For my friends in ministry, are you ready to resign? (Of course you are! It’s Monday.)

Here’s some hope and humor from my friend, Chris Maxwell. He uses the writings of Frederick Buechner, Oswald Chambers, Annie Dillard, Richard Foster, C. S. Lewis, Brennan Manning, Calvin Miller, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson and more to encourage those serving others. I’m part of the “more” in his book, Pause for Pastors: Finding Still Waters in the Storm of Ministry.

So here’s my offering to provide some hope and humor for those “in the storm of ministry” . . .

The Book of Joe

There was a pastor whose name was Joe. He was blameless, upright, feared God, and never lifted his messages from without giving proper attribution.

He had two sons and two daughters who never misbehaved in his growing church of two thousand, and he had just been honored as “Pastor of the Year” by his district.

And behold there came a day when Satan appeared before God, and the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Pastor Joe? For there is no pastor like him in all the land for he is blameless, upright, fearing Me, and never turning in his district reports late.”

And Satan answered God, “Does Pastor Joe fear God for nothing? Have You not blessed his average attendance figures? But cause his offerings to dip and his secretary to run off with the treasurer—and $100,000—and surely he will curse You to Your face.”

And God allowed Satan to test Pastor Joe. And his offerings did dip and his secretary ran off with the treasurer—and $100,000.

Now when three members of the local ministerial association heard of Pastor Joe’s troubles, they stopped by his office to comfort him.

And Pastor Joe wept bitterly and said to his friends, “I should have stayed in business school and become an insurance salesman.”

And the pastor from the First Church of Divine Potential said to Pastor Joe. “You’ve got to keep a positive attitude about all this. Don’t cave into to negative thinking, but envision a bright future for you and your church. If you just believe it, you can achieve it.”

And Pastor Joe wept even more. “But our church is facing scandal and financial ruin.”

And the pastor from the Holy Ghost Revival Tabernacle said to Pastor Joe. “Fa-riend, something lucrative is going to happen to you! Jeee-sus is going to pour out the glorious riches of heaven upon you and your church, but first if you’ll send your seed faith gift to the Holy Ghost Revival Tabernacle. Then, God will multiply your gift a hundred, a thousand times. Just believe it!”

And Pastor Joe dropped his head on his desk top. “But I do believe.”

And the pastor from the Unified Universal Unity Center said to Pastor Joe. “Dude, I’m detecting some really negative energy here. Like, you’ve got to readjust your reality and envision a positive future. I can see it, man! Offerings are up, your secretary is busy typing up Sunday’s bulletin, and the treasurer just discovered an unposted deposit and the church has $100,000 more in the checking account than last reported.”

And Pastor Joe said, “I’m going for a walk.” And he left His comforters.

As he walked, God spoke through the dust devil spiraling across the church parking lot.

“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me.”

“Where were you when I laid the church’s foundation and declared the gates of hell should not prevail against it? Where were you when Rome attempted to wipe out Christianity and itself crumbled and Christians prevailed? Where were you when the Wesleyan revival saved England from a revolution like the one in France? Where were you there when the Puritans and Pilgrims brought Christianity to America?

“Where were you when the Azusa revival birthed the modern charismatic movement? Where were you when I changed lives at the first Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles? Where were you when I inspired contemporary Christian music and the Jesus movement? (Oh, that’s right, you were the one with the peach-fuzz beard and that awful paisley shirt.)”

Then Pastor Joe replied to the Lord, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

And Pastor Joe returned to his church, and his secretary and treasurer—and $100,000—were still gone, but God was there!

Copyright © 2007 James N. Watkins

Related posts for pastors
“The church is a whore”
Do you really want a “biblical” church?
“Cyber church” has bats in belfry
The Watkins New World Church Dictionary
Dealing with church conflict
Top ten signs your church may be prejudiced
A case for women in ministry
Top ten list: When you’re voted out
Wounded shepherd: When is it time to leave the flock?
Considering a post-pastorate career

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Waiting is hard work!

October 1st, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (1 Comments)

Here’s a devo I wrote for the Upper Room‘s 2010 Disciplines book.

Sitting in a “waiting” room mindlessly thumbing through old magazines as you wait for the nurse to call out the name of your sick child. The numbness of waiting for test results that may change your life—or shorten it. Waiting for a teenager to come home—and he’s an hour late. Waiting years for God to bring a prodigal child home.

We’re not alone in our struggles with waiting. Psalm 4 is categorized as an “individual lament,” which make up a full one-third of the book’s content.

Psalmists cry out, “Do not hide your face from your servant; answer me quickly, for I am in trouble” (69:17), “They cried for help, but there was no one to save them—to the LORD, but he did not answer” (Psalm 18:41), “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1).

