Monday, October 27, 2014


Tim Conway, comedian and actor, grew up in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a safe and happy town where almost everyone went to church. God was a mysterious presence in his life, and even though he had no proof God existed, everyone said He did, so Tim figured He must.

Every year at the annual Blossom Festival a carnival came to town. Down by the river a magical mini-village sprang up with its giant ferris wheel, booths and the smell of popcorn. Ten year-old Tim had fifty cents in his pocket as he made his way to the midway, five dimes he'd earned on his paper route. After buying a coke and ticket for the ferris wheel, he decided to try his luck at a game booth where he saw a white plastic cross that glowed in the dark. Tim decided he wanted it.

All he had to do was snag one of the plastic ducks with a little fishing pole and get the prize named under it. First dime, first try, he missed the ducks entirely. Second dime, second try, he hooked a duck but only got a cheap charm. Third dime, third try, another cheap thing. Tim wanted that cross but was out of money.

Sad faced, he started walking back home wishing he could have that cross. Then he spotted something shiny next to the sidewalk - another dime! Tim picked it up and started back for the midway and another chance.

This was a big moment, so he sat down under a big maple tree and prayed, "Lord, I would really like that white cross, the one that glows in the dark." He spoke his little prayer slowly, got up and went to the booth. He handed over the dime, concentrated and snagged the first duck with the pole hook. It won him the cross!

"I kept that cross under my pillow until I went to college," Conway later said. "and I still have it." In his subsequent years of uncertainly, from college exams to casting calls, Tim Conway has been bolstered by the assurance he'd gain that day when he prayed. He never forgot the answer to his prayer, nor the God who gave him the cross.

Does God ever seem mysterious and intangible to you? Do you hear He exists, but you're not quite sure? Then watch for a small sign from Him that He does, a sign of His love shown by a cross.

Jesus never fails!

Monday, October 20, 2014


Often in a Bible study someone mentions the many definitions of one word, LOVE. There are seven or eight different ways we use that word in our language.

There is another amazing word in the English language that can have five separate uses: as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, and preposition. It is a two-letter word that has more meanings than just about any other word in our language. That word is UP. 

It's easy to understand "regular" UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election? Why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?  Do people still drive UP town?

Listen UP everybody! We call UP our friends, brighten UP a room, polish UP our shoes, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We also lock UP the house and fix UP the old car. We may might even tell someone to hush UP while we watch the movie called, "UP."

If we are confused, we're UP a creek (without a paddle). At various times, people stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special. And why must a drain be opened UP? Because it is stopped UP.

We seem all mixed UP about UP! We open UP a store in the morning then we close it UP at night. In order to know the many uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. It probably takes UP a quarter of the page and can add UP to thirty or more definitions.

If you are UP to it, try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with dozens of uses. The sun comes UP in the morning, and the moon comes UP at night. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP and when the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP the earth, and when it doesn't rain, the earth dries UP. 

One day God will take all His faithful people UP to heaven because Jesus rose UP from the dead. There in His presence we will lift UP our voices and sing praises to God who has raised us UP. I could play "One UP" with you on this, but I think I'll wrap it UP, because my time is UP!

"Lift UP your eyes and look to the heavens." (Isaiah 40:26)

Monday, October 13, 2014


No matter how great a thought may elevate us to the heights of discovery, there's always something mundane to bring us back to earth. I have been busy this summer writing Bible Studies, three on New Testament books (James, Epistles of Peter and Matthew) and the fourth an overview of the Major and Minor Prophets of the Old Testament titled, Old Testament Disciples.

It's no secret that the OT Prophets are difficult to read. Book after book is a record of God's disappointment with unfaithful people and His prophecies of what is coming because of their sins. Gratefully, His grace and mercy are always there if they repent, but that seems to happen infrequently. Each book has its rich Hebrew name, Ezekiel, Obadiah, Habakkuk and Zephaniah to name a few, and each is a record of God's attempt to turn the hearts of His sinful people before it's too late.

The prophet Haggai caught my attention. His prophecy to Judah came fifteen years after they had returned from exile in Babylon. The people were busy rebuilding their homes and families and businesses, but things weren't going well. Haggai told them it was because they'd been busy with the wrong things. If they would put God's work first and their own needs second, he said, life will be far more productive. God was saying, "First things first!" Great idea for a sermon!

I came out of the office with this exciting news to share with my dear wife. After patiently listening to my "discovery" she smiled and said, "Check the porkchops." "Did you hear what I said?" I asked, and she said, "Yes, every word, Now check the porkchops on the grill or they will burn."

As I begrudgingly checked them, I realized that she as usual, she had a point. No matter how wonderful an idea may be, if the food is burning, we'd better tend to that first. Even the most exciting revelation has its proper place in the line of human need. It was her way of saying, "First things first!" just like Haggai said.

Jesus put us first on the cross. He came to serve us, not to be served. He made sure our needs were served, and then His own. On Calvary He lived the axiom, "First things first." I wrote a sermon on it that turned out well.

Now that I've told you something worthwhile (hopefully), I'd like to suggest you check out my four new Bible Studies on Discipleship at "" One of them might be just what you need for your personal or group Bible study.

Don't forget to check the porkchops!

Monday, October 6, 2014


Today on a lovely Colorado autumn afternoon I finished a project and rewarded myself with coffee and a great carmel roll at the local bakery. I read awhile in a little book I had along, and part of the story was about a farmer feeding his cows hay.

It reminded me of a Sunday afternoon forty-some years ago in my first church up in North Dakota. My wife and our little boys were visiting Art and Peggy and their older kids at their farm on a chilly October afternoon. The little ones had fallen asleep so Art asked, "Want to help me feed the cows?" Well, I'd done that before so we put on our caps, coats and gloves and went outside.

Art had already loaded hay bales on his old truck so he started it up and we lumbered down the road a half mile to a gate where he stopped and unlatched it. The pasture looked empty so I asked, "Where are the cows?" He said, "They'll come." He drove in about a hundred yards, turned off the truck and commenced to honking his horn. Sure enough, in less than a minute fifty or sixty cows came running over a hill. Not walking, running. The cows were hungry and it was a cold day. "They know my horn," Art said, "They know it means lunch."

That sounded like something from John chapter 10 where it says, "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me." I told Art that, and he said with a grin, "I don't care much for sheep." I can still remember the way he grinned when he said it, like it was yesterday.

Art's gone to be with the Lord a long time now, but I still exchange Christmas cards with Peggy. Our kids are all grown up, but we still have our memories. I can still see those cows running over the hill and hear Art's voice.

And I am eternally grateful that our children and their families know the voice of their Good Shepherd Jesus and follow Him. I'm thankful they, too, regularly receive His holy meal.

"My sheep follow me, and they follow me and no one can snatch them out of my hand." (John 11:27)