KELVIN

In Sunday’s “The best—and the rest” round up, I wrote:

      Je suis Charlie
      Millions of people around the world today, are proclaiming “I am Charlie” in support of the editors and cartoonists at the satirical newspaper, Charlie Ebdo, murdered in cold blood by two radical Muslims.

      As a writer, I am in total support of the freedom of the press. Every individual has the right to express his or her views in person, print or pixels—no matter how much I may disagree with those views. If I demand laws that limit your freedom, another law may one day limit my freedom as well.

Either we all have freedom to exercise our religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, or none of have those freedoms. Let’s make #iamkelvin go viral!

Related links
The New York Times coverage.
Opinion piece by Franklin Graham.
My thoughts on the not-so gay debate

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God rejoices over you

January 13th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

pipeorgan-280
Everyone seems to have a word, a saying or a Bible verse for the new year. Last year I facetiously noted that my word for the year was “platypus.”

But, is it too late to have a verse for the new year? I just happened to come across this verse from a minor prophet that I think is going to have a major impact on my life this year. (And, yes, I know that in God’s universe, things don’t “just happen”!)

      For the Lord your God is living among you. . . . He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

Wow! In the new year, I want to comprehend—or at least grasp a tiny glimpse of—its meaning.

God is living with us

In Scripture, Jesus goes by over 200 names: Lord of lords, King of kings, Almighty God, Prince of Peace, etc. etc. But my absolute favorite is Immanuel: God with us. Jesus promises:

      “I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:18-20).

It will take me a year to scratch just the surface of the reality that God the Son—who created the universe, healed the sick and raised the dead—is living within me.

He takes glad delight in us

It’s no secret that I’m a great, big, slobbering mess. And yet, he delights in me and my imperfect efforts to serve him through writing and speaking.

That is going to take even longer to sink in than the idea that he is living inside of me!

With his love, he will calm all our fears

I have lived all my life with low-grade angst and anxiety. But this week, my sister-in-law, Beth, sent me her song for the year. (I didn’t realize there were also songs for the year.)

      Turn your eyes upon Jesus
      Look full in His wonderful face
      And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
      In the light of His glory and grace

Every time I thought of our medical debts, my book sales figures and the odd pain in my side (I just knew it was cancer!), I mentally recited those words written by Helen H. Lemmel. All those thoughts did did “grow strangely dim.”

I have a God who chooses to live within me, takes delight in messed me, and calms me with his love.

He will rejoice over us with joyful songs

But wait, there’s more. As if that is not enough, God sings praise over us. Us! While we make feeble efforts to praise him privately and corporately, he is singing over us with joyful songs. The Hebrew word for rejoice translates “to rejoice, exult, be glad,” while joyful means “in proclamation, joy, praise.”

Throughout history, the church has emphasized the bad news of God’s displeasure with his people—and he is displeased with all who refuse to acknowledge and obey him. But, the church has failed to adequately express the good news of God’s sheer delight in those who want to please him:

      The Lord’s delight is in those who fear him,
      those who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

      For the Lord delights in his people;
      he crowns the humble with victory (Psalm 149:4).

      “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy” (John 15:9-11).

I’m wondering if, in heaven, we will learn the lyrics of those songs that God has been singing over us. “Have a seat, Jim. I want to sing you a song.” Amazing!

I am just beginning to explore this little verse with the infinitely large message. Paul sums it up well:

      And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is (Ephesians 3:18).

That’s going to take not only this year, but the rest of my life!

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

Pipe organ photo: MorgueFile.com

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CoverWhy2

Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is there sickness and death? Why doesn’t God answer my prayers? Why . .?

For over twenty years, I’ve been collecting quotations that attempt to address those difficult questions. So here are over three thousands years of wisdom: from King David (circa 1000 BC) to modern-day pastors, priests, philosophers, politicians, poets, and ordinary people from around the world. (See categories of questions and contributors below.)

Browse excerpts

Order today And order extra copies for friends and family.


