When the Bridge Is Out–How to Deal with Lost People God’s Way


They called him Farmer John, and that was OK by him. He had a farm. His name was John. He was a practical man, and the appellation made sense to him.

Farmer John was the sort that didn’t say much, but when he did, people listened. He’d been around long enough so that his voice in town meetings carried some weight. Some folks would toss around the word wise when talking about John, but he preferred practical. Folks can say lots of things, but no one ever considered practical a bad thing, so in John’s eyes, practical won out.

Practical was not what that semi driver had been when he decided to take a wrong turn off the highway and down that old gravel road a month back. The supposedly abandoned road ran past Farmer John’s house and crossed a gorge via a bridge John believed must’ve been built when Chester A. Arthur was president.Bridge out Along with Arthur, most folks had let the bridge slip into the Sea of Forget. Seems the bridge suffered a bout of amnesia, too, because the sudden application of a semi filled with ball bearings across its surface made the bridge forget its own sole purpose for being, and the whole thing collapsed into the gorge.

A knock on Farmer John’s door that morning revealed a rather sheepish truck driver who somehow escaped a 200-foot freefall into the gorge, though the man’s conveyance had not fared as well. The county took one look at the wreckage, chalked it all up to rare misfortune, and left the whole mess sitting at the bottom of the gorge to rust.

When John happened to mention the empty space where a bridge had once been, the county engineers looked at him and said, “No one comes by here anyway.” They didn’t even bother to put up a “Bridge Out” sign, which John thought was rather an impractical way of dealing with a missing roadway over a 200-foot-deep gorge. “Budget cuts,” one of the engineers said with a laugh.

John stared at the place where the bridge had been. He then trudged the half mile down the road to his barn and found the biggest sheet of plywood he had. He painted “Danger—Bridge Out” on it, lugged it back to the gorge, and propped it up on the gravel road with a couple small boulders. It wasn’t art, but then he was a farmer and not Picasso. Still, it served its purpose, and if he himself should be careless some day and in the grip of a “senior moment” forget the missing bridge, the sign might just help him too.

One day, Farmer John heard wheels spinning on gravel.

Outside his window, John saw the unmistakable plume. He walked down to his drive to where a red Camaro hunkered. In his youth, Farmer John had once owned a Camaro, but it proved less practical than a tractor for farming purposes, so he sold it. Still, he knew a Camaro when he saw it, even if it was “one of them new ones.”

A young man with tossled hair popped his head out the driver’s window and said, “I think I’m lost.”

John replied, “If you’re here, I’m certain of it.”

“But my GPS said to turn here if I wanted to get to Frederickstown,” the man said.

“Wrong is wrong,” said John as he walked up to the driver’s window, “even if a computer says otherwise.” He looked at the man and added a couple beats later, “And perhaps especially if a computer says.”

The man pulled the GPS from its suction-cupped holder, popped open the glove compartment indignantly, and tossed the device inside. He turned back to John. “So where does the road go?”

“Nowhere you want to be,” John said, “unless you don’t like yourself or your car too much. Bridge out.”

The man laughed. “Look, I’m lost. I know it. How do I get to Frederickstown?”

“Go back out to the highway.” John motioned with his good hand, drawing in the warm, summer air. “Take a left. Drive until you see the Exit 77 sign. Take that exit, then hang another left. Twenty minutes and you’re there.”

But the man kept looking down the gravel road.

“Son, I’ve lived here more decades than you’ve been breathin’,” John said, the serious creeping into the many lines on his face. “You go down that road there, and it will not end well for you. I know the way you need to go. If’n you need, I can ride with you down to that exit and you can let me off there. I’ve got no problem walkin’ back.”

The man’s countenance seemed to soften, and his head swiveled back to the highway. “That’s a kind offer, but I think I’ve got it. Thanks.”

The old farmer extended a hand. “John.”

The young man gripped it. “Steve. Thanks, John.”

“God bless you, Steve.”

The young man nodded and shifted the car into reverse, the throaty growl of the engine a familiar sound to the old farmer. John waved, stood in place, and watched his visitor shift again, make a left, and enter the highway.

A pheasant called in the distance, and by the time John’s eyes returned from where it might be hiding to the place the Camaro had been a heartbeat before, both the car and its driver were out of sight.


Most people are headed toward the gorge, and the bridge is out. Christians know this. How we respond to lost people makes all the difference in whether they listen to our warnings or not. Frankly, we’re not sharing what we know as well as Farmer John did.

Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
—Proverbs 24:11-12 ESV

John was wise enough to know others would come down that road. He knew how it would end, even if others pretended not to. He didn’t want to see anyone end up dead at the bottom of the gorge. People mattered to him.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
—Matthew 7:3-5 ESV

John was wise enough to know that in a weak, forgetful moment, he too might drive into the gorge unless he set up a warning. He dealt with his own failings first. This granted him the right to speak to other people’s weaknesses.

In addition, John didn’t question the preceding part of the man’s trip or how he had come to end up in his driveway. All he knew was that the man was going the wrong way, and that steering him the right way was the best approach. Then John offered that better way.

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…
—1 Peter 3:15 ESV

John kept to the main and the plain. He didn’t rail against the man’s head turning back to the gravel road. He was gentle, respectful, and genuinely concerned. No, he didn’t back down, but he didn’t yell,  cause a scene, or draw too much attention to himself. He shared what he knew and did it simply.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
—Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

John not only gave directions, he offered to ride with the stranger down to the proper exit to ensure he was going the right way. Even though the walk back might be considered an inconvenience to some, to John it was part of caring for this man God put in front of him.

If we Christians keep these four verses in mind whenever we deal with lost people, our interactions with them will be as God wills them to be.

This isn’t hard. Farmer John didn’t do anything impractical or wild. When dealing with lost people, we don’t need to either. John kept it simple. So should we.

Finding Yourself in the Gospel Story


Words of lifeOne of the realities God is impressing on me this year is the poor state of evangelism in this country. It’s as if Christians in America have forgotten the Great Commission, the mandate of our Lord to share the Gospel with the lost of the world.

More and more, I realize we modern Christians face have distanced ourselves from the story of the Gospel. It’s not that we don’t know the Gospel enough to share it. Most of us do. Instead, our problem is our inability to see ourselves as a part of that story.

A quick visit to any three Christian blogs will inevitably bring up mentions of the closed state of the canon. Some people, in fact, seem to base their entire theology on the fact of the closed canon rather than the person of the living Christ. Don’t get me wrong; there are no new books of the Bible being written. I fully support that the canon is closed.

However, I just as fully believe that God never stopped speaking. His voice continues to go out. That voice brings transformation because it is active, especially in the lives of those who learn the secret of abiding in Christ. Our God is a living entity who does not stand mute.

And this brings me to the Gospel.

What Jesus has done as evidenced by the Gospel is well known and indisputable. What I believe we tend to forget is what Jesus is still doing. He still changes lives. In this way, the Gospel perpetually lives, like a story continually being written—because the truth of the Gospel story has not come to an end.

We Christians today persist as an isolated, self-centered lot. Few of us see our individual lives as part of anything larger than ourselves, much less part of the narrative of God’s redemptive story. Yet our lives and what Jesus has done in them are no different than those of the patriarchs and saints of yore.  The reality of Jesus Christ meeting Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus centuries ago is no more valid that Jesus Christ meeting you or me on our own figurative Damascus road. We have our own Gospel story to tell, our own encounter with the Lord of the Universe, and our story matters to God as much as Saul of Tarsus’s does.

Because we have forgotten this, we have forfeited an important piece of what we share with the lost. Yet what is more powerful than telling a lost person our own story of how Jesus took us from darkness into light? We fret about somehow failing to string together the elements of the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, the Bridge Illustration, lessons from Evangelism Explosion, our Topical Memory System passages, or whatever evangelism technique we feel deficient in, when what God desires most from us is that we can share with another person what Jesus did for us in taking us from death to life. We may remember the Gospel, but we have failed to see ourselves in it.

Many out there feel the world is winding down, and it may be. It is not hard to see the day coming when no one can work. In light of this, I offer this word: You will never know the Scriptures perfectly unless you memorize the entire Bible, and by the time you do, you probably will not have had the chance to talk with anyone about Christ. What you can do, though, is use the Scriptures you do know in conjunction with your own story of how Jesus saved you.

Stories change lives. Your changed life is a story. All of this is wrapped up in the greatest story of all, the Gospel. If you are in Christ, you are living that story with every breath you take.

If that story matters to God, then I’m sure He wants you to share it with others. And there is no better time to share it than today.

The Rescue of Moonbase Asimov


The early morning sun already baking the pavement, Tom Killian trudged past the White House guards, a swipe at his dripping forehead misinterpreted as a salute by one young Marine.

“Hot day, ” Killian said to Steve Bishop, President Park’s press secretary.

Bishop stood at the entrance, his face like wax, jowls drooping in the heat. “They’re all hot.

“This one seems hotter  than most.”

“Yeah,” Bishop said. “You could say that.”

