Author Tony Campolo’s most famous message declares, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’.” But what happens when it’s Sunday and we’re still facing death and despair?

Jesus has been unjustly charged and condemned to die. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. The religious and political tyrants have stopped His rebellious message. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. He has been brutally beaten, stripped, and nailed to a cross. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’. Christ is sealed in a tomb, his dead body guarded by Roman soldiers. It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.

The message builds to a powerful conclusion when the pastor simply shouts, “It’s Friday!” and the congregation responds, “But Sunday’s comin’.

But . . .

It’s Sunday in the United States and 4,000 unborn children will be aborted tomorrow. One out of four children will be sexually or physically abused. Five thousand teens will attempt suicide; thirteen will succeed. Sixteen young adults will be murdered. Over two thousand unmarried teens will get pregnant.

It’s Sunday in the United States and this weekend, five thousand parents will tell their children they’re divorcing. One out of every twenty adults will not have a job to go to tomorrow. Over 85,000 people will die. Out of that number, 17,000 will die of some kind of cancer.

It may be Easter Sunday, but throughout the world, people in the pews are still dealing with the effects of abuse and divorce, crime and violence, life-threatening diseases, unemployment or “under employment,” depression, and grief from a the loss of a loved one.

In fact, holidays have a way of compounding a sense of loss. Perhaps there will be one less person at Easter dinner because of a death or divorce. Maybe there is less on the table because of financial pressures.

“It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin'” is not always comforting. But that’s only half of the story of Christ. The Bible’s book of Revelation, chapter 19, provides, the rest of the promise:

It’s Sunday, but Jesus is coming!

It’s Sunday. Environmentalist warn of “global warming,” acid rain. depletion of the ozone layer, and carcinogens in our food, but Jesus is coming!

      Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . .

It’s Sunday. Political unrest and corruption affects virtually every country. Christians are oppressed, persecuted, and executed by ungodly governments, but Jesus is coming!

      With justice he judges and makes war. . . . On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

It’s Sunday. Today, two billion people throughout the world will go to bed hungry. Millions throughout the world are suffering from abuse and illness. Many more millions are grieving the loss of loved ones, but Jesus is coming!

      He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.

It’s Sunday. Unfortunately the actual celebration of Easter may distract us from the very Christ we honor by practicing for cantatas, buying new clothes, and preparing Sunday dinners, but Jesus is coming!

      And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be will be with them and be their God.

This certainly doesn’t mean we shut our eyes to the suffering around us. God commands us to do everything in our human power to relieve suffering and to work for justice for all.

But the good news of Easter goes beyond “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.”

It’s Sunday, but Jesus is coming!

Copyright © 1995 James N. Watkins

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Here are two of my favorite cartoons for Good Friday:

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(Click for more cartoons.)

And, my favorite Good Friday post:

“It is finished”? (It seems a strange claim to make before His resurrection!)

But wait, there’s more! Click here for my favorite Easter articles and humor columns.

Have a meaningful Easter weekend!
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Knowing who we are

April 16th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


Jesus certainly practiced what He preached.

Mark 9 records the disciples arguing over which of them was the greatest.

      Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

Throughout His ministry, Jesus exhibited servanthood, but never more than on the night He was betrayed:

      It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love (John 13:1).

Jesus is going to be arrested, unjustly condemned and cruelly executed within hours. He had every right to think of His own physical and emotional needs and expect His disciples to minister to Him. Instead, He stripped down to His tunic and washed the feet of the man who would soon betray Him, the man who would deny Him three times, and the ten others who would desert Him in His hour of need.

How could Jesus possibly do this? The key is that “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power.” Jesus knew who He was. He didn’t have to prove His power and authority by demanding honor and praise from men. He knew He was the very Son of God and that performing menial tasks—like washing dirty feet—didn’t change His status. It takes power to be a servant; strength to be gentle. (A powerless person doesn’t serve but subjugates himself.) And Jesus proved to be a powerful servant as Paul writes:

      [Jesus] made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant . . . becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:7-8).

If we are trying to prove our value or status, it will be difficult to truly serve. But if we believe we the Father’s beloved children, it will be easier to serve, since we have nothing to prove.

Copyright © James N. Watkins

Related posts Hope and humor for Easter

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‘Don’t be afraid!’

April 12th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (4 Comments)


Are you going through a dark and stormy night?

      When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, and they entered into the boat, and were going over the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them. The sea was tossed by a great wind blowing. When therefore they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty stadia, they saw Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing near to the boat; and they were afraid. But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat. Immediately the boat was at the land where they were going (John 6:16-21).

