Hope in a hand basket

December 9th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)


It’s so easy to believe “the world is going to hell in a hand basket.” Just click on your favorite news site for the evidence du jour!

But before you throw your hands up in despair, keep in mind that Christianity flourished during the Roman occupation of Palestine under leaders such as Nero. The Romans would make our culture look like a Sunday school picnic.

The human leader, Caesar, was considered just one of the morally-challenged gods who were to be worshiped under the threat of death.

Children had no inherent value to the Roman culture. After birth, a midwife would place a newborn baby on the ground. If the head of the family deemed it worthy of life, he would pick it up announcing that the baby was accepted into the family. If the newborn was deformed or it was deemed that the family could not support another child, it would be “exposed”—deliberately abandoned in a specific area where it would either die of exposure or be picked up and sold by a slave trader.

Roman conquests and the importation of slave labor, had created a huge gulf between the rich and the poor who were forced into slavery because of debt or for being unemployable such as the ill or disabled. Slaves were often worked to death in physical labor or killed as entertainment in the arenas. None had any legal rights and were viewed simply as “property. Orphaned children also were forced into the slave market. Women were designed as “chattel”—a man’s personal possession.

Secular history records Roman men were free to enjoy sex with other males without any loss of masculinity or social status as long as they took the dominant role. Acceptable male partners were slaves, prostitutes, entertainers and others in the infamia class who had no legal protection. It was not uncommon for a husband to have both a wife and a concubinus: a young male slave exploited as a submissive sexual partner. Many believed, “Women are for babies. Boys are for pleasure.”

And of course, our violent video games pale in comparison with the to-the-death gladiator contests as well as slaves being fed to wild animals. Historians estimate between a half-million and 2.5 million gladiators were killed along with more than 1 million exotic animals.

Into this hellish hand basket came Jesus in a manger.

      The light shines in the darkness,
      and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:5).

In three hundred years, the Roman Empire would completely collapse and Christianity would spread to the entire known world.

Light always shines brightest in the darkest night.

We have seen this light during the English revivals during the brutal poverty, crime and child exploitation described by Charles Dickens.

Even as the Communist Chinese government cracks down on faith communities, Christianity continues to grow rapidly in the People’s Republic. Fenggang Yang, a professor of sociology at Purdue University, claims “By my calculations China is destined to become the largest Christian country in the world very soon.” He continues, “Mao thought he could eliminate religion. He thought he had accomplished this. [He] actually failed completely.”

So, while it may seem like our world is going to hell in a hand basket, there is much hope to hang onto.

      We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

      What we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are.

      With eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.

      For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us. We were given this hope when we were saved (Romans 8:18-24).

      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, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

If you found this post hopeful, please share it on your social networks. Thanks!

buttenhancer
I have in my right hand, direct from the Sky Mall catalog, today’s category: Top ten things I do not want for Christmas

10. Sippy Wine Glass ($19.95) “When standing and noshing, juggling a wine glass can be challenging. Enter this acrylic wine glass with a no-spill sippy lid.” [Perfect for the tipsy toddler.]

9. Darth Vader Toaster ($44.95) “Butter your toast on the ‘dark side.’ Make toast and marvel at the Star Wars logo branded into it.” [More dollars than sense you have, yes?]

8. Relaxing MagicShowerhead ($59.99) “Enliven your daily shower experience by transforming your regular shower into a fountain of brilliant fun. Illuminates the shower water producing a variety of changing colors.” [Far out, man!]

7. Outdoor Dog Chaise Lounger ($249) “Designed with a built-in, overhanging shade for those days your dog just wants to cool off.”

6. Fyxation Leather Six-Pack Caddy ($59.99) “This full grain leather beer caddy conveniently fastens to your bike.” [Don’t drink and bike!]

5. Bacon Jams Sampler ($39.99) “Pack of three features All-Original, Red Chili & Garlic and Black Pepper”

4. Toilet Lid Photo Frame ($49.99) “Display your favorite 8 x 10 photo on this tough white plastic and clear acrylic bathroom essential. Lid fits all toilets or mounts to bathroom wall.” [Pooparazzi pics?]

3. The Wordsmith’s Manual Typewriter ($249.95) “This is the manual typewriter that recalls the thoughtful, well-written correspondence of yesteryears. Devoid of technological crutches such as spell-check and deletion.” [The perfect gift for the Luddite on your list!]

