God is moving to the ends of the earth right now – even tiny cafes in The Netherlands

people sitting on restaurant chairs

We met in a typical Dutch cafe in the middle-of-the-day Tuesday before Christmas.

It was really nice to hear how you ordered an Americano in English. I always knew I was saying it wrong!”, she smiled and approached me. 

Pardon?”, I asked.

Why, yes!” (Explains Dutch vs. English pronunciation.)

What is your favorite drink to order here?”, I laughed.

Zoe was the nicest Dutch woman, heck – one of the nicest people I’d ever met. Her personality was welcoming and eccentric. As a psychology professor who believed in good books and lattes, she definitely looked the part: shoulder-length reddish, unruly hair, and large crooked glasses. She was turning 38 the same exact day I was turning 23.

Besides sharing a December 30th birthday, we had many other common interests. Coffee “made wrong” (pictured above), museums, travel, bucket lists, reflection, friendship, the newspaper, research, and freedom for women all over the world. 

Our most deeply held commonality was a love for humanity. She described herself as someone who loved to help others. She believed it was most important to help society, give back, and live generously. She bared her soul before me, animating hours of almost unbelievable travel stories. Many times she offered a hand to those in need while traveling because she “never knew when she might need a hand, too.”

Here’s where we differed: she considered herself a Humanist, myself a Christian. She admitted that “this whole humanist thing sounded just like Christianity but without believing in God… He, She, It… whatever!”

I was perplexed. Zoe was generous to the poor, forgiving, compassionate, hospitable. She spent her life in service of others, especially her students. But why? Why care and give like that without God or hope beyond this life? She insisted that since she walked away from church at 13, she could never believe with her whole heart but still wanted to try and live her life with “Christian principles.”

I couldn’t understand her belief in humanity – so fatally corrupted.

Many years later, as I remember my birthday buddy, I’m humbled. Because I still believe the truth is we humans are so deeply broken – and yet God still sent His son to die for us. Knowingly. Willingly. What lavish grace! God knew how messed up we were and still chose us. Every time we come to Him, He still chooses us. When we don’t deserve it. When we did nothing to earn it. That, my friends, is grace. Freely given, freely received. Ephesians 2:4-9 puts it like this:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” 

When I remember Zoe, I remember that she is an image-bearer of God. She has inherent worth and value. In His image, I can see this love is hard-wired into her heart. She sees the value of people around her. She gives of herself on their behalf. 

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27

What Zoe couldn’t see is that someone already saw her value, and gave His life for her. I pray earnestly God enabled her to fully believe this with her whole heart like she said she wanted to. I pray His perfect love is casting out all her fear day by day. I pray His lavish grace is transforming her life. 

I pray these same things for you – for me. 

My serendipitous birthday twin from that typically-Dutch cafe reminds me of the outrageous grace of the gospel of Jesus – restoring broken humanity. She reminds me of the Imago Dei – the inherent value of every human. She reminds me God is moving to the ends of the earth right now – even tiny cafes throughout the Netherlands

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””

Revelation 9:7-12

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