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God spent his day of rest in Corn Borer, Indiana! No signs of creativity here—no magnificent mountains, gorgeous gorges, or silvery seas—only plain plains sprouting corn and soybeans. (The highest elevation is town is the Hungry Hoosier convenience store’s speed bump.) Apparently when God rests, he rests!

Unlike God, I tend to “diesel” on my day off. (If you have a car that likes to sputter a couple seconds after you turn off the ignition, it’s said to be dieseling.) That’s what I do on Mondays. Even though I try to turn off my thoughts about work as a writer/speaker/editor, my brain keeps sputtering. I usually end up saying to myself, I’ll just download these thoughts into the computer and then be done with it. But one thing leads to another and before I know it, dieseling has turned to a wide-open throttle.

God’s rest is total and complete: “For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world (Hebrews 4:10).

I need to pull into the rest area after racing down the road of life, turn off the ignition and allow him to quiet all my sputtering. While I like to think that what I’m doing in life is pretty important, it pales in contrast to creating galaxies, planets, mountains, oceans, life of all kinds and even Corn Borer, Indiana. I need to trust Him that His world will continue turning without my help today!

My brain does diesel a bit, but when I study his Word and then take time to meditate on a key phrase—often repeating it until my brain stops dieseling—I begin to truly relax in His care. Ahhh!

Copyright © James N. Watkins.

How do you stop from dieseling on your day of rest? Please leave a comment. And if you enjoyed this post, please share it on your social networks. Thanks!

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Beyond ‘McPrayer’

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

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Sometimes I’m afraid I treat God like the drive-through window at McDonalds. I scan the menu board of “promise verses,” place my order, and then race my engine as I wait impatiently.

One week in 1988, I decided that I would try to get beyond my “McGod” mentality of prayer and just praise the Lord—without placing one “order.” I picked the wrong week!

Monday, I discovered we had a little over one hundred dollars in our check book and bills of over a thousand dollars. Wednesday a publisher, who owed me several hundred dollars in back royalties, announced that it too was broke. I was tempted to shout my order into menu board speaker, but I managed to simply praise God that week.

Friday, while on my way to the bank for a loan to cover our bills, I stopped by my daughter’s school to pay her tuition. There had been an error last semester and we didn’t owe money that month. Praise the Lord!

My next stop was at a Christian university to check on some advertising copy I had recently written. “That was great,” the director announced. “We’d also like you to rewrite all our admissions brochures. Do you think you could do that for around a thousand dollars.” Praise the Lord!

I never did get to the bank. All our bills were paid! God does inhabit the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).

Copyright © 2005 James N. Watkins

Related posts
Fifty praises between bed and bathroom
God is never late—but he sure is slow

Related trivia
The 2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index Report ranked 18 fast food chains by staff, courtesy, speed of checkout or delivery, quality of the food and order accuracy. At the very bottom: McDonalds. Number one is a store that closes on Sundays and strives to operate on Christian principles. Imagine that! Congrats to Chick-fil-A!


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Daily posts from Imitation of Christ
My latest book, tentatively titled The Imitation of Christ: 90 Devotions in Modern English won’t release until spring 2016, but you can read daily excerpts on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for following!

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I am so sorry to have kept you in the dark about my latest book project. I can finally unveil the cover and title: The Imitation of Christ: Classic Devotions in Today’s Language. Here’s an excerpt from the book from Worthy Inspired:

      Because The Imitation of Christ has had a most profound effect on my spiritual life, I am pleased to offer this updated version arranged for devotional reading. I have carefully updated William Benham’s 1874 translation with modern and inclusive language that remains faithful to the original message. I have arranged the passage in a systematic order and added biblical passages which introduce and reinforce the theme of each chapter.

      I pray this edition of the classic work will provide a new generation of readers the life-changing message of The Imitation of Christ.

You can currently read daily one-line excerpts on Facebook and Twitter.