2. Tikker ($79.99) “A wristwatch that counts down your life. Using statistics and a personal health algorithm, your average life expectancy is calculated. The countdown begins, from years to seconds.” [As if aging isn’t depressing enough!]

1. Leo Men’s Padded Butt Enhanced Brief ($35) “All the benefits of a regular brief, but with removable contour padding and a special design to lift your butt.” [How many of those tiny bottles of airline liquor do you need to drink to think this is a good idea?!]

We report. You shake your head.

I am so grateful for gifts I don’t have to return or exchange. (I certainly do not need Padded Butt Enhanced Briefs!) Jesus, however, offers this gift:

      “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 17:27).

I pray that during the hustle and bustle of gift buying, you remember the gift of Christ’s peace of mind and heart. (You won’t find that in Skymall!)

Copyright © 2014 James N. Watkins

Just for fun, I added one fake product. Can you tell which one is totally made up? (And, yes, there’s just one) Leave your guess in the comment box below. First correct guess wins a free book.

And the winner is . . . Jody Moreen who was first to correctly identify the one fake: Toilet Lid Photo Frame. A copy of Squeezing Good Out of Bad is on it’s way to you, Jody.

Related site
The Twelve Sites of Christmas

Thanksgiving cartoons

November 25th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Wishing you a wonderful time of Thanksgiving with family and friends. Here are my favorite cartoons for this wonderful time of the year:

Feel free to right click and save any of these cartoons to use on your site or newsletters or wherever. And you’re welcome to repost any of my columns. Just be sure to include: © Copyright James N. Watkins. All rights reserved. www.jameswatkins.com Thanks!

And for more thanks giving, visit my Thanksgiving issue.


It’s a real pleasure to introduce today’s guest poster: Louise Looney. We collaborated on this warm, witty and wise book for those over 40.

Louise is warm, witty and wise. I’m simply witty—I hope—with my one-liners on aging sprinkled throughout the book. It would make a great Christmas gift for the AARP members on your list. Order at amazon.com. Here’s an excerpt:

Lasting beauty

It was easier keeping my chin up when I had just one! JNW

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 . . . the things we can’t see now will last forever.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 MSG

In Ecclesiastes chapter twelve, Solomon lists a number of things that begin to go wrong as a person gets older. As I struggled with Solomon’s unwelcomed input, I felt a tap on my shoulder and a gentle whisper caused me to snap to attention. Solomon’s observations are real possibilities, but he addressed issues that apply to the physical body. If you’re willing to go deeper, you’ll find that as the outer shell begins to wear out, I’m creating an incredible inner man that will never grow old. I knew the Lord was reminding me that this new body was a marvel He designed to last throughout all eternity.

My heart beat faster. A tingle went up my spine as I contemplated the depth and breadth of this miraculous plan God has to transform us—from the inside out.

This thought reassured me: The Lord is creating a vibrant new life inside—where real beauty counts and is being nurtured within the spirit of man. Even now, it’s sprouting wings that will fly forever throughout the heavens.

Prayer: Lord, transform us from the inside out. Start with our hearts. Let them beat in sync with Your heart of love.

Question: How can you begin to search for new meaning for this period of life?

Copyright © 2014 Louise L. Looney and James N. Watkins

Hope . . . 70 years later!

November 11th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

Jeremiah2

Many of my friends claim the following verse as one of their favorite biblical promises:

      “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).

What many don’t realize is that this promise was pronounced before Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians and its residents taken away into exile for 70 years!

God is promising Jeremiah, in the preceding verse, “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.”

In our instant “New York minute” microwave world, waiting 70 years for God to answer prayer seems like an eternity. But God promises in verses 12-13: “In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.”

During those 70 years, God promises to be with His people. And that is the real promise here. Whether we are facing “good” or seeming “disaster,” we have “a future and a hope.” We have His presence!

