We Will Always Need Forgiveness

The completed thirteen year human genome project has ignited our imaginations. We now have a complete map of the human genetic code. Each of our 46 chromosomes is filled with the tens of thousands of genes that determine our physical appearance and health. Now we dream of altering our genetic material once we determine which genes produce weaknesses and defects. Not only do we hope to eliminate our physical problems we also dream of altering behaviors. Will we be able to isolate the genetic material that gives children with Down’s syndrome such a sweet gentle nature? Can we make Down’s syndrome a relic and also enable other children to have that gentle nature? Will we be able to eliminate alcoholism and other dependencies?

There are scientists who dream of injecting our cells with a 47th chromosome filled with all manner of physical and behavioral cures. Will we be able eliminate the “terrible twos?” Most likely we would not want to do that since that is an indication of maturity and the recognition of self.

Our future is filled with discussions of responsibility for misbehaviors and whether or not certain life style choices are really choices. If we think we have seen nature versus nurture arguments in the past, just wait, the most animated ones are yet to come. Moreover, where does repentance and character development enter the discussion. Will the Christianity of the 22nd century be very different from traditional appeals for divine help in being a better person? I doubt we will ever genetically alter away our selfishness. While we rejoice in human progress we will always need forgiveness.

Witten by Roger Bothwell on August 20, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

What Makes an Excellent Teacher?

All good teachers know long-term learning is environmental. A teacher who fails to learn about their student’s homes, ethic backgrounds, religions, languages and cultures is nothing more than a dispenser of information or a giver of assignments and exams. Real teaching interacts with students in the historical context of their roots. One of the great failures of American missionaries was eager evangelists rushing into countries dispensing what they thought was Christianity when it was American culture. They did not take the time to realize they had much to learn from the local people. Real learning about the Good News can only be meaningful as it relates to local customs and beliefs. Too often we treat other people’s culture as being inferior and something to be discarded.

If we used Jesus as our model we would do differently. Jesus did not just drop onto planet Earth proclaiming the things we needed to change. Instead He came as one of us. He was born here. He grew up here. He ate our food. He spoke our culture. He taught us using common things like yeast and coins. He talked about wedding banquets and sons who wanted to go off and prove themselves. He knew about bosses, workers and wages.

It was obvious the people loved Jesus because of the miracles but there was so much more. They loved Him because He was a great teacher. He knew about the things that touched their everyday lives. Luke 4:15 says, “He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 22, 2003
151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

The Prescription for Happiness

Humans are strange creatures. We are thrilled when we get a raise until we find out a colleague received a larger raise. There is an old Yiddish saying, “When does a hunchback rejoice? When he sees one with a larger hump.” Ambrose Bierce put it this way, “Happiness is an agreeable sensation arising from contemplating the misery of others.” And Gore Vidal wrote, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Our happiness is so often a reaction based on our relationship with other’s situations.

It is interesting to compare the above quotes with Jesus’ prescriptions for happiness found in Matthew 5. The word “blessed” in the Beatitudes can be translated “happy.” “Happy are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” Note there is a relationship factor involved and it is opposite to our normal reactions.

The normal reaction to happiness is all about me. Jesus’ formula is all about others. If I am meek I am content with other’s success. If I am meek I am happy when you get a raise. Now I must confess I need to work at this and will most likely fail if I do not have divine help. Surely it is the “old man” Paul refers to in Romans. I must put it to death that a “new man” can live within me.

“You were taught, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness.” Ephesians 4:22-25

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 18, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Does Your Brain Deceive You?

I have always believed the moon appears bigger when on the horizon than when it is overhead because of light refraction. When looking at it on the horizon we are looking through much more atmosphere therefore it appears to be very large. I was wrong. When the diameter of the moon is measured at the horizon and overhead the measurement is the same. So what is going on? It is our brain. Our brain concludes when it is near the horizon it is very far away and therefore has to be huge and when overhead our brain perceives it as being closer and it need not be as big.

Now please before you think I am either crazy or really stupid this is not my idea. This is the accepted theory of the world’s leading astronomers and cognitive theorists. It is an example of the old expression, “My brain is playing tricks on me.” It is comparable to not remembering why you entered a room until you return to where you were when you started the errand. It is a blow to our pride to think our own brain deceives us. We want to believe our powers of logic are a certain guide to truth. When we see something, we “know” it is true. But is it? At the beginning of my courses I inform my students half of what I will teach them isn’t true. My problem is I don’t know which half.

Thus the need for faith. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 17, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Understanding vs. Forgiveness

It happens every semester. Term papers are due and someone comes up after class and says, “Dr. Bothwell, I need more time. The computer printer would not work. My paper is all finished. I just can’t get it out of the computer.” This is the 21st Century’s “The dog ate my homework.”

To which I reply, “I understand.”

To which they reply, “Oh, thank you, Dr. Bothwell.”

To which I reply, “Slip your paper under my door. You will only lose a letter grade.”

To which they reply, “But you said you understand.”

To which I reply, “I do. However, there is a huge difference between understanding and forgiveness.”

It is one of life’s great lessons. God understands us. He knows us intimately. He knows our appetites and passions. He knows how weary we can become. He made us. However, His understanding does not mean all is forgiven. Forgiveness needs repentance. Repentance means turning around and going the other way. 1 Peter 3:10 –11 says, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.”

