Didn’t See That Coming!

The Crash
I was peacefully driving along a major city street in Edmonton a few years ago when a large Mercedes SUV suddenly accelerated from a cross street and smashed into the passenger side of my car.

Whoa! I didn’t see that coming! I thought as I got out of my wrecked car. “Good thing your wife wasn’t sitting there,” the police inspector said later. “She would have been seriously injured.”

It was a classic case of getting T-boned. It was also completely unexpected. Not my fault, and yet destroying my car and throwing me headlong into the onerous, time-consuming task of dealing with police, insurance, and multiple used car salesmen.

We all can tell similar stories—sick babies, broken washer, power outage, losing a job—totally unexpected, not our fault, yet deeply affecting us and throwing our lives into turmoil.

God’s Purposes
I can think of only one Person who has never said, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming.” Nor will He ever say it, because He is in complete control. He has the whole, wide world in His hands. He knows “The end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” He says, “My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” Isaiah 46:10 (NIV).

We, who love and follow Him, know Who holds tomorrow and we know Who holds our hand. The One who loves us enough to die for us, is still in control. We can trust Him. He orchestrates events and permits problems in our lives for purposes that go beyond this earthly life.

God, our Father, wants us all to become more like His Son. (Rom 8:29) As cross-cultural missionaries my wife and I were taught that as Jesus suffered to bring God’s Kingdom to earth, so must we be prepared to suffer to extend His Kingdom throughout the whole earth. (Col. 1:24). Christians of many nationalities and races have suffered through discrimination and persecution for centuries. Christians continue to be the most persecuted group on earth, even today.

Going Downhill
The way Christianity and biblical principles are being attacked even in places with a solid Christian history and tradition like North America, I wonder how long it will be before God permits full-blown persecution right here where we live?

It is already starting with the attacks against private schools, most of which are faith based. Here are some things we can expect the current trend of anti-Christian legislation to achieve:

  • Private schools shut down.
  • Children who did not graduate from the public-school system forbidden to enter universities.
  • Graduates from Christian universities not allowed to practice their professions.
  • Churches pay property taxes.
  • No more “tax deductible receipts” for donors to churches, missions or other Christian organizations.
  • Income tax levied on funds received in the Sunday offering.
  • What is now merely “not politically correct”, eventually will be against the law.
  • Government monitors in church services to check that the preachers do not break the law.
  • Churches going bankrupt, their buildings sold or confiscated.
  • Church leaders that refuse to have their sermon content controlled by government inspectors jailed.
  • Businesses owned by Christians forced to close, and Christian medical personnel, police, lawyers, teachers, etc., lose their jobs because they cannot in good conscience do what the anti-Christian laws require them to do.

HandcuffsThis is not fantasy horror. It happened to thousands of churches and millions of believers in China, Russia, Cuba and in other countries. Some of these things are happening elsewhere; they can happen here.

Our Attitude
What can also happen is that God will again give “beauty for ashes” (Isa 61:3) by refining His Church as He did in these countries. As true believers come together in homes, to biblically encourage and edify each other, God’s Kingdom will grow stronger here and will increase, not despite persecution, but because of it. It’s happened before. That’s not a bad outcome. But that’s not saying we should welcome injustice, lies and anti-Christian legislation with open arms!

It may be that God will allow massive persecution to come on His people in North America. But, right now, He still holds us accountable to pray for all those in authority and for justice and truth to prevail.

“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.  This is good, and pleases God our Savior.” 1 Tim. 2:1-3 (NIV).

In these threatening days, God has given us, His people, power, influence, voice, and a vote, and He expects us to use them. Some Christians are like Esther who hesitated to use her position of influence to avert a threat to God’s people, but God’s message to her was, “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV). This is not a time to passively wait to see what will happen but to actively stand for truth and justice.

Fear Not
We don’t need to be afraid of the future. Whatever happens in the end, God will never have to say, “Whoa! I didn’t see that coming!” God is still in control. Jesus’ promise is still in effect, “In me you will have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but cheer up, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV).

