As I pushed the rusty vine covered gate open enough to let me pass I could have been in a Faulkner novel approaching a southern gothic house uncared for since the Civil War. Bric-a-brac still clung to the eaves cloaking human secrets behind webbed windows. The sagging wooden steps creaked as I mounted the porch guarded by an old cat quite unhappy to have me trespass into his vermin infested world. A Dickensian door knocker snarled at me as I rapped once then twice before a raspy voice called, “It ain’t locked.” The heavy door pushed back as I put my shoulder to it only to be greeted by an ungodly stench. To the left of the once elegant vestibule a door opened to something from a Stephen King novel. A skin-covered skeleton of a man lay on a sheetless filth encrusted pad. Water stained wallpaper hung by who knows what from the ceiling and walls. Carefully I kicked beer cans out of the way and reticently accepted his invitation to sit on a filthy chair by his cot.
For the next hour we spoke of wives, children, jobs and unfulfilled dreams. Upon his insistence I mixed rubbing alcohol into what appeared to be a glass quarter-filled with water. I literally gasped as he downed it with a gulp. The intervening years have dulled my memory of his name but not his dark blood-filled eyes. I still gag as I remember the smell more rank than any outhouse. Though I tried to visit again he would not see me. I guess I wasn’t the best of company.
I was wondering about his salvation and I remembered Hebrews 7:25. “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” I wonder if in the eyes of a holy God if I am much different.
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 16, 2016
Romans 11 is one of the most poignant chapters in all Scripture. In it Paul pines for his people. He cannot imagine God’s family being whole without Israel. Jesus wept for His people. On the cross Jesus begs God to forgive them. God cannot let them go and He arranged for the leadership to hear the logic of the cross from Peter and John. In Acts 4 Peter and John are arrested and hauled in before the Sanhedrin. God keeps trying. Paul, himself yanked from tradition, wrote, ‘“And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.’ As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”
It seems inconceivable to us that they can be saved. To them it is inconceivable that we gentiles can be saved. It is human nature. It is our selfishness that makes us jealous and wanting to be so very special in God’s eyes that only we can be saved. So Paul wrote to us, “Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you.”
How do we explain this extravagant mercy? We can’t. Paul knew this would confuse us and perhaps even make us a bit resentful so he wrote, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
How do we justify this in light of our insistence that others become like us in order to be saved? We can’t. But God can!!
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 15, 2016
If you have not looked at your 401K this week, don’t. I would like to propose that the problem is our GPSs. Because of our GPSs we now arrive at our destinations without wandering about like we used to do. We did all that wandering because we did not want to ask for directions from another guy. We are using so much less gasoline there is now an oil glut in the world and the floor dropped out on the price of oil. Because of the price of oil, investors on Wall Street think the global economy has slowed down because industry is not using as much energy. This is a good time to invest for when investors catch on the glut is because of our GPSs stocks will rebound.
I love my GPS and the best sound in the world is that ever so pleasant unflappable feminine voice that says, “You have arrived at your destination.” And I arrived using so much less gasoline!
I am looking forward to hearing “You have arrived at your destination” from the angel who has been with me from my beginning. In Revelation 21 we read, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’” That’s the destination we long for. That is where the sweetest words of all time will be uttered, “You have arrived at your destination.”
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 12, 2016
I overheard an argument this week where one of the parties said to the other, “Live with it.” Having heard that expression many times I Googled it and got 591,000,000 hits. Obviously the expression is used a lot. There are a lot of books entitled “Live with ….” Often something negative is going on and people are told to “Live with it.” I personally don’t recall ever having said it to anyone so I decided to try it on you. Here goes.
- God loves you very much so “Live with it.”
- Jesus died for you so “Live with it.”
- Upon your request God will forgive all your sins and treat you as if you had never sinned so “Live with it.”
- You can be a temple of the living God by inviting the Holy Spirit to abide in your mind so “Live with it.”
- You can live a stress reduced life by not worrying about your future so “Live with it.”
- Your self-esteem can be elevated by understanding you are a prince or princess of the universe so “Live with it.”
- Make Jesus the Lord of your life and “live with it.”
Hey, that felt really good. I think I am going to start a new habit in life by telling people to “Live with it.” Actually, when one pauses for a moment to contemplate the alternative it is the best counsel we can give people. The alternative is a real downer. The alternative is one has to bear the cost for their sins and with Jesus we don’t have to. So bear with me here while I say it one more time. “Live with it.” Forever!!
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 11, 2016
Have you ever wondered about that pyramid and eye on the back of a dollar bill? It harkens to secret societies, orders and clubs where grownups enjoy playing childish games that make us feel like we belong to something unique and special. Secret handshakes and code words feed a human hunger to feel good about oneself because we know something others don’t know, even if it is stuff we made up. It is the child taunting with “I know a secret.”
These groups have been around for thousands of years. Paul was aware of them and had little use for them. In Colossians 2 he wrote, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”
If you are wanting to know the secrets of the universe and have the mysteries of life opened to you, Paul wrote, “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
There are no deep dark secrets of the universe that God does not want us to know. He longs for us to be like Him and as we grow closer He opens to us the treasures of wisdom found in Christ. He knows that the more we know the more we will be like Him because the more we know the more we will understand the logic underlying the cross and the sacrifice. The more we do that the more we will detest the evil that brought so much heartache to His very good universe.
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 10, 2016
Romans 12 is a treasure house of practical suggestions for Christian living. In this amazing chapter Paul, the theologian, becomes Paul, the psychologist. Randomly I put my finger on the page and found, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (NIV) If one were looking for a topic for a presentation there are at least five in these two verses. I was curious how they were paraphrased by Eugene Petersen in The Message and found the following, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.”
