I’m taking a quick break from “hope and humor” is present a “heavy topic with a light touch” with some advice on the Internet from the disciple Luke.

The disciple Luke describes media in the first century this way:

      And they took [Paul] and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new (Acts 17:19-21).

Instead of tuning into the so-called “mainstream media,” in the first century you headed on down to the city gate if you were a man and to the town’s well if you were a woman. (This is why the famous “woman at the well” was there at noon, because she was the early morning news!).

“Mass media” began in Renaissance Europe with hand-written newsletters addressed to local merchants with news of wars and financial markets. In 1440 the Gutenberg Press, with its movable type, allowed for the news to be more efficiently printed. In the late 1400s newspapers appeared with sensationalized, opinionated and biased news involving graphic descriptions of crimes, affairs, and topics typical of today’s grocery store tabloids.

The London Gazette began publishing November 7, 1665, making it the oldest newspaper still in publication. It began as an official publication of the English government. The United States first newspaper, Publick Occurrences, Both Foreign and Domestick, debuted in 1690 and was promptly shut down by British authorities. The first continually published American newspaper was the Boston Newsletter, which like the London Gazette, was under government control. With the American Revolution and ratification of the Bill of Rights in1791, freedom of the press was guaranteed and privately owned newspapers—free from government control—began to flourish.

Many believe the newspaper business reached its apex early last century. Newspapers attempted to shed the sleaze and bias with the American Society of Newspaper Editors drafting the “Canons of Journalism” in 1923. It declared that “News reports should be free from opinion or bias of any kind.”

At the same time, privately owned newspapers were being bought up by conglomerates such as Scripps-Howard, which owned 25 newspapers, and William Randolph Hearst, who owned 20 daily papers, 11 Sunday newspapers, two wire services and six magazines. This continued until 1983, when 90 percent of media was owned by 50 companies. Today, only five corporations own the majority of American news media: GE (NBC), Rupert Murdoch’s News-Corp (Fox, Fox News, Wall Street Journal, New York Post), Disney (ABC), Time Warner (CNN, Time) and CBS.

But enter the Internet. While Gutenberg changed how news was published, the Internet has changed what news is published!

Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult for governments and corporations to control and censor news. “Citizen journalists” have been responsible for bringing down oppressive regimes with their Twitter and YouTube accounts. The Internet news aggregate Drudge Report first broke news of President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinski. And cell phone videos have brought alleged crimes and misconduct to national and international attention.

While giant corporations depend on advertisers—which can subtly and not so subtly influence what news is and isn’t covered—any person with access to the Internet with a computer or mobile device can become a “news source.”

News has become “democratized,” but that can quickly lead to anarchy! But this is nothing new as Luke notes:

      Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you . . . so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4 NIV).

Luke provides some excellent principles:

Go to the primary sources. “Those who from the first were eyewitnesses.”

Verify! Verify! Verify! “Carefully investigate everything from the beginning.”

Be certain you have the facts. “Know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”

Christians who blindly forward misinformation and quotations out of context are breaking the commandment to “not bear false witness.” And, may I be completely honest, looking ignorant!

We live in the golden age of information and, at the very same time, the dark ages of misinformation. So, follow Luke’s advice to “Carefully investigate everything from the beginning.”

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Originally posted at The Presidential Prayer Team blog. If you found it helpful, please share on your social networks. Thanks!



I chose to drive to the board meeting of the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference, even though I hate to drive. Here’s why:

      Flight schedule

      6:30 am Leave for Fort Wayne Airport
      7:30 am Go through security, wait
      8:30 am Fly to Atlanta
      10:17 am Land in Atlanta
      11:05 am Fly to Pittsburgh
      12:49 pm Arrive in Pittsburgh
      1:30 pm Meet driver
      2:30 pm Arrive in Grove City

      Driving schedule

      9 am Leave for Grove City
      12 Stop for lunch
      12:30 pm Continue to Grove City
      2:30 pm Arrive in Grove City

But best of all . . .

• I didn’t have to run the security gauntlet

• I can travel with full-sized aerosols, liquids and gels!

• I wasn’t charged for checked luggage, no limit on carry-ons

• I had the whole exit row to myself with a fully adjustable seat

• My choice of music through a great sound system (No “stethoscope” headsets)

• I enjoyed a delicious meal at non-airport/airplane prices

• I was able to use a spacious restroom

• No screaming babies

• I didn’t have to go through Atlanta to get from Indiana to Pennsylvania.

• No weather delays or cancellations.

• No cancellation because the flight crew didn’t get their eight hours of sleep.

• No computer crashes.

• No lost luggage.

• I didn’t pay a dime for parking

So, my rule of thumb is this: if an event is six or less hours away, driving is quicker than flying. Driving actually cost $100 more than flying, but the First Class service of Watkins’ Non-Airlines was well worth the money!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

And be sure to mark your calendar for the St. Davids Christian Writers’ Conference June 22-26, 2016. It’s going to be amazing!



I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten posts from September 2015

10. I can’t do all things

9. God is never late, but he sure is slow

8. Does DNA disprove evolution?

7. Children who marry their parents: the psychology of courtship

6. Cure for common cold: sex

5. Is world coming to bloody end?! The “blood moon” hysteria

4. Hope and humor cartoons

3. What was Paul thinking when he wrote 1 Timothy 2:12?

2. “It Is Well with My Soul”: the rest of the stories

And, the number one post in September 2015 . . .

1. Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

(See list at right for the latest posts.)


AP Photo/Nate Jenkins, File

September 30, 2015

Two executions scheduled within 24-hours of each other have brought the capital punishment debate back up for discussion.

But here’s the unique twist: neither Kelly Gissendaner in Georgia and Richard Glossip in Oklahoma actually committed the murders for which they received the death penalty. The men they solicited to actually kill their victims were convicted of murder and are serving life terms.

Despite last minute appeals to the Supreme Court and a letter on behalf of the pope, all appeals were exhausted. The Vatican’s letter sent to the appeals board in Georgia and the governor of Oklahoma noted:

      While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime . . . and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been presented to your Board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy.

Gissendaner was executed early this morning. Glossip’s execution is scheduled for 3 pm today.

The death penalty raises so many questions:

• The morality and legality of the death penalty itself (Is it Constitutionally forbidden as “cruel and unusual punishment?)

• The number of prisoners on death row who have been declared innocent through new evidence and DNA testing. (The state of Illinois has discontinued executions because of the number of death row inmates found innocent.)

• And now this unique twist where the actual killers are spared death, but those arranging the murders are executed.

• And, for people of faith, does the Bible actually condone the death penalty today?

Here’s my newspaper column from 1992 that addressed these questions: Capital punishment: serious questions.

Update: 5 pm Glossip’s execution was postponed at the very last minute by the governor “to investigate questions about lethal injection protocols.”

Please share your thoughts in the comment box below. Thanks.

Photo: AP



From the “Hope & Humor” news desk: This past Saturday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration teased on Twitter that it will announce a “major science finding” at 11:30 a.m. EDT today:

      Mars is a mysterious world, tune in to NASA TV on 9/28 as we announce a major science finding

Whatever the finding may be—water, life or new McMars franchise—NASA will no doubt campaign to send a manned mission to the red planet. So, it’s time to go back in time for this major science post:

What will half a trillion buy?

January 2004

I’ve spent the week staring off into space wondering what I could buy with half a trillion dollars—the estimated cost to put humans on Mars. (That’s 500,000,000,000). Let’s see:

A brand new $45,000 BMW X5 SUV for every one of the 11,030,029 licensed drivers in California (includes dealer prep and destination charges).

Or a Sony 65-inch HD TV (and a Toshiba 42-inch HD TV with XBox video game system for the bedroom) for every housing unit in America.

Or 2,390,057 houses in the US at $209,200 (the median cost of an American home). Or 625,000,000 basic Habitat for Humanity homes in third-world countries.