Copyright © 2000 James N. Watkins

Related posts
God is never late—but He sure is slow
Waiting is hard work

Painting: Rembrandt’s Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem

willwriteforfood2014

It’s a joy to be teaching and meeting authors at the Heart of America Christian Writers’ Conference in Overland, Kansas. Here are the notes from my seminars:

Communicate to Change Lives
From my books on biblical and behavioral principles for changing lives in person and in print

Confessions of an Author and Speaker
A shocking expose’ of the writing life

Taking Word to World Wide Web
Planning, producing and promoting your web site or blog

Twenty-five Rejection-Proof Markets
Change lives with your writing without those annoying rejection slips

Keeping Your Dreams Alive (Closing keynote)
Hope and humor for writers in the pit, prison or palace

And here’s a link to a ream full of writers’ resources:

Hope and humor for writers


Just in time for Halloween, NBC is introducing Constantine, a modern day “demon hunter.” Here’s how they’re promoting it online:

      Based on the wildly popular comic book series “Hellblazer” from DC Comics, seasoned demon hunter and master of the occult John Constantine (Matt Ryan, “Criminal Minds”) is armed with a ferocious knowledge of the dark arts and a wickedly naughty wit. He fights the good fight—or at least he did. With his soul already damned to hell, he’s decided to abandon his campaign against evil until a series of events thrusts him back into the fray, and he’ll do whatever it takes to protect the innocent.

It premiers tonight, so—disclaimer—I haven’t seen it, but judging by the official promo it’s not at all realistic. So, two comments:

1. Jesus and Paul both teach that you can’t fight evil with evil.

      One day Jesus cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak, and when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed, but some of them said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

      He knew their thoughts, so he said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive? And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said (Luke 11:14-19).

2. Demons are not comic book characters or movie villains

As I mention in my The Why Files series, demons are real. They are fallen angels intent on destroying humans through overt actions (the highly publicized stories of possession), but mostly through extremely subtle, unseen tactics to turn the hearts of men and women away from God. Here’s my chapter on Demons: Possession or Obsession?.

Please read it before seeing the latest TV show, movie or book featuring demons. They’re simply not realistic!

Copyright © James N. Watkins

Photo from The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the only Hollywood film on demons I would recommend. Not perfect, but well-done—and realistic.


Twenty-nine-year-old Brittany Maynard plans to die on Saturday, November 1, 2014.

Maynard was diagnosed with grade II Astrocytoma, a severe brain tumor. It quickly progressed to Glioblastoma multiforme, the deadliest form of brain cancer. Now she has announced she will take her own life under Oregon’s “death with dignity” law in just ten days.

In 2000, I addressed the student body of Indiana Wesleyan University with a talk based on my book The Why Files: Is There Really Life After Death?. Please consider it carefully if you or a loved one is thinking about taking his or her own life.


I just finished a three-book series on sex, death, and the supernatural. So, I’ve learned more than I really want to know about feminine hygiene products, embalming bodies, and seances. That’s why Dr. Swyers asked me to speak on euthanasia.

First, let’s define terms.

Simply refusing “extraordinary” medical care is not euthanasia.

Joni Earekson Tada, who has been paralyzed from the neck down for most for life, asls “Does the medical treatment offered extend life, or simply prolong death? Good question when facing a terminal illness.

I quote Ron Sloan, a family medicine doctor, in my book

      Part of my practice in helping people die, as well as helping people live. I don’t put people on medications I know won’t help them. I don’t put people on ventilators who aren’t doing to be helped by them.

Assisted suicide is very different.

      A non-suicidal person knowingly and intentionally provides the means or acts in some way to help a suicidal person kill him- or herself.

Dr. Jack Kervorkian is the “poster child” for assisted suicide. He provides all the means for death, but the suicidal person actually turns on the gas or triggers the delivery of deadly drugs.

Euthanasia

      One person does something that directly kills another. For example, a doctor gives a lethal injection to the patient.

For today, I’m going to lump both together and refer to them both as euthanasia. Both intentionally make people die, rather than allowing them to die naturally. So, here are my two points, if you’re taking notes:

1. Death is bad

2. Life is good

That didn’t take long! Maybe I ought to elaborate

Death is bad

Supporters of euthanasia talk about death as—and I’m not making these up—”deliverance, ” “aid-in-dying, ” “gentle landing,” and “embraced by the light”

But no where in the Bible—from Genesis to maps—is death glorified.

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:26:

      The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” In verses 54-55, “When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Life is good

Paul seems to imply in Philippians 1:21-26, that life here on earth is good—even though life in heaven with Christ is obviously much better:

      For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

Keep in mind that Paul is in prison—which is not the modern Grant County Jail, but basically a hole in the ground with bars—under Roman oppression, during persecution of the church, in the First Century where nearly half the population were slaves, and many died before their first birthday. Also a time filled with leprosy, malaria, small pox, and more. And, most of all, no Internet service!

