90 Minutes in Heaven–or not?

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

90-minutes-in-heaven

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.)

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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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chocolatesyrup

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:

jimshortschocolate

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!

jimshortschocolate2

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

jimshortswhitechocolate

Have a wonderful, chocolate-filled day!
jimlogo2
Copyright © James N. Watkins

Photo: PlayBuzz.com

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9/ll remembered

September 11th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

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Two small numbers—9/11—have become shorthand for an infinite number of emotions: the shock and disbelief of watching the terrorist attack on live TV, the horror of watching the twin towers collapse upon themselves, the national grief as the number of confirmed casualties grew to over 2,800, the growing realization that we are no longer beyond the reach of terrorist attacks, and perhaps most of all, the fact that those who remember where they were on that date, will never, ever be the same.

Shock. Anger. Disbelief. These are just a few of the emotions overwhelming victims of a terrorist attack. Here are some resources I hope will be helpful in responding to such tragedies.

Reacting
Dealing with death and grief
“bin Laden, kiss my pass!” (September 10, 2003)
Talking to your children about terrorism

Reasoning
Hope amid horror (September 11, 2006)
What motivates terrorists?
Taking the terror out of terrorism

Responding
Can war on terrorism be won? (September 11, 2005)
How can we overcome evil with good?
We are strong! We will survive! (September 17, 2001)
What we haven’t learned from 9/11 (September 9, 2002)
Candle-lighting ceremony following terrorist attacks (September 11, 2001)

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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FalseAlarm
August 2017

David Meade, a “Christian numerologist” has predicted the end of the world as we know it September 23. In his self-published book, Planet X — The 2017 Arrival, he predicts that a planet called Nibiru will crash into Earth in October. However, he’s since moved the date forward to September 23. (The idea of an unseen planet crashing into earth originated with a Wisconsin woman, Nancy Lieder, who believes “gray extraterrestrials called Zetas” implanted a communications device in her brain through which she was warned of the impending collision.)

Meanwhile, Robert Binnion and Donna Larson are less specific, but have posted on separate “end of time prophecy” websites that 2017 is the year of the End.

According to The Sun, Larson “points to the Bible’s claims that man will rule the earth for 6,000 years before facing God’s wrath. By her reckoning, Adam was created in 3,983 BC—helpfully marking the six thousandth anniversary [in 2017]. The date also chimes with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s birth and 50 years after the unification of Jerusalem.”

I have no obscure verse from Daniel or the Revelation to prove this, but I suspect that the enemy has used these false prophets since A.D. 365, to make a mockery of the very real return of Christ on a date “no one knows . . . not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36).

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. These false prophecies have been predicting specific dates and not one has come to pass. Nothing to worry about, people!”

Yep, pretentious “prophets” have predicted the end of the world on specific dates for nearly 2,000 years—and they’ve all been wrong!

365
Hilary of Poitiers announced the world would end in the year of 365. When it didn’t his student, Saint Martin of Tours, pushed the date out to 400. Other predictions followed of 500 (Hipplytus), 968 (German emperor Otto III) and Good Friday 992.

January 1, 1000 (Y1K)
Christians in Europe believed Christ would return on that date and gave their worldly goods to the church—which didn’t give them back, which probably led to the Reformation.

1000 +
More predictions followed of 1147 (Gerard of Poehlde), 1176 (John of Toledo’s prediction based on alignment of the planets), 1205 (Joachim of Fiore), 1282 (Pope Innocent III computing 666 years since the founding of Islam) and 1496 (Mystics who believed Christ would return 1500 years after his birth).

October 3, 1533
After “a careful study of the Bible and mathematics,” German mathematician Michael Stifel predicted a date for the end of the world. Stifel gathered his small group of true believers atop a hill near Lochau. When the end did not occur, he was placed in protective custody from angry villagers who had sold their homes and farms in anticipation of the end.

1688-1700
Scottish mathematician John Napier published The Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John. In it, he identified the Pope as the Antichrist and predicted the end of the world between 1688 and 1700.

October 13, 1736
British theologian and mathematician William Whitson predicted a great flood similar to Noah’s for October 13, 1736—obviously ignoring God’s promise not to destroy the earth by flood.

1806
The announcement of Christ’s return was hatched in the English town of Leeds when a hen began laying eggs inscribed with the message “Christ is coming.” The hen’s owner had egg on his face when the hoax was eggs-posed.

March 21, 1843
More recently, William Miller predicted the world would end on October 22, 1844. Thousands of “Millerites” sold their property and possessions, quit their jobs and prepared themselves for the second coming. The failed prophecy was dubbed “The Great Disappointment.” Undeterred, Miller reset the date for October 22, 1844. Greater disappointment!

