Paul – Theologian and Psychologist

I have friends who are completely enamored with Romans 1 through 8.  And I have to agree with them that it is the finest theological treatise ever written.  Perhaps it’s because I teach some of the psychology classes at our little college that I think Romans 12 through 15 cannot be excelled by anyone.   Paul is so very practical.  If we applied his counsel to our daily lives we would surely be the most psychologically healthy people in the world.  I am amazed at the expanse of Paul’s knowledge regarding personal relationships and how to mind our own business and grow in the Lord.

But then again I should not be amazed.  Not only did Paul have the best education of his time both in Hebrew topics but also in occidental topics.  Paul was no slouch when it came to Aristotle, Plato and Socrates.  The best part of all was his daily connection with Jesus.  His works are not the mere product of a human mind.  They are the product of a great human mind united to divinity.  His works are inspired by the One who knows all things.

How about chapter 12:19 and on? “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”   Has someone harmed you?  Do you want to harm them back?  If you are a normal human the answer is yes.  But the wise person who wants genuine peace will forgive and know that we have a heavenly father who knows how to give good gifts to us.  If there is something to be revenged He will do it ever so much more skillfully than any of us ever could.  Trust Him.  It’s a sure prescription for a great life.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 30, 2010

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


Rarely Does Being Pushy Pay

We were waiting for a green light in two lanes that merged into one on the other side of the intersection.  Since it is on my way to school often I am stopped there.  After the light turns green people usually perform as taught in kindergarten, they take turns merging.  However, this morning the driver beside me decided to hug the bumper of the car in front of her not allowing anyone to merge between her and the car ahead of her.  In the line of cars she had gained one car length.  Once we had gained speed I did a brief calculation and guessed she had gained one tenth of a second by her rudeness.

One tenth of a second is gone before we can say it.  I realize that is a very important amount of time at the Olympic Games.  Actually one hundredth of a second often determines the difference between winning the gold or the silver medal.  But, this was not the Olympic Games.  This was people going to work.  Surely a tenth of a second did not matter even if she did have to punch a time clock.

How often in life do we push our way to the front?  How often are we rude?  And for what?   Perhaps it might matter if we were starving and there was just so much food to be passed out. But what would happen to us if we took Jesus’ counsel seriously about the first being last and the last first, or Paul’s counsel to prefer others above ourselves? Matthew 19:30 and Romans 12:10   Knowing that Jesus and Paul were great psychologists, I am convinced we would discover life is richer and more fulfilling than had we acted otherwise.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 28, 2010

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



I Have a Problem

I have a problem.  We stopped at a Friendly’s this evening and I got a Fribble, a large chocolate milkshake.  Even before I got halfway to the bottom I filled up; can’t eat as much as I used to.  The server gave me a cup to use so I could bring it home.  Now I have the problem.  If I put it in the freezer it will get solid.  If I put it in the fridge it will turn to milk.  So where, other than my stomach, should I put it?  Please do not be concerned for my health and say down the kitchen drain.

I wonder if God ever wonders what to do with us; too good for earth but not good enough for heaven.  Obviously there was no problem with Enoch.  “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.”  Hebrews 11:5.  And there was Elijah, “There appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”  II Kings 2:11.   Apparently both of these men really really pleased God.

So what about you and me?  I’m never going to be that good.  And I have my doubts about you.  The Good News is it isn’t goodness that gets us there.  It’s grace.  Eternal life is a gift of God.  So neither Enoch nor Elijah really was good enough.  Even for them it was a gift.  For us, as it was for them, it is not a matter of being good enough but a matter of pleasing God by thanking Him for the gift and wanting to grow more and more like Him every day.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 28, 2010

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


Summer Is Gone

It’s the last day of summer 2010.  Autumn is knocking at the door.  The hummingbirds have gone south.   The males left about two weeks ago and the females just two days ago.  It’s time for me to get the firewood in the garage.   It’s also time to set mouse traps.  They sense the coming of winter and are looking for warm accommodations.  We were surprised this year to find a couple decided to live in my sister’s car.  We keep it parked by the woodpile so we shouldn’t be surprised they decided to move in.  I wonder what they think when they look out into the K-mart parking lot.   Apparently they are smart enough not to get out because they keep coming home.