But there is something inherently good about life!

Why else would Jesus and His disciples raise people from the dead? Lazarus has been enjoying release from First Century disease and political corruption for three days when Jesus commands, “Lazarus, you come back here!” If earthly life was something merely to be endured until we could enjoy health and life in heaven, then it seems absolutely cruel for Christ to bring the dead back to this “veil of tears.”

Part of the reason, of course, was for Jesus to prove His divinity, but I think a part of it, was that Mary and Martha needed their brother and that his divine purpose had not yet been accomplished. It was more important that—for now—he be on earth rather than in heaven.

So, what are some practical implications?

No one can say for sure who “terminal”

When I interviewed Dr. Sloan, he admitted:

      You can have a patient who has all the symptoms [of near death], and they’ll walk out of the hospital a week later. You can have a cancer patient that you expect to live less than six months, and six years later you’re still doing their annual examinations. Or worse, you tell someone they’re perfectly healthy, and a few days later they’re face up in a flowerbed from a fatal heart attack.

Proponents of euthanasia want to expand reasons for killing one’s self or others.

For example, when he spoke to the National Press Club in 1992, Jack Kevorkian said that a terminal illness was “any disease that curtails life even for a day.” (Yikes, final exams take curtail your life for longer than that!)

The co-founder of the Hemlock Society often refers to “terminal old age.”

Instead of using the word “terminal” euthanasia advocates are replacing it with “hopelessly ill,” “desperately ill,” “incurably ill,” “hopeless condition,” and “meaningless life.”

An article in the journal, Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, described “hopeless condition” as severe physical or psychological pain, physical or mental debilitation or deterioration, or “a quality of life that is no longer acceptable to the individual.”

In a May 1996 speech to the American Psychiatric Association, George Delury (who assisted in the 1995 death of his wife who had multiple sclerosis) suggested that “hopelessly ill people or people past age sixty just apply for a license to die”

Hey, wait just a minute! I’m just twelve years from the big 6-0!

Severe pain is longer a reason for euthanasia

Anyone had a kidney stone? To understand the pain, lie in the parking lot and have your friends drive over your lower back . . . with a bus . . . with snow chains . . . filled with people on their way to Weight Watchers. It took three surgeries in two hospitals over one whole month to remove that stubborn stone. If Dr. Kervorkina would have walked in as I crying out to the Lord, I probably would have screamed, “Shooooow meeeee the monoxide!”

I’m not afraid of dying, but I am afraid of pain! I don’t buy this “No pain, no gain” stuff. My philosophy is “No pain, no ‘ow-ie’.” Euthanasia activists exploit that fear and imply that when cure is no longer likely, there are only two alternatives: euthanasia or unbearable pain. An official of Choice in Dying said refusing to permit euthanasia “would, in fact, be to abandon the patient to a horrifying death.”

However, today, pain control is available. For instance, once the doctor confirmed my kidney stone, they put me on a morphine pump with a “Jeopardy” style button I could push whenever I was in pain. “I’ll take Demerol for $100, Alex.” I was absolutely pain free.

I’m so glad Dr. Kervorkian wasn’t on call at the McCray Emergency room on November 15, 1991. I would have never seen Faith graduate from high school. I would have never seen her become engaged. And I wouldn’t have been around to walk her down the aisle May 6. Which brings up an issue . . .

Euthanasia is a permanent solution for what may be a temporary situation

After the Bible’s Job lost his health, wealth, and family, he seemed suicidal or at least stinkin’ depressed.

      After this, Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said, ‘A boy is born!’ That day—may it turn to darkness; may God above not care about it; may no light shine upon it.

Phyllis Diller, the comedian, requested help in killing herself until her painful illness was cured.

A request for assisted suicide is typically a cry for help. And it’s usually temporary. Of those who attempt suicide but are stopped, less than 4 percent go on to kill themselves in the next five years; less than 11 percent will commit suicide over the next 35 years.

In another study, of the 24 percent of terminally ill patients who desired death, all had clinical depression which was treatable.

Euthanasia may be offered to cut rising health care costs

In the United States, thousands of people have no medical insurance. Doctors could find themselves far better off financially if a seriously ill or disabled person “chose” to die rather than receive long-term care.

