February 30

Officially it is July 31.  In actuality it is February 30.  Dear old Julius Caesar, this month’s namesake, decided his month should have an extra day.  To steal a day from February and add it to the end of his month was a safe political move.   Caesar Augustus did the same for August and poor February got fleeced twice. The keeping of time is a fascinating topic.  Other than the seven day week all other forms of time keeping are man-made.  There is the Julian calendar, the Hebrew calendar, and the Chinese calendar.

Time is important to us.  Each passing year increases its value.  Jimmy Durante’s September Song closes with the poignant reminder words,

“Oh, it’s a long, long while from May to December

But the days grow short when you reach September.


Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few

September, November

And these few precious days I’ll spend with you

These precious days I’ll spend with you.”

I can’t imagine how precious time must be to those without Jesus.  Value is relative and often correlated with quantity.  The fewer of something the more precious.  However, those with an endless supply of days are rich and they might not pine over the aging process.  Jesus, the author of time itself, has made us some extremely powerful promises such as John 5:24, “”I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life . . . he has crossed over from death to life.”  You can only give what you have and Jesus has an endless supply to give each of us.   How very grand.


Written by Roger Bothwell on July 31, 2012

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



“No Swimming”

In today’s Sunday cartoon episode of Calvin and Hobbes, a philosophical little boy and his toy tiger, Calvin ponder the morality of the universe. After not receiving a sign that he should not throw a water balloon at a little girl, he, of course, throws it.  After she beats him up he wisely exclaims, “Why does the universe always give you the sign after you do it?”  And there it is.  Great theology and great philosophy all wrapped up in one insightful comment. While most religions espouse lists of taboos, real morality is nothing more than avoiding that which will produce negative results. God forbids us from stealing because the consequences are ruinous to us and society as a whole.  The same goes for killing and each of His commandments. There is not one thing that God forbids that has a positive outcome.  If it’s good for us God encourages us, within balance, to do it.  Even good things in excess have bad results.

How sad that most of us don’t learn this until later in life when it is too late.  After the damage is done we look back and say, “If only.”  That combination of two words is one of the saddest in our language.  What follows is usually a rueful description of an event that didn’t turn out the way we wanted.  God is not some great avenger of sin.  He warns.  We disobey.  We reap the harvest.  Perhaps sermons should instead of being filled with hellfire and brimstone, focus on the art of logic and good thinking.  Many years ago a Pogo cartoon showed a pond with a sign “No Swimming.” The last picture in the panel gave the reason.  The water was poisonous.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 30, 2012

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



Fly on the Window

There is a fly at my window.  He can’t get out.  He must be puzzled. He can see the outside.  There are trees, azaleas, blue sky and squirrels right in front of him, but try as he might he can’t get to them.  There is this invisible barrier that keeps him from buzzing off to freedom.  He is so much like us.  In First Corinthians 13 Paul tells us we see through a glass darkly.  So the fly is better off than we.  His glass is transparent.  God has shared so much of Himself to us.  Yet there are still so many questions, so many mysteries. Sometimes we think we almost grasp some eternal truth only to have it fade back into our pool of unanswered questions.

Jesus once said to His disciples, “There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now.”  John 16:12.  It was their last night together. He would be dead the next brutal day.  They were struggling with their dream of a physical kingdom.  He wanted them to understand the bigger picture.  I am not so sure we are much different than they.  When we speak of heaven we speak in such physical terms. But there is much beyond the physical.  The physical is only a part of our being.  We are also spiritual beings.  It is there so many of the unanswered questions reside.  What does it mean to be the temple of the Holy Spirit?  Why the necessity for so much suffering?  What is eternity and what does it mean to never stop growing?  How far away is heaven?  Is it light years from here or already here in another dimension?  How can I live according to the Sermon on the Mount?

We are flies desperately trying to be free.  See Galatians 5.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 13, 2012

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


Gracious Words

Luke 4:22 reads regarding Jesus, “(They) were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.”  The Jews were so sure they were the chosen people there was no room for others in God’s Kingdom.  It was often said the gentiles were born to be fuel for the fires of hell.   It was Sabbath and Jesus was in the synagogue in his hometown.  The gracious words Jesus spoke were words of grace for the surrounding nations.  He spoke of Elijah with the widow in Sidon and Elisha healing Nathan, a Syrian.  It was a radical idea that God’s grace might be extended beyond their closed world.   It was so foreign they became so angry they tried to hurl Him off a cliff. How could God love anyone but them?

Paul became the apostle to the gentiles.  In order for that to happen not only did God have to knock him off his horse but also had to reeducate him at the expense of three years of study in Arabia.  It is most difficult to unlearn the myths of our childhood.

It seems that for us to be like Jesus we also need to amaze people with our gracious words.  It is easy to be gracious when others around us are also being nice.  The challenge is to be gracious when we are not being treated so kindly.  To be gracious when others are taking advantage of us is beyond a challenge.  At least it is for me.  But when we are gracious it is amazing, both to others and probably to us.  When Herod was mocking Jesus, dressing Him in an old royal robe and crowning Him with thorns, Jesus never said a word.  Amazing.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 14, 2012

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



Stale Bread

When we go grocery shopping my wife and I always buy a loaf of bread.  I am not sure when we got a loaf ahead.  But the new loaf cannot be used until the old loaf is gone.  That means this week we will eat last week’s bread while this week’s bread will wait until next week to be consumed.  The end result is we are always eating semi-stale bread, while the fresh bread ages in the cupboard. Couldn’t we, instead of eating the semi-stale bread, put it out for the birds?   We must have inherited this compulsion to be frugal from our parents who lived through the Great Depression.

