Monthly Archives: April 2012

Walking with Chuck Colson

When I first read the other day that Chuck Colson was on his deathbed, I started to tear up.  He was a man of God…and to me, maybe even a father in the faith. Colson died April 21st surrounded by his family.

After I became a Christian in 1982, Born Again (Colson’s autobiography) was one of my first reads as a new believer. I was getting my bearings in those days, gaping at this Kingdom of God that I could see for the first time, and Colson was one of my tourguides. He had professed Christ 9 years before me, and despite what some in the media had said, it was clear to me that whatever had happened to me had also happened to him.  He was the real thing.

I remember little of the book, except the basic outlines that you might pick up in any news story, yet it was a delight, and I recall that Colson was impacted by C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity.  This fact may have been what moved me to pick up that classic.  I would eventually pass it on to my dad who would be eternally impacted by the Oxford professor.  I followed up Born Again with Life Sentence, Colson’s story of the beginnings of Prison Fellowship.

Navigators teach me a lesson…again

I came to Christ through the ministry of the Navigators at West Point, and then was discipled by the same group at the University of Illinois. Looking back on it, the Navs were a quirky bunch (I fit right in), but they were definitely Bible-saturated, and I was blessed by my association.  One of their quirks, if you will, was an emphasis on “getting all you can” from godly men and women.  So, for instance, when you went to a conference, and one of the Nav leaders from Colorado Springs was speaking, the sharp Nav students would vie to spend some free time with this leader. You know, ask him questions about his “quiet time”, about who he was currently discipling, and what memory verses were in his “current review.”  This emphasis permeated the Navigators, driven, I’m sure, by Proverbs 13:20…

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. (Pro 13:20 NIV)

I remember being with the Navs on a trip and the group of us getting an audience with J. Oswald Sanders, author of the classic, Spiritual Leadership.  We asked him about his quiet times, and I’ll never forget his answer: He said, “Oh, I could never talk about something so personal.”  What a cool answer, huh?  I figured you had to be extremely godly to answer the old quiet time question that way.

But I digress. Somewhere along the way, I realized that there was more than one way to “walk with the wise”. Sure, seeking out holy men and women had its blessings.  But godly people also write books, and I came to believe that reading a book by such a one filled the bill just as well as an afternoon “walking” with him or her. Maybe, in some ways, it was even better.  Through the years, therefore, I walked with fruitful missionaries, pastors of great faith, and founders of dynamic Spirit-led movements.  And I like to think I have grown wiser as a result.

Seven years ago, I started leading a Bible study in one of our local prisons (Waupun has three), affectionately known as “The Walls”. My buddy Pete was moving out of town and asked me to take over.  Back then, I don’t recall thinking much about Mr. Colson, but I was glad to pick up where Pete left off, and maybe Chuck Colson was in my head.  You see, I never had a single conversation with Nixon’s converted “hatchet-man”, but a long time ago, when my faith was being formed, he talked to me.

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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The Field, the Barn, and the New Farmhand…

It was the summer of 1985, and I was at a four week Navigator summer camp experience at a beautiful place called Camp Forest Springs. I had just heard a message by the state director of the Navigators, a man named Bill Tell. Bill said that while Jesus calls us to labor with Him in the fields which are white unto harvest, many Christians instead end up in the barn, doing many nice things…but not reaching the lost.

After the message that night, I got in a canoe alone and paddled across the lake. I found a little hut, went inside and got on my knees, committing myself to a lifetime of staying in the fields, proclaiming the good news to a lost world. Over the next few months, I wrote this story. I hope that the central message here will forever be the heartbeat of my life, and of our church.

This comes to mind because tomorrow Diane, Josh and Elisabeth will be accompanying Jamie Thompson and some other student leaders to “Dare to Share”, a conference especially designed to move students out of their comfort zones into a world that needs Jesus.

God bless, students – may you spend your lives laboring in the fields which are white unto harvest…


I was called out to a farm one day.

I knew that I’d belong.

But when I arrived, from what I saw,

Something was surely wrong.


The crops were looking ripe that year;

It looked like a pretty good yield.

But you know what caught me by surprise

Was that so few were out in the field.


Now mind you it was mid-afternoon,

And there was lots of work to be done,

But I looked and looked for workers there,

And strangely I saw only one.


So I wandered over to talk to him;

He was reaping in the row.

He said, “Welcome to our farm, my friend.”

I said, “Where did all the workers go?”


Well, they’re often in the barn,” he said.

“They’re always on a break.

But what they say confuses me,

That they’re in there for Jesus’ sake.”


So I thanked my friend and let him go.

As I left, he warned, “Take care.

If you go into the barn, you know,

They’ll try to keep you there.”


As I neared the barn I heard great noise,

And I knew that I was tardy.

