Jesus Swiped His Hand

Last summer a sea gull tagged the top of our car with two large white deposits.  Much to my distress they would not wash off.  I tried different kinds of auto polish and WD 40 and gasoline, all to no avail.  I exhausted my repertoire of solutions and finally resigned myself to the fact that they were permanent.  This Thursday while getting in the car I inadvertently reached up and wiped my hand across them and presto they came off.   I didn’t rub.  I didn’t polish.  I merely swiped my hand and they were gone.

While driving down our hill I remembered Lady Macbeth lamenting her grave sins and crying, “Out damned spot.”   It is a powerful passage regarding the futility of human efforts to atone for sins.  We can shower, we can chastise ourselves, we can try to buy forgiveness but the spot is still there.  We have not the power.  We have not the means.  We have not the competence. If it were not for Jesus and the gift of forgiveness we would be most miserable.

This is why the first four books of the New Testament are called Gospels.  They are the incredible good news that there is a way.  Someone with the power, and the means and the competence loves us and does it for us.   The Old Testament system provided for a Day of Atonement.  The New Testament provides us with 24/7 atonement.  It is available any moment we need it.  One of my friends once said to me, “Someday in heaven I am going to check your records and find out the truth about you.”   He is going to be so disappointed because all the dirt vanished when Jesus swiped His hand across my account.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 28, 2013

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

Of Weddings and Feasts

Jesus was a very social person who apparently enjoyed gala events and weddings.  Many of His parables are built around weddings and feasts. As a matter of fact the only real accusation his enemies could mount against Him was His attendance at feasts with questionable people.  This is one situation when the old adage about birds of a feather just didn’t hold true.  He likes the metaphor of a marriage when He speaks of our relationship to Him.   In Revelation there is a brief description of the wedding feast of the Lamb with Him being the lamb and the bridegroom.

One of my favorite feast stories took place at Simon’s house when a woman of a most questionable reputation bathed Jesus’ feet with precious anointment.  It really was scandalous.  It would be surprising if there were not men in the room who had tasted her favors.  I wonder how many of them were silent and if any were critical. How often do we play Mr. Holy when the real truth about us would be shocking and devastating?   I just love it when Jesus told the critics in the room to leave her alone.  She had honored Him above even the host of the feast.

My next favorite is when there was room at a feast for more and the servants went out and rounded up anyone and everyone.  Whosever will come.  Awesome.  Street people, bag ladies, people who hadn’t had a bath in who knows how long.  There is room – bring them in.  Fill the banquet hall because there is provision for all.  To me this story is the essence of the Gospel.  One thing for sure, it strikes right at the heart of any exclusiveness we might want for ourselves.  God is an equal opportunity saver

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 29, 2011

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

The Invitation

Do you have your invitation in hand?   Do you have your plane tickets to London all booked?  Did you buy a new suit?  Well, just in case you are one of the rest of us peons who did not receive an invitation to the royal wedding, I have something even better for you.  It’s found in II Peter 1.  I am going to use The Message paraphrase.  Just enjoy.  “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust.”

Jesus personally invites us to God.  He gives us the wedding garment.  Check out Matthew 22.  We don’t have to rush out and purchase a new suit.  It comes with the invitation and it is very well tailored.  It fits us to perfection.  Literally.  What is really good about this is we are not just invited to watch.  We are invited to participate.  We now participate in a divine experience.  Literally.  This is not a wordy empty promise.  This is an absolutely terrific promise that says we can actually begin right now living a divine life.  When God adopts us into the family we begin to develop family traits.

I have a young man in one of my classes this semester whose father I have known for years.  One would not have to tell me which student in the room was his son.  He is his father all over.  Rubber stamp!   This is our invitation.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 28, 2011

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


The Right Kind of Love

Today I watched love being used as a brutal tool.  There is no question in my mind but that the father loves his son.  There is no question that the father wants the best for his son.  There is no question the father believes his son’s happiness will only come from the father’s definition of success and the pressure to achieve.  The problem is the boy is exhausted.  He has a life-time of successes to this point. It is time for him to graduate but he is only twenty.  Course overloads, clepped exams, summer schools have all gotten this young man to this stage.  But now he wants, he needs, he has to have a break before he breaks.  But, how can he disappoint a dad who’s living out his fantasy through his son?  The pressure continues on to med school.  When does it stop?