Contents

Abuse
Aging
Criticism
Death
Depression
Despair
Difficulties
Discouragement
Doubts
Failure
Fatigue
Fear
God’s silence
Grief/loss
Illness
Injustice
Insignificance
Loneliness
Lostness
Mistreatment
Pain
Persecution
Poverty
Suffering
Temptation
Tragedy
Unanswered prayer
Waiting
Worry


Contributors

Keith Ablow Psychiatrist, author and television personality
Douglas Adams English writer, humorist, and dramatist
Charles L. Allen American Methodist pastor
Roger Anderson Author
Aristotle Greek philosopher and scientist
Louis Armstrong American jazz trumpeter, singer
Diane Kerner Arnett Author of Going Home: Facing Life’s Final Moments
Candy Arrington Author of Aftershock: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide
William Arthur
Augustine Early Christian theologian and philosopher
Maltbie D. Babcock American clergyman and author of hymn, “This is My Father’s World”
Dwight Bain National stress management expert
Karen Ball Author and literary agent
Karl Barth Swiss Reformed theologian
Mark Batterson Author and pastor of National Community Church
Alexander Graham Bell Scottish-born scientist, credited with inventing the first practical telephone
Fredric Beuchner American novelist and theologian
Henry Blackaby Evangelical pastor, author of Experiencing God
Dietrich Bonhoeffer German Lutheran pastor, theologian, and key founder of the Confessing Church
Sarah Ban Breathnach American author of Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort
Emily Barnes American author of A Cup of Comfort
Erma Bombeck American humorist and newspaper columnist
Andrew Bonar Free Church of Scotland pastor
Horatius Bonar Scottish churchman and poet
Reihard Bonnke German evangelist known for his work in Africa
Christy Bower American author, Best Friends with God
Dianne Brady American author, Fraternity
Jim Branch American author, Becoming
Kely Braswell Church planter, author of Independent Me
Regina Brett American author, newspaper columnist
Jerry Bridges Christian author, speaker and staff member of The Navigators
Busta Brown Wesleyan pastor and denominational leader
Scott Wesley Brown Singer, songwriter
Kurt Bubna Pastor of Eastpoint Church
Mark Buchanan Author, professor of Pastoral Theology, Ambrose Seminary
Eve Bunting Ireland-born American author of young adult books
John Bunyan English writer and preacher, author of The Pilgrim’s Progress
Mark Canfora Founder of Celebration of Life Festivals, who lost son to suicide
Rosabeth Moss Cantor Professor of business at Harvard Business School
Leslie Caron American film actress and dancer
Oswald Chambers Scottish Baptist and holiness movement proponent, best know for devotional My Utmost for His Highest
Winston Churchill Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II and again from 1951 to 1955
George Chakiris American dancer, singer, and actor
G. K. Chesterton English writer of prose and poetry, Christian apologist
Joan Chittester Benedictine nun, author, speaker
Marcus Tullius Cicero Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer
Mason Cooley Professor of French, speech and world literature at the College of Staten Island
Calvin Coolidge Thirtieth president of the United States
Letti Burd Cowman Author of devotional, Streams in the Desert written under the name Mrs. Charles Cowman
Neva Coyle American author
W. A. Criswell American pastor, author, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention
Larry Crabb American author, psychologist, speaker
Alain de Bottom Swiss-British writer, philosopher, and television personality
Donald Demaray American author, retired professor at Asbury Seminary
Mary DeMuth American author and speaker
Steve DeNeff American author, pastor of College Wesleyan Church
Tammy Darling American author and editor
Frances de Sales Bishop of Geneva, Roman Catholic saint
Charles Dickins English social critic and novelist
Emily Dickinson America poet
Jerry Drummonds Chairman and CEO of Verde Energy Group
Joni Earekson Tada Author, artist, quadriplegic, and advocate for handicapped
Thomas Edison American inventor
V. Raymond Edman American author, president of Wheaton College
Elizabeth Edwards American attorney, author, and health care activist
Jonathon Edwards American preacher, philosopher, and theologian
Ralph Waldo Emerson American author and poet
Patsy Whittenberg Engle Author, professor at George Fox University
William Feather American publisher and author
Margaret Feinberg American author and speaker
Francois de Salignac Fenelon Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian, author
Fran Fernandez Spanish author
Henry Ford American industrialist, founder of Ford Motor Company
St. Francis of Assisi Italian Catholic friar and preacher
Viktor Frankl Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor
Robert Frost American poet
Pres Gillham Author, counselor
Seth Godin American author, entrepreneur, marketing expert
