Stones to Overcome Obstacles

Up until now, we have seen Israel cross the Jordan, destroy Jericho, get beaten at Ai, stone Achan and his family, then destroy Ai, and recommitting themselves to the commandments of the LORD; and all of that in eight chapters. If you simply look at it, in eight chapters they have crossed the Jordan and conquered two cities in the Promised Land. That’s all. In other words, they have a long way to go to be done conquering.

But God is good, and God has a plan, and Israel is conquering the Promised Land according to God’s plan, not theirs; according to His ways, not theirs. We have seen this so far as well, right? Crossing the Jordan on dry ground because the priests were standing in the midst of the Jordan, holding the Ark of the Covenant. Defeating Jericho by walking around the city for seven days and then giving a shout. Not really ways the Israelites would have chosen, right? And we see this when they try to defeat Ai in their own ways. What happens? They lose because of Achan. And after they purge the sin from their midst, and follow His ways, they win. So we see that God is good, and God has a plan for Israel to conquer the Promised Land. But although it is His plan, Israel does have to be involved, in their own imperfect and sometimes sinful way.

Joshua 9-10 is a beautiful picture of God’s grace, His goodness towards not only Israel, but also the Gibeonites, in the midst of sin.

 

THE GIBEONITE DECEPTION (Joshua 9:16)
The news of Israel’s conquering march has reached the southern parts of Canaan. By the way this is strange, because it seems that Israel was moving towards the north, not the south. But, like the people of Jericho before them, the southern kings were scared. And what we see is two totally different strategies of dealing with this threat, this opposition of Israel. The southern kings gather together against Israel and are planning a full frontal attack. They do not acknowledge that God is on Israel’s side fighting for them, and believe they can defeat the Israelites by sheer strength. But the Gibeonites, a city of the Hivites in the south, were choosing a different approach. They were going to lie and deceive Israel by claiming they were from a distant country and heard about Israel’s victories, and that they wanted to make a covenant with them. Yet we can read in the next chapter that “Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, […] because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors” (Jos. 10:2). So why did they surrender? “… because of the name of the Lord your God” (Jos. 9:9). Because God fights for Israel, they know it would be useless to oppose Israel. They acknowledge God, but approach Him in the wrong way though, by lying and deceiving.

The Gibeonite deception was clever, and therefore powerful. Israel falls for it. Why? Things went well. They had defeated two huge cities. They were on a roll. Watch out when things go well! We tend to lower our guard and don’t notice potential dangers. Gibeon was a huge city, and yet Israel was not suspicious at all when they “just” surrendered. Israel had lowered their guard. Joshua and the leaders never sought the LORD, but thought they’d had this figured out by themselves. It was their strength that made Gibeon surrender. They trusted in their own senses… “Look at this bread. Feel and taste how stale it is. Surely, they must have come a long way.” In other words, they walked by sight, not by faith. How much trouble do we find ourselves in for this very reason? Not asking the LORD’s counsel. Our life is seems to be going well. We are comfortable with where things are at. On the surface it looks like we are in control. We set the course. And bit-by-bit we involve God less and less in our decision-making. Bit by bit we create for ourselves an environment in which we do not have to walk by faith, because walking by sight will do. We have it figured out by ourselves.

 

KEEPING THE OATH, NO MATTER WHAT (Joshua 9:16:20; 10:1-8)
Only a couple of days later the Israelites find out that they had been deceived. And even though all the congregation murmured against the leaders, the leaders still knew they had to do what was right and honorable before God: keep their oath, even if it was a bad oath. The rulers of Israel were wise in not allowing one sin (wiping out the Gibeonites) follow another sin (making the oath without seeking the Lord), especially in light of public pressure to do otherwise. And I think it is refreshing to see that going back on their word was not even really a possibility for the rulers of Israel. It was simply not even up for debate.