1844-1850
Ellen White, founder of the Seven Day Adventists movement, made many predictions of the timing of the end of the world during this time. All failed.

On or before February 15, 1891
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church, announced at a meeting that Jesus would return within 56 years or February 15, 1891.

1910
In 1881, an astronomer predicted that the tail of Halley’s Comet contained a lethal gas known as cyanogen. And since earth would pass through the comet’s tail in 1910, The New York Times reported that Earth would be sprayed with the deadly gas.

1914
Using a complex formula based on the “days” of Daniel 4, the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower Bible and Tract Society predicted Christ’s return in 1914. When the date passed, leaders claimed Christ had “invisibly” begun His rule.

December 17, 1919
Meteorologist Albert Porta predicted that the alignment of six planets would “generate a magnetic current that would cause the sun to explode and engulf the earth” on that date.

March 10, 1982
In 1974, astronomers John Gribben and Stephen Plagemann predicted the “Jupiter Effect” in which planets would align on the same side of the sun unleashing solar flares, radio interruptions, rainfall and temperature disturbances and massive earthquakes.

May 14, 1988
Hal Lindsey, in his best-selling book The Late, Great Planet Earth, predicted Rapture in 1988—one generation or 40 years after the creation of the state of Israel.

October 11, 1988
Edgar Whisenaut, a NASA scientist, sold over 4 million copies of 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988. His second book, 89 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1989 didn’t sell as well.

1994. May 21, 2012, October 21, 2012
Harold Camping, of Family Radio, urged listeners to abandon the church and prepare for Christ’s return in 1994. That, obviously didn’t happen, so he revised the date to May 21, 2011, which he claimed is exactly 7,000 years since Noah’s flood. When the multi-million-dollar ad campaign failed to deliver, Camping confidently announced that Christ had indeed returned “spiritually” and would return “physically” on October 21, 2012. Critics claim this was his twelfth false prediction. To his credit, ten months after the 2011 prediction proved false, Camp acknowledged that he had been mistaken, that his attempt to predict a date was “sinful,” and that his critics had been right in pointing to the scriptural text “of that day and hour knoweth no man.”

1997
The UFO cult, Heaven’s Gate, believed an alien spacecraft was trailing the comet Hale-Bopp—due to pass by earth in 1997—and so 39 followers attempted to join the spacecraft by committing mass suicide on March 26, 1997.

1999
French astrologist Nostradamus (1503-1566) alluded to Armageddon in his vague symbolic poetry when he wrote, “The year 1999, seventh month/From the sky will come great king of terror.”

January 1, 2000 (Y2K)
Alarmists claimed a dating glitch would cause computers around the world to crash causing widespread disaster.

September 10, 2008
Alarmists worried that when Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest high-energy particle accelerator, became operational, it would create a black hole of earth.

December 21, 2012
Since the Mayan calendar ended on this date, many believed this meant the world would end as well. Of course, the ancient Mayans couldn’t even predict their own demise when Spanish conquistadores and their allies conquered them in the 1600s!

September 2015
John Hagee, TV preacher and author of the best-selling book, Four Blood Moons, believed “something dramatic [will] happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world” based on four recent lunar eclipses. Others were more extreme in interpreting the significance of four lunar eclipses producing a reddish glow (“blood moon”) occurring so close together. They believed the world will end in a massive meteor strike on the earth between September 22 to 28 of 2015.

Nope! Not one of those predictions came true! Here’s one that will:

If someone is predicting Christ’s return on a specific date, you can be sure they are wrong!

Click for more cartoons

Three times within just ten verses, Jesus declares:

      “However, no one knows the day or hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows” (Matthew 24:36).

      “So you, too, must keep watch! For you don’t know what day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).

      You also must be ready all the time, for the Son of Man will come when least expected” (Matthew 24:44).

All these so-called biblical “scholars” are boys crying wolf, so that the world scoffs—not only at their predictions—but the truth that Jesus himself has promised he will return to earth. So, here’s what we can know:

We are told to . . .

pray for His soon return (Revelation 22:20)

pray for workers to reap a great harvest of followers prior to His coming (Matthew 9:38)

be found alert and praying when He does return (Ephesians 6:18)

“Lord, come quickly!”

Copyright © 2009, 2012, 2015 James N. Watkins.

Update April 2018
Meade is at it again. This time convinced the world will end April 23, 2018! Apparently, he has never read Acts 1:6-7:

      So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?”

      He replied, “The Father alone has the authority to set those dates and times, and they are not for you to know” (Acts 1:6-7 Emphasis mine).

