Roger Bothwell

Roger Bothwell
Roger Bothwell's Devotionals

New Wine In New Wineskins

I grew up in a culture that rarely read the Bible in context.  Instead we pieced together ideas by taking a text from here and a text from there.  Unfortunately this often leads one to believe they know much about the Bible when they do not.  It is most beneficial to sit down and just read without trying to find texts to support ideas we already have.  But just read and wonderful things will happen.  The Holy Spirit will paint pictures in our minds of things past and things to come.  They will be fresh pictures unlike our preconceived concepts of what is supposed to be there.
Try the Gospel of Mark.  It was the first one written. Try not to approach the text with an “I already know these stories” attitude.  Try to read them as if you did not know and were reading them for the first time.  An average reader can read Mark in about an hour.  That is if one can keep reading.  My problem is my mind wants to fill in details of the story which slows me down.  That’s okay.  Smelling the leper in chapter one, listening to Jesus voice, seeing the hungry multitudes crowding Him is an enlightening experience.
In chapter two Jesus tells us to put new wine into new wineskins.  Don’t try to stuff what you are reading into your old wineskin (frame of reference).   Let the Holy Spirit give you a whole new wineskin for your new insight. (You will have a new perspective.)  Reading Scripture is unlike reading any other book.  It is not merely the thoughts of wise men.  It is God’s Word for our time.  It is for all times.  The Holy Spirit will make us more intelligent.  And who does not want to be smarter?

Dog Tags

Most likely everyone has a box filled with useless things that we cannot throw away.  Usually they are the fragments of one’s childhood or of our children’s childhood.  Artwork from first grade, father’s day cards, cheap souvenirs from a family trip, golf score cards, kissing pictures from a photo booth, ticket stubs from a roller coaster ride, a pressed four-leaf clover.  These are important things. My heart breaks for people whose homes are destroyed. While one can always buy new things, one can never reproduce a box filled with useless (wonderful) mementoes of a time long gone. Surely in heaven Jesus has a box with a favorite tool from His carpenter’s shop in Nazareth, a driedel, a lock of hair, something from His bar mitzvah, a temple coin from Jerusalem, a collar from a favorite puppy.
My box has an old metal dog tag with my name pressed into the soft aluminum.  Vividly I remember making it on a machine at Hershey Park.  It was in the 1940’s just after the war.  My dad put the 10 cents into the machine (a lot of money) and helped me turn the wheel with the letters.  Then I pulled the lever that pressed my name.  I put it on a string (didn’t have a chain) and wore it about my neck like GIs.  It was wonderful.

Jesus wants to press His ID on us.  We are already written in His heart.  Now He longs for us to allow Him to be written in ours.  He wants us to be so like Him we don’t have to tell people we are Christians.  They will just know because of how we treat them.  He said, “Hereby shall men know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 

"Please Let It Be For Me"

In the musical “The Music Man” there is a wonderful song called, “The Wells Fargo Wagon.”   The words are “The Wells Fargo wagon is a-comin down the street. Oh, please let it be for me.  I wish – I wish I knew what it could be.”  Every time a big brown UPS truck comes up my street my brain sings that song.  I kind of like it because it’s a fun song.  It reflects an immature childishness of wanting something.  Just something.  Nothing in particular.  That bothers me a bit. Because I am sated with things.  I am like the Laodicean church in Revelation.  I have need of nothing.   I can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  I have a pair.
The world has two billion people who really need things – essentials.  Here I sit in a warm home surrounded by my books and electronics.  My fridge is adequately full and yet I want more.  I could beat on myself for this.  But I teach psychology and I know it is just being a human being.  I am sure Bill Gates has moments when he wants more.  He cannot help himself.  He’s human.
This is why it is essential that we give.  We must give to counterbalance this primitive selfishness that lurks beneath our thin shell of being civilized.  Perhaps it feels so good to give because we have a moment of knowing we are not just animals.  We are sons and daughters of the living God who made us to be like Him and He is a giver.  He gives us everything we need each day.  And so we give.  When someone gives us something, we receive and we just gave them an opportunity to also be a giver.  We both grew.

"Tell Us Something Wise"

In my human development class I start my lectures talking about prenatal development and end the semester talking about nursing homes and hospice care.  I am sure to point out to my young students that they can be very smart and well informed but they are not yet wise.  You have to be old before wisdom arrives.  So one of my students put up his hand and said, “Tell us something wise.”  After the laughter I said, “If you like to tell funny stories about people be sure you are a member of that group.  Then you have the privilege.  White people should not tell black jokes.  Gentiles should not tell Jewish jokes.  As for me, I can tell old short bald guy jokes.”   Recently I heard someone make a crack about people with doctorates.  I tell lots of them.  But this person did not have the right.  His attempt at humor made him look envious.
Tonight the Bears are playing the Saints.  That opens up opportunities for some cracks about the Coliseum.  We can tell those stories.  We, according to Paul, are saints.  His first letter to the church at Corinth was addressed to the saints.  If you have made Jesus the Lord of your life you qualify and with membership comes the right to tell jokes about saints.
Just think of the joy and privileges that come with membership in the greatest group that will ever be assembled.  In Revelation 7:9 it says our group will be so big it will be numberless.  How grand.   After I am done crying because of the joy, I want to spend the next hundred years laughing.

The Gift

This weekend I heard someone say, “The reason I come to church is to increase my chances of being saved.”  I wanted to cry.  This came from the mouth of a regular church goer.  Then I wanted to scream.  What are we doing wrong?  What are we not saying?  Have we not all heard John 3:16-17 over and over?  Are we so dull?
I have come to believe the French philosopher Henri Bergson, “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”  The wonder of God’s love, the free gift of salvation is incomprehensible to us who have been taught to believe we only get what we work for.  And so we hear.  We hear week after week (if you are in the right place) but we just don’t get it.  Jesus’ words take on real meaning.  Jesus said, “They may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding.”  Mark 4:12.
Back to “if we are in the right place.”  I experienced being the pastor of a congregation that ever so slowly got it.  I moved.  A new pastor came.  I returned for a visit.  They no longer knew.  It is difficult to hang on to it if one is constantly bombarded with all the things one has to do to “get ready.”  The subtly of works just sucks us back into its torture chamber.  I had a colleague who continually preached that we were “saved by relationship.”  No!  We are saved by grace.  The relationship follows as fruit.
Please, I beg of you to concentrate on the real truth of Christmas.  The baby in Bethlehem was a gift who brought us the most wonderful gift of all – Grace.

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