In May 1963, I graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary. It’s been 60 years.
When you get to my age, be ready to receive piles of snarky birthday cards. For example, one of my all-time favorites had a cover with towering, majestic trees that reminded me of my years living in California. The front said, “I always enjoy walking
through a forest filled with giant redwoods. I stopped recently while admiring them . . . and I thought of you.” “How nice,” I said to myself as I opened the card to read, “Thank you for planting them!”
Also, be ready for the retirement question. For years and years, now, I have often had to repeat that I have NO PLANS to retire. God can use people to make some of their most significant contributions when they reach my age.
Abraham was about my age when the Lord assured him of His blessing and protection. Then, his wife, Sarah, eventually bore Isaac, their firstborn son. Paul said, “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger,
and in this he brought glory to God” (Romans 4:20). Moses was around my age when God called him to lead Israel out of Egypt. Caleb was around my age when he successfully fought the Anakim in the hill country of Hebron. The beloved apostle John
was around my age when Rome exiled him to Patmos. There, he received visions from Jesus and went on to author the final book of the Bible, Revelation.
Through these people and others, God set a precedent showing that He can accomplish His will in surprising ways through folks in their 80s and 90s and beyond. By faith, then, I am moving forward and staying flexible—as best I can!—to accomplish
all that God has planned for me until my final breath. Rather than retire at my 60-year graduation anniversary, I’m choosing to reflect and to remember.
“Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.” (Deuteronomy
Nobody is more surprised than me by the path God has taken me during my nearly 90 years of life. “Only God!” That’s the best way to explain it.
The same goes for Insight for Living Ministries. Over the past 40 years, He has raised up and used this ministry, and He continues to use us—in more ways than what any one person’s gifting or effort or ingenuity can do. In fact, we wanted
to complement my reflection on God’s faithfulness with a snapshot of our outreach (in the newsletter above) to celebrate how God is using the prayers and financial gifts of people just like you. Through the support of many, the truths of Scripture
are finding their way to millions of people across the world, helping them journey with Jesus and fulfill their unique role as authentic Christians in a needy, hostile, and desperate world.
As I reflect and remember the way God led me in my journey, I can say with no reservation that the most significant gift and turning point in my life was marrying Cynthia in 1955. Her devotion to Christ and her love for spiritual things drew me to
her like a magnet. Immediately, we grew closer as we dug deeper into God’s Word together.
Before I met her, I wasn’t much of a Christian. My parents weren’t supportive, which created many insecurities in me. Thankfully, God faithfully brought teachers into my life when I was young. For example, Richard Niemi taught me how to
speak without stuttering.
Not long after Cynthia and I married, I stopped apprenticing as a machinist in Houston to join the Marine Corps, which hurled me into what I deemed a “prison sentence”—16 months in 1957–1958 on the island of Okinawa, away from
the love of my life. But I now count it a high honor to have served as a Marine, and God used that “prison sentence” to connect me with Bob Newkirk, a Navigators representative who lived on Okinawa while I was there. He mentored me
spiritually, revealing and confirming what was to be my life’s major work: vocational ministry.
Cynthia was excited to hear about my calling because she had grown up dreaming of having a husband in ministry. When my time in the Marine Corps ended, we embarked for Dallas Theological Seminary where I studied from 1959 to 1963. Because I lacked
prior academic qualifications, Dr. Don Campbell accepted me “on probation” meaning he would personally monitor all my grades. Cynthia and I rented apartment #9, and I made 75 cents an hour as one of the school’s “yard boys”
before I began interning with Professor Dwight Pentecost at the Dallas church he pastored, Grace Bible Church. I absorbed all the mentoring, scholarship, and ministry insight I could get from godly men, like Howard Hendricks, whose lives stamped
a lasting imprint upon mine.
After graduating, I stayed on at Grace Bible Church for two years. Then God led me into the pastorate, which has since taken me to four churches in four cities: Waltham, Massachusetts (1965–1967), Irving, Texas (1967–1971), Fullerton,
California (1971–1994), and Frisco, Texas (1998–present).
I was bewildered when, in 1993, the board of Dallas Theological Seminary asked me to serve as its fourth president. Laughing, I thought, You must have the wrong Chuck Swindoll. I repeatedly said “N-O” until God made it clear—largely
through Cynthia—that He wanted me to say yes. I served in that role from 1994–2001.
As I reflect on God’s faithfulness through the journey, I can honestly say each stage had its tests. Each humbled me. Each strengthened my character. Each sharpened me. Each prepared me for what came next even though, truthfully, I gave very
little thought to what would come next. God also threw in some surprises along the way!
In 1977, He led me to begin a writing ministry, which I didn’t seek.
In 1998, He led us to help plant a church, which we had never planned.
In 1979, God led us to start Insight for Living Ministries, which frankly, I didn’t want. But God wanted it, and that weekend when we had to choose whether to say yes or no, I
told Cynthia the only way it would work would be if she led the ministry. Immediately after this discussion, I had to leave for a weekend retreat. She sat on the couch in tears representing her inner turmoil. Perhaps not the best move on my part.
After deep soul-searching that weekend, she realized she, too, needed to say yes to God’s call—which she did. Cynthia has faithfully and diligently led Insight for Living Ministries for these 44 years, shaping the ministry into what
it is today.
We never expected Christ to use this ministry the way He has, but He has graciously led us and continually expanded our reach. So, we at Insight for Living Ministries are working with all the diligence that His grace allows . . . all, of course, to
bring glory to His Son.
After reflecting on my journey, I want to leave you with six lingering lessons that have emerged for me along the way:
- What initially seems like an irredeemable loss can lead to a remarkable blessing.
- Patience is an essential virtue if you hope to be at peace and find contentment.
- Stay open to surprises because they are a major part of God’s leading—and He’s full of them!
- Being reluctant is not a sin, but it often comes from fear and we need to be willing to admit that.
- Listen most closely to those who know you best and love you most.
- A long obedience in the same direction requires trusting God, not your feelings.
Insight for Living Ministries is grateful for our faithful prayer and financial supporters who keep this ministry active all across the world. Will you please pray for us and consider giving a generous donation to keep these Bible-teaching resources
freely accessible? Every gift given plays a vital role in sending out the truths of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ.