Roger Bothwell

Roger Bothwell
Roger Bothwell's Devotionals

I Don't Want To Be A Judge

I have a student who did not know about the 2009 jetliner miracle on the Hudson.  He claims he never heard the name “Captain Sullenberger.”  He is not a recent arrival to America.  He was born and raised here.  I think that is why he seems to know all there is to know about the Kardashians.  At least once a class period he mentions them.  He most likely goes home and says, “Would you believe my teacher knows nothing about Kanye West?”  We are two pilgrims traveling on the same road and yet never seeing the same things along the way.
I think about him and think there must be some great and pithy lesson here.  But I am not sure I am wise enough to discern what it is.  I think about the fact that he and I wear different colored glasses and thus filter out what does not interest us.  But that is obvious.  We all do that.  My wife and I come home from church and when we talk about the sermon sometimes it is as if we had listened to two different preachers.  Often the preacher will say something that triggers my mind and as I ponder it I suddenly realize I have just missed the last ten minutes.

No wonder Jesus calls on us not to judge others.  I don’t know enough about you to judge you.  I don’t know what you know or don’t know.  Yet I want you to measure up to my standard when truthfully your level might be far more advanced.  I’m just too uninformed to know that.
Revelation 20:4 says, “I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge.”  I pray none of them are you or me – especially me.

My House Needs Nails

In his famous poem Mending Wall Robert Frost said, “Something there is that doesn't love a wall, that wants it down.”  I am periodically reminded of his thought as I take hammer in hand and make a tour of my house tapping in nails that seem determined to be free.   Or maybe it’s the house that doesn’t want the nails thinking of them as unnecessary irritants.  As the seasons pass with really cold January nights combined with steaming August afternoons this old house sweats and shivers, contracting and retracting, those ever so secure nails little by little work their way out.   But I and my trusty hammer are up to the task.
My contortion of Frost reads, “There’s something that doesn’t love a house, that wants it down.”  My wife’s parents spent their final days in central Wisconsin.  Their farm was surrounded by abandoned farms with falling down houses.  A house without a human doesn’t stand a chance.
Rules are like walls.  There is something about us that rebels at the idea of a rule telling us we can’t do something. But those rules are walls to protect us from what’s on the other side. Each of God’s rules has a very specific aim to protect us from the natural consequences of certain behaviors.  How often when we were young did we say, “I don’t see any reason for that.”  Just because we weren’t smart enough to see the reason did not make it safe to do.  In his wisdom Frost wrote, “Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.”   How sad it is that we often learn the reason after it is too late.   Just like my house needs nails so my character needs rules.

Your are Somebody

Emily Dickenson wrote, “I'm Nobody! Who are you? Are you – Nobody – too? Then there's a pair of us! Don't tell! they'd advertise – you know.”  She must have thought of being somebody (at least for a few moments) because she also wrote, “Success is counted sweetest by those who ne'er succeed.  To comprehend a nectar requires sorest need.”  Being somebody is the native fruit of success unless your goal was to be nobody.
In 1954 Marlon Brando immortalized the line, “I could have been somebody” in the film On the Waterfront.  I’m sure there are some people who have never wanted to be somebody but I’m not sure that I know any.  Being that I know a lot of preachers I can safely say they are the worst.  They would never admit it because that would mar their self images as God’s messengers.  Deep within they are attracted to the pulpit because of the attention they receive from fans and foes.  I know some will say, “Speak for yourself.” So I do and I hold to my belief from decades of associations.
Now to the important stuff.  You are somebody.  You are God’s son.  You are God’s daughter.  You are a prince of the Universe.  You are a princess of the Universe.  In Romans and Galatians Paul assures us that we have been adopted into God’s family and are co-heirs with Jesus.  It is an unfathomable thought, a non-comprehensible concept.  Sometimes Paul shocks us with his ideas of God’s lavish love and God’s plans for our futures. People who are not overwhelmed by many of Paul’s concepts are so merely because they have not yet read them.  Please pour over Ephesians 1 & 2.  The ideas within are astounding. 

The Sneeze

Last Friday while I was lecturing I was standing immediately in front of a desk on the front row, when suddenly the student at that desk exploded with a huge sneeze.  Yes, it is four days later and I have a full blown cold.  When it occurred my students were horrified and someone said, “You just killed him” while two others hurried forward with sanitizer for my hands and face.
It is interesting what an impact one small act can have on others.   The act of texting while driving might not seem like a big deal until one drifts across the white line into the path of school bus.  A misspoken word or a harsh look can crush a student affecting their academic future.   Little things do mean a lot.  Is there such a thing as a tiny sin or a white lie?  We all know according to our social convention when we ask “How are you” we don’t want a medical report. 
In Matthew 16:6 Jesus warned His disciples about the leaven of the religious leadership. In Matthew 13 Jesus spoke of the potential of the tiny mustard seed.  Some people are very fastidious about their cars.  The smallest ding or scuff mark on a tire upsets them until they can remove it and make their car whole again.  We should be so fastidious regarding our characters.  To the point of becoming anally retentive we should be aiding and abetting the Holy Spirit in the task of cleaning out our characters.  We should not excuse ourselves with such comments as “I’m only human.”   We know that.   The goal is to participate in the divine nature (see II Peter 1) and day by day become more like Jesus.


In 2011 the United States military spent 300 million dollars on camouflage uniforms.  It costs a lot to blend in so no one will notice you.  Adolescents tell their parents they want to be different; however, the irony is at the very same time they want the same jeans and the same shoes as their peers – so they can blend in.  The cost of blending in comes in other forms than cash.  Often one has to pretend to be someone they are not at the expense of knowing what is right and doing the wrong.  Perhaps I am being overly harsh on adolescents because adults are not innocent of such activity.  Often I have sat in committees that required a vote only to watch people hesitate to put up their hands until they see which way the majority is going.  Then they quickly join in, acting as if their vote was their true decision, thus the value of secret ballots.
It isn’t just teens who want to be liked by those around them.  Some people spend miserable lives wondering what others think of them.  They have more than one camouflage outfit.  They have one to wear to church and another to wear to work and yet another to wear to parties. Peter tried to play this game the night Jesus was crucified.  He even added curses to his denial of Jesus.  Surely that would be cover enough.  Unfortunately for him Jesus heard him. The rooster crowed and they looked at each other.  Peter was crushed to think that he had fallen so low.
If you really want to be camouflaged dress up in good works and unselfish care for others.  You will blend right in with Jesus.  People might not know the difference.

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