Lee Grady American author, ordained Charismatic minister
Billy Graham American evangelist, author
The Prophet Habakkuk Old Testament prophet
Archibald Hart American author, professor of psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary
Ken Heer American Wesleyan minister and denominational leader
Eric Hoffer American author, philosopher
L. Thomas Holdcroft American author
Oliver Wendell Holmes American author, physician, lecturer
Sichiro Honda Japanese engineer and industrialist, founder of Honda Motor Company
Bob Hostetler American author, pastor
Elbert Hubbard American writer, publisher, artist, philosopher
Selwyn Hughes Welsh Christian minister and author
Victor Hugo French poet, novelist, dramatist
Angela Hunt American novelist
Aldous Huxley English author, philosopher
Michael Hyatt Author, publisher
Ignatius Student of John the Apostle, third bishop of Antioch
The Prophet Isaiah Old Testament prophet
Wes Jackson Founder and current president of The Land Institute
St. James Brother of Jesus Christ, New Testament author
The Prophet Jeremiah Old Testament prophet
Jesus Son of God
St. John of the Cross Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint
Barbara Johnson American author, humorist
E. Stanley Jones American pastor, missionary to India
Robert Leighton Minister in Church of Scotland, Bishop of Dunblane
Martin Luther German Catholic priest, professor of theology, and leader in Protestant Reformation
Helen Keller American author, political activist, and lecturer who was deaf and blind
Timothy Keller American author, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Thomas à Kempis German priest, author of The Imitation of Christ
Carol Kent American author and speaker
Martin Luther King, Jr. American pastor, author, civil rights leader
Michael Korda English-born writer and novelist, editor-in-chief at Simon & Schuster
T. D. Jakes Author, founding pastor of The Potter’s House
William Jenkyn English clergyman imprisoned for non-conformity
Steve Jobs American entrepreneur, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc
St. John One of Christ’s twelve disciples, biblical author
John Henry Jowett British Protestant minister and author
Joseph Jowett Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge University
Bill Kemp Author pastor, church leadership expert
Peter Kreeft American pastor, author
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Swiss-American psychiatrist, pioneer in near-death studies
Ann Lamott American author and essayist
Brother Lawrence Lay brother in Carmelite monastery in Paris
Robert E. Lee Confederate General during U. S. Civil War
Abraham Lincoln Sixteenth president of the United States, served during Civil War
Jeanette Levellie America author, humorist
C. S. Lewis English author, Christian apologist, professor at Oxford University
Louise L. Looney American author, speaker
Max Lucado American author, pastor of Oak Hills Church
George MacDonald Scottish author and Christian minister
Douglas MacArthur American five-star general during World War II
Alexander Maclaren English non-conformist minister
Norma Jeanne Maloney American author and sign painter
Nelson Mandela Anti-apartheid leader, prisoner, then president of South Africa
Jason Mann Screenwriter, director
Brennan Manning American author, priest, speaker
Catherine Marshall American author of inspirational fiction and nonfiction
Peter Marshall Scots-American pastor of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, chaplain of U. S. Senate
George Matheson Scottish minister and hymn writer
Somerset Maugham British playwright, novelist and short story writer
Stephen McCranie Cartoonist
Joe McKeever Southern Baptist director of missions
Mignon McLaughlin American journalist and author
Herman Meville American novelist, poet, short story writer
Linda Meissner Author, leader in Jesus People Movement
Stephen Merritt Missionary philanthropist
Thomas Merton American Catholic writer and mystic
Michelangelo Italian sculptor, painter, architect, poet
Calvin Miller American pastor, author, professor at Southwestern Seminary
J. R. Miller American author, editorial superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication
Beth Moore American author, Bible teacher
Karen Morerod American author, actor
George Mueller English director of the Ashley Down orphanage, which cared for over 10,024 children
Cec Murphey American author and speaker
Andrew Murray South African author, pastor/teacher
F. B. Myer English Baptist pastor
Watchman Nee Chinese church leader and author
Henri Nouwen Dutch-born Catholic priest, professor and writer
Elizabeth O’Connor American author, teacher, counselor
George Orwell English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic
Chuck Palahnuik American novelist and freelance journalist
St. Paul First century missionary, church planter, New Testament writer