For the sound I heard from in the barn,

Why it sounded like a party.


“Oh, joy of joys a new farmhand!”

They met me at the door.

I said, “Hold on a second friends.

What happened to the chore?”


“Well, we’re not so sure the harvest is ripe.”

They answered back to me.

“Yes, four more months now,” another group said.

“Oh, surely that’s the key.”


They said, “And we’re not mature enough yet.

We’ve got so far to go.”

I said, “Maturity comes in the field.

Do you really want to grow?”


“Our work in here is very important.”

Another bunch shouted my way.

“Besides we don’t have the right motivation,

To do field labor okay.”


You’ve got to get in the spirit,” they said.

“Before you go out in the field.

We’ll get into the spirit first,

And then we’ll surely yield.”


“And there’s arrows flying around out there.

The unseen enemy lives.

Do you really want us to go and die?”

They asked me, “Friend, what gives?”


So I thought to myself, I quietly mulled.

I didn’t understand.

“We need more workers out there!” I cried.

“Can no one lend a hand?”


“While the harvest rots,” I spoke again.

“And no one sheds a tear.

Why, you’d never know so many were dying.

By what’s going on in here.”


Well the barn was quiet as quiet can be.

And no one there was phased.

I supposed I had asked for volunteers,

But not a single hand was raised.


I left the barn that very same day,

Though they asked me to hang around.

The work they do inside the barn,

It’s nothing like what I’ve found.


For by the grace of God I labor now,

With my friends out in the field.

Though the arrows fly and I’m wounded some,

I’m safe behind my shield.


For my shield is strong, a shield of faith.

And my sickle’s the sword of God’s word.

And the harvest a flock of sheep without shepherd

Of those who have never heard.


And the Spirit’s there, out in the field.

His presence comforts me.

And the Lord of the Harvest is out there too,

By my side He’ll always be.


And new folks come down the road some days,

All kinds they come, women and men.

Most go off to that place, I’m sorry to say

And are never seen again.


And the barn sits off in the distance now.

When I look there I want to cry.

Why do they all remain in the barn

When millions and millions die?


Posted by on April 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


I Love to Tell the Story

Monday evening and I’m still glowing from Sunday morning.  An Easter Lilly sits before me in our living room; the pungent aroma has become a part of my post Easter high.  What a glorious Resurrection weekend it was.  I absolutely love Easter.  Love it.  Christmas too.  For all the obvious reasons…and maybe a couple more.   

Christmas means Immanuel and Easter means resurrection, good enough reasons to walk around all day with a smile on your face, but these holidays have taken on additional significance as I have enjoyed them and reflected through the years.

Our average attendance at Edgewood is somewhere around 800 including our Fond du Lac campus; on Easter, that number for the past two years has soared to around 1400. I think this percentage bump in attendance is common at many churches in not-quite-yet-post-Christian America…and I for one delight in it. 

There is a caricature of a pastor and congregation who see the hoards of people coming in the doors on Christmas Eve and Easter and react with anger at the “invaders” of their holy space. Strange…I suppose there might be some pastor and people out there who feel this way, but for us at Edgewood, the hoards of unfamiliar faces streaming into our church on these high holidays fill us with delight: we know they will soon hear a message that under Holy Ghost power will transform their eternity.

In the 1980’s at the University of Illinois, we Navigator college students would occasionally gather on Saturday afternoons to pray, and then go out two by two to look for people with whom we might share the “bridge illustration”: two cliffs, man on one side, God on the other, a chasm of sin, and a bridge made of a cross.  Scary afternoons, these were, but good and glorious also – we had a powerful message and we wanted to proclaim it.  We just needed to find willing ears, which sometimes wasn’t so easy: “Say, we were wondering if you have 5 minutes (this was technically true if they didn’t ask questions) to see an illustration that shows the main message of the Bible?”

Many times there were eternal results to these Saturday afternoon efforts.  I myself had been the beneficiary of such a “cold” contact at West Point.  So was Diane at UW Eau Claire.  But for those who went out two by two, it was hard…and scary…easy to wish you were back in the dorm room studying for Monday’s Accounting exam.

But ministering in the local church, it’s all different now: at Easter (and Christmas), they come streaming to us. Oh, sure, many are not asking for a life-changing message, rather a wee bit of yearly tradition to correspond with their Easter egg gathering and brunching and bonnet-wearing.  But we’ve been entrusted with the gospel, and we make good on this trust every year – we sing loudly of the “Happy Day, when Jesus washed our sins away.”  We delight that “Christ the Lord is risen today!”  And no longer am I begging strangers for 5 minutes – the multitudes happily seem to give me a full 30 to tell them the old, old story…the message of salvation from God’s own holy word.

I can’t wait for Christmas Eve.

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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Uncategorized


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