Blessed Are the Merciful?

I had an interesting exchange with a student this morning.  Grades are due tomorrow and he failed to turn in a major paper.  He said, “Since you allowed me to turn in a late paper at midterm I knew I could ask you again.” So, let me see if I can translate.  “Since you gave in once, you will give in again.”  Or “Since you gave in once, I know you are a man of mercy.”  Or “You gave once, therefore, you owe me another.”   Or “Since you didn’t mean it the first time, you don’t mean it now.”  Or “You are so easy!”  Or “I knew I didn’t have to have it in on time.”

In my mind I see someone knocking on the door of Noah’s ark. It has started to rain and a man says, “You’re a good man. Open the door.” Isn’t there a verse in Revelation 22 that goes, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still”?  It is the end of the road. The merciful God of love has finally said, “No more.”  I can see someone saying, “But God, you always forgave me in the past.  How about just one more time?”  In Matthew 7 Jesus said, “Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'”

This is not easy.  Jesus also said, “If we being human know how to give good gifts unto our children, how much more does our heavenly Father know how to give good gifts.” Should I or should I not?  That is the question.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 23, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Birds of Many Colors

During breakfast this morning we had a delightful array of birds at the feeder just on the other side of the window.  Feasting on the seeds and suet were Black-capped Chickadees, Cardinals, Blue Jays, a Carolina Wren, three kinds of woodpeckers and of course sparrows.  We have yet to have house guests be upset by the variety of birds in our yard.   We have a yard list. This means they have to actually be in our yard. They can’t be counted if we only see them next door or across the street.  There are 72 birds on our yard list.  The more variety the happier we are.

So how is it that we can rejoice in God’s creative display among birds but harbor not so nice feelings about God’s variety of people?   We enjoy seeing an array of birds at the same bird feeder but we don’t have the same joy when an array of different colors of people show up at a church potluck or move in next door.  We talk about being in heaven with a great array of people but often we fail to make the connection that Jesus’ basic message was that the Kingdom of God begins now.

Perhaps we feel threatened by differences.  We are comfortable with those like ourselves.  There are reasons, some legitimate and others not so legitimate, why birds of a feather flock together.  It is natural to be concerned about things and people we don’t understand.  Understanding seems to be the issue.  Education and exposure often enable us to grow more comfortable.  Paul said it so very plainly in Galatians 3:28, “In Christ there is no Jew nor Greek.  We are one in Christ.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 6, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Beware of Authoritative Voices

I really rely on the GPS in my car to get me places.  The GPS has probably saved more gasoline than any other recent improvement to cars.  Those of us who are directionally challenged don’t waste gallons of fuel trying to find our destination.  However, we must not overly trust these handy devices. Recently I was doing my usual daydreaming and missed a highway exit.  It took less than a second for the GPS to recalibrate with new instructions. As I got to the ramp where traffic was coming onto the highway my GPS told me to take a sharp right.  Had I obeyed I would have saved myself ten miles of driving but I also would have been driving the wrong way on a one-way ramp.  I wonder if she (I’m sure it’s a she.  It has such a nice feminine voice.) would have paid for the ticket.

We really need to pay attention to whom we pay attention. Some people speak and act with such confidence; it just seems right to listen to their counsel. Yet they can be as wrong as wrong can be.  Just forty-eight hours before Lehman Brothers went belly-up a very loud voice on a financial television program told us all to buy Lehman Brothers because “it was solid.”  So much for authorities.  When we are children we obey our parents.  When we are in school we obey our teachers.  When we are in church we obey our pastor.  Or do we?  Should we?  At some point in our lives we mature and stop checking our brains at the door.  In Isaiah God tells us to reason.  God is not honored by blind obedience.  He is best served by thoughtful, intelligent, principle-driven decisions.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 20, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Balanced Self-esteem

If the rejected contestants on American Idol are a sampling of our culture then lack of self-esteem is definitely not an American problem.  Individuals with no talent, who cannot begin to carry a tune, become angry when they are told “no.”  If their parents are present they seem amazed that the judges could reject their sweet gift to the world.  While it is true we should not destroy a child’s self-esteem it also seems that we do them no favor when we fill them with dreams for which they have no gift.  Does love make us so blind or have we become such a child worshipping culture that cannot be honest and say to a child, “Let’s work together to find your real gift”?