How many times are we frightened by something drawing near in the dark? And then we discover . . . it’s Jesus! How much of what we fear in life is actually Jesus working in our lives? Difficult circumstances? Broken relationships? Illness? [Fill in the blank]? Are we willing to receive Jesus into our boat? And to trust him that he will safely take us where we are going?

Jesus, be with my friends who are facing a dark and stormy night physically, spiritually, financially or relationally. May they hear you say, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Help them to sense that you are with them in the middle of this storm. And guide them safely to the place he would have them to go.

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

Photo: Fanzug.com

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handgrenadehangnail-small
In Squeezing Good Out of Bad, I include a top ten list of ways to deal with life’s lemons:

10. Don’t confuse them with hand grenades (Identify the problem)

It’s sometimes helpful to put everything in perspective. Is this truly a hand grenade or is it more in the category of a hangnail?

For instance, ask yourself, would I trade this problem in on a hangnail? How ’bout a headache? Harmonica concert? Hernia? Hair loss? Holdup? Hurricane? Hand grenade?

In the grand scheme of life, most “problems” are somewhere between harmonica concert and hernia. But I would have traded some hand grenade shrapnel for the restoration of a broken relationship or miraculous resurrection of a loved one.

Mostly, though, my problems are somewhere between a really bad hangnail and a mild headache. I’ve had very few “hand grenades” in my life. We can look at each lemon of life as a hand grenade that threatens to destroy us or as fruitful experiences that prompt us to grow emotionally, spiritually, and mentally.

So, today, put it in perspective.

(And—shameless self-promotion— click to buy a copy.)

Photo from www.tfw2005.com

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Fiction writing follows a rather rigid formula called the “story arc.” Here’s how Nancy Lynn McLane plots it:

      1. Defining event: must be something the character cares about

      2. Raise the stakes: the call to action; the character tries to resist

      3. Rising action: pulls the character into the activities

      4. No turning back: must resolve problem; can’t get around it

      5. Exceptional event: character is over his/her head, although actions may appear successful

      6. Dark moment: all seems lost or moral dilemma demands a choice; character must sacrifice

      7. Climax/resolution: the final confrontation: problem/obstacle is overcome or resolved; loose ends tied up.

Real life often follows that very same pattern. We see it the life of Bible characters.

Moses’ “defining event” was seeing a fellow Israelite being abused by an Egyptian slave master. Joseph had an amazing dream. Jesus’ disciples were called to follow Him.

We see God “raise the stakes” with Moses as, forty years later, He confronts the exiled shepherd with the burning bush—to which Moses resists with a multitude of excuses. Joseph is over-powered and sold into slavery. The disciples leave their fishing nets and tax collecting business behind.

“Rising action” occurs as Moses finally agrees to go before the mighty Pharaoh and demand, “Set my people free.” Joseph is put to work in Potifer’s Egyptian household. Jesus commissions the disciples to share the good news of the coming kingdom.

Now there’s “no turning back.” Once you’ve stood before Pharaoh and thrown down the gauntlet—actually, the rod which turns into a snake—you’re committed. Joseph is thrown in jail with no hope of returning to his home. And the disciples, especially Peter, has vowed to die for Jesus.

The Nile turning to blood, along with nine other supernatural plagues, are certainly “exceptional” events—way beyond Moses’ abilities. God provides Joseph with additional dreams that he hopes will win his release. And Jesus’ miraculous transformation before Peter, James and John definitely qualifies!

Then comes the “dark moment”! Moses and the Israelites are released from captivity, only to find themselves between a rock and two hard places: a sea and the Egyptian army sent to destroy them. The released jail mate, doesn’t bother to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph’s prophetic powers and he remains in jail And, of course, Jesus is crucified and His disciples scattered.

But there’s always a dramatic “climax/resolution.” (God is such a drama king!) The Red Sea opens up. Joseph is released and appointed second in command of Egypt. And Jesus rises from the dead! Now that’s climatic!

So where are you in your life story’s story arc? Trust that the plot will play out with God’s climax/resolution.

Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins

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In an action/adventure film, the hero never defuses the bomb with one hour to spare. Not even one minute. It’s always less than one second! (And, of course, the agonizing decision as to whether to cut the red or blue wire.)

That’s just good script writing. Ratchet up the conflict to the breaking point, then resolve the imminent, inevitable disaster with just a split second remaining. Or, in the case of Speed, resolve the conflict (hero, heroine and passengers are safely off the bomb-laden bus) and then throw in an entirely new conflict (heroine is now strapped into bomb-laden vest)!