That first idea about loving from your center and not faking is often a serious challenge because everyone we meet is not lovable. Fortunately Paul doesn’t tell us to like everyone. Liking and loving are very different. Liking is enjoying another’s company. Loving is wanting the best for them. We can always want the best for someone even though they are obnoxious and unpleasant.
It is the last idea that fascinates me. “Practice playing second fiddle.” How often do we not mind another excelling just as long as we excel just a little bit more than they do? How often do we wait for someone to take a breath so we can jump in with a bigger “fish” story? Paul hits me in the solar plexus with this one. I love telling stories and I am my favorite topic. However, I must add here that in II Corinthians 11 Paul doesn’t seem to mind regaling us with a litany of his adventures. Only Jesus was and is perfect.
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 9, 2016
When I was very small I dug a large hole in our backyard. It was large to me. Most likely it was very small. When my Dad asked why, I explained that I was digging my way to China because there were hungry children there and I wanted to drop food to them. Being very kind to me and being the school teacher that he was, he took me inside where we had a globe. (I still have it.) He very carefully showed me that my hole would not come out in China but instead in the southern Indian Ocean. I immediately realized I must stop digging or all the water in the Indian Ocean would fall into my hole and flood Pennsylvania.
Often I hear people speak with great authority about the nature of God. I have even been told where heaven is. I hear how old the earth is and what happened to the dinosaurs. I hear explanations for human behavior and am amazed at the certainty of the speaker. And yet often I cannot explain my own behavior. Perhaps it makes people feel secure and good about themselves if they can claim to be an authority in some area.
I am suspicious that most of us are like a little boy digging a hole in the backyard. We think we have it all worked out and we could not be more wrong. But, lest I leave you with the impression that I am totally ignorant I would like to claim a sure knowledge of something shared with me by Paul. I want to join Paul in saying, “I know in whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” II Timothy 1:12. That is security.
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 4, 2016
My dog has absolutely no sense of savoring her food. I open a can, put it in her bowl, toss the can, and when I look back her bowl is empty. And of course she wants more. This is ridiculous. It’s good looking food. Chunky and laden with smooth gravy. It looks so good I want to get a spoon. If only she would learn to savor it, it would last so much longer and be so much more gratifying. I want to say she just doesn’t know how to savor but when you rub her tummy she is the poster girl of savoring. Tummy rubbing could go on all day.
Life is best when it is savored. When my son went to first grade, he came home after the first day and announced that tomorrow he would be in second grade. The next day he came home and announced that tomorrow he would be in third grade. That is when his mother and I stepped in with a big “NO.” Life was not meant to be rushed along. The world does not need twelve year old doctors. Twelve year olds need to learn to savor the joys of enriched learning.
Many of my friends speak of wanting Jesus to come so this period of life would be over. While I am not a masochist thinking we should enjoy pain, it would be grand if we could approach each day with a wonder for the experiences and lessons to be learned. Maybe it is only on the latter side of this life that we realize that each day is a gift. Do young people cry when listening to “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof? Or is that reserved for parents and grandparents?
“This is the day the Lord has given. Rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24
Written by Roger Bothwell on February 1, 2016
The longest held scientific theory ever was that of a geocentric universe. It worked. Sailors used it for centuries to move about the earth. The idea that the stars and sun rotated about us had to be right. Everyone saw the sun come up in the morning and go down at night. Then came Copernicus and Galileo. And science changed. True science is not about absolutes. True science is having the best understanding of current data.
Albert Einstein in an endeavor to understand the nature of the universe declared there was a cosmological constant. Years later he called it his “greatest mistake.” What if we approached religion with the same openness? What if instead of declaring we are right and others are wrong, we said, what I believe is the best understanding of what I yet know about God?
Proverbs 4:18 says, “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” I have met those who say that means I have truth and more truth will be added. But what if it meant some of what I thought was truth needs to be revised in the new light? This can be a bit frightening. We need a psychological and spiritual anchor for mental health. However, might it be more mentally healthy to live with some ambiguity than to live being positively in error?
I don’t want to sound like everything is up for grabs. There are absolutes. God is love. Jesus died for us. We are saved by grace. That grace enables us to begin living for eternity right now. These are key, but they are dimly lit understandings of deeper intellectual and spiritual treasures yet to be grasped. There is so much to learn. There is so much joy ahead.
Written by Roger Bothwell on January 28, 2016
Yesterday I wondered why some photons go through glass and some bounce back giving us a reflection. It is wonderful to have smart friends. I have a scientist friend who has explained to me that if the glass were perfect all the photons would pass through but the imperfections in the glass, when struck by photons, cause some photons to bounce back into the room. Thus I see myself.
And so it is that all of God’s light cannot pass into us because we are also not perfect. Our sinful nature, our selfishness, our lewd desires render us impotent to understand all that God wants us to know. He holds nothing back. He floods us with love, mercy and knowledge but we just don’t get it. Lest we start hating ourselves for this it is not all our fault. So much of what we are we inherited. Adam and Eve, after sin, did not have perfection to pass on to Cain. That didn’t work out so well. How quickly sin changed us. Much of what we are is the product of thousands of generations of imperfect, selfish people.
Now I do not want to get overly Freudian here and place all the blame for my problems on grandpa and grandma. God understands our plight and thus makes external power available to us. “Now unto Him who is able to keep us from falling” is a magnificent promise. (Jude) (Since there isn’t a Jude 2 I didn’t bother with the reference.)
The good news is in I Corinthians 15 we are told this imperfection will put on perfection. Which I think means we will be totally open to God’s light and will learn an incredible amount of new things forever and ever. Oh how smart we will be!
Written by Roger Bothwell on January 27, 2016