When we over praise our children we do them no favor.  If we create in them false expectations of success in areas in which they have no talent we do them no good. Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” is not merely about morality, it is mainly about helping a child match abilities with opportunities.  My father wanted me to be a physician.  It was not my gift.

Finding the right balance of self-esteem is not easy.  We should be proud of who we are.  We should feel good about what we do. We should be pleased to come to the end of life and know that we have done well.  That is impossible if we are never honest enough to look in the mirror and see the truth.   The best truth of all is that Jesus died for us.  Now there is cause for great self-esteem balanced with gratitude and humility.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 5, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


Bad Times Don’t Last

I just finished reading an editorial that ridiculed a few companies for running advertisements on television encouraging us with assurance that we as a nation will gain from the economic downturn.  According to the optimistic advertisements the gain will be a better appreciation for what we have and how to better manage our resources when the economy upturns.  I think James 1:3 supports the optimistic companies.  James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing our faith develops perseverance.”

Perhaps the author of the critical editorial is young and has not yet matured in enough wisdom to understand.  The generation Tom Brokaw refers to as The Greatest Generation are those who endured the great depression and sacrificed through WWII.  These are ones who throughout the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s labored hard to build and to save and to be frugal.  They knew what it was like to be without.  Perhaps the same work ethics can be instilled in our present young people as we work together to restore hope and prosperity.

I realize how difficult it is to count trials as joy.  It isn’t in our nature to do so and some consider those who do to be a bit daft.  But we do know that bad times don’t last and lessons learned do make us stronger and wiser.  Already this year our little city has lost two large businesses.  Is it comfortable to do so?  Absolutely not.  Is it the end of the world? Absolutely not.  Good times and blessings will follow and all of us will be wiser and better stewards.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 26, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Bad News/Good News

We had a serious steering issue with our car.  You can imagine the sinking feeling in my stomach when I heard just the parts would cost 1700 dollars. However,  there was some good news.  Those same parts could be retrieved from a car just like ours that is now residing in a local junk yard.  The junk yard cost would be 300 dollars.  Phew! I could live with that.

I am fascinated by my response to spending 300 dollars.  Had I first been told 300 dollars I would have groaned.  However, after hearing it in relation to the 1700 dollars, it was wonderful news.   I am going to use the same psychology this week as we begin our fall semester.  I will tell my students they have to write three major papers for me and then say, “On second thought one paper will be fine.”   I’m hoping for cheers instead of groans over the one major paper.

How about this?  We are sinners.  We have to die for our sins.  Our selfishness makes us unfit for heaven and eternal life.  Am I hearing any groans?  Okay, now comes the good news.  Jesus did it for us!  Now it’s time to cheer.  I have such mixed feelings about Jesus’ death.   I am so glad He did it for us.  I am so sad He had to do it for us.  It is a good news, bad news scenario.

Adam and Eve must have been shattered when they were taken from the Garden of Eden.  Their eyes must have filled with tears as they were escorted out the gate.   Then they heard the good news.  There was a way provided for them to return.  The bad news was Jesus had to die. The good news was He is the resurrection and the life and would live again.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 31, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574


Automatic Behavior

While walking my dog last evening I watched one of my neighbors pull out of her driveway.  She used her turn signal.   Obviously it was an involuntary habit since there was no other car in sight and traffic behind her was minimal.   While purchasing a book at a store filled with people I know including the person behind the counter, I was amused that the clerk retained my credit card so she could verify my signature.   I am going to assume it was an automatic involuntary habit.

Philippians 2:5 has always been one of my favorite verses.  “Let this mind be in you that was in Christ.”    When this happens we will do all manner of things automatically.  Our first response to pleasant or unpleasant events would be one which would please our mothers.  How grand it would be if we automatically lived out the standards presented to us in the Sermon on the Mount.  I can only imagine what it is like to desire the best for people who disrespect me.  That response is not my natural first reaction.