Thomas Paine English and American political activist, philosopher
George P. Pardington American theologian, teacher at Missionary Training Institute
Mark Guy Pearse Cornish Methodist preacher, author
M. Scott Peck American psychiatrist and author
St. Peter One of Christ’s twelve disciples, New Testament writer
Austin Phelps American Congregational minister, author, president of the Andover Theological Seminary
Edward J. Phelps American lawyer and diplomat
Nancy Pickering
John Piper American author, Baptist pastor, chancellor of Bethlehem College and Seminary
Francois Rabelais French Renaissance writer of fantasy and satire, doctor
Joe Ratliff American pastor of Shepherd of Brentwood
Betty Reese Officer of Pilot International, a volunteer service organization
Ruth E. Renkee
Eddie Rickenbacker American fighter ace in World War I, Medal of Honor recipient
F. W. Robertson English scholar, pastor at Holy Trinity Church
Will Rogers Vaudeville performer, humorist, social commentator
Janet Powers Roller American author, speaker, Miss South Carolina 1997
Franklin D. Roosevelt Thirty-second president of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt Twenty-sixth president of the United States
Samuel Rutherford Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian, author
Joseph D. Schneller American author, humorist
Walter Scott Scottish historical novelist, playwright, poet
Rebekah Freeland Shaffer American author, radio personality
George Bernard Shaw Irish playwright, music and literary critic, economist
Anna Shipton English author of essays and hymns
A. B. Simpson Canadian theologian, author, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance
B. F. Skinner American psychologist, author, professor of psychology at Harvard University
Alexander Smellie English minister, writer
M. Blaine Smith American author, musician
Malcom Smith English minister, author
Alexander Solzhenitsyn Russian novelist, historian, critic of Soviet totalitarianism
Faith Watkins Spaulding American social worker
Becky Spencer American author, singer/songwriter
Charles Spurgeon British Particular Baptist, known as the “Prince of Preachers”.
Charles Stanley American Southern Baptists pastor, author
Michelle Steele American pastor, author
Robert Louis Stevenson Scottish novelist, poet, essayist
Harriet Beecher Stowe American abolitionist, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Charles Swindoll American pastor, Bible teacher, author
Noni Joy Tari
Hudson Taylor British Protestant missionary to China, founder of the China Inland Mission
Ira Taylor
Corrie ten Boom Dutch Christian who helped hide Jews during WWII, sentenced to Ravensbruck, became author and speaker
Mother Teresa Roman Catholic Religious Sister, missionary to India, Noble Peace Prize winner
Margaret Thatcher Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
J. R. R. Toilken English writer, poet, professor at Oxford
Cheryle Touchton American author, speaker
Leo Tolstoy Russian novelist, short story writer, philosopher, playwright
A. W. Tozer American pastor, author, magazine editor
Matthew Trexler American pastor of The River Church
Elton Trueblood American Quaker author and theologian, chaplain both to Harvard and Stanford universities
Henry Clay Trumbull American pastor, author, pioneer of Sunday school movement
Phil Vischer Creator of children’s videos, VeggieTales
C. H. Von Bogatzky German hymn writer
Marilyn vos Savant American magazine columnist, author, playwright
John Wagner Entertainer, encourager
Terry Wall
Terry Walling Christian leadership coach
Kay Warren American author, speaker, co-founder of Saddleback Church
Rick Warren American pastor, author, co-founder of Saddleback Church
James N. Watkins America author, speaker
Dennis Watson
G. D. Watson American Wesleyan Methodist minister/evangelist, author
John Wesley English Anglican minister/theologian, who helped found the Methodist Church and holiness movement
Charles West
Tammy Whitehurst American author, speaker
Warren Wiersbe American pastor, Bible teacher, speaker
Oscar Wilde Irish writer, poet, playwright
David Wilkerson Founding pastor of Times Square Church, best known for work with drug addicts and gang members
Dallas Willard American philosopher, author on Christian spiritual formation
Leslie Williams American author
Marvin Williams American pastor, author
Wilbur Williams Professor of Old Testament at Indiana Wesleyan University
Aron Willis Pastor, executive in Wesleyan denomination
Pete Wilson American author, founding pastor of Cross Point Church
Barbara Winter American author
Mike Yacconelli American author, co-founder of Youth Specialties
Philip Yancey American author
Sarah Young American missionary, author of Jesus Calling
William Paul Young American author of The Shack
The Prophet Zephaniah Old Testament prophet
Zig Ziglar Author, motivational speaker
Kyle Zimmerman American pastor


