Paul’s Grammar in Ephesians 2

Greek purists (every language has them*) must have gone crazy when they initially read the first part of Ephesians 2.  Paul pays little attention to the rules of grammar.  He starts sentences and doesn’t finish them.  Sentence fragments dangle.  Translators have tried to clean it up. So what was going on?  Paul was a highly educated man.  He knew better.  Understanding that makes the passage just so much more wonderful.  Ephesians 2 is Scripture’s preeminent passage on grace.  Paul is so overwhelmed by God’s incredible gift to us he just soared.  He paid no attention to construction he just opened up his heart to the wonder of salvation being God’s gift from start to finish with nothing left for us to do except accept it.

The idea that we are saved so God can spend eternity showering us with gifts of grace was and is so amazingly overwhelming there wasn’t time to grammar check.   This is a bird singing who cares not about music theory.   This is a child bursting past speechlessness when she receives the most beautiful doll of her dreams.  It is no wonder Paul says we best get busy doing the things God desires for us to do.   There is a plan for each of our lives so let’s live it lest we disappoint God and ourselves.

Before you go to bed tonight, please read Ephesians 2 for yourself.  If you are not moved we can help you with a heart transplant.

*While sitting in a college committee I was challenged by an English teacher who said, “That is not a word.”   “Did you understand what I meant to say,” I asked.   “Yes,” she said.   To which I responded, “Then it’s a word.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 26, 2011

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


Pruning Doesn’t Come Easy

Hurricane Irene has moved north from Massachusetts.  Here in the center of the Commonwealth it was not too bad; a few hours of hard rain and some gusts that were very helpful for me.  I had a few dead branches beyond the reach of my pole-saw.  Irene got them down for me.  She was a good pruner.   It isn’t unusual to see the ground covered with leaves in New England but it is a bit different to have them all be green.  There are even a few well used nests strewn here and there.

Storms come in many forms.  Some of the ones most difficult to deal with are internal.  They also can do some serious pruning.  Often time things are taken away that we long to hang on to.  The best pruning takes place in the hands of a master gardener and not by the capricious events of life.  The last evening Jesus was with His disciples He paused in the moonlight to talk about pruning.  “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” John 15.

While I indeed long for a much fruit experience the pruning worries me.  I know I am in the hands of the one who loves me more than life itself.  I know He would only do what is the very best for me. But my humanity is still ever present and there is this human need to be in control.  The idea of total surrender and allowing God to take over isn’t completely natural.  Pruning doesn’t come easy.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 28, 2011

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



New Clothes

I am sitting here looking at a coupon that will enable me to purchase thirty dollars worth of clothing at a consignment store for only fifteen dollars.  Now that’s a bargain.  Usually thirty dollars worth of clothing for thirty dollars is a bargain at a consignment store.  But this is really over the top.  How can I refuse to use it?   Except there is one small detail.  I have stopped buying clothes.  I have enough clothes.  I will die before I wear out the clothes in my closet.  Except maybe I might need a new pair of church shoes.  The pair I have now I bought in 1988.   I have had them reheeled four times and resoled twice.  Perhaps I can get that done one more time and then they will last me to the end.  They are wingtips and if I polish them nicely they will look good in the coffin; except they won’t show. If you don’t need something it isn’t a bargain no matter how inexpensive.  So I will pass up on this coupon.

When it comes to getting new clothes there is one garment all of us need.  It’s actually mentioned in the Old Testament.  In Zachariah 3 is the story of the high priest getting new clothes.  They were spotless.  Again in Revelation 7 the redeemed are wearing white robes.  They are made white by the blood of the Lamb.  How grand that is!   They were not purchased at a consignment store.  Oh no.  These were purchased at Calvary.  Jesus paid for them with His life and we will have them in our wardrobes forever.  They will never go out of style.  They are the best.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 20, 2011

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



Old Books & Scripture

I discovered Stephen Meader when I was in fifth grade.   My school library had several of his books which I quickly gobbled up.  Decades later I began to collect them.  It was an almost impossible task until the advent of eBay.  Today was a rainy day.  It was a perfect day to take one off the shelf and be eleven again. As my hands opened the book and the smell of aged paper and ink filled my nostrils, I was with an old friend.  Sinking deep into my reading chair I traveled back to another time and relived the experience of a young boy in early America.