Getting ready for winter can be challenging.  When I sit in church and listen to some very important offering appeal I am often tempted to empty out our savings.  But if we all did that retirement might be pretty harsh.  One needs to be judicious.  Jesus’ direction to the rich young ruler to sell all and give it all away wasn’t a universal command but a very specific remedy for a very specific problem.  Our problem is deciding whether or not that’s an excuse for our not giving more.

Balance is a very important word.  It’s not so easy.  One needs to sleep but not too much.  We need to eat but not too much.   And so it is with giving.  We need to give but not too much.  I once heard a preacher tell his congregation they needed to give twenty percent because that’s what the children of Israel did.   He failed to mention they had no other taxes.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 21, 2010

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

Going Where I Don’t Want To Go

Friday night on my almost daily walk I was heading down our hill not watching where I was going.  I was absorbed in reading my email on my iPhone.  Hearing the sound of another’s footfall I looked up into the face of my neighbor walking up the hill absorbed with his iPhone. We were face to face a step apart.  Phew!  No collision.  Both of us were so attentive to something other than what was important; where we were going.

I fear this to be the case for a fair amount of my students.  They too are absorbed, with almost everything except where they are going.  But, perhaps it’s not just my students.  Could it be most of us?  It is so easy to fill our lives with paying the bills, raising the kids, transporting the kids to school, play dates and soccer and hockey that we have little time to think about where we are going.

I experience this so often when beginning a book.  I get caught sometimes going somewhere I don’t want to go.  Movies also do that.  The reviews are good and yet I soon realize this isn’t where I want to go.  Fortunately, God gave us choice and free will and just because we have started a book or a movie definitely does not mean we have to finish it.  We are in charge of our destinations.  My problem is that often I want to go where I don’t want to go.  On such occasions I remind myself of Psalm 1:1, “Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 26, 2010

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

Our Compensating Brain

We have amazing brains that compensate for our lack of physical perfection.  As we age and begin to lose hearing often we miss the first sounds of words so our brains instantly search our vocabulary and fill in what our brains thinks should be there.  They don’t always select the right word.  This is one reason older couples often get a bit cranky or short with each other.  They think the other has said something the other did not say.  Ouch.

Our brains do the same with our eyes.  We have a blind spot in each eye where the optic nerve connects to the eyeball. We don’t notice because the blind spot in each eye is just a bit off from the other and each eye covers the other eye’s blind spot.  If you desire to see if this is so Google “eye blind spot”.   It will take you to sites where you can test this by closing one eye and focusing on a + sign.  Nearby is a dark spot.  As you move your head toward the screen the black spot will disappear.  It is in your blind spot.  Now comes the interesting part.  You will not see nothing.  Instead your brain will fill in the spot with white just as it had compensated for your hearing loss.

We also have mental blind spots.  These are related to our relationships and at times we are blind to, let’s say our children’s faults.  Our brains will because of love choose the best possible interpretation for their failures.  If our brain is full of God’s Word or something of much lesser value our brain can only draw upon what is there.  Garbage in – garbage out.   God’s word in – God’s word out.

“Thy Word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”  Psalm 119:11.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 23, 2010

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


The Best for Last

I have come to a new meaning for Jesus first major miracle – the water into wine.  This is major because prior to this Jesus told Nathaniel that He saw him under a fig tree praying.  That was a minor miracle.   But back to the water into wine.  I couldn’t have understood what I am referring to when I was young.  This only can come with age.  Remember in the story how they questioned the host regarding saving the best wine until last.  That is what is happening to me and I hope for you.  The older we get.  The longer we have been with Jesus.  The better the wine gets.

There is a sweetness I never could have grasped when I first finished the seminary.  Then I understood the doctrines of the church.  Now I appreciate so much the abiding presence of Jesus and somehow the doctrines don’t seem to be as important.  I am referring to such things as the end of Romans 8, “Who can be against us?”   And motives are more important than deeds, “If I give my body to be burned, if I don’t do it for love it is a worthless sacrifice.”  And after attending so many funerals I so value I Corinthians 15, “Death is swallowed up in victory.”   Perhaps the best is the parable of the unjust judge who only gave the woman her request because he was sick of her begging.  God is not like that judge.  We don’t have to beg.  We can come boldly and ask and if it is good for us, we get it.  God is a loving generous Father.