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Order Why? Wise Quotations for Why Questions today. And order extra copies for friends and family.

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corncobtank

Time Square’s lighted ball gets all the press, but other cities across America drop all kinds of things at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. Some very strange things!

Objects
Six-foot-tall conch shell (Key West, Florida)
Indy race car (Indianapolis, Indiana)
Giant guitars (Niagara Falls, New York; Memphis, Tennessee; and Nashville, Tennessee)
Ten-foot Crayola crayon (Easton, Pennsylvania)
Giant Bayer aspirin tablet (Myerstown, Pennsylvania)
Chunk of coal is dropped, turning into a diamond at the bottom (Shamokin, Pennsylvania and Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania)
Ping pong balls (Strasburg, Pennsylvania)
800-pound beach ball (Panama City, Florida)

Food
Giant peach (Atlanta, Georgia)
Giant doughnut (Hagerstown, Maryland)
Giant pickle (Mount Olive, North Carolina)
Giant Sausage (Elmore, Ohio)
100-pound yellow illuminated Peep (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania)
Giant Dove chocolate bar (Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania)
Giant Hershey kiss (Hershey, Pennsylvania)
100-pound stick of bologna (Lebanon, Pennsylvania)
80-pound cheese (Plymouth, Wisconsin)
Car-sized potato (Boise, Idaho).

Animals
“Spencer,” the stuffed opossum (Tallapoosa, Georgia)
Giant sardine (Eastport, Maine)
Red lobster (Easton, Maryland)
Eight-foot long, five-foot high duck (Havre de Grace, Maryland)
“Marshall P. Muskrat” in a top hat and bow tie (Princess Anne, Maryland)
Live opossum in a Plexiglass pyramid (Brasstown, North Carolina)
“Captain Wylie Walleye” (Port Clinton, Ohio)
A pig is “flown,” not dropped (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Stuffed beaver (Beavertown, Pennsylvania)
Stuffed goat (Falmouth, Pennsylvania)
Hog (Fayetteville, Arkansas)
Real, but dead carp weighing up to 30 pounds (Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin)

People
And, each year, drag queen Gary “Sushi” Marion, is lowered in a giant ruby slipper (Key West, Florida)

This, of course, got me thinking of ways to put Corn Borer, Indiana, on the map. I’m proposing that Prairie Propane drop a giant ear of corn off the grain elevator. Or maybe not!

Regardless of what drops near you, have a wonderful—and safe—New Year!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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lizard

I have in my right mitten, direct from my home office on the frozen wasteland of Indiana, today’s category: Top ten most popular posts of 20014 (2013 ranking).

10. (19) Vampires, werewolves real!

9. (1) Ancient prophet warns of conspiracies

8. (4) Does DNA disprove evolution?

7. (6) God is never late, but he sure is slow

6. (56) Three secrets for xxx-ceptional sex

5. (3) Help for suicidal thoughts

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

3. (2) Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

2. (5) The cure for the common cold: sex!

And, the number one post for September 2014:

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

And click for the very latest post

Pictured, according to conspiracy theorists,lizard people rule earth. Photo from MorgueFile.

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Don’t look back!

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

janus2

We get the name January from the Roman god Janus who, much to his parent’s horror, was born with two faces: one facing forward, one looking back. And so, January is a time to look forward to the new year and back at the past.

Looking back at 2014, we see the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s brutal beheadings of men, women and children, racial tension and rioting surrounding the Ferguson shooting, the shooting down of a commercial plane over Ukraine and the Ebola deaths of thousands of West Africans.

But, the Bible urges us to look forward: “Do not dwell on the past” (Isaiah 43:18) and “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” (Philippians 3:13b).

Remorse and regrets are obvious reasons not to dwell on the past. And, admitedly, there is much for which to grieve. But there are other subtle dangers of looking back:

Obsolescence

We live in such a fast-changing world that if we do things in 2015 the way we did in 2014, we’ll be left in the dust. (If you’re an author or publisher, you know that change is happening at warp speed!)

Stagnation

Our personal lives and our relationships can stagnate if we rely on the past. If I’m not growing, I’m dying. And relationships need active care and nurture to grow and mature.

