Put God First

Put God First

Magic and the Kingdom

When I was a young boy, I performed card tricks for all who'd lend me their attention. I devoured books on magic. I taught myself to "cut cards" with one hand and deal the second card (below the top card). I even owned a marked deck that secretly revealed the pips from the backside.  Card tricks were a lot of fun, and my Mom was the greatest audience ever! However, little did I realize how my interest in magic would come full circle in college.

A boy shuffles a deck of cards.


I had a great time during my junior year at the U of Wisconsin. I loved my studies (Rhetoric and Public Address), my campus town (Madison), my many friends, and (most of all) my growing relationship with Jesus (via the Bible). I was on target to graduate the following May.

That was about to change.

One day, the director of the CCC ministry (Jim T.) challenged me to head a promotional team for an upcoming evangelistic event at UW: a Christian magician/illusionist named Andre´Kole. (Andre´ was famous in magical circles, inventing many illusions performed by David Copperfield). Jim handed me a thick publicity manual and asked me to pray about it. I read the entire manual, chock full of creative ideas, timelines, charts, posters, banners, newspaper ads, etc. The more I read, the more excited I became.

Actual Poster From My College Days

I surmised that if I accepted this challenge, I would spend ~20 hours/week promoting this event. My academic load was already overbooked. To do the "Andre Kole event" meant I'd need to drop a class ... which also meant I'd fall behind in credits and wouldn't graduate on time. The more I prayed, the easier this decision became. I wanted to invest in the Andre Kole event, to help students at UW encounter Jesus. I dropped a class and poured my time into the outreach.

And it turns out I was right. Dropping that class delayed graduation by one semester – and it was totally worth it. Let me highlight some of the things I did and the growth I experienced during this event:

  • I remember lugging a big film projector and reel to clubs, fraternities, dorms – you name it – and showing a promotional video of Andre´Kole doing his magic. He was remarkable. After each showing, I'd say a few words to motivate the students to come to the big event.
  • We did some crazy things to get students' interest up. For example, we found a large Refrigerator Box (the cardboard shell that refrigerators ship in). We plastered it on all sides with full-color posters of Andre´Kole and planted it in the middle of the campus mall. It sat motionless, a magical monolith of polished promotion – amid the streaming student body ...
  • ... But there was a catch. I was inside the box! As students rushed by, I'd interrupt: "Hi, how are you doing?" and watch them jump! They weren't expecting a huge box to talk! Other times, I'd press the sides of the box and (looking through a special peep hole) carefully move the mobile kiosk up to unsuspecting students. Eventually they'd turn around to a startling surprise! It was so fun and great advertising for the event.
  • I gathered teams of students at 7:30am (really early for a college student!) to "do chalkboards." Each team was assigned a different academic building. They'd walk into every classroom and chalk the words "Andre´Kole Is Coming!" in the upper-left corner of every chalkboard. We covered the entire campus. As the weeks rolled on, we revealed more information.
  • The actual event was two shows on back-to-back evenings. We set up the stage and seats in the Stock Pavilion at UW. (Yes, you read that correctly). It's where the School of Agriculture shows their farm animals. A dirt floor with straw on it. And, quite the aroma. Why did we meet there? Because it could seat 1,000 people, and we were praying big.
  • Guess what? Our dreams came true. 1,000 students attended each night (2,000 total). They were wowed by Andre's magic. But even better, they heard Andre share his story of coming to Christ, and his explanation of how Jesus could change their lives, too.

Countless hours of work, dropping a class, delaying graduation ... all was eternally worth it! It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Put God first, and He'll surprise you in ways you can't imagine.