Top ten posts: April 2015

April 30th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

ItIsWellWithMySoul2

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

10. Who is the supreme super hero?

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

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

7. Does DNA disprove evolution?

6. Hope and humor cartoons

5. The cure for the common cold: sex!

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

3. “Coming out” My sexual identity crisis

2. Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

And, the number one post in April 2015:

1. (1) “It Is Well with My Soul” The rest of the stories

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The world’s greatest sin

April 28th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

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Apparently there’s a United States Supreme Court case being argued this week that is causing a bit of a debate.(I’ve addressed this divisive issue in several posts.)

However, I’m wondering if Christians are making too much of this issue by arguing as though it is the world’s greatest sin. Well, to determine the world’s greatest sin, we would need to look at the world’s greatest commandment:

      “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

      Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).

So, the greatest sin is not the current issue before the Supreme Court. And it’s not even any of the so-called “litmus tests” used to determine who or who is not following biblical commandments.

The greatest sin would be . . .

To not love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And to . . .

To not love your neighbor as yourself.

Yes, I have strong views on this issue, but it is not the biggest issue in the eyes of Jesus. So, I need to keep it in perspective. And most of all, I need to make sure as I discuss it, I am loving God and my neighbor. And even if you choose to view those in opposition to your view as an “enemy,” Jesus has this to say:

      “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:43-45a).

So, yes, I am very concerned about this issue, but I’m also very concerned that I pray for the greater issue of seeing my opponents come to love God and to address this issue in a spirit of love.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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WorldWideWeb

Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pinterest. Google+. Tumblr. Instagram. Flickr. Vine. Etc. We are the most connected “social” people in history. So why do so many people feel desperately alone and disconnected?

Futurist Alan Toffler warned that high tech demands “high touch.” Others have warned that the online “community” is an “artificial intimacy,” devoid of real-life relationships.

There’s still one place to find genuine community—and it’s not Starbucks. The apostle Paul wrote nearly two thousand years ago that we can find our need for connection and intimacy in the Body of Christ: the church.

      The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

Black, white. Mac, PC. Democrat, Republican, Independent. Mainline, evangelical. Etc., etc. All are one as the Body of Christ.

Unfortunately what often breaks connections in the church is a sense of inferiority to others:

      Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

      But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body (1 Corinthians 12:14-20).

There are also a few who break connections because they think they don’t need others or are better than others:

      The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

      In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad (1 Corinthians 12:21-26).

There’s nothing wrong with “online” relationships. (Some of my closest friends are people I rarely see in person, but we share a powerful bond through our relationship with God and our common interests—and emails and Facebook.)

Social networking is great. Just be sure you have solid “offline” relationships as well. And there’s nothing more solid than Christ’s Body, the church.

That’s why I believe “online church” is an oxymoron as much as bitter-sweet, jumbo-shrimp, and part-time pastor. Real churches don’t hide behind glitzy graphics and ghost-written copy—all perfectly packaged by some overpaid computer geeek. Real churches feature imperfect pastors and parishioners. And sometimes the music is dated, the doughnuts are stale and the sermon is boring. But it’s real.

Real is messy. Real is sometimes boring. Real doesn’t have all the answers. But real is a Sunday school teacher who still loves you after you throw up in the sand box. Real is a pastor who gets out of bed at 3 a.m. to meet you at the emergency room. Real is tears of joy when a member celebrates another year of sobriety.

The Googleplex doesn’t have folding chairs you can borrow for your graduation open house. Yahoo! doesn’t serve communion. And Mark Zuckerberg, no matter how much you LIKE him, won’t hold your hand at the funeral home or hospital room. Only real people in a real church can do that!

Get connected. Get real.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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Finely-aged believers

April 20th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

winebottle2

I wrote this column for a minister’s magazine, but it aptly applies to any follower of Christ. (And, yes, that’s me on the bottle!)

Great pastors age like fine wine (except for my denomination where pastors age like fine unfermented grape juice.) These are the men and women who, as St. Paul writes, “comfort those with the comfort they themselves have received from the God of all comfort.”

Sure, there are young men and women, still wet behind the clerical collar, who make good pastors, but it’s like comparing grape Kool-Aid with a fine Cabernet Franc Bordeaux (my Presbyterian pastor friend’s favorite). But to be a sparkling, well-balanced pastor with earthy character and a long, pleasing finish, you’ve gotta get squeezed in the wine press of life.

I have to admit, fresh out of school with ordination certificate in hand, I was not the best at pastoral care: a heady minister with a strong, bitter after-taste.

If someone came into the office complaining of depression, I simply told them they weren’t praying and reading their Bible enough. “Paul warns us to think on those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy, so just think on those things and you’ll be fine.” Until, I was diagnosed with clinical depression!

And I had little patience with those “senior saints” who seemed to constantly obsess about their arthritis, cholesterol and colon. Until, I had four surgeries in three hospitals in less than two months!

Plus, every Mothers and Father’s Day, I stressed “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Until my wife and I were cast into parental purgatory with one of our children! (Incidentally, that verse ends with “and when he is OLD, he will not depart from it.” And often, not until!)

