Wild Things Happen on the Way to the Gospel (Acts 1)

Linda and I are scheduled to co-teach a Heritage course on Reaching the World: Local, National, and Global Evangelism. As part of the course, students work their way through the book of Acts. Linda is writing a series of articles that tie into key themes in the book of Acts. We will be posting some of those articles over the coming weeks. I hope you find them heart-warming and thought provoking. Here’s the article that links to Acts 1.


The vacuum cleaner was sitting out in the middle of the room when our guests arrived. There
was no dinner ready. There was no set table. There was the usual chaos of toys and a toddler
with his mom in the other room sobbing,

It had taken us months to reach this night. We’d prayed, planned, and prepared. Armed with
the advice of Bob and Betty Jacks’, Your Home a Lighthouse, and the Sonlife Ministries
seminars at Moody Bible Institute, we had set out to take on the world. A lost world. A world
that needed Jesus.

To make these connections, I had taken walks through our Silicon Valley neighbourhood. Our
apartment faced Apple Computer, and young moms with tots in strollers had husbands working
in those world-changing buildings. The rest of us shopped at Mervyn’s or ate coffee cake at
Hobee’s. Life, like the cake, was delicious for most, resulting in little need for God.

But gradually, over a year’s time, we had made friends with those walking those well-kept
sidewalks; hosting barbeques, and Christmas “white elephant” exchanges to create laughter and
loving friendships among our neighbours and new friends.

We had met Carl and Olivia through our mutual Lamaze childbirth classes. On the final night,
we’d missed our chance to collect their phone number. God had a plan — we were assigned the
same hospital room after delivering our babies on the same evening.

That was God’s sovereignty! But this? That they would show up while the vacuum was out,
the dinner unmade, and while tears flowed? This too was His sovereignty?

Our outreach Bible study plans had gone smoothly to this point. I’d collected friends and phone
numbers as I deliberately folded laundry in the public laundry space — making friends rather
than hustling home to be alone with the piles. Rick read up on tanks, to converse with a military
man. We became all things to all people, to win some (1 Cor 9:22).

The invitation (to all our non-Christian friends) was to dinner and a “B-i-b-l-e study.” There
was silence. We promised the same fun dinners, and, casually said we would, “look at one
chapter of John after dinner each time.” The tank guy said he and his wife would “come just for
the dinner” [thank you very much], but soon we were all discussing John.

It was fun. It was crazy. It was California and the gospel in a beautiful way. Until this night.
We had thought of dinner, and the guests. But things changed when my husband walked in the
door after work at church. His face looked stricken; he was evasive.

He began to reveal that at our strongly Bible-teaching church, he had been called to a meeting.
It was part performance review and part criticism. Gradually, it came round that I was the
object of that criticism: as a young pastor’s wife, I had not attended the recent young adult ski
retreat. This was true, I had a one-year-old, and was, at that moment, five months pregnant.
Skiing didn’t seem feasible. It wasn’t the first time. And I wept.

When I came to the door, eyes red and knowing our world would be changing, I didn’t have
words to explain to non-Christians about Christians in church world. What came out:
“At times like these, I don’t know what I would do without Jesus.”

By God’s power, the meal was made, and the dinner served. The laughter returned and we
began to look at Jesus in John 3. It was the moment we’d waited for. All the laundry, Christmas
events, pool parties, and prayers of faith could be rewarded.

Nicodemus would have recognized our struggle. He could either fit in with the religious leaders
by day or seek out a Saviour at night. I anticipated the punch lines of John 3:16.

Before we reached that moment, a precious toddler. . . vomited in the middle of the group. She
pivoted and vomited again. You can only imagine the guests scattering while the dishes and
hurt remained. We were devastated. It seemed that Satan had won.

All of our attempts to share Christ and His glory seemed lost. But years later, we learned about
the conversation they had on the way home: “We don’t know Jesus like they know Jesus.”

Within months, these friends were seconded to a computer company in Germany. A new
church was used by God to complete His work in their lives (Phil 1:6). Both Carl and Olivia
gave their lives to Jesus. Both still serve in church leadership roles.

Acts 1:8 promised those disciples, and ourselves, will receive God’s power. His power and His
presence in every circumstance. Acts itself records the messy on the way to missional.
We may plan (or quietly hope) for a significant ministry, a ministry of audience, or being well
known. Being His witness begins in laundry rooms, neighbourhoods, and saying “hi.”
We may never understand God’s sovereignty or power. William Cowper penned,

“God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform
He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
Deep in unsearchable mines, Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs, and works His sovereign will.”1

———————————————
1 William Cowper, “God Works in a Mysterious Way,” Hymnody, accessed September 10, 2022,
https://hymnary.org/text/god_moves_in_a_mysterious_way.

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