Why We Obey

When I was really little things were right or wrong depending upon the pleasure or pain I experienced from particular behaviors.   However, it did not take long before I would begin negotiating with my parents.  If I was a good boy, what would I get?  Maybe I could get three stories before going to bed. When I was a teen things were right or wrong depending upon the rules of the school.  No matter how inane the rules, it was wrong to disobey.  They did not have to make sense. It was very much like a line from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”  “Theirs is not to reason why.  Theirs is but to do and die.”  That works in the military but not in civilian life.

Unfortunately some Christians obey merely because they want to go to heaven.  They want the treat.  Or worse they don’t want to be punished.  Many Christians operate on the next level of morality.  A common bumper sticker reads, “God said it and that’s good enough for me.”  That’s the Tennyson level.  But what about the brain God gave us?  He did say, “Come and let us reason together.”  Moses argued with God.

A higher level of morality is for us to understand the reasons for rules and laws.  Often we discover the rules no long fit our present culture and our human laws sometimes need to be amended.  God’s laws do not change because God’s laws are based on reasons and principles which do not change.   Ultimately we understand that we obey because it is the right thing to do.  Or we disobey because it is the right thing to do.  Enter onto the stage Thoreau, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Jesus.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 27, 2013

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




My wife has a much better sense of smell than I do.  When we go to the market she literally sniffs her way through the fruits and vegetables.  Her nose scans the melons and boxes of tangerines.  She makes sure we get good produce.  Yet, at home I can open the pantry and pick up the faintest sweet scent of an onion going bad and she does not detect it.   I shouldn’t be puzzled regarding this because I know that each person has unique qualities.   The world would be a very uninteresting place if each of us had the same talents and gifts.  Can you imagine how dull conversations would be?

A football team would be a pretty sorry organization if everyone was a quarterback.  It needs those guys who look like refrigerators just as much as it needs runners who can make a hundred yards seem like a stroll in the park.  Churches need an endless array of gifts from hospitality to scholars, pastors and evangelists.  Churches even need administrators because roofs will leak and furnaces will get old.  That is where we come in.  Each of us has something to contribute.  No one is giftless.  I have a friend who cannot see.  You should read some of the wonderful poetry that flows from her pen.  She is really good.

One thing that breaks our hearts is when we see gifted youth wasting for whatever reason.  Sometimes it is because they have yet to recognize their value. That’s where older people need to step in.  Remember Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Too often we only apply this verse to moral issues.  It has a much vaster application.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 29, 2012

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




A few years ago we brought home a few hostas from our son’s yard.  Being a botanical ignoramus I had no idea what was going to happen in our yard.  Two years ago we dug up half of them and put them in the side yard.  Last year we dug up half of them and put them in the back yard. This year we will dig up half of them and give them to a local greenhouse; if the owner will take them.  I knew about squash but had no idea these things could be so prolific.  Hostas must be the rabbits of the plant world.

There are two ways I can go with this.  I can speak about one really little lie multiplying to keep up the cover story.  Little sins grow into big sins.   But that is so negative and while true it’s not what I want to write.  I would rather focus on good deeds multiplying.  There is a bank currently running a commercial where a lady uses the cover from her coffee to stop a table from teetering.  Next she helps a dog get untangled from a tree by giving him a treat.  Next she puts tin foil on a man’s radio antenna increasing his reception.  Goodness can be just as infectious as evil.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:20.  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”  We can do this on an individual basis.  We can do it in our communities.  We can do it internationally. The challenge is there and the results could be more stunning than the reproduction of hostas.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 28, 2012

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




There was a very popular story in the Middle Ages about a dog named Gelert.  One night his master returned home to find his child’s cradle overturned and Gelert was covered with blood. Immediately his master killed him only to turn around and see the body of a dead wolf that had attacked his child and had thusly been killed by Gelert.  It was then that he found the baby still alive under the cradle. There are several variations to the story but the message in all of them is the same. Wise people do not act without gathering as much information as possible. How fortunate we are that our heavenly Father knows everything about us.