When we come to understand it is not other’s actions that cause us internal strife but instead our reaction to other’s actions, we have made a giant step toward an abundant tranquil life.  While it is true Jesus did on occasion get angry, it only occurred when He noticed the strong abusing the not so strong.   We have no record of Jesus being angry in response to actions directed against Him.   It is a worthy goal that is most likely not about to happen to most of us today or tomorrow, but with the aid of the Holy Spirit we can make progress each day.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 5, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574



I did not know before this weekend that apple seeds are not true to their fruit.  If we plant a seed from a Gala apple we will not get a tree that produces Gala apples.  Johnny Appleseed did not spread Cortland apples westward from Leominster, Massachusetts, his birthplace.  Types and kinds of apples have everything to do with grafting.

Having learned this marvelous truth has given me an answer to a problem that has plagued me for years.  If Adam and Eve were perfect from God’s hand, how is it they sinned?  The answer is things are not always true to their fruit.  Adam and Eve were the perfect fruit of God’s design and creation. But their seed wasn’t true to their illustrious origin. The Golden Delicious seed is not true to that awesome apple.

At this point some of you are most likely thinking, “I think he’s stretching to make a point.”   If so, you are most likely correct. I am. There is no reason for what happened other than they were given freedom of choice and they exercised that freedom with devastating results.  If there had been a good reason for what they did it would not have been sin.  They had everything that was good but they went for the bad.

The next question my students ask is why do we have to suffer because of what they did?  If I’m in a car with a bad driver and he crashes, I die.  Adam and Eve were in the driver’s seat for mankind. However, God is aware of our concern and He made it fair. Just as we die by one man’s deed so we get to live by one man’s righteousness.  See Romans 5:19

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 28, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

Another Man’s God

When I think back on it I chastise myself for my youthful arrogance.  How could I have been so uncaring and disrespectful?  A few miles from my school in Uganda there was a huge outcrop of rocks. I spent the afternoon of my 30th birthday up there enjoying the quiet breeze that always came after our very regular afternoon thunderstorm. A fairly large python lived up there and would be fed by locals who worshiped it.  One afternoon I along with a few friends had the opportunity to capture it and take it to our school.  During the night someone came and took it back to the rocks.  I saw it there the following afternoons.  I knew the people revered that animal.  But for me it was just a large curiosity.  It was an adventure to drag it home.  It showed great disrespect for another man’s worship experience.

My students see me as an old man and on occasion ask me if I would do things differently if I had a chance.  The answer is “Absolutely, yes.”  I could write of many other things but will not turn this into a confessional.  My point is that it is important to respect others who see things much differently than we do.  How grand it is that God does not judge us by groups or by our associations but by our response to His wooing.  He and He alone knows the perspective of each soul.  He knows the vantage point with which we have seen life.  Each of us sees life and issues through our biases.  While we do not agree with others we need to respect them.  I have come to believe that 95% of the people I meet are doing the very best they know how.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 2, 2009.

Spring of Life Ministry, PO 124, St. Helena, CA 94574

An Old Scrabble Game

While rummaging around in an old box I came across a computer Scrabble game.  I have not played it in years and I wondered if I was still up for the challenge.  It gave me the option of setting the computer to novice, amateur, expert or pro.   It seemed rather cowardly to dumb down the computer so I set it on pro.   Wow, did I get trounced.  It accessed its internal dictionary and played seven letter words giving itself 50 point bonuses.  The next time I will move it down to expert and see what happens.

As I watched its score soar I was reminded of people I have known who thought they were smart enough to beat Satan.  The definition of sin is anything that will harm you or another.  By definition one is playing against the odds and if one plays long enough the house always wins. It was Jesus Himself who said, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”   It is the same principle that says if you play with fire you will get burned.

God’s Word is very clear about certain things.  It was written by someone much smarter and wiser than we.  So what other than conceited arrogance would make us think we can be the exception?  Paul said, “The wages of sin is death.”  Note that there will be a paycheck coming our way.  It reminds us of the play Damn Yankees or Marlow’s Faust.  The protagonist sells his soul to the Devil thinking when the contract is up he can negotiate his way out of it.   The wise man learns to trust God.  Our heavenly Father has our best interest at heart.  If we ask He will rescue us even from our foolish selves.

Written by Roger Bothwell on June 18, 2009

Spring of Life Ministry, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 94574