It releases January 12, 2016, but you can pre-order the hardcover today!
Amazon
Barnes & Noble

A leather edition will be available in time for Christmas 2016.

I am so excited! But most of all, I am so grateful for your prayers over the months I have been working on this book and your continued prayers that it will indeed change lives. (Click to read the many ways this book has already been a bit miraculous and read a sample chapter.)

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Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People notes that our lives can be categorized into four quadrants: Important/Urgent (tornado warning), Unimportant/Urgent (telemarketing calls), Unimportant/Not Urgent (watching reality TV) and Important/Not Urgent (spending time with God and family).

Unfortunately, the Unimportant/Urgent often dominates our lives responding to a squeaking wheel while the engine oil is low and the engine is overheating.

The Bible book of Acts notes the importance of giving our attention to Important/Not Urgent issues.

      [A]s the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.

      So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”

      Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.

      Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people (6:2-8).

Distributing food to poor widows, certainly qualifies as an Important/Urgent crisis. However, the Important/Not Urgent issues were being neglected.

Some thoughts:

1. We should stick to our unique gifts and not get distracted by urgent needs that can’t be met by our gifts and abilities.

2. All positions in the church need men and women “full of faith and the Holy Spirit” [and] full of God’s grace and power.” (Stephen was no less called and equipped than the apostles!)

3. If everyone is fulfilling his/ her unique roles, all important needs will be addressed.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

Related posts
God’s will is not lost: for those trying to find it
Which path is the “right” path?
Your “write” role


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As I send in my latest book, triumph . . . and terror

Yep, that’s how I looked Saturday morning at 11:15 when I finally worked up the courage to click SEND and email my latest book to Worthy Inspired Publishing. After feverishly working on it since this spring, sending it off produced a sense of triumph and absolute terror!

Hopefully, I can release some details soon. It’s been more worship than work since it’s all about lifting up the name of Jesus. It will be out in time for Mardi Gras—I mean Lent—of next year.


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Encouraging writers in Pennsylvania this month

I’ll be speaking at two of my favorite conferences this month:

July 19-24, 2015
Montrose Christian Writers’ Conference
Montrose, Pennsylvania

July 29 – August 1, 2015
Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference
Cairn University, Langhorne, Pennsylvania


And this week’s favorite cartoon:

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My understanding of “holiness” began growing up in a conservative Methodist church with an active “temperance” program. Holiness simply meant no smoking or drinking. When I attended a Wesleyan college as a theology major, I learned the “doctrine” of holiness, which left me confused as to where I was in the process: “initial, progressive, or entire”?! I also learned I was actually rather “liberal” because I grew up watching TV, going to movies, and playing outside on Sunday afternoon.

As a Wesleyan minister, I toed the doctrinal line and obeyed the official rules, without having a clear understanding of how holiness actually “worked.” Then I came across an amazing, baffling and confusing Scripture: Hebrews 5:8:

      So even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.

What?! The very Son of God learned to be more like, well, the Son of God by the things He suffered. Was Jesus, as Isaiah writes, “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (53:3) because He obeyed His Father? Or did He obey His Father because he was “despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering”? That’s whole other article.

Here’s one thing I do know. The only way I have personally become more like the Lord I love is through hardship and heartaches. I have learned absolutely nothing from success, but I have learned much from suffering. That’s the message of Romans 8:29—although we much prefer the previous verse:

      And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

And what is that purpose? The very next verse spells it out:

      . . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.

God takes “all things” that cause hardships and heartaches and uses them to produce in us “the likeness of his Son.” (God does not cause these “things,” but He does redeem them for good.)

Often, we try to make living a holy life complicated by trying to explain it, turn it into three-point sermons, or divide it up into “initial, progressive and entire sanctification” so we may obtain this “second work of grace.”

I’ve become convinced that a) being conformed to the likeness to Christ is the essence of holiness and b) that holiness comes through allowing God’s Spirit to shape us into that likeness through hardships and heartaches.

