2020 BOOKS


Consider God's Word

By Gerjo Ben Van Der Merwe 

Often people ask me to shorten the pieces we send out. I ask why? "It takes too long to read through it. "Then I ask, "How long does it take you to read it?" "Maybe 5 minutes." "Is that the only time you have for God in your busy day?" I ask softly. Usually there's no response to that.

When my wife comes to me and says the computer has done something funny and all her stuff is gone, my response is always the same: "Garbage in. Garbage out." What you put in, is what you get out.

The same is true of our relationship with God. If we put little in, we can expect little back.

So many people ask me what they have to do. Should they apply for a new job? Should they break up or not? Will they go to hell if they have sex before marriage? What is God's will for their lives? And much more.

Then I ask them: "How much time do you spend in God's Word?" Usually, there's no response to this question, because it's mostly too little to mention.

I suspect our lives look like they do because we simply spend too little time in God's Word. How can we know what God's will for our lives is if we do not meet with Him every day?

And I include myself in this.

So many mornings I get up early to spend time with God. So many mornings I first take a quick look at my emails and "quickly" answer them. Have a "quick" look at the news platforms. Quickly check the bank balance. And when I get caught up in the social networks, it's goodbye. Before I know it, it's time for breakfast and I have to drop the kids at school.

And my relationship with God has not grown one inch. On the contrary, it has shrunk, because the less energy I put into a relationship, the bigger the chances that it will become superficial and artificial.

Any relationship needs time and energy. Including our relationship with God. Remember, it's not God who has to change in this relationship, it's us. We have to learn and change. Our faith and trust must be built up.

Therefore, this instruction: 7Think it over. God will make it all plain.

It's clear: Read the words in God's Word. Read the stories and learn. Read the instructions and do. Read the words again and again and let it change your thoughts, words and actions.

It brings us back to Nike's slogan: Just do it!

Together with the instruction comes a promise: God will do his part in the relationship. He will help you understand what you read. He will help open up the knowledge in his Word. He will help you make it part of your being. He will give you the strength to do it.

And then you will know what choice to make at every crossroads in your life. Then you will know exactly what God's will for your life is.


2 Tim 2:1-7


Do you know God's will for your life?

Do you spend enough time in God's Word?

What can you do differently?


Father, I have to confess that I do not make enough time for You in my life. I realize I don't know enough of Your will for my life. I long to spend more time with You. Please help me to have an appointment with You every day. Amen.

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Two Christmas Disciples - Zechariah and Mary. A Study in Contrasts

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Alexander Ivanhov, 'The Angel Gabriel Stikes Zechariah Mute' (1824), watercolor and white pencil on yellow paper, 26x39 cm, State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

I suppose we should call them disciples, followers of the Lord. Luke's Gospel begins with the story of two such disciples -- Zechariah the priest and Mary, who is to become mother of Jesus.

I can't help but contrast them, the old priest and the young woman. Both are righteous, upstanding people in their communities. Zechariah especially. After all, he is a priest who ministers to God in the Holy Place and has seen things few others have been privileged to behold.

In that amazing year two millennia past, the Angel Gabriel comes to each with a message. Both are utterly terrified. The angel reassures them, "Do not be afraid."

To Zechariah, Gabriel announces that his elderly, barren wife Elizabeth will bear a son, John, who will be great, and will prepare God's people by turning many of them to the Lord their God.

To Mary, Gabriel announces that God has favored her, and that she will conceive and bear a son, Jesus, who will be called Son of the Most High and reign forever over the Kingdom of his ancestor David. In other words, her son Jesus will be the long hoped for Messiah that will deliver Israel.

Each receives a momentous message, but their responses vary.

Zechariah questions the angel. How can I be sure of this? My wife is barren and we're too old to have children. Unbelief.

Mary's response on the surface seems similar. "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" However, when you consider Mary's words, you realize they don't reflect unbelief. Rather she seeks clarification. The angel explains that she will conceive by the Holy Spirit, not by human means. And that her cousin Elizabeth is already six months pregnant.

Once she hears this, Mary's answer is amazing. "I am the Lord's servant. Let it be to me as you have said." She sees herself as God's servant. If this is how her Master wants her to serve, then she is willing.