Serious injury

Unless we’re Janus, we are going to run into serious trouble—and injuries—if we’re walking backward into the future. (Wow! I didn’t see that coming!)

So, I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice:

      Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This day is all that is good and fair. It is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Don’t look back! Keep looking to the future with hope and humor!

Copyright © 2010, 2014 James N. Watkins

Related—sort of—post
My predictions for the new year

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God has a plan for new year

December 30th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

calendar-280
The tabloids are no longer making their outrageous predictions for the New Year. (Perhaps my mocking of their dismal record had something to do with it.)

So, let me make some of my own predictions for the coming year. (Well, actually, I’ve stolen them right out of the Christmas story in the Gospel of Matthew.)

God has a plan for our relationships this coming year

      And Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ. Thus there were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Christ (Matthew 1:16-17).

Relationships were far less complicated in the early Mideast. There were no concerns about “Will he ask me out?” or “Where should we go on a date?” Marriages were arranged by your parents. But even here, the parents had absolute free choice in selecting their future in-laws. But God was working out the details so His Son would have the perfectly predicted lineage. (Somehow God has no problem reconciling His sovereignty and our freewill as we will see.)

God doesn’t merely predict something, then sit back and wait for it to happen. He is intimately involved. Matthew 1:22 assures us that all this took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet.

This coming year, God will orchestrate the relationships in our lives. He will arrange for us to meet those who need our help, friendship and love.

God has a plan for our schedule this coming year

      After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.

      “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written” (Matthew 2:1-2, 5).

God had some serious logistical problems to work out. Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. Bethlehem was a one-donkey town that wasn’t exactly known for its tourist trade. Why should Christ be born there? August Caesar, not know for his closeness to God (other than thinking he was God) commanded all to return to their ancestral birthplace for a census. Augustus had absolute freewill in calling for a census, but God’s providence worked out all the details.

Amazingly, baby Jesus wasn’t born halfway between Nazareth and Bethlehem. Babies rarely arrive on their due dates! And riding on a donkey all day would be a certain way to start early labor! But God’s timing is always perfect.

Even more amazing is the perfect timing of the Bethlehem star.* Computers have allowed scientists to go back in time and observe the precise movements of planets. The recent studies produced some exciting results. During the time of Christ’s birth, significant “signs” appeared in the heavens.

Jupiter (known then as the King star) and Venus (Virgin Mother) joined Regulus (also a king star) in the constellation of Leo (the Lion King). Jupiter and Venus then rose as the brilliant morning star.

In those days, observing signs in the skies was considered a science. And the magi of Persia were trained in science, philosophy and religion. Could it be that God used the “scientific knowledge” of the time to proclaim His Son’s birth? Did they interpret these signs to mean the birth of “The Lord of Lords and King of Kings;” “The Lion of the Tribe of Judah;” “The Bright and Morning Star”?

Several months later, Jupiter moved across the sky and because of its normal orbit appeared to stop in the sky. From the perspective of Jerusalem, it would have appeared precisely above Bethlehem on December 25!

If, as many believe, the star of Bethlehem was Jupiter, this dramatically emphasizes God’s incredible timing. Since creation, His cosmic clock has kept perfect time. And this same God can work out the timing of each event in our lives. It is this promise that can allow us to wait patiently rather than become frustrated with schedules and deadlines in the coming year.

God has a plan for our location this coming year

I’m sure the cynics in early times scoffed at the Bible’s prophecies. I can hear them sneering, “Micah says Christ will come out of Bethlehem, Hosea says Egypt and another says Nazareth! See, the Bible is always contradicting itself!”

Herod’s threat on the life of Jesus sent Mary, Joseph and the baby fleeing from Bethlehem to Egypt.

      And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15).

On their return they discovered that Herod had been succeeded by none better. Once again they fled Bethlehem and moved back to Nazareth.

      So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

God’s providence extends to our very location. If a major move is in this coming year, we can be assured that God has worked out all the details. His providence applies to even personnel managers!

God has a plan for even the tragedies of the coming year

If God is in control, why did He allow Herod to order the murder of innocent babies? Why are God’s children the victims of war, crime, injustice and divorce?