Killian caught the distance in Bishop’s eyes, the steeling for “what next?” that set firm the jaws of the wise in Washington. A dozen years ago he’d known that feeling himself as he watched his flock dwindle. First went the artists. The intelligentsia followed, then the families. Most threw their allegiance to Phos, the rising new religion of those who classified themselves as seekers. Phos found a way to blend the world’s ancient faiths and make believing easy. This truth Tom Killian knew: In demanding times, people were dying for easy.

He also knew the route to the meeting, having traced it a dozen times before. Park didn’t call him as much as in the early days of the administration, so he knew to expect something big. An ethics question, certainly. As one of the only Christian ethicists left on the East Coast, Killian got the nod time and again. Now out of the pastorate, he attempted to support the faith at Georgetown, but not only had Christianity taken a blow, so had ethics. In the last four years, he’d noted the erosion: a pandemic of empty seats in his classroom.

“Sir,” said a page. “Not here.” The young woman wore the classic navy blazer, the uniform color broken by a small pin. Killian knew the tiny jeweled torch wrapped by twin snakes. She was a Light, an adherent of Phos.  Directing him to toward the elevator, she added, “The lower level.”

Killian attempted a brow raise, but she anticipated.  “The media. They train UV lasers on the windows and track everything said from the vibrations on the glass, you know. It’s a precaution.”

Killian ran a hand through his once-full, gray hair. The page could’ve been his own granddaughter. Smiled like Keisha, too. That gold medal, trophy smile. All Phos followers sported that plastic, defiant look, like something out of Deutschland 1938, complete with a soul-in-a-coma stare.

He complied with the outstretched hand, then turned to glimpse the page as the elevator’s doors sealed him inside. One ping later, his temporary imprisonment concluded, he stepped out on the royal blue carpet, where he picked up a military escort.

“This way, sir,” said the lantern-jawed Marine. The soldier directed Killian down a white-walled hall devoid of art and into a meeting room the size of his classroom. An ebony table twenty feet long hunkered in the middle, angry clawed feet tearing into the floor. Only two chairs remained open. He took the one at the foot of the table. He knew who took the one at the head.

Killian recognized most of the players. Thirteen souls sat erect, waiting for Lee Park to arrive. Dahlia Winters, dressed as if speaking at a Mary Kay convention, thrust out a manicured hand and said, “Thomas, how good to see you again.”

Killian loathed to take it. Wrapping the regional leader of the Phos cult’s hand in his was like shaking hands with Mephistopheles. He told himself to remember the Golden Rule.

“Yes, Dahlia, it’s been—”

“Since the chimera meeting,” she finished. “And we’ve already seen the fruit of that medical research, haven’t we? That the president saw the necessity of our position and elected to push his executive order through… well, now millions have taken advantage of replacement organs harvested from chimeras.”

“Animals with human genes, you mean,” Killian said. He tightened his muscles, preparing for her retaliatory strike, but a shuffle of feet and the military bolting erect cut everyone off. In mid-sit, Killian overcorrected to get back to his feet and felt his lumbar muscles spasm.

President Park arrived in a flurry, sprinting to his chair. Known for his go-get-’em style, one that enamored him to the voters, the president’s every movement cried action. The first Asian president, he’d been one of the first born an American citizen to parents who’d fled the fall of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. His was the Horatio Alger story, but with an intriguing twist that appealed to the pastor turned professor. Park once confided in Killian that 25 years ago he’d soaked the altar at a backwoods Pentecostal church in tearful repentance.

It’s why Park’s Phos tie clip bothered Killian so much. May have been nothing more than a gift from Winters worn in appreciation, but who could tell. No matter the case, play with fire, get burned.

Bishop said a few words and everyone sat.

Park spoke, “Kimball, what’s the situation.”

Kimball Johnson adjusted his girth in his chair, but did not stand. Radish-faced and prone to arrhythmias no pacemaker could correct, the head of NASA stayed in place and said, “We’ve got a situation on Moonbase Asimov.”

Killian checked himself. With the past year’s media leaks, he’d received no briefing, so he didn’t know the topic except to guess at an ethical question. But now he knew: more intersections of science and ethics. It seemed the only battle he fought anymore. Except here he had to fight it from within the subterranean bowels of the White House rather than in a press conference. At least out there a few friends rallied behind him. Here, it was sure to be a hostile crowd.

“As you all know,” Johnson continued, “we’ve had the base in place for two decades. Nearly 10,000 Americans call it home, not to mention another 22,000 from other nations. For years, the population at the station has been expanding—”

“Ever done it in reduced gravity, Kimball?” asked Michael Maloney, FAA chief. “Helluva lot of fun.”

