Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Like Lightning from Heaven

Winter time in Brussels is usually not very pleasant. The snow is gone, but we have had lots of clouds and rain lately, and only a few bright moments. This morning, I was able to see some blue sky, which lifted up my spirits.

It's already the second week that Maria, our new head of unit, is working with us. So far, I'm really pleased with this new situation. She is a very kind and appreciative person, and she is indeed organized. She takes care of the incoming stuff on a day-to-day basis, so no more piles! Now I only have to chase some of my case handlers for missed deadlines, but part of the reason for this is our lack of resources. I really feel for them, as most of them are overworked and have to juggle between priority cases plus all the other things that need to be done. I'm thankful that my own workload is rather light at the moment, but as I'm going to take on new tasks, this might change in the near future. But I will see - no need to worry about it right now.

Other than that, there aren't any new things happening in my life. I'm still praying about the Lord's guidance as for ministry opportunities. Now as the Amazing Facts event has been cancelled, I still somehow feel this emptiness. But maybe I should just take one day at a time and see what He has in store for me. At church, I decided to accept the office as church clerk, not exactly knowing what this task really entails. It's definitely more than I had expected, but with the Lord's help I will hopefully manage. Being in this position, I'm realizing more and more what a challenge it is to be part of a church congregation with so much diversity in cultural and educational backgrounds. But the Lord surely has a plan for His people in Brussels.

Lately, I've been reading through the gospel of John during my devotional time. The other morning, I beheld the crucifixion of Christ. I'm impressed how the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Jesus' death were exactly fulfilled. Furthermore, a quote by Ellen G. White in my study bible caught my attention:
When Christ cried, "It is finished," God's unseen hand rent the strong fabric composing the veil of the temple from top to bottom. The way into the holiest of all was made manifest. God bowed His head satisfied. Now His justice and mercy could blend. He could be just, and yet the justifier of all who should believe on Christ. He looked upon the victim expiring on the cross, and said, "It is finished. The human race shall have another trial." The redemption price was paid, and Satan fell like lightning from heaven (MS 111, 1897).  
Isn't that powerful? I especially like the quote from Luke 10:18 about Satan falling from heaven like lightning. Although it didn't appear as such at the moment of crucifixion, Jesus was the winner in this battle and Satan was defeated. It's so comforting to know that our God is the One who controls our fate and destiny, and that there is nothing on this earth that can take us out of His arms. And best of all: He is interceding for us right now in the Most Holy Place. I pray that I may get to understand and embrace more fully what He has done and is still doing for His children.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Amazing Facts Cancelled

I would have never thought that this would happen. Everything seemed to be going pretty well. I had established this contact with the Hargreaves family while in the US, and the local leadership was in favor of having this evangelistic series. In September, the family was even able to come here and many church members were motivated by Lowell Hargreaves' sermons.

But then, shortly before Christmas, I received a message from Lowell telling me that our conference would have to pay the regular Amazing Facts fee of $13.000 to have them come to do the series. Originally, he had informed us that this fee could be covered by donations. However, the Hargreaves' recent campaign in the Philippines had cost three times more than expected, and thus, there was no money available to cover this.

This would have meant an almost 100% increase of our original budget, and of course this became a big issue. To keep it in a nutshell: The French speaking church finally decided to back out. As we came together to discuss this last week, it became quite clear that the money wasn't the biggest issue, but some concerns which had been there right from the beginning (and had only been put aside for the sake of not opposing) came up again. One thing was the length of the program (they would have rather had it only for 3 or 4 weeks) and also the fact that they thought Belgians wouldn't want to listen to somebody from America.

I was disappointed but relieved at the same time when I realized that it wouldn't happen. It's simply not enough if the leadership is not opposed to something. There was no enthusiasm right from the beginning, so how should they have ever motivated their church members? I think I would have collapsed under this burden. However, my pastor and conference president got to talk to Lowell Hargreaves, and it might be possible to have a tailor-made program for us sometime in the future. They had never thought about creating a special program for Western European countries at Amazing Facts, so something might be considered. But I'm reluctant now when it comes to working together with the French speaking church. Apparently not the whole leadership was so sceptical, but I would want to be really sure that this is actively supported.

Anway, I couldn't help feeling a certain emptiness. I had thought that this would be my big opportunity to serve the Lord this year, and now this has been taken away from me. However, God never makes a mistake and I would like to see it in the light of His providence. I've thought about a passage in the Ministry of Healing that I find quite fitting in this situation:

"Our plans are not always God's plans. He may see that it is best for us and for His cause to refuse our very best intentions, as He did in the case of David. But of one thing we may be assured, He will bless and use in the advancement of His cause those who sincerely devote themselves and all they have to His glory. If He sees it best not to grant their desires He will counterbalance the refusal by giving them tokens of His love and entrusting to them another service.

In His loving care and interest for us, often He who understands us better than we understand ourselves refuses to permit us selfishly to seek the gratification of our own ambition. He does not permit us to pass by the homely but sacred duties that lie next us. Often these duties afford the very training essential to prepare us for a higher work. Often our plans fail that God's plans for us may succeed.

We are never called upon to make a real sacrifice for God. Many things He asks us to yield to Him, but in doing this we are but giving up that which hinders us in the heavenward way. Even when called upon to surrender those things which in themselves are good, we may be sure that God is thus working out for us some higher good.

In the future life the mysteries that here have annoyed and disappointed us will be made plain. We shall see that our seemingly unanswered prayers and disappointed hopes have been among our greatest blessings.

We are to look upon every duty, however humble, as sacred because it is a part of God's service. Our daily prayer should be, "Lord, help me to do my best. Teach me how to do better work. Give me energy and cheerfulness. Help me to bring into my service the loving ministry of the Saviour." (Ministry of Healing, pp. 473, 474)

So I've been asking the Lord to show me how He wants to use me this year, and I'm convinced that it's not the big things that count anyway.

It has been raining today in Brussels and it's very dreary. I like the lessons given by God through nature. Just as the sun is not revealing itself right now, there might be things in our lives that are shrouded. But as surely as the sun will show it's face again, there will be clarity over the issues we are now struggling with. Indeed, our plans are not always God's plans - but His are always best!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Black Forrest Impressions

I made it back to Brussels this afternoon. Again, there was a problem with the high speed train, and I already had to change in Frankfurt. However, it turned out that another train to Brussels stopped there which took me to my destination even half an hour earlier than planned! So this turned out a blessing.

Yesterday, it was my father's 70's birthday, and as it is the custom in our family, this had to be celebrated in an appropriate manner. Thus, the extended family as well as the closest circle of friends were invited on a trip to a small town in the Black Forrest. It took us about an hour by train from my home city. We had dinner in a nice restaurant and took a walk around this picturesque place. I really like these half-timbered houses, as they are so typical for the Black Forrest.

Small alleys
The slant doors are the openings to the caves (they come in handy to fill in the coal for heating - but I doubt that they still heat these houses with coal nowadays)
The "Narrenbrunnen" (fountain of the fools)
The townhall of the city of Gengenbach
With my dad, sister-in-law and aunt (there is only water in my glass by the way!)
The surroundings
Sunset at the river
Interesting tree