While God is directing history, He is also allowing humankind free choice. Herod misused his freedom—to put it mildly. He murdered his wife, his mother-in-law and three of his sons. And, so there would be sorrow at his death, Herod rounded up the town’s leading citizens on false charges with orders to kill them when he died.

But God’s sovereignty is able to bring good out of humankind’s worst abuses of freewill:

      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 (Romans 8:28).

Tragedy may come to anyone of us this New Year. Not all things are good! But somehow, as evidenced in the Christmas story, God’s incredible love and providence will work good out of each situation we face

And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said . . .

Copyright © 1984 James N. Watkins

* Some scholars believe the “star” was actually the light of God, which would explain its ability to pinpoint the house where Jesus was staying.

Photo from MorgueFile.com

Related sites:
The Twelve Sites of Christmas
The Christmas story in chronological order
God is never late—but He sure is slow
Why? Some thoughts on life’s tough questions
Predictions for new year in cartoons

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‘The 365 Days of Christmas’

December 25th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

adventcandleslong3

I thought I had seen mass hysteria before: the time “Weird Willy” Smith set off a can of tear gas in the high school cafeteria. Or the practical joker who yelled “Shark!” at the beach causing me and my rubber raft to be flattened by half-crazed swimmers.

But these pale in comparison to entering a department store the day after Christmas! As I stepped into the main aisle I was confronted with see what looked like the entire cast from Ben Hur stampeding my way.

Leading the pack charged a six-foot brute with a Marine tattoo strangling a pastel neck tie. He was followed by a crowd of probably quite normal people who, in the passion of the moment, had turned into a murderous mob storming the customer service desk.

The season of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” was over for another year—carefully packed away with the strings of lights and artificial trees.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the peace and joy came after Christmas.

God’s people had yearned for their Messiah since He had promised Eve there would come a conqueror over sin. The angels had announced this precious Gift’s arrival. The waiting was over. The real work of Christmas could begin—work which we can continue today.

Proclamation

It would have been easy for the shepherds to merely muse about their evening with eternity. An angel of the Lord had stood before them. The glory of God had shone over these men on a dark, sheep-dotted hillside. Multitudes of angels joined in announcing “peace on earth.” Then the shepherd’s weathered faces had looked into the tiny, helpless eyes of Almighty God.

But this was just the beginning. After the excitement of Christmas, the shepherds spread the Word about this child and glorified and praised God for all the things they had heard and seen.

Christmas is a year-round opportunity for proclaiming, for “glorifying and praising God” for all we have heard and seen.

Consolation

Simeon, a righteous and devout man who lived in Jerusalem, had been waiting for Christmas—with a much deeper longing that any child anticipating a stack of packages under the tree. The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he would not die until he saw the Messiah. And so, moved by the Spirit, he entered into the temple courts as Mary and Joseph brought their first born son there for consecration.

Simeon came face to face with “the consolation of Israel.” Taking the child in his arms, he praised God and said, “Sovereign Lord, as you promised, now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all the people.”

This peace continues after the advent candles are burned to stubs and the last needle falls from the tree. Christmas is a year-round opportunity to experience the Prince of Peace and to share that consolation with others.

Adoration

The word Christmas originally meant “Christ’s Mass”—a time of worship and adoration of the Messiah. Today, unfortunately, the masses of people pay more attention to holiday shopping and feasting than to Christ. The magi from the East, however, were wise in their priorities. Before they revealed their holiday treasures, they gave their gifts to Jesus and “. . . bowed down and worshiped him.” Well after the uneaten fruitcakes have fossilized, worship of the living Christ must continue if Christmas is to remain fresh in our hearts.

Meditation

Perhaps meditation is the key to Christmas. The days before Christ’s birth had been a hectic time for Mary and Joseph: dealing with the rumors and suspicions of Mary’s pregnancy, traveling to Bethlehem a midst the tail to tail census traffic, and now the responsibilities of caring for a newborn. But Mary still meditated on the Lord.

Without meditating on the salvation of God and His faithfulness, there can be no proclamation, consolation, or adoration.

Christmas, then, is a year-round opportunity for meditating on all these things and pondering them in our hearts–long after the warranties on our gifts have expired.

Merry Christmas today . . . and every day of the year!