God, the “author and finisher of our faith,” is the ultimate script writer!

Gideon’s “army” of three hundred men takes on the enemy army of 100 thousand—with pots, torches and trumpets.

The Israelites don’t simply stroll out of Egypt. They’re trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

The three Hebrew young men don’t talk their way out of the fiery furnace. Daniel doesn’t have his sentence of the lion’s den appealed. They’re all tossed right in.

Jesus ignores Mary and Martha’s plea to heal their brother. When Jesus finally arrives, Lazarus has been dead and buried for four days.

With dramatic flair, Gideon triumphs. The Israelites walk through the Red Sea on dry land while the Egyptian army drowns. Daniel and his friends miraculously survive their sentences, while their enemies are tossed to the lions and furnace. Lazarus walks out of the tomb.

What drama are you facing? Does a resolution of the conflict seem impossible? Keep in mind that God loves drama. Just before Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, He explains the reason for His last-second resolutions of conflict: to “see the glory of God” (John 11:40).

And, like Speed, the resolution may be followed by an even greater conflict. (Right now, I feel as if I’m strapped in a bomb-laden vest with the timer reading 00:00:01. Thanks for your prayers!)

But through it all, believers are promised to see God’s glory! In fiction and scriptwriting it’s called Deus ex machina—god out of the machine—a miraculous conflict resolution that can only be explained by, well, a miracle from God. God is such a “drama king.”

So, after we have done our best to defuse life’s challenges, try to ignore that ticking sound and pray for a dramatic, divine ending.

Click for God is such a drama king: part 2

Copyright © 2011 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved

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God is such a “drama king” Part 2

Photo from Speed

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I have in my right hand, direct from my home office in Corn Borer, Indiana, today’s category:

Seriously, though, I did try to give up dark chocolate for the 40-plus days leading up to Easter. It was an agonizing 40 minutes! This year, I’m attempting to give up something even more near and dear to me: fear.

As a self-employed freelance writer, speaker, editor and college instructor, fear has been a constant companion. In Freelance Land, it’s always “feast or famine”! So, while fear is an occupational hazard, Jesus claims it’s a spiritual hazard. Twenty-one times, the Gospels record Jesus telling His followers to “not be afraid” or “not fear” or “have courage” or “take heart” or “be of good cheer.” Twenty-one times! The “Greatest Commandment” to love God and our neighbors only gets eight mentions. So, by numbers alone, “fear not” is also a pretty great commandment.

Fear indicates I’m not trusting God

Jesus teaches:

      “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them” (Matthew 5:28-32).

Fear requires as much effort as trust

Fear is an emotional black hole that attempts to not only swallow up peace and joy, but energy and creativity. So, I’m trying to expend my energy on trust rather than fear, since both require the same effort.

Fear borrows trouble from tomorrow

      “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 5:34).

Tomorrow, it looks like I don’t have any paying work. Today, however, I have meaningful work. Today I have money in the bank and bills are paid. Today I’m healthy.

One of the best pieces of advice for the best-selling book Jesus Calling is to keep the door to tomorrow shut tight.

So, for Lent, I’m giving up fear. It’s going to be harder than giving up dark chocolate, but I’m praying for God’s strength and grace to give it up for forty-plus days. And, hopefully, make it a life-long lifestyle.

Copyright © 2010 James N. Watkins. All rights reserved

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‘Upgrading’ Hope&Humor

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

websiteevolution

Happy anniversary!

On April 12, I’ll celebrate 17 years online. Over three million guests from over 120 countries have accessed over 350 articles, book excerpts, cartoons, original music and videos.

However, 17 years in Internet time is 17 million years! So, it’s time to “upgrade” to a new look and platform. My current site looks like a scene from “Hoarders,” so hopefully this format will be easier to navigate with everything easy to find and always up to date. And you can now comment on each post and page. (Right now, I’ve updated and posted the 50 most popular pages from the last several years. Some pages did seem 17 million years old!)

Help spread the encouraging word

You can help spread the hope and humor by telling your online friends about www.jameswatkins.com (same address as before), post a recommendation on Facebook and Twitter, as well as following new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the RSS feed to the right. And if you find any glitches, leave a comment and I’ll fix it right away.

You can also click to provide a tax-deductible donation to the cause of hope and humor.

Thanks for seventeen years of following hope and humor!

“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well” (3 John 2).
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