesus has won his respect and so he's willing to let a carpenter direct the fishing.

But respect explodes into something much much greater when the net fills up. It fills so full that they need another boat help and it is also swamped.

In Peter's heart something profound has happened. This is more than good oratory coming from an impressive person. Peter knows down to the tips of his wet toes that he is in the presence of GOD!!! And the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach tells Peter that his track record and the holy presence of Jesus are not compatible.

In the presence of Deity, all Peter's pride, authority, bravado and self-assuredness fades away like the mist before the morning sun. (Old Testament scholars call this being "in awe of the Numinous" - "Numinous" being the word they use to describe God as being hugely greater and majestic than us.)

The best place for penitence to start is to open our eyes and see God clearly. The Good News is that Jesus answers Peter's painful self-discovery with these beautiful words: "Don't be afraid; from now on you will be a fisher of men"

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, March 6, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-06 [Lent2014] 39. Forty...

MT 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread." Matthew4:1-3

40 is a lovely number in the Bible - it's about preparation and letting God break through to/for us. Just some examples:
- Moses was on the mountain with God for 40 days
-It took the spies 40 days to search out the promised land
-The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness
-Goliath taunted Israel for forty days before being killed by David
-Elijah walked for forty days to Mount Horeb
-Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness at the start of His ministry

Waiting is hard!
- We feel powerless and out of control
- We end up having to confront the worst in ourselves
- We often discover that our faith is shallower than we thought

Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness. Waiting.
After the waiting came temptation - but I think the waiting can be tempting too. You can watch a lovely video and song about Jesus' fast and temptation at

As we prepare for Easter, there is waiting.
This waiting brings to mind the times we have waited outside an operating theater, waited for test-results, waited for a job-application to be responded to, waited for a lost child to come home, waited for forgiveness after an apology.

Waiting is hard - but Matthew reminds us that Jesus waited to and was tempted face to face by Satan. He knows what we are going through. He waits with us.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-05 [Lent2014] 40. Rejuvenation

See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.

Today is the start of Lent. My friend Andries Combrink, called Lent "a season of simple rejuvenation..." This accurately captures my longing for this Lent in my heart and yours.

The prophet Isaiah announced the coming of the Messiah. He foresaw that God would do a "new thing" in the hearts of His people. As with many of the promises of Scripture, this "new thing" plays out in many ways:
- It had to do with the Israelites returning from exile in Babylon
- It spoke ultimately about the coming of Jesus into our world
- It speaks of the powerful working of God's Spirit in our hearts
- The early church saw Lent as the spiritual season of Spring in our lives (see the description of Lent below)

Our Journey over the Forty Days of Lent (this excludes Sundays) is going to cover:
* The two dimensions of Lent: Penitence and Preparation
* The three directions of Lent: God, Self, Others
* Reflections on the life of Jesus with regard to the above.

My longing hope is that our hearts will be prepared and "strangely warmed"** as we get to the celebration of Good Friday and Resurrection. My prayer is that there will be a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

This journey to rejuvenation starts with a recognition of the desert we find ourselves in. Our desert is our busy-ness, our broken-ness, our stubborn-ness, our wasteful-ness, our prideful-ness - our SIN-full-ness... So we start with Ash Wednesday: recognising that we _need_ God.
Only He can start a New Thing in us.

"Dear Lord, please rejuvenate us. Please help us perceive Your new way in us. Open our eyes to what Jesus came to do at Easter. Shake us, wake us, heal us, forgive us, breathe into our souls, renew us and fill us in this Lent period. Amen."

** "Strangely warmed" is how John Wesley described his experience in a Bible Study where he finally understood God's love in its length and breadth.

BACKGROUND: What is Lent? (A repeat of an article I wrote years ago)

It is based on the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness at the beginning of His public ministry. (Sundays are not counted, so Lent is actually 46 days long)

During the second century it became customary to baptise all converts on Easter Sunday. During those ages of persecution and martyrdom, they had to be thoroughly prepared for the confession of their faith and for their challenging walk with the Lord.

These preparations lasted 40 days â€" not counting Sundays. Fasting and Prayer played an important role alongside the teaching the converts would receive during this time.

