He’s Back

I am so very sorry not to have written for a few weeks. Needless to say they have been very harsh weeks.  Without going into gruesome detail let me just say they involved electric paddles with someone saying, “Clear.”   I did not hear that.  What I did hear was “He’s back.”  Those are good words.  They will be even better when they apply to Jesus and not me. He promised He would come again (John 14) and when He does I’m sure many of us will proclaim with great joy, “He’s back.”  They will be the best words ever for this sin-sick world.

Two of Jesus’ most famous parables were the prodigal son and the lost sheep.  Jesus said, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15)  If we listen carefully we can hear the father shouting to the household, “He’s back. He’s back.”  Oh, the tears.  Oh, the joy.

Then there is the shepherd, who arriving at home, realized one of his sheep was missing.  Off he went into the night, listening for a sound that would help him find his sheep.  Later that night when he arrived home with his sheep in his arms, surely his family shouted to one another, “He’s back.”

If you would like to make the angels sing?  If you want to fill heaven with joy, right now, this very moment, renew your relationship with the Good Shepherd and I guarantee you the courts of heaven will be filled with song.  Angels will sing their favorite anthem entitled, “He’s Back.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 23, 2017


God’s Counselors

JFK once said the secret of success is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and give good counsel. He said he wanted to be the dumbest person in the room.   Some people make the mistake of doing just the opposite and thus they never grow.

Who counsels God?  If God knows all then who can argue, who can disagree, and who could change His mind?  I realize this sounds like one of those sophomoric questions designed for who knows what.  But, I was reading Genesis 18 where Abram argued with God over the fate of Sodom.  One might say that was not an argument, that was a negotiation.  So I went to Exodus 32.  God is threatening to kill the Israelites because of the golden calf.  Moses stepped in with the following result, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”

It appears that God is open to hear our ideas.  However, there is I Samuel 15:29, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”  One might say in the above situations God never changed, He was giving Abram and Moses an opportunity to grow.  But that would mean God wasn’t dealing with them in good faith.

We also have Isaiah 1:18, ‘“Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord.”  Apparently Isaiah had a different relationship with the Lord than Samuel.  What we do know is God made us in His image and has given us rational powers.  We know He calls us to be His sons and daughters.  Good fathers don’t just order their children around they dialogue with them.  What a joy it is to talk with Him.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 3, 2017


In Times Like These

I was browsing a hymnal looking for just the right song to match my sermon this weekend when I spotted the old favorite, In Times Like These.  What a great song.  Ruth Jones, wrote it in 1944. WWII was raging and the Normandy Invasion was in June.  She wrote the words, melody and harmony while ironing – some people are so very gifted.

“In times like these you need a Savior.

In times like these you need an anchor;

Be very sure, be very sure

Your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One.”

It seems like we have been at war somewhere in the world ever since.  Has there ever been a time when In Times Like These wasn’t appropriate?  Every morning seems to bring us something unsettling and even startling.  I often wonder how people manage who don’t have Jesus in their lives.  He brings amazing comfort.  His promise “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” could not be more appropriate and calming.

Sometimes we look at photographs of earth taken from afar in space and we look so isolated and so alone hurtling through nothingness.  Thankfully appearances can be deceiving.  We are not alone.  We are watched, nurtured and loved by the one who spoke us into existence.  In Romans 8 Paul points out the logic that if God gave us His only Son will He not then give us all the things we need.

He is our Rock not only at times like these but in all times and anywhere.  With His help our anchor will hold.  That’s a promise.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 6, 2017


Paul’s Emancipation Proclamation

Coming from someone who declared himself to be a Pharisee of Pharisees (See Acts 23) Galatians 5 is a doctrinal 8.9 earthquake.  It is an arrow piercing the core of our human nature that wants to do it ourselves.  When we are small and watching our parents do something we often cry out, “Let me. Let me.”  But we can’t.  Salvation is way beyond our skill set.  In the passage below taken from Galatians 5, Paul speaks specifically of circumcision because that was the issue of the day.  However, the foundation of Paul’s argument is the inherent principle.  That means we can supply any “work” in place of the word circumcision.  It could be food, tithing, etc.  Not that those are not important.  They are.   The point is they are not contributors to our salvation.  They are the fruit of salvation.