Every day it just seems clearer. The wine just keeps getting better.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 22, 2010

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


Our Legacy

My wife and I decided to go to Denny’s for breakfast this noon and play the “Who Went to Church Game.”  Fifty years ago this game was much easier because most of the men would be wearing a necktie, but that custom has waned making the game more difficult.  There was one elderly gentleman, anyone older than me, who was sporting a nice suit and tie.   He and his wife were easy.  There was another young couple with two girls wearing nice dresses.  Surely they had to be. Then there was another couple with a boy.  I hope they had not just come from church because much to my amazement they walked out without paying. I could barely believe what I watched.  Now I am going to make an educated guess that twenty years from now one family will have two wonderful brides and another family will be lucky not to have a jailbird.

I realize there have been many debates through the decades regarding nature versus nurture.  Just how valuable is role modeling versus inheritance? Most of us have come to the conclusion both are extremely valuable.  Not only do our children arrive in this world with our predispositions but they also watch us.  Speech and behavior patterns are copied and become a blessing or a curse to the next generation.

I have talked with many people through the years who have longed to write a book so they could leave a legacy to the world after they are gone.  A book can become a musty old object that fills our basements with unsold copies or sits on a freebie table at a yard sale.  But a child grown to adulthood, now there’s a legacy!

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 26, 2010

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


Oh to Be Happy

There’s a funny thing about humans.  The kind of world we think is out there is the kind of world we see out there.  One would think the latter would come first but quite to the contrary. We are the designers of our world.  We don’t see the world that is.  We see the world we think is.  Once upon a time I knew a woman whose life was most miserable.  It is true she only had one leg but the last time I checked our limbs were not connected to our brain, the source of our attitudes.  I was her pastor and I have to admit (I shouldn’t say this) that I was happy for her when she passed away.  She sat home alone and had a rebuttal for every positive comment any of us could make.  Nothing we could say could get a smile.  I do so hope the Lord can make her happy.  None of us could bring even a tiny ray of sunshine into her dismal world. I hate to sound like someone from the Sound of Music but think of your favorite things and life wouldn’t be so sad.

The law of God’s Kingdom, the rule for happiness, is service.  When we set out to improve another’s life we are the ones whose lives improve.  It almost seems counter intuitive but God’s Kingdom is like that.  The first shall be last and the last first.  Matthew 19:30.   So how much sense does that make?  Very little in our way of thinking but it is brilliant when Jesus says it.  The reason being is He is the Master Psychologist.  He created us.  He designed our minds and knows exactly what we need for happiness.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 21, 2010

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


Having a Sixth Sense

We often hear people speak about having a sixth sense.  There are things we know even though they are beyond our five sense’s capabilities.  They are not empirical.  We cannot weigh them or measure them in any manner.  Yet they are real.  No one would say love isn’t real.  However, only lovers playing an up-man-ship game try to quantify love by claiming they love the other more than they are loved.   Justice is real but cannot be put in the balance held by the blind statue of justice.  Perhaps it is because justice cannot be measured that we often times want to retaliate just a hair more than our cause demands.

I have come to believe faith is our sixth sense.  It is something Jesus certainly thought we should have.  He actually expected us to have it.  Just in Luke we find the following.   Concerning those who lowered the paralytic through the roof, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ ”  Luke 5:20.   He spoke of the great faith of the Centurion.  Luke 7:9.  To the woman who washed His feet He said, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” To the woman who touched his garment, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.”  Luke 8:48. To the cleansed leper, “Rise and go: your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:19.  The list goes on and on.  It is a great study if you are wanting to have a refreshing time.

In Luke 17:5 the disciples figured this out and asked for more faith.   Perhaps it is the greatest want of modern man.  We are so educated in inductive and deductive logic and in the scientific method of research it is difficult for us to reach beyond our rational minds.  Philosophers call it the “leap of faith.”  It does appear it is something we need.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 20, 2010

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