Love is one of the most powerful if not the most powerful human emotion.  The last thing we want to do is disappoint one who takes so much pride in us.  We don’t want them to think we are ungrateful for past guidance and encouragement.  We want them to be able to say to their friends, “My son – the doctor.”

One of the wonders of our heavenly Father is His understanding of who we are as an individual and while He makes available to us all we need for happiness and success, He never forces it on us.  In II Peter 1 we read, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life. . .”  If we continue reading we discover He actually allows us to participate in His divine nature – right now. It’s the right kind of love.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 27, 2011

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


The Grandfather Clock

Our grandfather clock has boldly reminded me that another hour of life is gone.  I have silenced the quarter hour reminders and will most likely soon silence the hourly herald of the coming of the grim reaper.  But wait, that’s really morose.  There is a completely different way to understand this.  When we were children we wanted time to rush by.  When asked how old we were we proudly said, “I am three and a half.”  I wanted to be six so I could go to school. (Only rich children went to kindergarten.)  I wanted to be sixteen so I could get a driver’s license.  I wanted life to rush onward.

Something strange happened when I became a father.  I no longer wanted time to rush to my boy’s first birthday.  I wanted to savor every hour.  My wife and I never accepted invitations to dinner or go to anywhere the boys were not invited.  Why should we spend precious hours with others who didn’t mean nearly as much to us as our boys?

Now I sit in a very quiet house.  The dog occasionally stirs.  Other than that there is no sound.  The sounds have all moved to other homes.   I need to reorient myself to the realty of Jesus’ promises?  In John 5 He promised that when we accept Him we have already crossed over from death to life.  Is not our grandfather clock ticking off the hours until we will move beyond this pale of sorrow and pain?  Should I not be excited about the coming of a whole new experience when the only use for time will be to make sure we meet together somewhere?

I think I shall reset the grandfather clock to announce the passing of the quarter hours.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 22 2011

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


Stunning on the Inside

Every once in a while one of my undergrads delivers a great line.  This morning we were discussing the value of personal appearance and the topic roamed to very plain people marrying spectacular looking people.  One of the jocks on the back row spoke up and said, “The outside is a perk.”  There it was – the perfect description for what really matters.

David was one of the beautiful people set.  The Bible even says, “He was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to.”   David also had an eye for beautiful women.  Remember Abigail, “A woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance.”  All this has a bit of irony in it considering the context of Samuel selecting David after the Lord said to Samuel, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him (Eliab): for the LORD sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

However, even as good looking as he was David knew the truth about what really counts.  After his almost unforgivable sin against Uriah, David wrote, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Realizing that very few of us have ever seen ourselves in 3-D, (photos and the mirror being 2-D) let me help you to feel better about yourself if you are as common as the rest of us.  You look much better in 3-D than in 2-D.  That’s very good news.  You are better looking than you think you are and hopefully absolutely stunning on the inside

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 23, 2011

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

Now It’s Personal

It is difficult for us not to be the center of the universe.  Self permeates our actions and attitudes.  As long as crime is committed on the other side of the tracks we are fairly comfortable.  Bombs go off almost every day on the other side of the world and we barely take note.  But today it happened here.  Now it is personal.  Now the networks are continually telling the story over and over.  It is us.  Recently a senator completely reversed his position on the gay marriage issue because his son announced that he was gay.  Suddenly it was personal.  Suddenly it wasn’t some stranger.  It was family.

One of my favorite authors wrote, “There is no self in God.” That sentence intrigues me.  How can it be that an intelligent being has no self?  My dog has a sense of self.  When elephants have a patch on them and look in the mirror they touch the patch with their trunk.  They know what they are seeing is self.  When a tiny ant dares to enter our kitchen and I frighten it, it runs away.  Is that a sense of self or merely an automatic survival reflex?