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. . . For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Please note the “only” thing that counts.  It is a constant theme for Paul.  Please check out I Corinthians 13.  If I have not love I am only a clanging symbol.   Galatians 5 is Paul’s Emancipation Proclamation. It is a declaration of freedom.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 9, 2017


Persistence and Prayer

I used to think Thomas Edison took the honors for being persistent.  He worked 18 months until he got a light bulb that would burn for 13.5 hours.  However, I now think a Korean named Seo Sang-moon might be the most persistent man in history.  He is almost 70 years old and after 271 unsuccessful attempts to pass the non-driving part of the driver’s test he passed.  It cost him almost a thousand dollars in fees but he passed on his 272nd attempt.  The test givers cheered.

In Luke 18 Jesus tells a very interesting story about persistence.  It seems there was a widow who needed judicial protection.  The judge was not a godly man and didn’t care a bit about her but finally granted her request because she endlessly pestered him.  He was sick of her and gave her what she wanted to get rid of her.  Jesus goes on to say if this ungodly man would give this woman what she wanted how much more will our faithful heavenly Father hear us and give us what we need.  Jesus is not telling us we have to beg God for good things but merely pointing out the surety of God’s love.  We can count on Him!

I once heard a sermon based on this parable teaching us the necessity of repetitive prayer.  While there may be some benefit in repetitive prayer, not to change God’s mind, but to prepare us to receive, the lesson of this parable is just the opposite. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

The God who loves us dearly hears us and will answer when the time is right.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 13, 2017




Houses have memories.  The sounds of babies crying and children laughing are imprinted in the wallpaper.  The kitchen sounds of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner preparations accompanied by the sounds of football games and commercials in the background permanently give a home the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.   I drove past an old doghouse sitting by the side of the road with a big “Free” sign attached.  I wondered about its memories.  Was its owner long gone or was its passing recent?  Did the house have the sounds of puppies imprinted on the insides of its walls?  Some of the shingles were missing.  Was that from old age or did its owner imitate Snoopy and wear them off by sitting on the roof?  Whatever the answers to all these questions I hope it has good memories.  But now the house is “Free.”  Surely the new owner will not use it for firewood but will give it to a nice dog.

Houses are special.  Every house takes on the uniqueness of its owners. I had a new house once.  I never want one again.  I like moving into a pre-owned house with pencil marks already on the door frames of the bedrooms.  I like the scratch marks of a dog on the back door.

In John 14 Jesus tells us He has gone to prepare homes for us.  I want mine to come already personalized with wear marks on the stairs.  He could really personalize it by putting marks on the bathroom door frame indicating the heights of my sons at ages 3, 4, 5, etc.  That would be super special.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 14, 2017


Trusting an Unseen Voice

A gust of wind picked up a cloud of snow crystals and swirled them over my car.  Visibility went to zero.  Our minds are amazing museums of memories that merely need a key to bring them rushing back.   I remembered flying from Collegedale, Tennessee to my parent’s home in Pennsylvania.  I was over Virginia with miles of visibility when a cloud happened.  I mean happened.  Instantly visibility was zero.  There I was a mile and a half above the Blue Ridge Mountains hurtling along at 150 miles an hour and I could see nothing.  As fast as I could I called flight control explaining and asking for guidance. No questions were asked.  I was assigned a transponder number, given a heading, and an altitude to maintain.  I couldn’t see him but I knew I was in good hands.  After a while his voice came back saying please climb 2000 feet you will be going over Dulles International Airport.  I couldn’t see but I obeyed and I was safe even with 747’s coming and going around me.

The spiritual lesson here writes itself.  We think we are cruising along fine when something totally unexpected happens and we need guidance.  A quick request and our Master is there. If we trust and obey, even though we can’t see Him, He is watching.  Just as I safely arrived in Pennsylvania we will arrive exactly where God wants us to be and where else would anyone in their right mind want to be.