The enemies of Israel feared greatly, but they did not retreat when they were afraid, but launched a bold attack. Afraid to attack Israel directly, they attacked their former ally, the Gibeonites, who were now servants of Israel. We saw earlier that, Joshua, the leaders of Israel, and all the people of Israel knew they made a bad vow to the Gibeonites, yet they did not turn their backs on that vow. But here, we see Joshua and the leaders of Israel even going a step further. Allowing these Canaanite kings to wipe out the Gibeonites would have been a convenient way to get out of a vow that should not have been made, but they will have none of it. Though Joshua was only bound to not kill the Gibeonites himself (Joshua 9:15), he goes on to fulfill the spirit of the vow he made to the Gibeonites. And what does God do? He commands Joshua to not fear them. Though Joshua has reason to fear because Israel faces a confederation of five kings, God commands Joshua to not fear his enemies. But, the command is coupled with a promise that Israel will be victorious. Having the assurance of God’s promise, Joshua did not sit back to passively watch God work without his participation. He went to great effort to participate with the work and will of God. This took hard work and initiative on Joshua’s part. God does His work, but He draws us into working with Him. The result? God’s work, and the partnership of Joshua’s work with the Lord, accomplished something great. We read in the remainder of chapter ten that Israel not only defeats the five armies in this battle, with some amazing feats from God might I add, but it sets Israel up for defeating all these other cities in Canaan, thereby conquering all the southern Canaanite kingdoms. The victory was won one at a time. God knew what He was doing in selecting which particular battles to fight, and when they needed to be fought. Most importantly, the key to victory was that the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel.

 

GRACE ABOUNDS!
Let’s look at the story again and at the amazing grace of God towards both the Israelites and the Gibeonites.

Israel messed up big time. They did not seek God’s counsel when the Gibeonites approached them, which resulted in making a covenant, a treaty with them. But even so they already knew what His answer would be, for by law Israel was forbidden to make peace with any of the tribes of Canaan (Ex. 23:23-24). And what does God do? He allows Israel to make their mistake, and does not punish them for it (God’s mercy). But look what it results in: through their mistake, God gives them the Gibeonites (thus enlarging the nation Israel) and He gives them the five other cities, and ultimately the whole southern region, as a result of their sin (God’s grace)

Gibeon messed up big time. They deceived Israel by misrepresenting themselves, providing false evidence for their deception, and simply lied. And this while they displayed a proper admiration and honor for the God of Israel, they approach Him in completely the wrong way. What does God do? He arranges that the Israelites do not kill the Gibeonites for the lying and deceiving (God’s mercy). But on top of that, the Gibeonites are taken up into Israel (you could say they are transferred from the kingdom of the enemy into the kingdom of God – Col 1:13-14) where they became servants for the tabernacle services (God’s grace)

This is so counter-intuitive, so mind-blowing and simply destroys our conditional world and thinking. Which is exactly what grace does. Grace is unconditional, which is why we struggle with it so much because we are conditional people. You see, we read this and think that God is not only condoning sin, He is actually blessing it, right? The Israelites sin, and God gives them the southern part of the Promised Land into their hands. The Gibeonites sin, and God makes them sons of God, just like the Israelites. And we think: that cannot be! How can God do that? That’s not fair; sin must be punished. And it makes us say, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Rom. 6:1). But here’s the thing: God is always fair, because He is good. And He has a plan, and it’s a good plan. And His plan always operates on the basis of grace. Pure, unconditional grace. And where sin increases, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). This is a beautiful picture of what the grace of God does. He turns liars, deceivers, and lawbreakers into His victorious children. But although grace is unconditional, we are not without responsibility.

 

STONES TO OVERCOME OBSTACLES
Earlier on in Joshua 7 with the story of Achan, Israel had to deal with internal obstacles. How sin affects those around you. How if one member suffers, all suffer together (1 Cor. 12:26). Here in this story we read how to deal with external obstacles. Although Israel as a whole is sinning by making a treaty with the Gibeonites, the story is really about how Israel responded to the Gibeonites after they acknowledged their mistake. So, here are three ways (three “stones”) on how to overcome external obstacles, and all three are based on how Israel responded after they found out they had been deceived by the Gibeonites.

