Individuals Count

In 1945 the Japanese had been fighting American soldiers for over three years.  They were convinced that they could not lose the war because their gods had made them superior.  They were a chosen people.  Americans were a mongrel people who were not racially pure.  It was unbelievable that their warriors were losing island after island.  When Americans reached Okinawa it became evident that heaven had deserted them.  In despair thirty thousand military and civilian personal hurled themselves to their deaths from the top of an Okinawaian cliff.  They could not endure the shame.

There is something deep inside the human psyche that makes us want to believe we are God’s favorites.  Young people knock on my door and tell me they are God’s elect and my baptism is of no value unless I am rebaptised by one of them.  Group after group, denomination after denomination, nation after nation believe they are the chosen ones. It is not an idea foreign to my childhood.  I even learned memory verses from Scripture to support this deep basic human hunger.

Could it be that God is not and has never been impressed by groups and organizations?  Could it be that God is instead searching for humble individuals who deem themselves unworthy and come to Him as one willing to be used in any way God needs to further His kingdom?   There is a very interesting verse in Revelation 7.  John wrote, “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, . . .”  It seems to be about people and not about groups.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 15, 2011

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


Our Sensible God

It’s amazing what a dog will do for a treat.  When I ask our lab to shake, as she picks up her paw she cocks her head and gives me a crazy look as if to say, “Look, this is really stupid.  It serves no real function other than to make you happy, so here. Now where’s my treat?”   Actually it has gotten even worse.  When she wants a treat she taps me with her nose, sits down and picks up her paw.  I think the psychologist Skinner would say I am the one who has been conditioned.

I am so thankful God does not ask me to do mindless things that I might receive blessings.  There is no eleventh commandment that says, “Shake.”  God is so practical.  Each commandment comes with a blessing not as a care package from heaven but as a result of doing something very useful.  For example the first command says not to worship idols.  Of course that would be stupid because a piece of stone or wood can’t interact with us.  The fourth commandment tells us to rest every seventh-day.  If God didn’t command that most of us would work seven days a week and burn out at 35 or 40.   If I honor my parents, my children will see me do this and they will then treat me the way I treated grandma and grandpa.

Everything God asks of us is sensible, practical and leads to the abundant life Jesus promises to us.  Even the Old Testament food requirements in Leviticus were there to keep the children of Israel healthy and well.  What a wonderful God.  He doesn’t need His ego to be massaged by our behavior.  He just wants us to be happy, safe and well.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 16, 2011

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



Frogs are fascinating creatures.  They come equipped with an amazingly accurate tongue that can snag all manner of flying food.  However, there is a problem.  If there is no flying food they will starve to death.  We can put all kinds of nutritious morsels in front of them but if it isn’t moving they will not eat it.  In an age of constant media saturation with flashing lights, stirring sounds, blazing pictures and the best media producers in the world filling our senses, I wonder if a Bible sitting quietly on our bedside table can catch our attention.  I wonder if we have become frogs when it comes to our spiritual diet.

It is difficult for John, a Galilean fisherman, with little education to compete with 21st century media.  Mark Zuckerberg, the developer of Facebook, is the world’s youngest billionaire because corporations pay him very large amounts of money to advertise on Facebook.   Corporate executives know where our eyes are and pay a lot to catch our attention. So just how would Matthew, a first century tax collector, get us to notice what he wrote?  If it were not for one very important advantage that Matthew and John have, it would be a lost cause.  Their writing would fade into the abyss of historical writing.  However, their advantage is something no media expert could ever seek to match.  It is called the Holy Spirit.

The very same Spirit that moved Matthew and John to write their incredible accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry moves upon our hearts twenty centuries later.  When we see our Bibles and feel a tug to open and read, that isn’t just idle curiosity or guilt, it is the Holy Spirit Himself wooing us.   We must not ignore it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 25, 2011

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



The first time I ever drove a hybrid car I sat behind the wheel trying to start the engine.  I pressed almost every button I could find thinking something was wrong.  Finally, I put my foot on the pedal and the car moved. What a surprise!   It was great fun coming to a stop at a traffic signal and hearing nothing.  I was sure the car had stalled.  I learned.  I am not surprised to see more and more hybrids on the road.