Psalm 73:24 promises, “Thou shall guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”  You have to admit it doesn’t get any better than that.  God is not only great, He is good.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 15, 2017


Let’s Talk – Really?

Each of us decodes what others say to us using a host of filters which are the products of our culture, our age, our education, our personal biases, and past experiences.  I am amazed that we understand anything others say or write.  I have students from Haiti, Jamaica, New York City, Boston and upper New York State.  Surely there is a bit of lunacy on my part to walk into a classroom with the expectation that students will understand anything I tell them.  If it isn’t lunacy then it must be arrogant ignorance.  Thus it is that explaining the simplest of assignments can be a major task.

This brings me to the foolishness of preaching, whether it be to a gathering of thousands at a camp meeting in southern Kenya or ten people gathered together in Iowa.  Believing that one has something to say that is meaningful to either of these groups is an audacious act.  God must be amused at our conceit.  We might think we were splendid and did God a great service by “spreading the Good News.”  However, He knows it would have been utterly meaningless had not the Holy Spirit been present.  Only the Holy Spirit knows the unique hungers of each soul.  Only the Holy Spirit can translate our feeble attempts into meaningful thoughts that truly nourish.

So many times I have had people thank me for saying “such and such” because it was just what they needed to hear.  I often take credit by saying thank you when I know I never said what they said I said.  I’m sure it is a form of the gift of tongues mentioned in Acts or should I say the gift of ears.  However, the process works; it isn’t our brilliance.  It is God’s desire to save.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 16, 2017


Who Will Rescue Me?

We were standing in line at the supermarket behind an old guy about my age.  I could not help but notice the food he was putting on the conveyor belt was a hodgepodge of very unhealthy items.  There were oreo cookies and beef jerky and those were the healthy items.  I had already rolled my eyes at my wife when he turned to me and quietly said, “My wife just died.  We were married 36 years and I just don’t know what to buy.”  As he walked away with a plastic bag in each hand I looked at the checkout girl who had started to cry.  If I were a person who uses bad language I would have called myself a very bad name.  When will I ever learn to stop being a smart Alex and stop judging people?  What is it with me?  Do I need to make myself feel superior by putting others down?

Why can I not act like a follower of Jesus?  I am so thankful Paul talked about this inner conflict in Romans 7.   If he had not I would be extremely depressed, but chapter 8 verse 1 is so wonderful.   He asked who can help?  Who can rescue us from us and His answer is an anthem that resounds through the universe.  He said, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus . . .”

So I am going to stop beating myself up over this lapse, learn a lesson and go ahead and do better next time.  That is what being a Christian is about.  It is not about being perfect.  It is about learning and growing.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 17, 2017



The Heart of the Issue

I have always enjoyed the story of the four who brought their friend to Jesus.  When they found Him, the way was barred by a non-obliging crowd, so they inventively went up onto the flat roof, dug a hole and lowered their friend to Jesus.  Can’t you see the debris falling on Jesus’ head and those around Him?   Some of the crowd must have cheered and laughed while the owner of the house must have screamed for them to stop.  It had to have been mayhem.  Surely Jesus must have pleasantly enjoyed their creativity.

What followed next was remarkable.   Jesus could have healed the man and that would have been the end of it.  It would have been one of hundreds of miracles.  (The close of the Gospel of John says we could fill the world with books of stories about what Jesus did.)  Instead Jesus said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”  The religiously astute in the crowd gasped.  This was blasphemy.  They were sure only God could forgive sins.  Jesus later taught us that we can forgive sins.  As a matter of fact He urges us to do so.

However, I want to focus on Jesus going to the heart of the issue.  He did not merely fix the man’s symptoms.  He went to the core of the man’s problems.  To merely fix his limbs would be like giving money to a lazy man.  The core problem of humanity is our need to have our sins forgiven and to start us on a road to do better.  We need to strike at the nucleus of our problem.  We need a heart replacement.  It is grand to seek to make men noble but without curing the disease we are only postponing inevitable failure.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 20, 2017