After a while, other Church members felt the need to repeat the course. This season, always during the European Spring, became the Lenten Season of the Church as Lent is Latin for Spring. Lent reaches its climax on Good Friday and ends with the Celebration of Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

There are two important aspects to Lent:
_Penitence_: We realise our own brokenness and our need for Christ.
_Preparation_: We strive to open our hearts wider for the celebration of Easter.

During this time people add to or subtract from their daily routines with the goal of drawing closer to God.

The idea around Lent is that we add and subtract to our lives so that we don't just move forward but God-ward. Traditionally there are three directions for our “fasting” to take:
Our Lent additions need to do justice to:
1.God (through prayer, reflection and action)
2.Ourselves (through the creation of good habits or breaking bad ones)
3.Others (through charity and kindness)

So, here are some examples:
-Give up sugar or coffee and use the “cravings” as a reminder to think about and devote yourself to God.
-Set your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier for devotions or exercise.
-Reduce your TV hours and use the time to read a good devotional book or to spend quality time with your family.
-Volunteer some time to help at a charitable organisation or do something to help the poor and needy.
-Come to church more regularly or join a fellowship group for the 6 weeks

Where does Shrove Tuesday fit in?
In many Christian traditions people would abstain from rich foods during this fast time. As Wednesday is the start of Lent, Tuesday would be used as a day to use up the “rich” foods (eggs, butter, oil, milk, etc) in the house. Pancakes serve this purpose very well! Also, Jesus reminded His disciples that they should not look mournful when they fasted and so the church found it fitting to start a fast with a feast!

Ash Wednesday
Job 42:5-6. Job says to God: "My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes."

Ash Wednesday is primarily a day of repentance â€" of sorrow because of what our sins do to God, His work and those around us.

According to the Bible, repentance consists of:
- a true sense of one's own guilt and sinfulness;
- an expectation of God's grace and mercy in Christ
- an actual hatred of sin
- turning from sin to God
- seeking a holy life by persistent effort, obediently walking with God.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation but worldly sorrow brings death. (2Cor7:10)

In the very traditional observation of Ash Wednesday, worshippers come forward to confess and repent of their sin in silent prayer. They are marked with the sign of the cross, using a paste of ash and olive oil. The ash represents the sorrow and contriteness we feel over our sin. The olive oil represents joy, blessing and consecration which is the work of the Holy Spirit. We are marked with the sign of the cross to remind us that it is Christ who saves us.

Often as they are marked, the minister or elder will say “Your sins are forgiven â€" go and sin no more.”

Ash Wednesday starts the “Fasting” of Lent on the right foot â€" we realise how badly we need God.

Keeping Perspective...
While one tries to observe these “fasts” and observances as well as possible, there must be no legalism about this. We are not trying to impress God. We're trying to prepare our hearts. Don't be guilt-wracked if you don't manage it all the time.

Lent is an opportunity rather than a burden and we pray that yours will be meaningful!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

EMMDEV 2014-03-04 [Light] I need light!!!

1 Answer me when I call to you,
O my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
the LORD will hear when I call to him.
4 In your anger do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer right sacrifices
and trust in the LORD.
6 Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?"
Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
7 You have filled my heart with greater joy
than when their grain and new wine abound.
8 I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD,
make me dwell in safety. Psalms4:1-8

This beautiful psalm is written by David who is struggling in the grip of trouble and hardship. He's being hounded by the wicked who trust in delusions and false gods. They turn glory into shame and twist good to evil.

David calls his listeners to be Godly and Righteous. He wants them to contemplate God's ways and to do the right thing in His eyes, but the response is "Who can show us any good?"

"Who can show us any good?"
As we look at the broken world around us - as we contemplate the lies, deceit, murder, rape, violence, corruption and heartache.

"Who can show us any good?"
When we look at the fallen heroes and the idols with wobbly bases.
When evil is celebrated as cool and good is sidelined as uncool.
When anger, violence and destruction are seen as a way to get your way.

"Who can show us any good?"
David is right - it is only God who can.
The light of His face - this is the only true and lasting good.

Ultimately, this is fulfilled in the One who lived the only good life and then used it to cancel out our darkness.

"Who can show us any good?"
" In Him (Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of humankind" (John 1:4)
And so this Psalm is very appropriate on the eve of Lent.
I'm going to be pausing the series on "Light" to do a series for Lent. If you know of anyone who would like to receive a devotional thought for the season of Lent, they can email me and request to be subscribed....

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at