And I’ve also become convinced the “good” God promises is holiness. Good is not happiness, pleasure, prosperity, a “God loves you and has a wonderful Porsche for your life” healthy and wealthy kind of good. The Greek word Paul chooses for good, agathos, can be translated “of a good nature, useful, helpful, excellent, upright, distinguished, or honorable.”

Second Corinthians 4:8-11 reinforces this concept:

      We are hardpressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be revealed in our mortal body (my emphasis).

God the Spirit takes all that hard-pressing, perplexity, persecution and striking down and empowers us “so that the life of Jesus may be revealed” in our lives. And that, in my simple little mind, is holiness.

Copyright © 2013 James N. Watkins

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From Squeezing Good Out of Bad. Obviously, I’d love for you to buy a copy for yourself and all your friends. But if you’re currently unemployed, email me for a free ebook.


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A case for polygamy?!
Soon after the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal, a Mormon polygamist has applied for a license to marry a second wife. According to The Associated Press, Nathan Collier, 46, and his partners, Victoria and Christine, applied for the marriage license in Billings, Montana. (You may know them them from the reality TV show “Sister Wives.”) Collier legally married Victoria in 2000, but his “spiritual” marriage to Christine is not legally recognized. I saw this coming nearly 15 years ago while writing my newspaper column. [Continue reading]


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Cure for write-arrhea
Several super-star bloggers are calling it quits! Andrew Sullivan, who pioneered journalism blogging, is quitting. Heather Armstrong, the original “mommy blogger,” is quitting. Amy Becker, a popular blogger is also quitting, but not before she wrote a fascinating post, Why Bloggers Are Calling It Quits.

Becker notes her reasons for unplugging her popular blog:

      I yearn to slow down. Instead of creating post after post, I want to focus on writing that allows me more time and thought. Blogging itself—its immediacy, its informality, its conversational tone—is fleeting. There’s always an occasion for another update, another issue to comment on.

I totally get it!

I’ve been online since 1997. In 2005, this blog hosted 1 million visitors. I did it by posting every single day. I found myself on the hamster wheel, furiously searching the Internet and rummaging through all the trivia moth-balled in the back of my mind for the next blog post. I can’t imagine the number of hours I’ve dedicated to regular postings! It was draining: mentally, emotionally, and—although I didn’t sense at the time— relationally and spiritually.

In recent years, I cut back to only three original posts on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And at the beginning of this year, I cut back to one original post on Mondays, a guest post on Wednesdays, and a round up on my Facebook cartoons and comments on Friday.

Finally, in June, I gave myself permission to cut back to be one post each Monday—and most of those have been re-runs. (And I’m discovering most of my visitors are digging around in my archives filled with hundreds of articles rather than viewing the current post.)

Remarkably, even though I have had a busy month with conferences, I have made amazing progress on my latest contracted book. I didn’t realize how much time I had spent creating fluff and fleeting comments for my website. Plus, I’ve been more present with my wife and family. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed having what’s left of my brain back. (In addition, I recently resigned from teaching at Taylor University and from serving as communications pastor at my church, so I’m sure that has also freed up more than a few brain cells.)

I’m done with write-arrhea—writing crap just because of a self-imposed obligation. So, while you can still count on a hope and humor post every Monday, I’ll be posting new content only when I must write and not writing stuff I have to post simply because it’s Monday. I’m through with striving for thousands of page views, high Google rankings and top 5 percent Alexa scores. (It will be interesting to see how this change does—or doesn’t—affect my “numbers.”)

So, unless I just have to comment on breaking news or some monumental event, I’ll see you next Monday with something new—or more likely, a “best of” post.

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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

10 . Does DNA disprove evolution?

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

8 . Top ten things almost as good as sex

7. Who is the supreme super hero?

6. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s commandments for cultural change

5. Hope and humor cartoons

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

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 June 2015 . . .

1. Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

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