The group chortled and nodded, Winters adding the most volume. Killian stayed mum.

Johnson rolled his head and continued.

“—the station’s population has risen sharply and we find ourselves in that nightmare scenario: consumption outweighs production. Studies show population outstripping the food supply.”

“But how is that possible with the lunafarming techniques the Department of Agriculture established?” asked Lillian Stephenson, head of the FDA. “We had assurances that we could scale back supply flights in light of expenses. Are you now asking for more?”

Scarlet rose in Johnson’s face. “Options are limited. Food production never attained projections. It’s not exceeded 30 percent for the last five years.”

“Thirty percent?” Stephenson said with more fervor. “I have the statistics right here, Kimball, and you’ve been tossing out nearly 90 percent for what, three years now? Are you revising your figures?”

“Revising is the polite term,” Maloney said with a huff.

Park raised a finger. “Past statistics or not, the real problem is that we have more than 30,000 citizens of this planet who are facing insufficient food supplies in the near term.”

Defense Secretary Fisher Morgan inserted, “We sent up a battalion ten days ago to quell rioting, and—”

“I’ve heard none of this,” said Roger Biggs, head of the Department of Homeland Security.

“Not your jurisdiction, Roger,” Morgan replied into his steepled fingers.

“It is mine, though.” A slim reed of a man rose to his feet and caught the attention of everyone. His face was lined beyond his age, Killian thought, though on reflection he had no idea what age Rafael Rotar might be. The Treasury chief moved toward the president, each step filled with gravitas. He paused at Park’s side, blinked twice, and said, “Economic conditions at Asimov have been deteriorating in light of commodity price inflation. It’s essentially unlinked from economic issues here, which have been challenging enough, and has crashed the lunar marketplace. The curtailing of supply flights continues due to stress on this country’s financial infrastructure, exacerbating the problem. In short, we need a solution.”

The president nodded, shortly followed by everyone at the table save for Lillian Stephenson. She instead rose up as high as her five feet of height would take her and said, “I see no other option than to remove as many people from Asimov as it takes to get the moonbase to sustainable levels. If the food production’s not there, then we simply can’t house a population on the base that consumes more than it produces.”

“Replenishment,” Maloney began, “what are we talking about cost-wise?”

The color in Johnson’s face darkened. “We peg food transport costs at just under $805 billion dollars.”

“What’s the time frame on that amount?” Maloney asked.

The hue change continued in Johnson. Like a deflating red balloon, he said, “Over the next eighteen months.”


“I know it’s a great deal of money, but costs are up,” Johnson continued. “High-grade sources of plutonium are tougher to come by. Fusion reactors are on the drawing boards for all lunar fleet vehicles, but we have to make do for the next few years.”

“With no support from the Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Senegalese or anyone else, I’m sure,” Stephenson said leaning into the table on her knuckles. “Do we have a difficult decision here? With all due respect to Mr. Johnson, that figure’s ludicrous in light of the nation’s current economic crisis. We either send up a half-dozen transport ships and get the majority of inhabitants out of there or we let things stay as they are and watch Lord of the Flies play out a quarter million miles away.”

At that moment, Dahlia Winters got to her feet. All heads craned her way.

“Have we considered the spiritual ramifications here? Whether production levels are or are not meeting the needs of people on the moon, riots point to a far deeper spiritual issue. These are empty people who need guidance and direction in difficult times. Phos has an answer, which is why I propose that we Lights put together an expedition of all available counselors and ship them to Moonbase Asimov. The answers to all Man’s difficulties are found in spiritual truth. I’m sure if we approach this problem with truth in mind, we Lights and those sympathetic to our cause,” she glanced around the room at those assembled, carefully avoiding Killian’s face, “can bring lasting solutions to the good men, women, and children on the moonbase.”

“Is that a joke?” Stephenson asked. “If it is, no one’s laughing, Miss Winters. Your expertise in this area is questionable at best”—she said this while casting a glance at Park—”and to suggest that we find metaphysical solutions to what is clearly a problem of stark material lacks borders on the inane.”

At this, everyone froze except for Rotar, who left the president’s side and returned to his seat. Park began to speak, then caught the eyes of Killian. He paused, leaned back in his chair, and finally said, “Tom, what are your thoughts on this?”

Killian gazed at the tiled ceiling of the room, out past the famous house overhead, to some distant place, searching for words. The room still, with only the occasional creak of a chair, he sought a better answer. A silent prayer later, he found it.

The former pastor stood to his feet and said, “This is what I believe we must do….”


What do you believe Tom Killian told the assembled cabinet members as they debated the future of Moonbase Asimov?

Stay tuned for the conclusion.