The Bible speaks of God’s love, God’s wrath, God’s joy and happiness.  In my limited understanding those are indicators of self.   I think the thought that there is no self in God refers to selfishness. God is totally committed to all that He has made.  He is totally committed to you.  He sees and understands your fears and loves.  His relationship to you is personal.  Paul assures us we are His sons and daughters.  That is about as personal as it gets.  Each day I wait for the phone to ring hoping it is one of my sons.  It’s personal.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 16, 2013

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


Four Strips of Bacon

He was seventeen.  (He told me his age in a later conversation.)  But that isn’t the interesting part of the story.  Over the weekend my wife and I stayed in one of those motels that includes breakfast.  I watched this young man come into the room while I was enjoying my Honey Nut Cheerios.  He was Jewish and he headed straight for the bacon.  Hurriedly he downed four strips knowing his father was not far behind.  By the time dad entered the young man was standing there smiling and holding a nice plate full of fruit.

Now I could have been really mean and have thrown him under the bus by telling his father what I had witnessed.  But why?  One of life’s few lessons I have learned is, it is not important to tell everything one knows.  However, I am telling you.  But that can’t get the boy into trouble.  Only in court do we swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Other than that we really shouldn’t tell everything.

Have you ever been in church or a prayer meeting when someone started confessing everything they had done wrong and how it related to the wrongs others have done?  That’s a bad situation.   Secret sins are to be confessed to God secretly.   Jesus definitely talks about closet prayers.  (Matthew 6:6)  Unfortunately many people’s reputations have been ruined by some well-meaning (I’m being generous.) soul who never learned not to cleanse their personal conscience in public.  Don’t fear the last verse of Ecclesiastes about God bringing every secret thing into judgment.  That’s only for those not saved.  According to Jesus in John 5:24  the redeemed get to skip judgment.  Oh how grand!

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 23, 2013

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



Jumping the Gun

Sometimes we are so anxious for something to happen we rush to judgment.   Email, Facebook, Twitter and all the other forms of media communication have made it so easy to almost instantly disseminate stories and rumors that feed into what we want to hear.  There is such an array of available information, true or false, it makes “cherry picking” super easy.   We can Google our way through hundreds of thousands of sources of so called truth, picking out what fits what we want to believe and ignoring anything else that might cause us to rethink.

For a great part of my ministry I loved to preach about the soon second coming of Jesus.  I subscribed to Time, Newsweek and U. S. News and World Report specifically looking for anything that would support what I wanted to believe and preach.  It was something congregations love to hear.  However, about halfway through my career I wearied of crying “Wolf, Wolf” and shifted to an emphasis on the glory of the cross and its fruit in our lives.  The important message is not inheriting the Kingdom sometime in the future but becoming a citizen of God’s Kingdom right now.   If we love Jesus and allow Him to be in control of our lives He will come when He knows all is ready and we are secure.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 18, 2013

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

“Yes, Dear”

The following happened in front of my eyes this noon while I was waiting for my wife to come and pick me up.  (I like it when she picks me up.  She started over 50 years ago.)

He looked all of 80, thin, shuffling, a bit bent over and gray.  She looked to be a bit younger and was round, like a ball.  She would have been just as tall lying down.  She had bright, bright red lips and wildly coiffed brown dyed hair.

He said, “I lost my wallet.”  She said, “Where?”  He said, “If I knew where, it wouldn’t be lost.”  She, “Don’t get smart with me.  I told you to put it in your front pocket.”  He, “I did.”  She, “Well, if you put it there it would be there.”  He, “It’s not there.” She, “Don’t you ever listen to me?”  He, “I try not to.”  She, “Someday, when I am gone, you will wish you had me.”  He, “I truly doubt it.”  She, “Life would be so much easier if you just listened to me.”  He, “Yes, dear.”  She, “Don’t you ‘Yes, dear’ me.”  He, “It’s easier that way.”  She, “Go look in the car.”  He, “Yes, Dear.”  And off he went to the parking lot.  She then turned to me and said, “Don’t you agree that life would be easier if he just listened to me.”  I said, “Yes, Dear.”

He shuffled back a few minutes later with his wallet.  As he passed me he winked.  The lost was found.  There must have been great rejoicing in heaven.  It’s a panicky feeling to lose one’s wallet.  I wonder if God ever says, “Life would be so much easier if they would just listen to me?”

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 17, 2013

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