Pastors are tread upon by disgruntled members,power-hungry board members and the Enemy himself. Add to that the natural frailties of the flesh, the pressure of raising a family in the public “fishbowl” and the unique temptations of ministry, and pastors get squeezed more than almost any other professional.

And yet, if we allow the God of all comfort to minister to us, we can comfort those in the same discomforts.

So, I made myself a list of things I can now comfort others with, that I had absolutely no experience with fresh out of the classroom. In alphabetical order they are:

      • Audit by the IRS
      • Building programs
      Cancer
      Depression
      • Eye disease (central sirius retinopathy)
      • Financial pressures
      • Gas prices
      • Harassing phone calls
      • India teaching assignment (“The Land Without Toilet Paper”)
      • Jury duty
      Kidney stone
      • Living in a girls dorm for six years (my wife was R.D.)
      Marital strife
      • Nose hair
      Obesity
      • Parsonage fire caused by my cooking
      • Quotes taken out of context
      Robbery of the parsonage (The burglars must have thought, There’s nothing in here worth fifteen years! and left without taking a thing!)
      • Slander by an insubordinate subordinate
      • Traveling twelve hours in a van full of junior-high boys—who had just eaten at Taco Bell!
      Unanswered prayer
      • Visiting a parishioner in the closed section of a mental hospital and then, before leaving, having to prove I wasn’t a patient
      • Worship wars: Hymns v. Choruses, Hymnals v. Video, etc.)
      • X-rated temptations
      • Youth over-nighters, and
      • Zits

Whew! Hopefully, I’ve aged into a mellow—yet substantial—well-balanced pastor with a full-bodied, comforting style.

Copyright © 2008 James N. Watkins (Originally appeared in my “Irreverent” column in Rev. magazine, January/February 2009)

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April 2015

Last Saturday marked the 50th anniversary of the deadly Palm Sunday tornadoes that ripped through Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa. Nearly 50 twisters (15 significant, 17 violent, 21 killers) killed 271 and injured 1,500 people.

Insurance companies describe these disasters as “acts of God,” but how much responsibility for earthquakes, floods, blizzards, typhoons, tornadoes can be laid at the foot of his throne? Here’s a piece I posted after Hurricane Katrina (August 2005):


First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina rained down destruction of biblical proportions on New Orleans. But is this a direct act of God upon a city with a reputation as being, shall we say, less than godly?

Wednesday WorldNetDaily.com’s headline announced “Hurricane hits just before homosexual event; Christian activist: Act of God prevented ‘Southern Decadence’.” The article went on to report:

      Hurricane Katrina walloped New Orleans just two days before the annual homosexual “Southern Decadence” festival was to begin in the town, an act being characterized by some as God’s work. Southern Decadence has a history of “filling the French Quarters section of the city with drunken homosexuals engaging in sex acts in the public streets and bars,” says a statement from the Philadelphia Christian organization Repent America.

Thursday, WorldTribune.com’s headline quoted a Kuwaiti government official as claiming “The terrorist Katrina is a soldier of Allah.” Muhammad Yousef Al-Mlaifi, director of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Endowments, reportedly said:

      I opened the Koran and began to read in Surat Al-R’ad [‘The Thunder’ chapter], and stopped at these words [of Allah]: “The disaster will keep striking the unbelievers for what they have done. . . .”

I, however, tend to believe the blame for this tragedy lies not with God, but with French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier for founding a city below sea level surrounded by a lake, river, and ocean. What was he thinking?!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin wrote, following December’s tsunami, that when God commanded Adam and Eve to “subdue the earth” He was giving humans two commands:

      Our first distinctive cultural imperative is to render ourselves less vulnerable to nature. We believed we were following Divine will when we developed medicine and medical technology to dominate disease. We found insecticides to protect our food supply, and we built dams to control rivers. We knew we were pleasing God by making ourselves safer and more secure, and this knowledge lent added urgency and meaning to our efforts. Not by coincidence did the overwhelming majority of these scientific and technical developments take place in the West.

      Civilization`s second distinctive cultural imperative is the importance of preserving human life. This too derives directly from our biblical roots and distinguishes us from the peculiar fatalism toward death found in so many other cultures.

      God runs this world with as little supernatural interference as possible. Earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, and, yes, tsunamis happen. It is called nature, which is not always benign. Fortunately, God also gave us intelligence and commanded us to make ourselves less vulnerable to nature. He also implanted in us a culture in which each and every life is really important. Many of those fatalities are attributable to misguided cultures.

“Misguided” certainly describes New Orleans original city engineers!

We live in a fallen world of natural disasters, disease, deadly animals— and humans— bent on evil. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve were the last people to live in a perfect world. But God continues to love his creations and creation and desires us to reach out to those affected by disaster.