Courage
After they found out, the people went out to Gibeon, but did not attack them because the leaders had sworn an oath. “Then all the congregation murmured against the leaders.” (Jos. 9:18), but the leaders did not come back on their oath. Here we see courage working in two directions. The leaders showed a lot of courage in keeping their oath, while the entire congregation murmured. But also the congregation shows a lot of courage by not attacking Gibeon and trusting their leaders’ decision although they did not agree with them. And courage is really the keyword of the whole book isn’t it? “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” (Jos. 1:9)

Repentance
After they found out, the Israelites own up to their mistake. They did not deny it or blame-shifted, but they took full responsibility for it. They did not only feel bad about it, but they changed their hearts. We see that because later on when they were asked by the Gibeonites to help them out, they joyfully did so, and thereby went way beyond what they were bound to by the oath. In other words, they repented. Repentance is not only a turning from sin, but also a turning to God by pursuing righteousness out of obedience to Him and a love for Him. As Paul said, “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

Integrity
After they found out, the Israelites did not come back on the oath they had made. They welcomed the Gibeonites into their midst, and when it became difficult when they were asked to help the Gibeonites, it would have been the perfect opportunity to get rid of the Gibeonites and thus the oath, but instead they sucked it up and suffered the consequences of their sin and helped them out. It is a mark of godliness to hold to an oath, even when it’s difficult. Their ‘yes’ was simply ‘yes’. And isn’t that what James says as well: “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (Jam. 5:12)

And while I was dwelling on these themes in this text, my thoughts went to Jesus being in the Garden of Gethsemane, and how we really see all three of these aspects being perfectly fulfilled in Jesus, when He simply said, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luk. 22:42). The courage He had in that moment to press on in the face of the most intense opposition. It says that He was in such agony that He prayed more earnestly and that His sweat became drops of blood. And although He did not have to repent of any sin, He did perfectly turned to God and pursued righteousness out of obedience to and love for His Father. And how beautifully is Jesus’ integrity on display when He said, “not my will, but yours, be done”. His ‘yes’ truly was ‘yes’. He completed what He said He would.

And while I was dwelling on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, I thought: “I do not have the strength to show such courage, such repentance, and such integrity. It is too much for me.” And the beauty is that I don’t have to, we don’t have to, but He already did. Jesus already did for us what God is asking us to do. His death and resurrection is the only basis upon which we can do this. In Him, we already are victorious. As I said earlier, He turns sinners into victorious children. Such grace! God is good, and God has a plan, and it is a good plan. We see in this story that all things work together for good for those who love God (Rom. 8:28). All we have to do is dwell in what Jesus already has done, and we can overcome any obstacles, because He already has.

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Growing in Grace and Knowledge

Every morning I read Spurgeon’s “Morning by Morning” devotional. All of them are great, but some are exceptional. Today was one of those, in which case I do not want to withold it from you.

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” – 2 Peter 3:18

Grow in grace – not in one grace only, but in all grace. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in fullness, constancy, simplicity. Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed. Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very low and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward – having nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit enable you to “grow in … the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know Him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of Him is to increase in happiness. He who does not long to know more of Christ, knows nothing of Him yet. Whoever has sipped this wine will thirst for more, for although Christ does satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction that the appetite is not choked, but whetted. If you know the love of Jesus as the hart pants for the water-brooks, so will you pant after deeper draughts of His love. If you do not desire to know Him better, then you love Him not, for love always cries, “Nearer, nearer.” Absence from Christ is hell; but the presence of Jesus is heaven. Do not rest content without an increasing acquaintance with Jesus. Seek to know more of Him in His divine nature, in His human relationship, in His finished work, in His death, in His resurrection, in His present glorious intercession, and in His future royal advent. Live close to the Cross, and search the mystery of His wounds. An increase of love to Jesus and a more perfect apprehension of His love to us is one of the best tests of growth in grace.

Gifts of Grace #1 – An Introduction

Last weekend we went on a retreat with our church to beautiful Groesbeek in the east of Holland. Next to it being a great refreshing and fun time, the theme of the retreat was “Unique Design” and one of the things we did was take a spiritual gifts questionnaire together to get better inside into how God has uniquely made us and for what purpose. At the beginning of the retreat I took the opportunity to say a couple of things about spiritual gifts in general (sort of a high-level overview of what the Bible has to say about this) as often the topic of spiritual gifts can be seen as vague and controversial, and so a little bit of a framework can always help to give some guidance. I am planning to do a much larger series on the individual gifts, of which this serves as an introduction. I call the series “Gifts of Grace” because the Greek word used for spiritual gifts (charismata) means grace-gift.

Its Definition
If I would have to give you a definition of what a spiritual gift is, I would go with this one: “A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in ministry of the church.” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 1016).