Commentators suggest Psalms 3 and 4 are written against the background of Absolom’s rebellion against his father David as well as betrayal of some of David?s former supporters who have turned his “glory into shame”?

But the psalmist provides hope and some practical things to do while we wait:

1. Know that the Lord has set us apart as his own

2. Search your heart for any anger or sin related to this waiting period

3. In your anger—or frustration—do not sin

4. Be silent and listen for God’s encouragement and instruction

5. Trust in the Lord

While David is in the midst of conflict, while he is waiting for God to act, he is confident that one day, his heart will be filled with “greater joy.” He will “lie down and sleep in peace,” “For you alone, O LORD make me dwell in safety.”

Prayer: Father, remind us that we are yours and help us to trust in you as we wait for you to act. Help us, by faith, to look forward to a future with “greater joy.”

Copyright © 2010 James N. Watkins

Related sites
God is never late . . . but he sure is slow
Psalm 4



I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten posts from September 2014 (August’s rank)

10. (—) Did duct-taped recliner save our lives? (This post jumped to number 10 in just 18 hours of being posted)

9. (10) Ancient prophet warns of conspiracies

8. (9) Does DNA disprove evolution?

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

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

5. (5) Help for suicidal thoughts

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

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

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

And, the number one post for September 2014:

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


Each morning I read online posts from Oswald Chambers, C.S. Lewis, Streams in the Desert. A.W. Tozer and others. (Any hacker trying to dig up dirt on my Internet browser history is going to be sadly disappointed!)

Today’s devo from Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest was so profound I just had to share it with you—even if it isn’t Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

      We take our own spiritual consecration and try to make it into a call of God, but when we get right with Him He brushes all this aside. Then He gives us a tremendous, riveting pain to fasten our attention on something that we never even dreamed could be His call for us. And for one radiant, flashing moment we see His purpose, and we say, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

      This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, “If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn’t object!” But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed.

      I wonder what finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have you been as hard as a marble and escaped? If you are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you anyway, the wine produced would have been remarkably bitter. To be a holy person means that the elements of our natural life experience the very presence of God as they are providentially broken in His service. We have to be placed into God and brought into agreement with Him before we can be broken bread in His hands. Stay right with God and let Him do as He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children.

Related posts
Finely aged believers
Holy hardships
Squeezing Good Out of Bad

Photo from



My heart still pounds when I think that Lois, our one-year-old daughter and I could have been murdered.

At Saturday’s St. Davids board meeting, Crystal Hayduk mentioned her family is from New Castle, Pennsylvania. I told her, what I thought was a funny story. I was serving as interim pastor at New Castle Wesleyan. Since we were only there for six months, the church had furnished the vacant parsonage with second-hand furniture complete with a recliner repaired with duct tape and a black and white TV with “rabbit ears” (antenna).

We came downstairs one morning to find the back door kicked in, laying on the kitchen floor. I joked, “The burglars must have looked around and thought, Man, there’s nothing in here worth five to ten years for breaking and entering, because not one thing was missing.

Instead of laughing, Crystal eyes widened. “What year were you there?” 1979. Now she looked concerned. “When in 1979?” I think the break-in was January or February. She looked straight into my eyes. “My uncle was shot and killed by burglars in New Castle in the winter of 1979.”

My heart started pounding as I realized—thirty-five years later—the burglars who kicked in our door may have been the very same ones who killed Crystal’s uncle. I’ll never tell that story the same way again. It’s now a shocking reminder that you and I will never know how many times and in how many ways our lives have been spared from accidents, violence and death.

St. Paul writes, “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” (Romans 8:28).*

God may have “worked” a recliner repaired with duct tape and a black and white TV with “rabbit ears” to our ultimate “good.”

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

* This certainly is not to imply that God protects every Christian from every evil, but he does redeem every situation for the ultimate good. With that in mind, here are Some thoughts on life’s tough questions.


True colors shining through

September 24th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Fall is my favorite season with cooler temperatures, fresh cider and spectacular colors!

As the chlorophyll—the green pigment in leaves—drains from trees, we see the true colors of the red and yellow maples, yellows of birch and reddish-purple of dogwoods. Their true colors come shining through in fall.

For that reason, this season always challenges to me to show brighter and bolder colors as I age. I want my “autumn years” to be spectacular! So, here’s what I’m aiming for as God displays His amazing artwork . . .





Poem and photos copyright © 2001 James N. Watkins


A show of hands, please? How many of you have ever claimed this “promise” verse?

      Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
      and your plans will succeed (Proverbs 16:3)

It’s a promise that if we’re “totally committed” to God, our plans will succeed, right?! Well, not if you look at the Hebrew word translated by the New International Version as “succeed.” Kuwn can be translated “to be firm, be stable, be established; be enduring; to be directed aright, be fixed aright, be steadfast (moral sense); to prepare, be ready.”