Copyright © 2005 James N. Watkins


There were no warnings prior to the Palm Sunday tornadoes in 1965. Last Thursday, tornadoes raced through Illinois, completely obliterating the community of Fairdale. Despite it being a powerful EF-4, only one person was killed and just 12 injured, due to advanced radar that can now issue watches 24 hours in advance and detect twisters as they form.

So be prepared and informed as another line of severe weather moves across the Midwest today. But most of all, trust the Lord of life and death:

      For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord (Romans 14:7-8).

      No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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The perverse brutality of Islamic terrorist groups such as ISIS, al-Shabaab and Boko Haram prompts the question: What kind of perverse theology would inspire its followers to kill, torture, rape, kidnap and maim innocent people in the name of its “god”?!

If I were God, I’d do things differently! So, I have in my right hand, direct from my home office—soon to be atop Mt. Sinai—today’s category: Top ten things I (Jim) would do if I were God

10. Know who really shot JFK, if there really are aliens in Roswell, and the identity of those “secret herbs and spices” at KFC. And, as all knowing, I would win the lottery every single week!

9. During creation, spend a little more time on northern Indiana. (God spent his day of rest in Corn Borer, as there is nothing creative here!)

8. The next person who asks me to eternally destroy something, I’ll take them up on their request. Suddenly a blinding light, a deafening roar, and there’s a ten-foot-wide crater where that [bleep bleep] hard-to-start lawnmower used to be. People would be a lot more careful what they said if I were God.

7. Only one mosquito on the ark.

6. Dust off the ten plagues of Egypt and send them upon Third World dictators.

5. Require that all religious TV and radio programs carry the following disclaimer:

      Views expressed on this program are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect the views of God, his Son, or his Church.

And I’d make it clear that TV evangelists are not my official spokespeople.

4. All kinds of poetically-just punishments for rapists, child abusers and sex traffickers, none of which can be posted on a PG-rated website.

3. All paintings of white Anglo-Saxon Jesus would disappear in the twinkling of an eye. God’s Son was born a Jew in the Middle East!

2. An eleventh commandment: Thou shall not “spam” thy neighbor.

1. Send every terrorist straight to hell—without 72 virgins!

Okay, okay, it’s a good thing that I’m not God. (If I can’t even balance my checkbook, I have no business running the universe.) And, nothing personal, I’m glad you’re not God either.

So, if anyone claims to be God, his anointed messenger or acting on his behalf, it would be good to check out him or her by God’s standards:

Love your neighbor

Love your enemies

Let’s see. Nope! Nope! Islamic terrorists model the total antithesis of the God of the Bible!

However, we would all do well to model the God of love.

Copyright © 2002, 2015 James N. Watkins

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Top ten posts: March 2015

April 1st, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

ItIsWellWithMySoul2

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

10. Vampires, werewolves real

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

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

7. Hope for balance in life

6. Does DNA disprove evolution?

5. Hope and humor cartoons

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

3. The cure for the common cold: sex!

2. Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

And, the number one post in March 2015:

1. (1) “It Is Well with My Soul” The rest of the stories

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passion-of-the-cross

Originally appeared March 2011

Jesus’ ministry can be divided into roughly three one-year periods: obscurity, popularity and animosity.

That sounds a lot like my so-called writing and speaking career. For ten years I wrote for Sunday school take-home papers and published books with small publishers.

The next ten years, I had three books with Tyndale House, contributed to Zondervan’s Study Bible, won a Campus Life Book of the Year award along with a Christian Retailers Choice award, was guest on national TV programs such as the 700 Club, had a weekly column in three secular newspapers and a column each issue of minister’s magazine, and spoke across the United States and overseas.

But alas, the dawn of this decade has brought books with small publishing houses, two self-published books, and lots of rejection slips. This year, my speaking engagements are down to a third of 2010’s schedule.

So, apparently, I’m following Christ’s career path. And, although crucifixion isn’t likely in my future, it still hurts!

Author Mary DeMuth has also had a Christ-like career in publishing. But I love her prayer in a recent blog and newsletter:

      Jesus, for those toiling in obscurity, bring Your kingdom perspective. Help them know You are working through them in hidden, secret ways. Help them not lose heart and grow weary. Give them tenacity and perseverance.

      For those in the midst of popularity, I pray You’d bless them with perspective. You are the God who gives and takes away. Blessed be Your name. May they withstand this trial of popularity with grace and humility. May any fame that comes their way become an avenue for Your fame.

      And for those who are walking through rejection right now, I pray for relief. I pray You would show up in secret and open ways. You have deeper fellowship and communion with those who suffer for Your sake. lift up their eyes, their heads, their hearts. Send encouragers. Bring relief. Show up. Amen and Amen.

Thanks, Mary, I needed that! And I suspect there are a few others who may need it as well.

The most important point is that our purpose is not to be successful authors, business people or even rodeo clowns. It is to be conformed to the image of Christ:

      And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them . . . to become like his Son, so that his Son . . . (Romans 8:28-29).

May my career and character be Christ-like.

Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins

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Squeezing Good Out of Bad
Keeping your dreams alive

Photo: The Passion of the Christ

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