Now this holds a couple of elements. First, it’s any ability. This means it can include natural abilities (for instance: teaching, showing mercy, hospitality, administration, etc) as well as more miraculous abilities (for instance: prophecy, healing, distinguishing between spirits). Second, it’s empowered by the Holy Spirit. In the opening chapter of the book of Acts, right before Jesus’ ascension back into heaven and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole church, Jesus told the disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you,…” (Acts 1:8). And Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Cor. 12:11). In other words, any gift (or ability) only becomes a spiritual gift when it is empowered by the Holy Spirit. And third, it’s used in ministry of the church. Spiritual gifts are given to equip the church to carry out its ministry as the church until Christ returns (1 Cor. 1:7). Paul is quite explicit in this on a number of occasions. Listen to what he says: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7) “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.” (1 Cor. 14:26) “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Cor. 14:12). In other words, any gift (or ability) only becomes a spiritual gift when it is used to build up the church.

Its Number and Use
The Bible does not give us any definite number of spiritual gifts, but it does say that God gave the church an amazing variety of spiritual gifts, and they are all tokens of His varied (rich and diverse) grace, “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet. 4:10-11). This means that no two people’s gifts are exactly alike. We are all unique, not only in our combination of spiritual gifts, but also in how God uses our spiritual gifts to build the church up.

The practical outcome is that we should be willing to recognize and appreciate people who have gifts that differ from ours and whose gifts may differ from our expectations of what certain gifts look like. There is often, not always – as God apportions as He wills – a great diversity of gifts, and this diversity should not lead to fragmentation but to greater unity among the believers in the church (1 Cor. 12:12-26) as through these differences we are to depend upon each other.

Unity rather than disunity is to be the outcome of using our spiritual gifts. Unfortunately churches are often imbalances in their view, ranging from totally ignoring spiritual gifts and never talk about them, to being completely obsessed about spiritual gifts and compare and contrast members’ gifts, rank-ordering them, and trying to outdo one another. Now, although Paul does say to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31), which are those that build up the church more and bring more benefit to others, “especially that you may prophesy.” (1 Cor. 14:1), this should never lead to disunity (like saying that a person only has been filled with the Holy Spirit when he or she is able to speak in tongues – the Bible makes no such statements.

Within our church, we hope to strike a balance in which we neither ignore nor obsess about spiritual gifts, but rather meaningfully engage with these gifts, and use them in such a way that they build up the church, glorify God, and bring joy to you.

Paul and Peter are the ones who primarily talk about the different types of spiritual gifts, and you can read about them in:

  • 1 Corinthians 12-14
    • 1 Cor. 12:8-10 (word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues)
    • 1 Cor. 12:28 (apostle, prophet, teacher, miracles, kinds of healings, helps, administration, tongues)
  • Ephesians 4:1-17 (apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor-teacher)
  • Romans 12:1-8 (prophecy, serving, teaching, encouraging, contributing, leadership, mercy)
  • 1 Corinthians 7:1-9 (marriage, celibacy)
  • 1 Peter 4:7-11 (whoever speaks, whoever renders service)

A Call to Strengthen
Gifts are given to every believer (1 Cor. 12:7, 11; 1 Pet. 4:10). They are given to the new believer as well as to the mature believer. Hence, spiritual gifts in and of themselves are not a sign of spiritual maturity. Yet the Bible does exhort us to use them (Rom. 12:6), and to seek to grow in their use that church may receive more benefit from the gifts of which God has allowed us to be stewards. In Paul’s letters to Timothy he exhorts us to “do not neglect the gift you have” (1 Tim. 4:14) and is reminding us “to fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Tim. 1:6). Why? Because it’s only a spiritual gift when it is strong enough to function for the benefit of the church; to build up the church.