In a time of edited media clips and sound bites it is relatively easy to make one’s opponent say anything we want them to say and then watch the masses rise up with so little real information. We do it in the arena of politics, in the world of religion with one group pitting itself against another, and we do it in our personal relationships at work and at home.   Have we ever been riled because someone told us a certain someone said something we didn’t like to hear?   We were not there.  We did not know the context.  And we did not hear the tone of the voice which can actually reverse the meaning of a sentence.

Revelation 12:7 speaks of war in heaven; an almost impossible thing to imagine.  Lucifer, the master of sound bites, the subtle raising of an eyebrow, tonal inflection, and outright lies had attacked the throne.

The Gelert legend continued that the master buried Gelert with great fanfare and honor.  But he never smiled again.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 27, 2012

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




Trash-Talking Nerds

The local chess club meets in a classroom near my classroom at our local university.  I had to smile at some of the “trash-talking” going on in the hallway.  These were nerds.  Their “trash-talk” wouldn’t hold a candle to that of NBA players.  One of them said, “Come on and play with the Big Guys.  We’ll teach you.”  See what I mean?

What I thought was amusing was that I never thought of Jeremiah “trash-talking” but 12:5 raced through my mind.  He wrote, “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?”  If we can’t be honest with the little things how can we expect to be honest when it’s big money?  It is the little things that reveal the depth of our character.  It’s tax time.  I don’t need to say more about that.

When we are born God has plan A for our lives.  It is to run with the big guys.  But our failures, while forgiven, causes Him to change to plan B and then to plan C etc. For some of us He must be working on plan triple Z.  He can’t trust us to run with the horses.  Lest this sound way too discouraging and dismal please let me add that accomplishing any plan for our heavenly Father is a privilege and He loves us so very much He will never let us know about plan A.   After all He loves us and never wants us to be disheartened or discouraged.  And the greatest reward of all, eternal life, isn’t the fruit of some great accomplishment.  It is a gift of His love.   Please read the Ephesians 2 where Paul speaks of God’s plans for us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 26, 2012

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




Humpty Dumpty

It was one of those “Oh, no” moments.  While picking up a dozen eggs I dropped the container before getting it into the basket.  There it was; six of the twelve eggs broken on the floor.  I felt like I was one of the “king’s horses or king’s men” not able to put “Humpty Dumpty” back together again.   How many times in life I have tried to fix the things I have broken.  Some things I can fix.  But, eggs and often relationships with others, can never be repaired no matter how often I apologize.  There is an old saying that is so true, “You can’t unring a bell.”  Once the words are spoken people, unlike God, remember what we said. They can forgive but the relationship is never quite the same.  The bloom is off the rose.

Sometimes in the heat of an argument we are tempted to call someone a not very nice name.  Don’t do it.  If we feel ourselves losing control, please, retreat until we can govern our words. If we are in a car and can’t get away, just say nothing. I realize there is a school of thought that says. “Let it out,” it will take off the pressure.  That is bad advice.  You cannot unring the bell.  It is time for some serious silent prayer.  He is able.  We just have to be open for Him to take over.

Humpty Dumpty isn’t just for children. It is very much for us at any age.  All the king’s horses and all the king’s men” can’t put the pieces back without cracks and scars.  In James 3 we read, “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  We can’t but God can and will help.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 25, 2013

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



Tools and Talents

During the last few years of my father’s life, he loved to go to Sears and buy tools.  Therefore, one would assume that he was a handyman.  He wasn’t.  But he surely had all the tools necessary to be one.  After he passed away I inherited some wonderful Craftsman saws, grinders, wrenches, screwdrivers and drills.  Neither am I a great handyman but I have managed to use them through the years and pass some along to my sons, who are very handy.  So ultimately the tools have found good homes.

Jesus’ parable of the talents is one of my favorites.  To one servant the master gave a lot money.  To another he gave some money.  To another he gave a small amount.  You know the story.  The first two multiplied their talents but the one with a small amount, who had limited ability, buried his much to the master’s displeasure.

