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The Book of Joe


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James Watkins

There was a pastor whose name was Joe. He was blameless, upright, feared God, and never lifted his messages from sermons.com 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!

Originally published in Rev. magazine. Copyright © 2007 James N. Watkins

For more hope and humor, visit jameswatkins.com

Zits, faults and all


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Jeanette Levellie

It takes courage to say, “I like myself.” Especially when you’ve sinned, hurt someone, or gone off your diet for the seventh time this week.

Can you relate to any of these?

• I yell at my husband, even though I know it only makes things worse.

• I don’t pray as often as I think I should, or as long.

• I get impatient with people, and complain about them.

• I often let dishes sit in the sink, my bed go unmade, and my cats jump on the counter.

• I eat too much and exercise too little.

Sometimes I think, Will I ever grow up? When do I practice what I’ve been preaching to others for thirty years? I’m a mess.

At a writers conference I attended, Cecil Murphey prayed a simple little prayer that I later jotted down and stuck on my fridge:

“Loving God, show me the truth about myself, no matter how wonderful it may be.”


God sees the wonder of you and me, no matter how much junque is still there. That gives us courage to continue to:

• like ourselves in spite of our plethora of flaws,

• bring our messiness to Him to fix,

• love others, no matter how imperfectly.

God knew what we were like before He created us, sent Jesus to die for us, and called us to Himself. He is not overly concerned about our faults. He wants us to grow up, but it just doesn’t ruin His day like we might think when we aren’t mature yet.

Besides, if we were perfect, no one could stand to be around us.

I am gathering up the courage instilled in me by the God of glory and His lamb, Jesus. I dare to say, “I like myself, zits, faults, and all.” Won’t you join me?

For more hope and humor, visit jeanettelevellie.com

Going for 2016 Olympic gold


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Renae Brumbaugh

This is a public service announcement. I, Renae Brumbaugh, have been chosen to serve on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. I am letting you, my dear readers, know this information in advance so you can start lining up for autographs. You may want to purchase camping gear, so you can sleep outside in the line that will surely circle our town several times over.

What’s that? You’d like to know which event I’ll compete in?

Well . . . that’s a difficult question to answer. A woman of my supreme skill and athletic talent can’t be expected to confine herself to one event, can she?

Among the events I’ve been chosen for are extended laundry cycling, extreme carpooling, and synchronized sandwich making. Hold the accolades, please. It’s an honor and a privilege to represent our country in this way.

It’s taken years of training, but it’s been worth every back-breaking, sweat-streaming moment of standing in line for school supplies at WalMart, or waiting my turn in the carpool circle. During the next four years of training, there will be many more hours of practice. After all, anything worth having is worth working for.

I hope it will all pay off in the form of Olympic gold, hanging around my neck. Then, maybe I’ll get some endorsement gigs. Free Subway sandwiches for life, maybe. Or a new car for the pool.

But even if no one ever gives me a medal, I still have no regrets. Being chosen to serve the people I love in the form of laundry, carpools and meal-making is an honor in itself. Oh, it doesn’t always feel honorable. But when I think of how different my life would be if I didn’t have those people to love and care for, it makes me sad. It’s in doing for others, not doing for myself, that makes my life full.

That’s not to say I don’t ever take time off for myself. Breaks are a necessary part of my training. But if I want to reap the rewards of service, I must remember that in my particular sport, gold comes from serving others. And the medals, which come in the forms of sweaty hugs and toothless grins and quick text messages—“I love you, Mom. Bring me food”—are worth more to me than Olympic gold.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” Ephesians 2:10.

For more hope and humor visit renaebrumbaugh.com