Discovering, Seeking, and Applying Spiritual Gifts
I think that regardless if you know or don’t know what your spiritual gifts are, it is good to pray and seek the LORD for wisdom with regards to spiritual gifts. And it could be for a variety of reasons:

  • It could be to get more insight into what your spiritual gifts are;
  • It could be to get more insight into how God wants you to use your unique gift combination;
  • It could be to “earnestly desire the higher gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31), which are those that build up the church more and bring more benefit to others

It also could be to check if your motives are right. Paul says, “since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church.” (1 Cor. 14:12). It’s good to be eager for manifestations of the Spirit, but remember they are given to you to build up the church; not to build up your self-esteem. And, conversely, be content if God chooses not to give more. It is the Spirit, “who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” (1 Cor. 12:11)

We should strive simply to excel in loving others, caring for their needs, building up the church, and living a life in conformity to the pattern of Christ’s life. If we do that, and if God chooses to give us spiritual gifts that equip us for those tasks, then we should thank Him for that, and pray that He would keep us from pride over gifts that have been freely and graciously given, and which we do not earn.

Five Exhortations From Peter

Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:13-15)

1. Prepare your minds for action (v.13)
To prepare our minds for action is to get rid of loose and sloppy thinking, and to bring the rational and reflective powers of your mind under control. It means to control what you think about, what you decide that you will set your mind upon. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2). The same concept is talked about by Paul in Ephesians 6:14 where we are to gird our loins with the truth (or fasten on the belt of truth). Putting on the belt prepares you for action, it frees your movements, and it put him in a battle frame of mind. The belt of truth can be described as the whole of what you believe about Christ. It is a foundation you live upon all the time, your understanding of and confidence in the basic doctrines of the faith. In effect we should never take off the belt of truth. We should always be ready for action.

2. Be sober-minded (v.13)
To be sober-minded basically means to have the ability to take a serious look at life. It is an attitude of self-discipline that avoids the extremes. It is one of character qualifications of an elder (1 Timothy 3:2), it is Paul’s charge to Timothy to withstand the apostasy in his church (2 Timothy 4:5), it is something that comes with years (Titus 2:2). Paul links being sober-minded with “having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation” (2 Thessalonians 5:8). I wrote a blog post about this once, which you can read here

3. Set your hope fully on the grace […] of Jesus Christ (v.13)
Peter has told us a lot about God’s grace. He greeted us with grace (1 Peter 1:2). He told us of the grace that came to us in Jesus, predicted by the prophets of old (1 Peter 1:10). Now he goes further, writing of the grace that is to be brought to you when Jesus comes back. The only way we will be able to stand before Jesus on that day is because of the unmerited favor He gives and will give to us. Grace isn’t just for the past, when we first gave our lives to Jesus. It isn’t only for the present, where we live each moment standing in His grace (Romans 5:2). It is also for the future, when grace will be brought to us. God has only just begun to show us the riches of His grace.

4. Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance (v.14)
We should not be “conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). We should “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) and “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14). We should “flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). But I think Paul describes it best in Titus 3:3-7, where he says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

5. Be holy in all your conduct (v.15)
This is really the summary of Peter’s statement. God says repeatedly in Leviticus to be holy (Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 21:6). We are to be holy as the Lord has set us apart, or as Leviticus 20:26 says, “separated… from the peoples, that you should be mine.” Paul picks up this theme as well when he says that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4). We are to train ourselves in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7), and we are to pursue godliness (1 Timothy 6:11). Our conduct should translate in our works (James 3:13)

All in all, these exhortations are all words of action and are linked together. As we set our hope fully on the grace of Jesus Christ we realize that He calls us to be holy in all our conduct. This should stir in us a desire to then not be conformed to the passions of our former ignorance, which means that we should prepare our minds for action and become sober-minded.

Flat Tire, Elated Grace

Flat Tire
Last week Monday started out as any other regular Monday. I got out of bed a bit later than intended, but still early enough to call it really early. After the usuals I walked down to my car, got in, started the engine, started the CD player (Dream Theater’s latest is a great way to wake up), backed out of the parking lot and was on my way to work. By the second turn I noticed something was not right. It felt like I was leaning a bit to the right and when making a turn it felt weird. I turned the CD player off, drove on, and found out quickly that I had a flat tire on the right front. The road I was on did not give me any possibilities to make a full turn and drive the 500 meters back home, so I decided to try to make it to the closest gas station, driving on 20 km/h with the alarm lights on (good thing it was 6 am in the morning with the road being empty). I barely managed to reach it. My aim was to try to put some air in the tire, drive to my car dealer one kilometer down the road and have them fix it for me. Yet, no such luck. For some reason I could not get any air in the tire, so I decided to park my car at the gas station (with the aim to come back there in the afternoon to replace the flat tire with the spare) and make my way to work with public transport. Think this a bad start of the week? Read on.