So what are your tools?  I know some of you and some of you that I know are very talented.  Tools, talents are made to use.  Singing in the shower doesn’t hack it if you are really good and never sing for others.  We have so many research tools at our fingertips.  In a few moments we can access all manner of information.  What do we do with it?  Do we merely satisfy our curiosities or do we turn that information into ways to help people?

My dad had a beautiful brand new hammer that I am sure never once struck a nail.  But he did not bury it.  He shared it with me.  One of the best things we can ever hear is what the master said to the servants who multiplied their talents.  “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 22, 2013

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



God Is Love

It was Samuel Coleridge who wrote, “Water, water every where; nor any drop to drink.”   This morning I felt like this ancient mariner as I surfed through 900 television channels. In desperation I stopped at an old Perry Mason drama.  There was Raymond Burr and Barbara Hale in all their prime.  It was the late 50’s.  I think we had three channels and Perry dominated his time slot.   Have we really changed so much?  I think the dialogues must have been written by eighth graders during recess.  (I say that with reservation because I am aware that some might think the same of my devotionals.  Alas.)  After the guilty party broke down in tears under his clever? Interrogation, I decided to try out an old western on the Xfinity On Demand.  I found one filmed in 1949.   During this one I think I had to award the writers of Perry Mason an Oscar.

We do change. Languages change.  Styles change. Even “truth” changes; at least what we thought was truth. The scientific theory of a geocentric universe held sway for thousands of years until Galileo.  However, there are some truths that are so eternal they will never change. The morality of the Ten Commandments is timeless because they are based on just two principles; love God and love others.  And just how do we love God?  Jesus said, “If you have done it to the least of these you have done it unto me.”  So there it is.  There is only one truth.   Love.   I John 4:8.  God is love.  Don’t ever let people tell you all religions are basically the same.  Every time members of a particular religion call out, “God is great.”  We should call out “God is love.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 23, 2012

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


Theological OCD

Usually we associate Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) with people who repeatedly wash their hands or check door locks.  However, there is a category of OCD that just might be the fruit of one’s theology.  These people are doubters and are afraid that if everything isn’t perfect or done just right they will be punished or worse lost for all eternity.  It has been my lot to have known many such people through the years.  Perhaps it was birds of a feather.

One has to tread lightly here because it would be so easy to leave the impression it doesn’t matter and we can be saved in our sins. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  We are saved from our sins and the legal consequences.  With that as a preface I want to assure each of you that Jesus telling us to call God, Our Father, has enormous implications. Parents are so delighted to see their children grow. (I always wished it would have taken twice as long.  They left way too soon for me.)   There was never an expectation that once they started to walk they would never teeter and fall.  Getting up and falling down is just part of the process.  Our heavenly Father is so pleased that we want to walk.  And just as we did not disown our children when they fell, neither does God disown us.  He knows our capabilities.  He knows our weaknesses.

We are saved by grace from our past and our future.  Ephesians 2 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega of our salvation.  Dump the OCD.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 22, 2012

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




A Slap on the Back of the Head

There are some people that really need a slap on the back of the head.  This evening I saw three adults who really should be at the head of the line with all of us lined up to do the deed.  First of all it was dark.  Second, it was a really very busy intersection with rapidly moving cars.  Third, they were crossing the street against the light.  Fourth, they were pushing two baby strollers. Fifth, they were just strolling.

As I drove away literally seething at what I had seen I unfortunately remembered a few really dumb things I have done.  Perhaps I should get a slap on the back of the head before those folk.  I doubt if I am really out of place here to think that perhaps you too can remember deserving a good slap.  Even if it is just a matter of taking all our blessings for granted and not remembering to be thankful.

A lifetime ago I was a pastor in Calhoun, Ga.  One morning the word got out that I was ill.  Before the day was out I had three separate house visits from three separate physicians.  We had called none of them.  Today my primary care physician told my wife he prays everyday that I will be well.  Last week my specialist told me he loved Ian and me.  If ever once you hear me complain about my lot in life I want you to come to my house and slap me on the back of the head.

I think of people who don’t positively respond to the wondrous gift of eternal life; especially those who have heard it over and over.  I wish the only result of that would be a slap on the back of the head.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 21, 2012

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