Savings to the government may also become a consideration. For example, immediately after the passage of Measure 16, Oregon’s law permitting assisted suicide, Jean Thorne, the state’s Medicaid Director, announced that physician-assisted suicide would be paid for as “comfort care.

      Euthanasia is not about giving rights to the person who dies but, instead, is about changing the law and public policy so that doctors, relatives and others can directly and intentionally end another person’s life. This change wouldn’t give rights to the person who is killed, but to the person who does the killing.

      In other words, euthanasia is not about the right to die. It’s about the right to kill.

In the Netherlands, is not “legal” per se, but neither is it prosecuted. According to reports, 5,000 doctor assisted deaths occur each year. One report claims that many of those deaths are of “non-terminal” patients “mental illness, permanent disability, and even simple old age”

And one half of that number is “nonvoluntary

So, what can we do?

First, become educated on the subject and speak out against it. The best way for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing. There are several good anti-euthanasia sites on the Internet. (Quotes not cited in this articles are taken from euthanasia.com.)

Secondly, on controversial issues such as abortion, capital punishment, or euthanasia, when in doubt choose life. You won’t go wrong!

I think I could humanly justify euthanasia for my 91-year-old grandmother. She’s in a foster home with a constant case of diarrhea and bladder-control problems, and has congestive heart failure, mini strokes, and kidney failure. She can’t walk without assistance. She spends twelve hours in bed at night and twelve hours sitting in her LazyBoy recliner during the day watching game shows. (How much “Wheel of Fortune” can a person take?) And, she wants to die. So, because I love her so much, sometimes I’d like to see her die as well.

But that’s from a human perspective. Thomas Aquinas—way back in the 1200’s—opposed the taking of one’s own life because . . .

1. . . . it violates one’s natural desire to live

2. . . . it harms other people

3. . . . life is the gift of God and is thus only to be taken by God.

It’s still good reasoning for the year 2000.

Note
Brittany did take her own life on November 1, 2014.

Related posts
Dealing with impending death
Help for suicidal thoughts
Your may be depressed if . . .

Hope, humor and Halloween

October 20th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

It’s October, and that means it’s time for my annual look at ghosts, witches, wizards, psychics, demons, talking to the dead and other really scary stuff! Plus, I stir the cauldron by asking, “Should Christians celebrate Halloween? (And, yes, that’s moi chasing grandkids through a cornfield as “Corn Stalker.” It’s what we do in Corn Borer, Indiana.) So, in alphabetical order:

Are demons, exorcisms real?

Are there really ghosts?

Harry Potter: the good, the bad, the muggly

Ouija: It’s not just a game

Psychic secrets revealed

Should Christians celebrate Halloween?

Talking to the dead

Top ten reasons Halloween is a strange holiday

The Why Files: My book on the supernatural

Which witch is which?

Copyright © James N. Watkins

Keep your back to the future

October 15th, 2014 | Posted by jameswatkins in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

BackToTheFuture

I love the Back to the Future films as Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel through time in their tricked-out DeLorean. But the title provides some helpful advice as we try to navigate our way into the future.

Since we can’t see one single nanosecond into the future, we back into the future, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have direction. I love what Philip Yancey writes in the booklet Guidance (Multnomah, 1983):

      I had always thought of guidance as forward-looking. We keep praying, hoping, counting on God to reveal what we should do next. In my own experience, at least, I have found the direction to be reversed.

      For me, guidance becomes clear only as I look backward. At the moment, my future is a big blur. Guidance becomes evident only when I look back, months and years later. Then the circuitous process falls into place and the hand of God seems clear. But at the moment of decision, I feel mainly confusion and uncertainty

Like Yancey, I have to look back to see the future. Let me chart it out. I’ve done a lot of different things. Everything from performing magic at events to being a hair model at beauty seminars to putting raisins in Raisin Bran to writing and speaking. But there seems to be a trajectory, a linear pattern.

BackToTheFuture2

Writing and speaking keep showing up throughout my life. So, as I back into the future, I can line up where I seem to be headed by the stakes of the past.

Not looking forward does not mean not moving. It simply acknowledges we can’t see the future. But by looking back at what seems to have worked in the past and the present—and which God seems to be blessing—we can move forward in the right direction, even if we can’t see what’s ahead. So keep your back to the future—but keeping moving!

Related posts
God’s will is not lost: for those trying to find it