Success—particularly in the worldly sense of fame and fortune—is not implied. You can be firm, stable, morally steadfast and still not “succeed.” Last year was disastrous for me as far as worldly success: three books going out of print, cancer, losing a big contract because of “radiation retardation,” huge medical bills and all five lottery tickets I received as a Christmas gag gift being losers. Sigh.

But I think my “purpose” (to communicate the gospel of Christ in as effective and creative manner as possible with as many as possible) remained “firm, stable and morally steadfast.”

So, if you’re not having a “successful” week, you’re in good company. Stay firm, stable, established and most of all—endure!

Copyright © 2009 James N. Watkins

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When dreams die . . .


A Texas man was able to get inside the north door of the White House Friday night after jumping a fence and sprinting nearly 200 yards across the North Lawn. This of course sparked security concerns—and material for a top ten list!

So, I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category: Top ten reasons White House door left unlocked. (Thanks to Facebook friends for helping with the list. See winner below.)

10. The First Lady had called out for a tofu and kale pizza.

9. The President ordered a veggie-free pizza (Mark Howe).

8. To relate to U.S. border policy (Michael Wilson).

7. They’ve been away from the Chicago area too long (Lloyd Woodard).

6. Jimmy Johns’ freaky fast delivery (Jerry E. Withers).

5. Someone sneaked out to play golf, go on vacation or have a smoke break? (Mary Scott)

4. The girls were throwing a Frisbee on the lawn earlier and didn’t lock it when they came back in—just like anybody else’s kids (Annie Travis).

3. “Who Let the Dogs Out?!” (Marlene Holdren)

2. The Vice President lost his keys (Lloyd Woodard).

1. “Exit strategy.”

Thanks everyone! And the winner, for providing a truly funny response without offending Democrats, Republicans or Independents: Annie Travis. An e-book of Squeezing Good Out of Bad is on its way, Annie.


With fewer and fewer publishers, producing fewer and fewer books, by fewer and fewer authors, books are extremely hard to break into. But here’s my list I’m sharing at the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference of 25 markets you may not have considered. These allow you to get your message out—without the pain and suffering of writing book proposals and receiving rejection slips:

1. Family and friends
2. Those away from home
3. Political leaders
4. Church leaders, pastors
5. Members of church
6. God

Local church
7. Sermons, talks
8. Direct mail
9. Grants
10. Bulletin material
11. Job descriptions, policies
12. History of church
13. Plays, seasonal programs
14. Curriculum
15. Annual reports

Local papers
16. Letters to the editor
17. Church news

Denominational publications
18. Letters to the editor
19. News releases

Your own publishing company
20. Email newsletters
21. Facebook ‘notes’
22. Website, blog
23. YouTube
24. E-books
25. Print books

Related sites
Hope and humor for writers: a ream of resources on agents, conferences, editorial services, publishing houses, independent publishing and the writer’s life.
So, you want to write a book


God as ‘comedy’ writer

September 17th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

I’m teaching a humor-writing class based on Writing with Banana Peels at the Maranatha Christian Writers Conference. God is the ultimate “comedy” writer as you’ll see in this post from a few years ago:

“So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai” (Esther 7:10a NIV).

Ancient theater was divided into two categories: Comedies and tragedies. In “comic” plays the “good guys” won and lived happily ever after. The “bad guys” got what was coming to them. In “tragic” plays, however, the heroes usually ended up dead—or at least defeated.
We see this in more modern tragedies: Romeo and Juliet didn’t live happily ever after, the faithful dog “Ole Yeller” was shot by the very boy he rescued, and “Doomsday” sent Superman to the super-hero here-after.

The story of Esther, however, is a classic comedy. The evil Haman, a government papyrus pusher, plots to have all the Hebrews killed because Mordecai, a Jew, wouldn’t bow down to him. Haman even builds a gallows for Mordecai. But Queen Esther, unknown to King Xerxes, is a Jew—and the cousin of Mordecai. To make a long story short, the queen reveals her nationality, the Hebrews are saved and Haman is forced to honor Mordecai for an old political favor and eventually swings from his own gallows. It’s a great ancient comedy!

The Christian life is also a comedy. Even though tragic events come upon believers and unbelievers alike—cancer, auto accidents, natural disasters, rape, murder, etc. etc.—Christians know that in the end they will “live happily ever after.” And evil will be dealt with in the final act.

So, while the Christian life may not be one laugh after another, we can be assured that “eternal life” is the final punch line!

“Humor is the not opposite of seriousness. Humor is the opposite of despair.” Conrad Hyers

Copyright © James N. Watkins

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