First, I would like to wish you and all those that are dear and beloved to you God’s richest blessings for the newly started year. Let us be and stay faithful to the calling with which the Lord has called us. The Lord will bless us in most amazing ways if we will but be faithful to our work. In light of this, I was once again moved by Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s well-known story.
Spurgeon was to speak in St. Paul’s Cathedral. Since he had never preached in that church and wasn’t familiar with the acoustics, he decided to ask the parish clerk if he could try out the acoustics that week. That was fine, and one day Spurgeon was in the building with only the parish clerk as audience, who would give him some directions. With quite a loud voice, Spurgeon called out the well-known words from 1 Timothy 1:15, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”. Spurgeon then repeated the words a little more quietly, because the clerk thought he was speaking too loudly, but when he did so, it wasn’t loud enough. The clerk motioned that it should be right in between the two, so Spurgeon repeated for the third time the words that declare so clearly the goal of Christ’s coming. Afterwards, Spurgeon thanked the clerk and left. Years later Spurgeon was called to a man’s deathbed, and in their conversation it became clear that the man was a believer. When Spurgeon asked him how was converted, the man told him that a voice from heaven had spoken to him. He shared how years ago he was repairing the roof of St. Paul’s Cathedral and that suddenly a voice had called out, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” “And thus”, he said, “I heard this voice three times, and it never let me go.”
Recently, we looked back at what happened during 2014, which flew by. God only knows how many times I was privileged to share the Gospel during all kinds of meetings. This has amazed us. The Lord opened so many doors and brought about many invitations for speaking engagements. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to teach Bible studies on not only the whole epistle to the Romans, but also on the whole book of Ephesians. There was great interest, and the Lord really used the evenings and the studies to equip the saints (Ephesians 4:12). We have noticed that there is a great desire for structural and systematic Bible exposition. Brothers and sisters from all kinds of churches and denominations were present. The Word of the Lord was opened, and it empowered us. All of the Bible studies have been recorded on video, so that now more people can follow the study via the Internet than were present during the meetings. We praise the Lord for this! At the end of January I’ll be starting a new series; this time we will be studying the book of Hebrews. The studies will be held in our hometown and are linked with our own Baptist congregation. It is a blessing to know that there is a group of young brothers and sisters who are willing to organize these evenings. Please, remember these studies in your prayers.
Additionally, we are thankful for the different brothers and sisters that were baptized after they shared their testimony of faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. I also was privileged to join in matrimony a brother and sister. During the wedding ceremony I spoke on 1 John 4:16: ”We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” It was an unforgettable day.
Moreover, in 2014 I was closely involved with the planting of the Reformed Baptist Church in Urk. Right now the congregation has been established for a few months, and there is a core group that visits the meetings weekly. We are deeply grateful for this development.
In December of 2014 I started to take a course in homiletics. After my conversion the Lord immediately called me to preach the Gospel, and, specifically, to equip the saints for works of service. I am self-taught, and through much self-study I have gained knowledge of the Word. The Lord has blessed and used that. However, I now desire to be taught more specifically in regards to preaching. The course is reasonably short and therefore very manageable to me.
Everything that I have described thus far is only a sampling of the ministry that we/I have been involved with in 2014. We’re extremely grateful that in 2014 the Lord has shown Himself to be faithful and worthy of our trust. As a family we lacked nothing. There was enough money to pay our monthly fixed expenses. The necessary renovation of our home (for work/study) was quite the financial step, but the funds have come in. We’re also grateful in regards to the spiritual development of our children. I get to preach the Gospel in many places and, thanks be to God, not without fruit. But often I’m asked, How are your children doing spiritually? They are my first responsibility. In that respect, too, 2014 was a special year. The Lord is at work in our eldest son Levi, as well as in our second son Boaz. In April of last year Boaz asked me to kneel down with him, as he wanted to give his heart to the Lord. That was a wonderful moment for me. And during one of the meetings where I spoke, our eldest son Levi very deliberately surrendered his heart and life to the Lord. He told us about it later. As parents we know we need much grace, wisdom, and patience to guide our children in their continued walk with the Lord. This requires considerable time and energy. It also makes us realize how small we are and how amazingly the Lord works. Our family needs constant prayer. When I (JB) am on the road preaching, the enemy often tries to bring unrest to our family in varied ways. We desperately need prayer for protection of our marriage and family.
Continuing to watch over my calendar is a very important concern in 2015. There are so many requests and invitations, that sometimes it becomes too much. This includes not only invitations to speak, but also requests for pastoral counseling. The needs and the brokenness are very great. It is fundamentally important to be and stay tuned to God’s will. What does He want us to do? Where does He want us to work? It is our prayer to remain sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, in the midst of all the work that comes our way.
Finally, we would like to encourage you with the following Scriptures:
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:15-17)
Elisha’s attendant was upset, which wasn’t odd, seeing the surrounding armies. He cried out in distress, What shall we do? If we, in like manner, let ourselves be led by what we see, fear and trembling can grip our hearts. Similarly, I thought of the twelve spies who explored the land of Canaan. Each of them saw the same thing, but they drew differing conclusions. Ten of them looked at the circumstances (visible) and only two of them looked to the God (invisible, but not less true), who had made promises. Joshua and Caleb believed that if God promised them that land, they would certainly enter it. The question is, What are we looking to and in what/whom do we put our trust? Elisha is a type of the Lord Jesus in this story and says to his servant, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ This was under the Old Covenant. In 1 John 4:4 we read words that are virtually the same. We – who have come to faith and who have been born again – live under the New Covenant. This day God lives in our hearts by His Spirit. Let this Word be an encouragement to you. Not only today, but also tomorrow, yes, even all the days of your life. “You are from God, little children […] because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 John 4:4).
Across the oceans we know ourselves to be closely united to you in our Lord and Savior.