Copyright © 1988 James N. Watkins

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cmasbells-280
“Peace on earth” seems only a hollow Christmas card cliche what with civil war, terrorist attacks and rioting in the streets. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow didn’t feel in much of a holiday mood either when he heard the bells on Christmas Eve during the Civil War. His wife had been burned to death when her clothing caught fire in 1861, and his son had been critically wounded in the War in December 1863. The famous poet is believed to have penned the following in 1864:

      I heard the bells on Christmas day
      Their old familiar carols play,
      And wild and sweet the words repeat
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.

      I thought how, as the day had come,
      The belfries of all Christendom
      Had rolled along the unbroken song
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.

      And in despair I bowed my head
      ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
      ‘For hate is strong and mocks the song
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

But Longfellow’s hope was in the One who originally wished, “Peace on earth, goodwill to all people on whom His favor rests.” His poem triumphantly continues:

      Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
      ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
      The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
      With peace on earth, good will to men.’

      Till ringing, singing on its way
      The world revolved from night to day,
      A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
      Of peace on earth, good will to men.

So despite visions of car bombs dancing in our heads, we can settle in for a long winter’s nap. The bells continue to ring out the promise of peace with faith and hope of Christmas.

      And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

      And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

      And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men (Luke 2).

Have a joyous, peaceful holiday season!

Copyright © 2001, 2014 James N. Watkins

Photo by www.hdwallpapersos.com

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The Twelve Sites of Christmas

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We wish you a P.C. Christmas

December 16th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (3 Comments)

I have in my right mitten, direct from my home office on the frozen wasteland of Indiana, today’s category:

      Top ten politically-correct Christmas—excuse me, holiday—songs

      10. Chestnuts Roasting on an Environmentally-friendly Fuel Source

      9. Rudolph, the Endangered and Exploited Specie

      8. We Three Politically Oppressive Patriarchs

      7. Rocking Around the Recycled, Flame-retardant, Artificial Holiday Tree

      6. All I Want For Christmas is a Dental Plan

      5. Frosty the Snowperson

      4. I Saw Mommy Suing Santa Claus for Sexual Harassment

      3. I’m Dreaming of a Racially Diverse Christmas

      2. I’ll Be Home For Ramadan (or Chanukah or Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice or . . .)

      1. We Wish You a Non-sectarian Holiday

Yep, political correctness has wheedled its way into the celebration of Christmas—excuse me, non-sectarian gift-buying winter solstice.

At the risk of coming across as The Grinch,” Ebineezer Scrooge, and Henry Potter all gift-wrapped into one big “Humbug,” I’d like to propose putting some P.C. in our Christmas celebration. But before you click out of this site, let me change the meaning of P.C. to “Purposeful Concession.”

God Himself made some purposeful concessions (PC) on the first Christmas morning.

Paul writes in Philippians 2:

      Christ Jesus . . . being in very nature God,
      did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
      but made himself nothing,
      taking the very nature of a servant,
      being made in human likeness.
      And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
      and became obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

After centuries of trying to get His message across through commandments and conflagrations, prophets and plagues, He conceded to communicate His love through becoming one of us.

If Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t get the world’s attention, perhaps Bethlehem and Calvary would make all the papers. The razzle-dazzle, Exodus miracles didn’t have the desired result, so let’s try turning water into wine at a wedding. The hand-writing on the wall thing wasn’t that effective, so let’s try writing in the sand. And slaughtering lambs and bulls never had a lasting impact, so let’s sacrifice our Only Begotten Son to bring lasting forgiveness.

Christmas is about incredible concessions to communicate God’s love and to redeem His beloved.

So here’s my point: we may need more P.C. (Purposeful Concession) to communicate the good news of Christmas. Paul wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” So, racism, class-ism, and sexism are not only “politically incorrect,” but have no part in the Gospel message. Neither is their room for judging others by our own personal preferences or convictions. Most of all, we need to show Christ’s love and patience to those who are totally stressed out with the human-made holiday hoopla.

I am not saying to concede biblical principles. While God was willing to make purposeful concessions, He did not compromise His message. It remained the same. “I am holy. I am love. And I desire holy people who will love Me completely and love their neighbors as themselves.”

So this Christmas season, consider adding a bit more purposeful concessions to the celebration. Now, let’s all sing, “We Wish You a P.C. Christmas.”

Copyright © 1998, 2014 James N. Watkins

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