2 Peter 1 fascinates me.  Peter talks about our being hybrids.  He tells us we can, right now, become partakers of divine nature.  We don’t have to be “only human.”  Peter must have realized how incredible this sounded.  It is surreal and difficult for us materialists to grasp.  God wants to live in us.  He wants to share His power with us.  He wants us to live above our fallen human natures.  He wants us to share and taste the future.  I am not surprised Peter referred to this as an exceedingly great and precious promise.  It was unlike anything people had heard before.

So what does it mean?  Basically, we have no excuse for failure.  So often we excuse our lapses by saying, “Well, I’m only human.”   Hey, that doesn’t have to be. There will be no Freudian blaming our forefathers for our phylogenetically inherited endowments.  Even though we were not born with a blank slate for a mind, even though we are born preprogrammed, this promise means we do not have to be slaves to our inheritance.  While we cannot overcome by ourselves the truth is we are no longer on our own.  We can, right now, be supplied with external power.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 25, 2010

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


A Jesus Fixation

One of the problems with teaching my Human Development classes is I start seeing things in people around me.  For example, one of my lectures is on Freud’s stages of development.  He maintained if one does not satisfy each stage as we grow, we develop a fixation that remains with us for life.  Now, I have this student who is always chewing gum.  I mean always.  I think she must sleep with it.  Therefore, I conclude she has an oral fixation because she never successfully completed her first stage of development, her oral stage.

I now conclude that I have a Jesus fixation. I can never get enough. I read about Him.  I read what He said.  I read what others write about Him.  I think about His interactions with people.  I think about His sacrifice.  I think about what the Book of Hebrews has to say about where He is now and what He is doing.  Just as my student is not satisfied neither am I satisfied.  I want more.

There is an irony in this because Jesus once said, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”  I know what He is saying.  He is the most satisfying philosopher I have ever read.  He supplies me with assurance for eternity. And yet, I am still hungry for more.  Not hungry for something else.  I am hungry for more of Him.  I want a deeper experience.  I want to understand more about what motivated Him to come here.  I want to know why He loves you and me so much.

I have a Jesus fixation.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 24, 2010

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


My Filthy Car

You should not see my car right now.  It is supposed to be shiny maroon but instead it is a dull gray. There are no shiny spots because all is crusted with winter salt. When I sit in it I think I can actually hear the salt eating away at the chassis and body.  It’s ten years old and still does not show any rust.  I wonder how much longer I will be so fortunate.  Perhaps I am the recipient of a two and a half thousand year old promise.  “I will prevent pests (rust) from devouring your crops (car), and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the LORD Almighty.”  Malachi 3:11

I would like to think so. In Malachi 3 God promises to pour blessings out of the windows of heaven on us if we are faithful.  Someone might easily say it has nothing to do with that.  The reason is it is a well-made car.  There seems to always be a way to take credit away from God.  Perhaps God wants it that way.  It would be so easy for Him to do things that would be positively beyond doubt.  But He seems to want us to demonstrate faith.  Faith seems to be essential to our spiritual growth.  When a woman touched the hem of Jesus’ garment she was instantly healed and He said, “Your faith has made you well.”  Again He said to a man whose sight was restored, “You faith has enabled you to see.”  And in Mark 9 He told a father that only faith could help his son, to which the man said, “I believe, help my unbelief.”

Could it be in our scientific age of inductive reasoning that we too often explain things away and cheat God of His glory and ourselves of wondrous blessings that would come if we only believed?

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 24, 2011

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


While waiting for a slice of pizza to cool down enough so as to not sear my mouth and make my tongue feel like fuzz for the next week, I said to my wife, “I like lukewarm pizza, not hot pizza–sort of how I like lukewarm Christians and not hot Christians.”

“Oh, no,” she responded.  “You don’t like hot religious people but you really like hot Christians.”

She was spot on.  I made the terrible error of confusing real Christianity with religion.  I love hot Christians.  I love people who are genuine, caring, honest, unselfish and willing to sacrifice for others.  It is religious people who make me want to leave the room.  I’m talking about people who use religious argot and want to turn every conversation into a theological discourse.  I’m talking about people who believe their value system is the only value system in the world and universe because it is God’s value system.  There is little opportunity for variance because they have “the truth.”

So let’s forget them and go back to hot Christians.  I love Christians who sizzle Christ-likeness. Jesus had a really difficult time stomaching religious people.  See Matthew 23.  He was very comfortable with real people who knew they had needs, people who recognized their failures and wanted help to do better.