Or pay four years of tuition at Indiana University for all of the 15,300,000 college students in the US. (Or send 5,856,996 students to Harvard for four years.)

Or provide $14,460 worth of prescription drugs for every one of the 34,578,000 Americans over age 65.

Or buy 555,555,555,555 Mars candy bars.

Or build and equip 16,358,580 medical clinics in third world countries (includes electrical generator for each).

Or support 1,600,000,000 third-world children for one year

Or pay for one manned mission to Mars!

Yep, on January 14 President George Bush told a crowd at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that he wants to see humans return to the moon by 2020. And then . . .

      With the experience and knowledge gained on the moon, we will then be ready to take the next steps of space exploration: human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond. Robotic missions will serve as trailblazers—the advanced guard to the unknown. Probes, landers and other vehicles of this kind continue to prove their worth, sending spectacular images and vast amounts of data back to Earth. Yet the human thirst for knowledge ultimately cannot be satisfied by even the most vivid pictures, or the most detailed measurements. We need to see and examine and touch for ourselves. And only human beings are capable of adapting to the inevitable uncertainties posed by space travel.

While a Bush administration official told the press, “The President is not expected to immediately discuss the cost,” others have offered their out of this world estimates to put humans on the red planet.

According to The New Republic a 1989 NASA estimate put the sticker price at $400,000,000,000 or $600,000,000,000 in today’s dollars.

But Konstantin Feoktistov, who worked in the Russian space program and now lectures at the Moscow Bauman Technical University, told a manned mission to Mars would cost $1 trillion. “Even if the surface of Mars were covered with gems and gold, a manned mission would still be too expensive because of such a great cost,” Feoktistoy said.

So, half a trillion is a conservative estimate.

To be fair, there are some down-to-earth benefits of space exploration. The space program has yielded breakthrough advances in communications, weather forecasting, electronics, and countless other fields. CAT Scanners and MRIs trace their origins to technologies engineered for use in space.

But $500,000,000,000 is a lot of money to invest in space when there are so many more practical (and life-saving uses) for that kind of cash right here on the home planet.

Or to put it another way, that amount of money would provide the President, each member of his cabinet, all twelve Supreme Court justices, and every one of 485 members of congress inpatient psychiatric care for 3,722 years. Now that might not be a bad investment!

Copyright © 2004 James N. Watkins

Notes (2004 prices):

United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Statistics 2000 lists 11,030,029 drivers in California. A BMW X5 lists for $45,330.79./P>

A Sony HD TV lists for $2,429, a Toshiba HD TV for 1,500, and XBox for $179 ($4,108). United States Census Bureau lists 119, 302,132 housing units. That comes to $490, 093,158,256.

Habitat For Humanity can build a home in a third-world country for as little as $800.

Society for College and University Planning 2003 reports 15,300,000 students enrolled in college. In 2000 four years tuition at Harvard was $85,368; four years at Indiana University $29,444 in 2000. And those are “out of state” costs!

World Hope can build and equip a medical clinic for $30,565.

World Hope can support a third world child $300 per year.

MediCare will cover $716 per day for psychiatric care.

If you agree that there are better ways to spend half a trillion, please share this on your social networks.



After a long day of writing or editing, my brain is SillyPutty by 6 pm, and so the only thing I want to do in the evening is crank up Pandora and play “Freecell.” But more than a mindless waste of time, I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the electronic solitaire game:

1. You don’t have to play the cards you’re dealt

Nope, when I start stressing about not seeing any possible moves, I click “New Game.”

Sometimes you have to do that in life. When your job becomes a dead end, when your hobby becomes a chore rather than a joy, when a friendship turns toxic, it’s perfectly okay to click “New Game.” (Okay, there are some things you’re committed to for life: marriage, parenting, your faith . . . But there few things you actually need to play until you cash in your chips.)

Which brings me to . . .

2. Lose quickly

There have been times I stuck with something that I should have let go of years ago. One summer in college, one of my parents’ friends talked me into selling encyclopedias door-to-door. It was completely the wrong work for my personality, so after selling just one set, I quit! So, sometimes it’s wise to lose quickly and move onto to something that has more potential for success. But also keep in mind . . .