That’s pretty clear! And here’s a big but:

      “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

What if we spent our time instead of trying to discern when Jesus will return, we spent it telling our family, friends and others—here and around the world—that they can know Jesus today?!

Related post
Should Christians get caught up in “rapture”?

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I can’t do all things!

September 7th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (2 Comments)

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Hi, I’m Jim. I’m not content.

There, I’ve said it. I hope you don’t think any less of me.

There have been times my books have won national awards. There have been times my books have sold negative numbers. (I didn’t know that was even possible! It means more book stores sent them back than sold them.)

There have been times in my life when I’ve bought vehicles with cash. There have been times when I’ve had to hock our car to pay bills.

There have been times when our chest freezer was full to the top. There have been times when the cupboard was bare except for a can of green beans and a box of macaroni and cheese. (“Thank you, Father, a royalty check arrived just in time!”)

There have been times when I’ve been healthier than a horse. There have been times—such as after 42 radiation treatments for cancer—I’ve been sicker than a dog.

And, to be honest, I much prefer the former to the latter!

While “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13) has been applied to accomplishing personal achievement goals, to raising money for the church building fund, and to a thousand other situations, it has nothing to do with those things. (Christ can’t—or more accurately, won’t—make me an Olympic medalist, super model or nuclear physicist.)

What Christ gives us is the strength to be content in all situations! Here’s the context. (And we always get in trouble when we take scripture out of context!)

      I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength (4:11-13).

I’m doing a bit better at contentment. I’ve learned that I grow to be more like Christ during the times of need than in the times of plenty. During my “successful” years I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years that I have come to have a Christ-like compassion for my fellow strugglers.

Christ is giving me strength to be content. (Well, at least to be more content.)

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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Top ten posts: August 2015

September 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 August 2015

10. Who is the supreme super hero?

9. The real “female Viagra”

8. Cure for common cold: sex

7. Does DNA disprove evolution?

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

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. Were U.S. founding fathers Christian?

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

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

(See list at right for the latest posts.)

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tetherballsportscom2
Gone are school playgrounds covered in knee-scraping asphalt, bludgeoning swing seats and “head injuries on a stick” known as tetherball.

For those unfamiliar with this violent game, a volleyball is hung from a tall metal pole with a rope (tether). The players on opposite sides of the pole try to hit the ball—one clockwise, one counterclockwise—until one player winds the ball all the way around the pole so that it is stopped by the rope. A steel pole. A heavy ball flying directly at the contestants’ faces. What possibly could go wrong?!

Have you ever felt like a human tetherball? Life punches you in the face as you reel in the opposite direction, then you’re struck again and propelled the other way. You’re in constant motion, being struck this way and then that. The only thing that keeps you from totally flying out of control—and into traffic—is the rope that anchors you to the center. Better to be a tetherball than a volleyball flattened by a passing truck.

So are you a volleyball or a tetherball? Neither is an appealing option. But as a tetherball, you’re safe from rolling into the street and flying into the school cafeteria dumpster. I’ve had my share of “hits” in life: cancer, unemployment, a kidney stone (one is quite enough, thank you), family crises, etc. But I have always had my faith as a center of my life. God is my pole. Faith is my rope. And my life is the battered ball.

The apostle Paul writes about the safety of being tethered to God’s great love:

      If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?

      Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?

      [No] I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 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 8:31-32, 35, 38-39).

Life is not easy as a human tetherball! But it is safe and secure in the love of God.

Copyright 2015 © James N. Watkins

Photo from tetherballsports.com

Related posts
Christ’s career path: obscurity, popularity, animosity
Squeezing Good Out of Bad: excerpt
Sure beats a kidney stone
Top ten things I’ve learned from cancer
Why? Some thoughts on life’s tough questions

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HurricaneKatrinaSatelite

Ten years ago today, the deadliest and most destructive natural disaster struck the Gulf coast. Here’s my response to the swirling questions Hurricane Katrina unleashed.

August 30, 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

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Happy 8/28!

August 28th, 2015 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

August28-3
I love the date of August 28, since 8/28 reminds me of Romans 8:28!

      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.

Unfortunately, we leave off the verse that tells us exactly that “purpose.”

      For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son. . .

So, on this special day, here are some of my favorite posts on one of my favorite verses:

Christ’s career path: obscurity, popularity, animosity

Coincidences or “God-incidences”?

Did duct-taped recliner save our lives?!

God has a plan for new year

Squeezing Good Out of Bad: excerpt

Top ten things I’ve learned from cancer

Why? Some thoughts on life’s tough questions

Will God’s purpose be accomplished on election day?

Have a happy 8/28!

Copyright © 2015 James N. Watkins

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