Old books are like old friends.  They warm us with life.  As I read the last page and once again closed the cover I wondered if reading the Gospels produced such wondrous nostalgia.  I concluded that for me they do not.  Instead of filling me with memories, John, Matthew and Paul fill me with incredible thoughts of a glorious future.  Instead of reminiscing about times past I want to travel to what is yet to come.  In John Jesus tells us that we can right now step over from death to life.  In Matthew Jesus challenges us to grow into His likeness.  Paul tells me that God wants us to be saved so forever He can shower us with grace and gifts of love.

I find reading books from my childhood fill me with memories; reading Scripture fills me with excited anticipation that the best is yet to come and once there, the best will still be yet to come.  Scripture is about our future.  Scripture is reading a travel brochure.  Scripture is our ticket to endless adventures.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 23, 2011

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

My Photo Lined Hallway

We have a long hallway on our second floor lined on both sides with family pictures.  I love to move slowly from photo to photo relishing the memories each image produces.  I see my sons when they were little guys and move along the progression of time that made them fine men.  Today I found myself wondering if God has some great family album lining a hall in His house.  Not only can He see us now but He can remember how we were.  One of my friends told me that God can move through time like it was a circle and go back to whenever.   I don’t think so.  In my very limited intelligence I see time being linear and God sees us in the past like we see in the past, by using His memory.

One of the reasons I do not care for the idea of time being in a circle that God can easily go to at His will is that would make all things forever.  Sin would be forever. Jesus would be on the cross forever.  He would be dead in the tomb forever.  In Hebrews we are told He died once for time.  It is done.  It is finished.  I can only think that it is really over, never to be experienced again, but to have forever benefits.

So the question arises, “Can He see us as what we will be?”  In His dreams as we do so in our dreams.  I realize I am very limited when thinking about God.  I am sure He is many times and many ways more expansive than what I can begin to imagine. I am speaking and thinking in ignorance.  Yet I do believe time is linear.  Someday we will know the truth.  How grand.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 22, 2011

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



It is a bit embarrassing to learn that I have been mispronouncing a word all my life.  I wish someone had told me.   This morning I was observing a teacher in a middle school classroom and heard the teacher use the word “malleable.”   “No,” I thought to myself, “it’s mallable.”   So I got out my iPhone and checked the dictionary app.  Well, so much for appearing educated all these years.  Now I am wondering how many other words I have been either misusing or mispronouncing.  This must be a case where someone has to be a really good friend to tell you that you have spinach between your two front teeth.  People are embarrassed for you but don’t have the courage to say, “Hey.”

I think even Jesus is a bit hesitant to tell us all our faults; at least not all at once.  We would be so discouraged we would just give up and say, “What’s the use.”   Little by little as we are successful in some areas He very gently reveals new areas where growth is needed.  Jesus created us.  He is the great psychologist.  He knows just how much we can handle and makes sure He doesn’t overwhelm us.   However, sometimes church members are not so gentle and have driven a lot of people out because of harsh pushing to try to make others like them.

We seem particularly bad about this with our young people.  We don’t stop to consider their world is not the same world we grew up in.  And we forget how we felt about the older people telling us how to dress and comb our hair.  We have to remember young people are “malleable” and with love will become what Jesus wants them to be and not necessarily what we want them to be.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 21, 2011

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

Locked Out

Don’t you hate it when you get locked out of your own house?  It happened to us this morning.  Somehow the door between the garage and the house got locked.  So we began to circle around the outside of the house looking for an unlocked window.  We are way too careful – nothing on the first floor.   Then my wife remembered a second story window that was unlocked.  I know this sounds very unmanly but she would not allow me on the ladder.  Up she went.  How I wanted a camera to get a picture of two feet sticking out of the window as she crawled in face first.

I know someone will respond to this by telling me to hide a key outside.  I thought I had.  But a rabbit must have gotten it.  There is no over-estimating the value of a key, whether it is a piece of metal or a virtual key to open computer programs.  In Matthew 16:19 Jesus told His disciples He was giving them the keys to His kingdom.  Having a key to something can be very important.   Whenever I see someone with a huge ring of keys on his belt I imagine how important he must be.  The more keys the more responsibility.  I think that’s the reason the only key to our college I ever wanted was the one to my office.  That’s it – limited keys – limited access – limited responsibility.