During the summer months they are doing some maintenance (for the new North/South connection) on the metro track between Amstelveen and Amsterdam. Now, normally I could easily hop on the metro and within 25 minutes plus a 5 minute walk be at my work, but now I had to take a bus to station South/WTC (20 minutes), take the train to Duivendrecht (10 minutes), take the metro to Spaklerweg (5 minutes) and then walk 5 minutes to work. All in all, about a one hour ordeal. Think this a bad start to of the week? Read on.

At work I called my car dealer and asked if I could come by this afternoon to get my tire fixed (meaning get the flat tired replaced and put the spare back in the trunk). They told me they would have to look if they had the tire on stock and would call me back, which they never did. At the end of my working day I made my way back to the gas station in the same manner as that morning, yet I accidentally took the wrong metro back (and I only noticed that when I was one stop away from the final stop – which meant adding another 25 minutes of traveling), and was ready for a first time ever replacing of a flat tire. My lovely wife was so sweet to come and support me (having more experience and expertise in this field). So, we jacked the car, removed the flat tire, got the spare out of the trunk, but when trying to put it on we realized quickly that the spare tire (which had been in my trunk for 10 years!) did not fit as the spaces between the screw holes were different. So, I called the Mitsubishi Service Desk, and their advice was to tow my car, which I really didn’t want as it would take a long time and cost a lot of money, so I gracefully declines their offer. Instead I decided to retry putting air in my flat tire (which failed before when it was still on my car) and see how fast it deflated. This was successful and it didn’t deflate immediately, so I decided to quickly put the “flat tire” back on my car, and drive as quickly as possible to my car dealer so they could take care of the problem. Think this a bad start of the week? Read on.

The car dealer told me that they did not have my type of tire on stock so they needed to order it and would come in a day later. Considering I couldn’t do much about this I had to accept the situation, and left my car there overnight. But then, they called me on Tuesday that they made a mistake in the order and I had to wait another day for the tire to come in. This means now three days in a row taking the huge public transport 60+ minutes detour to work (instead of a 12-minute car ride). Oh well, not much I could do. So, on Wednesday I waited and waited for a phone call from the dealer telling me that my car was all fixed again, but it never came. So I went to the car dealer at the end of the day, and I saw that my car was ready, but just didn’t call me. Lucky enough I was able to get my car back, yet I still don’t have a new spare tire in the trunk (considering the current one is useless).

Elated Grace
So, long story but where’s the grace? Well, obviously not getting a flat tire while driving is grace. Not getting in either an accident or my flat tire running off the wheel while driving to the gas station is grace. But, “real” grace happened on Monday afternoon on the way back home with the public transport. Remember I told you I got on the wrong metro? Well, it turned out that when I ended up at the end of the wrong line and got on the metro back to my original stop I was minding my own business, staring out the window, when all of a sudden next to me a guy stood up and started preaching (proclaiming Jesus!) right in the middle of the metro. It was a big African-American guy with an old-fashioned King James Bible in his hand. Now I have sort of a love/hate relationship with street preachers because I don’t know who they are and what they’re up to, but this guy was something else! He didn’t do the usual “you’re all gonna burn in hell” preaching, but showed a genuine heart for the people in the metro, sharing the Good News of Jesus with passion and love, then starting singing a hymn, and ended his time with a powerful prayer which literally brought him to his knees. I was impressed!

We happened to get off at the same stop, and when I walked passed him he asked me what I thought of the words he spoke. I shook his hands and said: “Amen, brother! Jesus Christ is LORD!” I could see the complete surprise on his face. Here we are, in the heart of the “black” district in Amsterdam, and a white guy says he loves Jesus. We started talking and I found out that he is an American missionary, who’s been in Amsterdam for about a month, started a church in Amsterdam South-East (called “New Wine Christian Center”) and his main ministry is metro preaching, which he has been doing for years in different parts of the world. It was really great to see a brother with so passion for the Bible. We ended up exchanging contact details. I thanked God for sending me intentionally in the wrong direction so I could meet this guy.

So, although it was obviously quite a bad Monday and following, I think I will treasure this meeting for the rest of my life as a beautiful moment of experiencing God’s grace, sovereignty and presence in my life.