However, you say, “I try and try and just keep failing.” That’s when grace enters the picture. It is our heart. It is our intentions. Victory will come with practice. In the meantime rejoice in salvation. Victory is not the means of our salvation it is the fruit.

“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
I Samuel 16:7

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 11, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Jesus, Our Personal Sun

While walking my dog last evening I looked up at Arcturus. It is easy to find in the night sky. Just allow your eye to follow the arch created by the handle of the big dipper and it is the first bright star you will see. It is only 37 light years away so if you are less than 37 years old the light you are seeing left Arcturus before you were born. I was wondering if there is intelligent life on a planet circling Arcturus and if so what do they call Arcturus. In their language do they call it “The Sun?” After all Arcturus is our name for it. I wonder what their name is for our Sun. As far as I know we don’t have a name for our sun. It is just “sun.”

I am glad for the dark. Without the dark we would never see the wonders of the heavens for the light of our sun would overpower the stars. Yet I am glad for the day for it allows us to see the colors of our wonderful world. How very complicated night and day would be if we were part of a binary sun system.

Light illuminates and light obscures.

In John 8:12 Jesus declared Himself to be the light of the world. His honesty, His purity, His trustworthiness, His love and care illuminate the character defects inside us. Yet His mercy and forgiveness will upon our request obscure and obliterate the record of our failures. In Him we become honest, pure, trustworthy, loving and caring. How grand!

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 10, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

James 3

Today I saw a limousine waiting outside a Burger King. The two items, the limousine and Burger King, do not seem to go together. It had all the incongruity of a Picasso in a Wal-Mart. It was like the President of the United States riding around in a Ford Fiesta. It was like George Bush playing golf with Saddam Hussein. King Solomon understood life’s incongruities when he wrote in Proverbs 11:22, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.”

There are some things that do not go together. We cannot be a Christian and be cruel and heartless. We cannot be a Christian and be a gossip. We cannot be a Christian and steal a person’s reputation by saying nasty things about him or her. These things just don’t go together. James mentions this in chapter 3. He said, “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

Living a consistent life is a great challenge. I can start out the day with the best intentions and be irritated on my way to school in the morning and all those good goals evaporate like the morning mist. Fortunately for me Jesus understands.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 8, 2004
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

What Is A Home?

The mystery of the missing fluid for the clutch in my old truck is solved. Upon opening the bell housing we found a community of small animals. One was dead and the others went running across the garage floor. The leaking fluid was being absorbed by the nesting material they made out of insulation from other parts of the truck. I wonder how long they lived in there and how many trips they made with me back and forth to school?

It takes all kinds of homes for God’s creatures but the bell housing of a truck is not one of the better ones. Bears have dens. Birds have nests. Dogs have blankets. Cats have houses they allow humans to live in. Kings have palaces. Rich people have mansions. The rest of us have apartments or regular houses.

What actually constitutes a home? When I am returning from school I do not mentally feel like I’m home til I pull in the driveway. However, if I have been on a really long journey I feel like I’m home when I arrive at the outskirts of my town. Robert Frost once defined home as “the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Why the expression “have to?” It is either because of obligation or because of love. Most likely it depends on the particular case. In the case of our heavenly Father I believe the “have to” is love. There was no way the father could have refused the prodigal son upon his return. There is no way our heavenly father can refuse us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 7, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Plan D, E, F, G, …

The fluid in the master cylinder for the clutch in my old truck has disappeared. Obviously that makes shifting gears an extreme challenge. This is puzzling because there is no puddle or signs of leaking where I park it. The man at the transmission shop tells me this is usually Problem A or Problem B. However, in this case it seems to be Problem C, which means he hasn’t yet figured out where the fluid went. Therefore he will try Plan D to solve the mystery. “After all,” he said, “this stuff doesn’t evaporate.”

I did not ask him what Plan D was in case it meant blowing up the truck and I didn’t want to know if that was the case. I wonder if God has a Plan D? I think Plan A was for Adam and Eve not to sin. Plan B was the Cross for our redemption. Plan C is most likely God’s personal plan of how to woo us to accept the gift of salvation. Perhaps Plan D, E, F, G, H and on are His modifications in approaching us because we continue to resist. How grand to know that He does not give up on us but will continue His pursuit.

In Ephesians 1 Paul wrote, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his children through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will . . . In him we have . . . the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 6, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Choose Your Out-of-This World Tours

If we have good vision we are capable of seeing about 5,000 stars on a clear night. That is hardly a good start. The latest calculation of astronomers for the total number of stars in the universe is 70 sextillion. That is a seven with twenty-two zeros. That is more than the grains of sand on planet earth. How overwhelmingly provincial to think we are the only intelligent life forms in all the vastness of space.

The Bible speaks of a huge host of intelligent beings that do not live on earth. Revelation 5:11 reads, “Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne . . .” According to the next verse they are there for a special reason. Verse 12 says, “In a loud voice they sang: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’”

There is so much for us to see. Today a telemarketer tried to sell me a trip to Orlando by telling me, “You will never again see so much for so little if you buy this travel package.” I don’t think so. I have news for him. There are 70 sextillion places to go and the cost has already been covered. Revelation 7:9 reads, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb.” Now that is a trip no one should miss.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 5, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453