Guest Post by James Watkins: Why? Why? Why?

A three-year-old’s favorite word is why.

“Johnny, hold my hand while we cross the street.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t want you to run out in front of a car.”

“Why?”

“Because if a car hits you, you’ll be hurt or killed.”

“Why?”

“Because if it’s a contest between a thirty-five-pound boy and an SUV, the three-ton vehicle is going to win every time.”

“Why?”

“Because the laws of physics state that mass plus momentum equals—Just take my hand, Johnnie!”

And on it goes—right into adulthood!

Why didn’t God heal my friend?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do I still have acne at 60?

But like the popular game show, Jeopardy, the answers are often in the form of a question.

 

What can I know?

I can know the truth of Romans 8:28:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (NIV).

For instance, our group health insurance had very few maternity benefits, but had great “major medical” coverage. At the birth of our first child, my wife had complications and spent five days in Intensive Care. But, because the birth was now “major medical,” every penny of our daughter’s birth was covered. Sitting in ICU for five days waiting to know if my wife was going live or die was not good, but it did work for good.

However, it took me nearly thirty years to realize that Romans 8:28’s “purpose” is revealed in the following—and usually ignored—verse:

. . . to be conformed to the likeness of his Son. . . .

I may never know the answer to why, but I can know what is the purpose to which God is working all for our good. To be like Jesus! If you look for it, you’ll find throughout the New Testament. For instance:

 

And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image (2 Corinthians 3:18b, author’s emphasis).

 

How can I grow?

Jesus promises . . .

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit” (John 15:1, 4-5 NLT).

Our spiritual lives depend on this intimate connection with Christ. His life flows into and through us causing us to become organically one with his character. That connection is strengthened through prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with other believers. And suffering!

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:8-10 NLT, author’s emphasis).

When I think back to my “successful” years—award-winning author and editor, world-traveling conference speaker, denominational executive, and co-pastor of a growing church—I certainly didn’t resemble the Christ I was trying to follow. It has only been during my “failure” years—years between book contracts, estranged relationships, being voted out of a church, and having to borrow money to make a living writing and speaking—that I have come to derive my self-identity and self-worth from simply being a loved child of God.

Who can I show?

Finally, 2 Corinthians 1:3-6 has become one of my favorite passages in encouraging me while I’m going through terrible times:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer (NLT).

I now believe that God is more than willing to answer those questions and how they relate to living a life conformed to the image of His Son. Even why I still suffer from acne!

From God, I Don’t Understand, Copyright 2017, 2019 James N. Watkins. Available at Amazon.

Jim is an award-winning author of over 20 books and 2,000 articles, who has spoken across the United States and overseas. He has served as an editor and editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House, an editor with the American Bible Society, taught writing at Taylor University for 15 years, and has guest-lectured at Liberty, Regent and other universities. He is currently writing and speaking full-time as well as consulting in book development. His most important roles, however, are being a child of God, husband, dad and “papaw.”

*The new issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out last week. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

Our Continuing Debt of Love

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another . . .” Romans 13:8 NIV

Sometimes as I’m reading the Bible a verse will capture my attention, leaving a deep impression on me and a desire to share it with you. The above scripture is just such a verse. Read it again carefully and let the words sink in.

Loving others is a debt we’re never to fully pay. As followers of Christ, we’re always to be about the business of love, continually making payments on our debt of love.

So let’s ask ourselves what payments we have made lately. How have we shown kindness, acceptance, forgiveness, unselfishness, grace, compassion, or affection? How have we loved one another?

More importantly, how will we pay our debt of love from this moment on? If you feel like you’ve fallen short in the past (and who doesn’t), no worries. Remember, it’s a lifetime mission. And there’s no better time than now to start making regular payments. Let’s be about the business of love!

“‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.’” John 15:12 NIV

*To whom can you show God’s love today?

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early November. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Starbucks and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by seyed mostafa zamaniCreative Commons License

Guest Blogger Debra Butterfield: Are You Fully Convinced?

What does it mean to be fully convinced—of anything?

It means to be absolutely certain, have no doubts, that something will be accomplished.

Are you fully convinced the sun will set tonight? I’d say so. You probably didn’t even give it a thought, otherwise, you’d be in a panic.

Stop and think about what being certain of something does for you.

You have no doubts. You have confidence in its occurrence. You have peace.

Are you fully convinced you’ll overcome any tough situation that might come your way?

Your certainty may have vanished before you finished reading that sentence.

When I landed in a hospital bed for six days back in December 2017, I came face to face with my anemic faith in God. I lacked any kind of certainty—beyond my salvation—in God’s Word. It was time for that to end!

I am a soldier. I had a soldier mindset before I joined the Marine Corps, and my time in the service fine-tuned that mindset. Now I am a soldier in the Lord’s army. Often when God teaches me something new, He does it through military analogies.

When Marines go into battle, they know they are not fighting alone. Every Marine in their unit is fighting alongside them. Additionally, they know they have the fire power of US tanks, warships, missiles, fighter jets, and bombers to back them up.

And when they fight, they fight intent on winning.

In Jesus’ day, Roman soldiers were told to come home a winner or don’t come home at all! They went into battle determined and convinced they would win.

We can enter any situation being fully convinced we’ll win!

“How?” you ask.