But one responsibility I could not avoid was the keys to the kingdom.  My attitude and care or lack of toward my students is a very important key.   When they are young and making life decisions I want them to choose Jesus.   The key to that decision can very much be the way I/we treat them.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 19, 2011

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


Soul Soaring Chapters

Some of the most interesting chapters of Scripture are found in John 14 to 17.   They are between the Last Supper and Jesus’ arrest in the Garden.  More than once in these chapters He tells His disciples, “In a little while you will see me no more.”  He also said, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”  I have the feeling that even now two thousand years later that is still true for us.

There are some wonderful texts in these chapters.  16:23 says, “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”  Verse 24, “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.” Knowing of the agony that was about to descend on Him and His disciples He is extremely reassuring.  Verse 33 is wonderful.  “In this world you will have trouble.  But be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.”

If we focus on world events we could easily be very disheartened.  However, Jesus would have us filled with joy.  Fretting about the world’s troubles doesn’t fix them. We have instead this marvelous Savior who wants us to instead focus on the joy of salvation.  He has overcome.  In Him we overcome. This is not a journey that we walk alone.  In these very chapters in John He assures us of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  In chapter 14 He tells us we are not orphaned.  In verse 27 He said, “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give to you…Don’t be afraid.”

If you are in need of a picker-upper I will not tell you to take two aspirins.  Instead read these four chapters.  Your soul will soar.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 19, 2012.

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



The Geese Feeder

Yesterday was idyllic.  In the ides of the afternoon we found ourselves sitting by a city pond watching swans, geese and one particularly loudmouthed white duck.  Across the pond was a gazebo occupied by a couple much more fascinated with each other than where they were. Behind us was a sign, “Please do not feed the geese.”  In front of us was an eighty-year-old lady feeding the geese.  I was fascinated by her blatant action.  She must have reasoned, “What can they do to me if I am caught?”  The answer would be very little.  Authorities are not going to put her in jail.  They could fine her but she could refuse to pay it.  They are not going to put her in stocks which could have occurred here in Massachusetts three hundred years ago.

Basically she was immune. Which raises the question, “Why do we obey laws?”  Is it merely because we fear we will be punished or could it be possible that we are more noble than that?   Might we be responsible enough to inquire as to why the law?  What are the reasons for not feeding the geese?  There are many.  The consequences of feeding the geese have health, civic and environmental results.  Is it possible that as humans we might see the larger cause beyond our own immediate gratification, punishment or lack of?

In the 18th Century Immanuel Kant proposed that he could not morally act in any way that would not be permissible for all to act.  True morality is the foundation for universal behavior.  Thus the old lady was a great offender because catastrophe would ensue if everyone came and fed the geese. Her action was selfish and destructive.  Alas, great-granny was/is a sinner.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 17, 2012

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



This afternoon a gust of wind found an open door in our house.  It would be difficult for me to describe how high I must have jumped when it slammed shut with the force of a small nuclear weapon.  There is something very unnerving about a slammed door, especially when it cannot be reopened.  Just try to imagine the sound of the closing door of Noah’s ark.   Surely the finality of that sound must have reverberated in heaven itself.

In Revelation 22 at the close of Scripture there is a closing.  “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.”  As difficult as it is to imagine, there will come a time when God’s mercy is no longer available.   People’s decisions not to accept the gift of grace will seal their eternal destiny.  It is not a pretty picture.  John speaks of God wiping away our tears.  He will need to do so.  This is not a time for the Redeemer and the redeemed to rejoice. There will be family members who are dear to us who will not be spending eternity with us.  For Jesus all of them are precious.  Can you imagine dying for someone only to have them spurn your act of love?

Life is a series of closed doors.  One closes when we graduate from elementary school and another when we leave secondary school.  But when one door closes another opens. When we step over the new threshold awesome opportunities may await us. What follows is what we decide to do with them. Right now the door of grace is still wide open.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 16, 2011

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