3. You’re not going to win every game

If I gave up on writing after the first few (or 100) rejections from book and magazine publishers, I would have never ended up with over 2,000 published articles and 20 books. So realize that failure is often temporary, and it’s the long view that makes careers and friendships successful.

4. Sometimes you need a “Hint”

If you’ve hit a wall and can’t see any possible moves, maybe you need an objective person to help you see choices you’re overlooking. Get marriage counseling, take a gifts inventory, get a mentor for your business (I love mentoring writers). Sometimes we get so focused on the minutia of life, we don’t see the big moves that can get us out of a jam.

5. Always have a Plan C

I love that in FreeCell, you have four free cells where you can temporarily store cards that are blocking your progress. But you have to be careful that you always have a blank free cell or another move possible so you don’t get the dreaded, “There are no more possible moves.” Not only have a Plan B, but C, D, E . . .

6. The obvious move is not always the best move

Sometimes you have to block one possibility to open up a better possibility. Don’t move that nine up to the home row just now. You’re going to need it to get the eight off the ace. The “simple solution” often leads to complicated consequences!

And finally . . .

7. Always celebrate success

I love the animation at a “win,” when the cards cascade off the home squares and then bounce across the bottom of the screen! Celebrate your successes, because in life you’ll probably have more losses than wins.

When I finish a book chapter I have a Dove dark chocolate bar; when I get a book contract, I take the whole family—wife, kids and grands—out to dinner. (Most book contracts have afforded a trip to McDonald’s, but my latest book actually funded a sit-down dinner at a restaurant without a drive-through!)

So in summary, some good advice from Kenny Rogers: “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.” Have a winning week!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Please add any lessons you’ve learned from solitaire in the comment box. And if you found this post hopeful or humorous, please share it on your social networks. Thanks.


CoverIOCmedIOC Sample

On the eve of Pope Franicis’ visit to the United States, a question: What do Catholics and Protestants share in common?

First, The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language. The book has been honored for over 500 years from Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) to which the current pontif belongs, to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.

I’ve taken 90 of Thomas à Kempis’ “chapters” divided into devotional-length passages, organized them by the characteristics of Christ, and modernized the text into contemporary English. Here’s a sample chapter:



Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.
Ephesians 5:1–2

These are the words of Christ: “If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness” (John 8:12). They teach us how thoroughly we must imitate his life and character if we desire true understanding and freedom from our own deceptive hearts and minds. And so, may we earnestly study and meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.

Christ’s teachings surpass all of the great holy writers of the past. If we have his Spirit, we find spiritual nourishment. Unfortunately there are many people who frequently hear the words of Christ but have little desire to follow them and so do not have the mind of Christ.

What does it profit us to engage in deep discussions about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit if we lack humility and are displeasing to God? Truly, deep and profound words do not make a person holy and upright, but a good life is what makes us dear to God. I would rather experience sorrow for my ungodly thoughts and actions than simply be skillful in defining “repentance.” If we know the whole Bible and the teachings of all the philosophers, what does all this benefit us without the love and grace of God? It is completely futile unless we love God and serve only him. This is the highest wisdom: to put earthly values behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.

It is futile to strive for earthly things and to trust in riches that will perish. It is futile to desire honors and lift up ourselves. It is futile to be ruled by the desires of our physical body, for this will only bring misery in the end. It is futile to desire a long life and to care little for a good life. It is futile to concentrate on the here and now and not look forward to the things which are eternal. It is futile to love temporary things and not strive toward eternal joy.

Always keep this saying in mind: “The eye is not satisfied with visible things. Neither is the ear content with hearing.” And so, let us strive to turn our hearts from the love of things that are visible and concentrate on the things that are invisible. If we are controlled by our own physi¬cal desires, we will corrupt our conscience and destroy the grace of God. Book 1 Chapter 1

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Click for the story behind the book and how to pre-order for the January 12 release.