She's just a child, you say, perhaps 13 or 14. How can she make such a life-altering decision? She doesn't understand all the implications. How scientific can all this be anyway? And what about the scandal her pregnancy will create in her hometown, the rejection, the shame she will bring upon her family and her fiancée Joseph? She can't know all this. She hasn't considered all the factors. So her answer is that of a simpleton, a child. A girl her age should never have to make such a decision! But she does.

Perhaps you're like old Zechariah, very religious but battling unbelief. His decades-long struggle with infertility has eaten at his soul and made him cynical. The angel doesn't ask him to do anything difficult, yet still he questions. And for his unbelief he is struck mute until his son is born.

Instead of seeing Mary as a simpleton, perhaps we ought to see her as a young woman who trusts God. Yes, she is young, but God can speak profoundly to children, to young teenagers. I know that to be true! Jesus welcomes children to come to him, and says that we need to become like little children if we would enter the Kingdom of God. Mary is young, but she is not stupid. She asks the appropriate question. And then, in simple faith, she responds as a servant should: Yes, sir. Just as you say.

Our problem is that too often we act as a servant should not act. We demand to know all the ramifications, all of the possible scenarios, before we will present ourselves as a servant. We want to be master of our fate, not actual servants, even servants of a loving God.

And so Zechariah and Mary present us with a challenging contrast this Christmas season. With whom will you identify? Which would you rather be like? As for me, I chose to be a servant despite all the unknowns of my future. Lord, let it be to me as You desire.

Based on the account found in Luke 1:5-38.

Copyright © 2019, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastorjoyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Seeing God Working

By Paul W Hoffmaster

Jesus' relationship with His Heavenly Father was a human/divine interaction that began in the early part of His earthly life. At the age of twelve, Jesus spent over three days sharing with the learned religious leaders in the Temple. He was so zealous of God's Word that He did not even realize that His earthly family had left for home after the conclusion of the Feast of the Passover. When Mary and Joseph realized Jesus was not among the family caravan, they returned to Jerusalem where they found Jesus in the midst of the doctors of the Law. After being rebuked for causing His parents to worry, Jesus simply told them that He must be about His Father's business. For the next eighteen years, Jesus submitted unto His parents while growing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:41-52) Ever wonder why Jesus didn't start His ministry earlier? Why wait until He was thirty years old? The calling and commissioning of a servant is all in God's timing. I believe that preparation precedes presentation. Many of the problems in Christianity today are a result of self-initiation instead of waiting on the Lord. Many ministries are ill- prepared to present Divine Truth and, as a result, preach pleasing messages to the itching ears of their flocks. (II Timothy 4:3)

The success of Jesus' ministry was directly related to His interaction with His Heavenly Father. He was so much in sync with God that He would say to Philip, "... He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." (John 14:9) I wonder how many people see Jesus in us. He was so attached to God that He acknowledged that He could do nothing left to Himself. Can we make that same claim today? It is amazing what can be achieved when we acknowledge that it is God that works in us, both to will and to do his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13) Jesus saw God in every situation. He saw God touching the eyes of the blind. He saw Him opening the ears of the deaf. He saw afflictions flee the bodies of people. He saw the dead raised. It was all possible for He knew the compassion of God. When Jesus was with God and in God (John 1:1) He saw the needs of the people and God responding. When God saw and heard the cries of the children of Israel who were in bondage in Egypt, He stated that He would come down and set them free. (Exodus 3:7, 8) He did, but it would be through Moses. (Exodus 3:10) God told Moses that He would be with him. (Exodus 3:11) In effect, Moses saw God working, so it was his position to act on what God had already declared. In the same way, Jesus would be the representative figure of God to the people. As God saw the Jews bound not only by Roman oppression but also by religious "slavery," He sent Jesus. What Jesus did, in reality, was what God was doing through His love for the world.

During those eighteen years of preparation, Jesus would consume the Divine will of God. He would picture God's pre-ordained plan and put it into action. He saw God's will and became the physical fulfillment of what He saw. How do we see God in this world? Do we see Him working? Do we see His compassion? Do we hear Him acknowledging man's call for help? If we do, when are we going to reach out as the hands of our Creator and bring deliverance? More and more, I am seeing that our vision is limited to the problems of life instead of the solution to life.

Many Christians are so addicted to negative news that their spiritual temperature has plummeted. Jesus saw God's actions and duplicated it. We need to see what Jesus' did and duplicate His works. The reason we are not seeing more evidence of God's presence is we are not evidencing what our spiritual eyes are showing us. The field is ripe for harvest. How is your vision? What are we waiting for!