It’s a good thing my wife straightened me out on this considering Revelation 3:16, “So then because you art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”   God really does want us to be the best we can. He just longs for us to be genuinely caring in how we interface with others.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 23, 2010

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

When Losers Become Winners

I’m fascinated with our obsession with winners.  During the Olympics we watch people who have trained for years, honed their skills to the finest and yet because they finish one thousandth of a second behind the bronze medalist we don’t even hear their names.  They are the “also rans.” One thousandth of a second is less than a heartbeat.  It is time so brief we humans can only measure it with electronics.  Yet it is the difference between being honored for excellence and obscurity.  We just don’t pay much attention to losers.  How many of us can remember the names of those who lost the last five presidential elections?  Yet these were men millions deemed capable of leading our nation.

It’s not that way in heaven.  Us losers–you and me,who have all sinned and come short (Romans 3:23)–are treated like winners.  Paul writes about our being more than conquerors. (Romans 8:37).   We are not obscure in the halls of heaven.  Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. (Revelation 13).  God’s system is upside down compared to ours.  His values are not our values.  The first is last and the last first.  Sit at the bottom of the table and He will move us to the head of the table.  He will invite each of us to sit with Him in His throne.  The whole story is so unlike our nature.

If we ever wondered if all this is true, it has to be, because it isn’t the way humans would design it.  Humans would only let the perfect ones have the prize.  Well, I guess that is the way it is.  Fortunately, for us it is the perfection of Jesus that counts for us.  We win.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 22, 2010

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


Stale Stuff

Who can resist a good sale, especially when it is something we use?  There it was a forty-pound bag of birdseed chock-full of sunflower seeds and other goodies.  Best of all it was half what I usually pay.  I was one happy camper until our birds deserted us.  They don’t like it.  I wonder if the seed was very old and stale and thus on sale. My bargain didn’t turn out to be such a good deal.   I went and got the good stuff and am trying to woo them back.  The squirrels will enjoy the stale stuff.

This brings me to church attendance.  If one never hears a fresh idea, if Sabbath School or Sunday School lessons are just a repeat of things we have heard all our lives, if sermons seem to be a rehash of last year’s fare, it is difficult to shovel the driveway and slip down the hill on a cold winter morning.  Now that I have said that, allow me to say that despite our appetite for fresh mental stimulation, the tried and true story of the cross still refreshes no matter how often it is told.  I need, we need the constant reassurance that God loves us despite our ridiculous failures.  “Tell Me The Old Old Story” is a pretty good hymn with a great message.

However, let’s go back to our need for something new.  At the close of Hebrews 5 Paul speaks of learning on the milk of the Word but eventually needing meat.  People like birds will go where they are being fed that which is nourishing and palatable.  Sometimes we even need to hear things we don’t particularly like but “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 14, 2011

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


Whose Fault Is It?

Many years ago one of my African students failed to turn in an assignment.  When I asked him about it, he said, “It was God’s will.”  “How is that?” I asked.  He responded, “If God wanted me to do it He would have gotten me out of bed and made me write it.”  Today I heard the opposite side of that story.  Today a student did not turn in a book report and said, “Sorry sir, but, the devil kept me from writing it by keeping me busy.”

I do not want to disregard God’s or Satan’s influence in our lives, but personal responsibility is a part of character development. It seems to be our nature to look for someone to blame for our failures.  If we can’t find another human, then we start looking at God or Satan.  If that doesn’t fit our theology we convince ourselves we are ill, therefore, excusing ourselves. My point is we search to blame someone or something other than ourselves.   Adam started it.  “The woman you gave me.  She made me do it.”  Eve followed by blaming it on the serpent. Had God inquired of the serpent I am sure it would have said, “Satan made me do it.”  And Satan would have responded, “God, you made me do it.”

One of my heroes was Harry Truman.  “The buck stops here!”  It is so refreshing to hear someone accept blame for something that went wrong.  Not so long ago I heard an administrator apologize for something one of his team member’s failure. My respect for that administrator soared.

If we are to receive God’s grace in the Day of Judgment, we have to be bold and say, “Lord, I failed you. I am sorry.”  And He will say, “Welcome home.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 11, 2011

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