Hansje and the Truck of Terror–A Story From My Childhood

n the Netherlands, my Dad’s name was Hans and mine was Hansje (little Hans). When we emigrated to Canada my Dad changed his name to John and mine to Jack. The Dutch Santa Claus is called Sinterklaas or St. Nicholaas,  and his December 5th  birthday is celebrated with parties and gift giving. The first 30 chapters of the autobiography I’m writing cover my twelve years of childhood and are in the form of children’s stories about Hansje. Here is one such story just in time for Sinterklaas this Saturday:

The Truck of Terror
Poor Hansje was down on his knees and elbows, his hands clasped in prayer, his eyes tightly shut and his lips were whispering, “Help me. Please help me. Help me.” The frozen steel floor of the army truck sucked the warmth from his knees and forearms. His seven-year-old body shivered as much from cold as from fear.

Hansje was not alone, the truck was packed with several dozen other children about his own age. But while he was crying and praying desperately, they were happy, excited, laughing, talking and singing. Why was Hansje the only one who was terrified, down on the floor, praying anxiously for help—help that didn’t come. What was happening?

The Confusion
Hansje’s Mama had told him many, many times, “Don’t ever get into a car or on a truck that is driven by someone you don’t know.” But this time, his Mama was the very person who insisted that he climb on that truck. Hansje had shouted, “No, no! I don’t want to go!”

But she sternly said, “Don’t be so silly, Hansje.” And when a big soldier picked him up and lifted him onto the back of the truck, she had even smiled at the soldier.

Hansje couldn’t understand it. He was so confused. He kept praying, “Help me. Help me.” But instead of help, a soldier slammed the end gate shut, the diesel motor rumbled and roared into life, and with a jerk and a tooting of the horn, they were traveling down the street, out of his neighbourhood, and away from Hansje’s home—no help, no hope.

KRO Radio Station, Hilversum

KRO Radio Station, Hilversum

After a while the truck stopped. Hansje stood up and jumped down to the ground with the other children. He looked around, there were other army trucks and lots more children jumping out. He saw the building beyond the trucks, and suddenly a wave of relief flooded over him. It was the KRO radio station studio. He had been there before. It was only a few blocks from his neighbourhood. He wiped away his tears. He knew where he was. He was safe.

The Sinterklaas Party
He followed the crowd of excited children into the building and sat with hundreds of others in the huge auditorium, looking down on the brightly lit stage.

A man walked to the microphone on the stage and said, “Today is December the 5th, the first Sinterklaas day since the end of the war. Sinterklaas is on his way. He will soon be with us. Let’s sing to welcome him!”

Hansje loudly sang the Dutch Santa Claus songs along with all the other kids, all his fears forgotten.
Zie, ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan.
Hij brengt on St. Nicholaas, ik zie hem al staan.
“Look, there is the steamship coming from Spain,
It brings us St Nicholas, I can see him standing there.”

SinterklaasAfter a few more Sinterklaas songs, the great white-bearded saint strode onto the stage to much applause and shouting by Hansje and the other kids. He wore his bishop’s red and gold robes, a tall, red mitre hat with a gold cross on his head, and held a golden crosier staff in hand. His black servant, Zwarte Piet followed him.

After more singing, every child received a bag of candy and a small present. What a party! And then, it was all over. Hansje was tired but happy.

More Fear
But as the kids crowded around the trucks, Hansje’s fears crowded his mind. What if he got on the wrong truck? What if they made him get out at the wrong place? How would he ever get home?

No more trucks, Hansje thought. He sidled quietly to the edge of the crowd, crossed the dark sidewalk, then darted across the main road, and jogged towards his own neighbourhood. After several blocks he saw the corner to his own street. A few minutes later he was home. Safe at home, and with candy!

A Lesson in Trust
That night Hansje added a line to his bedtime prayer, “And thank You for keeping me safe on that truck. Help me to remember that You are always with me. Amen.”