Just before Christmas I was meditating on the Christmas story and something struck me that I had never thought about before. So, that night I shared with my wife the truth I had been pondering, how Mary and Joseph were absolutely in the center of God's will and they still had problems. They had to move to Bethlehem because of a census; when they arrived there was no room for them in the inn and they were forced to give birth to Jesus the Christ in a stable. It would be tempting from our human perspective to think that since they were such key players in God's plan for the ages that things would have gone well for them, but such was not the case. That means, I continued to Nicole, that being in the center of God's will does not assure us that things are going to go well (This can also be seen very clearly in the life of Joseph in the Old Testament).
Well, little did I know we would be set to prove that truth. Just two days later, my laptop was stolen from the church* (read below to hear "the rest of the story") with all my valuable "missions contacts". When I was sitting in my house frustrated about the "bad luck" that had come my way, my wife encouraged me by reminding me of the truth I had shared with her just two days earlier. It seems in some sense that our first few weeks on the deputation trail have also proved this truth. At our first church, New Southwest Baptist Church in Baltimore (a wonderfully vibrant church), we arrived to find the basement flooded and then shortly thereafter our projector died on us. When we finally presented the Powerpoint on my computer screen, the sound and pictures did not "sync up" (though it worked perfectly the night before).
When we arrived at Berean Bible Church the next Sunday instead of the basement flooding, the sanctuary was without heat and it was 46 degrees inside (Although we joked that this was the coldest welcome we had ever received, in truth the people of Berean were warm and loving). And then, yesterday it snowed and sleeted and rained all day as we prepared to travel to Red Lion Bible Church. And on top of all this, Nicole was probably the sickest I have ever seen her all last week.
Wouldn't it seem that since we are trying to do God's will that everything should go well? Well, not if the examples of Mary and Joseph in the New Testament and Joseph, and David, and the prophets in the Old Testament hold true for us today. Jesus said plainly what we are to expect in John 16:33 "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." Admittedly my projector not working and my computer being stolen don't quite reach the level of tribulation that others have faced, but the principle still applies. We would be careful not to equate troubles with God's frown upon us. William Cowper, the great hymn writer, put it best, "Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face."
On the whole, however, deputation has been a positive experience thus far. We have had the privilege this year of presenting our ministry in 3 churches in the MD and PA area (New Southwest Baptist Church in Baltimore; Berean Bible Church in Greencastle, PA; and Red Lion Bible Church in Red Lion, PA). At each church we have had the privilege of worshipping, praying, and fellowshiping with fellow believers. One of the dangers (and I use that term loosely) of serving in a local church is that it is easy to get tunnel vision and imagine that the work of God in one's church is all that God is doing. Deputation has reminded me that God's kingdom is broad and is advancing still and that the gates of hell are still unable to stop that great advance.
* Now about the computer-- We began to pray that God would convict the person who stole the computer and that they would return it. Today I am writing on the once stolen computer because God answered out prayers and it was returned to the church. Praise God that He controls even the thief!
For us that we would quickly make a full recovery to good health
To have safety in our travels
That we would quickly raise our support
That we would be able to encourage the people of God to evangelize for the glory of God!
That the hearts of the Datooga would be opened to the Gospel
That our calendar would fill up.
Thank you for your prayers.