By knowing what the Bible has to say. But we can’t read a Scripture just once and be fully convinced. We must know that we know that we know. That’s what being convinced is.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 NKJV, emphasis added)

To be fully convinced we must know what God’s Word says and spend time renewing our mind in that truth.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 NKJV). The New Living Translation puts it this way, “but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

We are the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 12:27)

God’s power dwells in us. (Eph. 3:19-20)

Is there any power greater than God?

No!

Can God lie?

No!

Has He made promises?

Yes! And in Him all His promises are yes and amen (1 Cor. 1:20). If He failed to keep His promises, He would be a liar and would be breaking His covenant with Jesus.

We are not alone in our battles. God is always with us. And we are “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37).

Meditate on God’s Word so you can become fully convinced.

“I know the LORD is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me” (Psalm 16:8 NLT).

*What do you need to be fully convinced of today?

Debra Butterfield’s newest book is Unshakable Faith: Living Strong in the Kingdom of God, a Bible study designed to help readers leave their doubts behind and live a bold, confident life for God. She writes a blog for writers at DebraLButterfield.com, and is the editorial director of CrossRiver Media Group, LLC, a publishing house. You may also find Debra on Facebook and Twitter.

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, will come out in early August. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride check out my Books/My Work page.

Favorites from the Book of all Books: God’s Word

It’s always fun to talk books. Fun to share what we’re currently reading, fun to tell what our favorites are, and fun to pick up some great recommendations for future reads. Today let’s talk about the Book of all books—the Bible, also known as the Word of God.

As I tell the little ones in my nursery-age Sunday School class, the Bible is a special book. In fact, it’s the most treasured book I own, as well as my absolute all-time favorite to read. When it comes to other books, even the ones I fall in love with or am blown away by, none stay as close to my heart as the Bible. After I read others, I put them on a shelf and only think of them occasionally. I might pick them up again and reread them years later, but they don’t impact my life every day.

Not so with my Bible. I read it daily. I even try to memorize verses I especially need or love. Not only is the Word of God “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16) in my life, it breathes fresh life into me like nothing else can do. It comforts me, guides me, encourages me, and gives me truth I can offer to other thirsty souls. To put it like the Bible itself does, “the word of God is living and active . . .” (Hebrews 4:12)

I’m sure the Bible is life-changing and precious to many of you as well. So today let’s share some of our “favorites” from it. What’s your favorite book within the Bible? Favorite story? Favorite verse? I hope you’ll take time to leave a comment and answer any or all of the questions. It’ll be fun to hear what’s especially meaningful to others, won’t it?

I think my favorite book has to be Psalms—maybe because I love poetic writing and music, but it’s also so full of refreshment and encouragement. My favorite story is the Christmas story. For me, it’s just hard to top the angel’s announcement of a Savior born to us all. And favorite verse? That’s a hard one. So many mean so much to me. But one I come back to time and again is Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” (NKJV)

Okay, it’s your turn. Tell us your favorites from the Book of all books!

“They are not just idle words for you—they are your life.” Deuteronomy 32:47 NIV

*The current issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter with a giveaway in every regularly scheduled issue, came out earlier this month. It’s not too late to receive it. Sign-up is FREE and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Savio SebastianCreative Commons License

Lavish Gift of Love

Have you ever wanted to lavish a costly gift on someone—whether financial, emotional, or an investment of time and effort—but felt a little unsure about it?

I’m not referring to using your resources in an irresponsible way, one that would leave you unable to pay your bills or meet your current obligations. No, I mean questions you may have about whether it’s right to splurge on someone you love when millions around the world are so needy, when there are so many worthy causes that could benefit from your investment.

Consider this example from the life of Jesus. Matthew tells us in his gospel (ch. 26:6-13) about one—identified as Mary in the John 12:1-8 account—who lavished her love on the Savior just days before his crucifixion.

During a banquet given in his honor, Mary came to Jesus and anointed him with a jar of very expensive perfume. She drew immediate criticism, however, from the disciples. They called it a waste. They pointed out that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor.

Jesus saw it differently, though. He said, “She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me.” (Matthew 26:10-11 NIV)

He also said she would be remembered for this act of love wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world. Jesus approved of her lavish gift of love.

Today the same is true. Worthy causes and desperate need will always be present, but we won’t always have our loved ones with us.

I’m not suggesting we forget the poor or hurting. Of course, we should give to help those in need. But I think we can also feel free to lavish a costly gift on a loved one occasionally. After all, it’s a beautiful thing to show someone the depth of our love. Just ask Jesus. I think he would approve.

“. . .love one another deeply, from the heart.”  1 Peter 1:22 NIV

*What lavish gift of love have you received?

*Hope this slightly revised post from March 2013 blessed you today!

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, comes out in early May. One lucky subscriber (new or current) will receive a $15 gift card to Barnes & Noble and a signed copy of my book to use personally, give as a gift, or donate to a library. Sign-up is free and to the right! (If you’re on a mobile device, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click View Full Site to find it.)  p.s. Sign up by 4-24 to get in on this issue’s giveaway. If you subscribe after that date, you will be included in all future Life Notes giveaways.

*For info about my book Mother of the Bride and also my Wedding Inspiration cards, check out my Books/My Work page.

*Flickr photo by Aih, Creative Commons License