The Apostles’ Creed

Second, Roman Catholics and Protestants share a common statement of faith—written well before the Reformation. The Apostles’ Creed is first mentioned in 390 AD, although what we recite today was probably written in the 700s. (Martin Luther nailed his grievances against the Roman Catholic Church on the Witterberg church door over 800 years later on October 31, 1517, which instigated the Reformation in Germany.)

The Apostles’ Creed is widely used by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Congregationalists and many other denominations.

      I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

      I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

      I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic* church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

      * Lower case c meaning “universal” church

I trust that amidst the public appearances and pageantry, that the importance of imitating Christ is emphasized by pope’s visit.

Sense of humor

And I’m glad Catholics have a sense of humor. From Pope Francis to founder of

      I like to laugh a lot. It’s helps me feel closer to God and closer to other people. When we laugh with each other and not at each other, God’s love is present in a special way. Share your jokes and your funny stories: the world will be better, the Pope will be happy and God will be the happiest of all.

I hope he enjoys these . . .





Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related posts
Genuine Jesus or Counterfeit Christ?
“The church is a whore . . .”

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90 Minutes in Heaven–or not?

September 18th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)


90 Minutes in Heaven opens this weekends at a theater near you. Based on the best-selling book by Don Piper, the film tells the story of his horrific head-on crash with a semi truck in which he is pronounced dead at the scene. Here’s how the book describes what happens next:

      For the next 90 minutes, Piper experiences heaven where he is greeted by those who had influenced him spiritually. He hears beautiful music and feels true peace. Back on earth, a passing minister who had also been at the conference is led to pray for Don even though he knows the man is dead. Piper miraculously comes back to life and the bliss of heaven is replaced by a long and painful recovery. For years Piper kept his heavenly experience to himself. Finally, however, friends and family convinced him to share his remarkable story.

So, is it possible to visit heaven and return to earth?

Here’s a chapter from my 2000 book, The Why Files: Is There Really Life After Death, which asks some tough questions for the many people who claim to have visited heaven and returned. (I posted this after the story of a four-year-old’s visit was told in the popular movie, Heaven Is for Real.)

[Continue reading]


It’s only temporary

September 15th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


I have a friend whose answer to every difficult situation is “It’s only temporary.” That’s great advice as the economy continues to crumble, unemployment increases, homes are foreclosed, and pensions devalue. It’s only temporary.

Nothing lasts forever: finishing school, looking for work, working the grave-yard shift, potty training, junior high band concerts, raising teenagers, IRS audits, stock market meltdowns, medical crises, etc. It’s only temporary.

For those who trust in God, life itself is only temporary. Eugene Peterson paraphrases 1 Peter 5 this way:

      You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does (1 Peter 5:9b-11 MSG).

Second Corinthians 4:16-18 in The Message continues this theme.

      So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

It’s only temporary! Even junior high band concerts.

Copyright © James N. Watkins All rights reserved.

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September 13 is “International Chocolate Day.”

And this is not one of those made-up days like “National Bassoon Players Day.” No, this is a real holiday! The U.S. National Confectioners Association has proclaimed September 13 the official day to celebrate “the food of the gods” and to observe the birthday of Milton S. Hershey, founder of The Hershey Chocolate Company and the company town of Hershey, Pennsylvania.

So here are my favorite chocolate-covered columns and cartoons:


Dark chocolate is good for you
Here are reasons to heartily celebrate today::
• Dark chocolate protects against diabetes
• Dark chocolate improves brain blood flow
• Dark chocolate improves emotional well-being
• Dark chocolate lowers bad cholesterol
• Dark chocolate improves sex life
Read about the amazing medical benefits of dark chocolate. Really!


Exposé: Chocolate diamonds not real chocolate!
I know! I’m shocked too, but here’s some good news on chocolate diamonds.


Have a wonderful, chocolate-filled day!
Copyright © James N. Watkins


Comment below how you’re celebrating International Chocolate Day. And if you enjoyed this post, please share on your social networks. Thanks!

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