One of the many remarkable things about Scripture is there is never a need to read stale stuff.  Because God’s Word is imbued with His Spirit, who knows us better than we know ourselves, God is able to continually feed us fresh ideas.  One could spend their entire life just feeding off the Gospels and still be overwhelmed by the story of God’s love for us.  However, in addition to that we have the wonders of the Psalms and the wisdom and humor of the Proverbs.  Romans, Galatians, Colossians and Ephesus can challenge the greatest of scholars no matter how many doctorates they have accumulated.  It is like a spring of fresh water, each time you come there is new water.

What would grow stale is rereading these devotionals.  I am delighted to know that people read them once.  My point is not to denigrate myself but to point out if all we do is listen to another person’s sermons or read their books we are reading second hand material.  The really fresh bread is in Scripture.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 15, 2012

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


Who Can We Trust?

The green gecko promises me I can save 15% on my auto insurance if I will go with Geico. State Farm promises a 40% saving on car insurance.  But I am not sure it is 40% of what.  Allstate promises 45% savings for safe driving and 30% if I bundle my car and home.  I’m sure that doesn’t add up to 75%.  And Flo, the lady with the bright red lips, promises me the cheapest insurance is with Progressive.  I believe them with the same measure of trust as I do the political ads that fill our screens.

Who to trust is one of life’s great questions.  Corporations, institutions and individuals are primarily self-interested entities.  We can’t help it.  Self-interest is at the heart of our being.  In the past 12 people in Colorado were heartlessly slaughtered.  It  dominated, rightfully so, our airwaves.  It was a horrible national tragedy.  But I could not miss the fact that at the same time 1200 people were heartlessly slaughtered in Syria and I heard one fifteen second mention on our news.  They were not us.  They were them.  I do not wish to distract from the loss in Colorado.  It was beyond horrible.  I merely want to illustrate our humanness, our self-focus.

It is no wonder that Paul says in I Corinthians 15 “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven.”  Fortunately he goes on to explain that we will be changed and this corruption will put on incorruption.  It is the only way God can trust us.  As we are, we are not fit for eternity.  We must trust Him to do it for us.  I know you have a sweet grandma but even she is not trustworthy until she is changed.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 26, 2012

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




Our Tents

Paul was a tentmaker so it only follows that at some point he would use a metaphor from his secular profession. We find it in         II Corinthians 5:1. “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.”  The earthly tent he is referring to is our human body.  No matter how carefully we eat and exercise we can only delay the inevitable.  Eventually this tent will be taken down and folded away.  By careful temperate living we can often delay when that day comes.   And who would want it any other way?  The tent fades, thins and tears.  The day of folding is necessary.  To live forever in an ageing body would be hell.

But the joy in Paul’s message is we exchange the tent for a building designed and constructed by divine hands.  To live forever in the new building will be heaven.  To assure us that God means what He promises regarding this new home, Paul tells us in verse 5 that God has sent the Holy Spirit as a deposit.  When we make an offer on a house we are required to submit a deposit to verify our serious intent.  Should we change our minds we have to walk away from the deposit.  This metaphor is rich.  God made us an offer via the sacrifice of His Son.  Lest we think He is fickle or insincere the offer comes with the deposit of the Holy Spirit, something God is never going to walk away from.  The entire Godhead is involved in replacing our worn out tent so we may dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  This is beyond “how grand.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 25, 2012

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



Think About It

Decades ago the then president of Columbia University posited that we should extend adolescence because so many new facts were being discovered we needed to keep students in school longer that we might fill them up.  In a strange way his idea has come to pass.  Adolescence is the transition time from being a child to being an adult.  Developmentalists now suggest that adolescence can extend into one’s early thirties.  However, he could not have known that someday we would carry devices that instantly supply us with any fact we need.  While there is still a need for a foundation of facts such as times tables and phonics, some things are no longer needed such as cursive which is no longer taught in many states.

Curriculum gurus today are rightfully stressing there is no need for fact stuffing but instead the need to teach children to think.  Thinking is not something to take for granted.  Thinking like so many things in life has degrees of quality.  There are some who self-deceptively think they are thinkers but instead allow others to think for them.  Then there are people who understand the pitfalls of poor logic and recognize how easily they can be swayed by mistaking relationships with causality and other fallacies of logic.

In Isaiah 1:18 God says, “Come thou, let us reason together.” God does not desire mindless obedience.  He wants us to understand the whys of His wisdom.  This week as a parent was dropping off his children, we heard him say, “Remember, before you act. Think about it.”  This is what God wants from us.  Books are not smart. They are only filled with facts. Being smart is what we do with them.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 24, 2012

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



The Endless Journey

The surety of salvation is incredibly satisfying.  Not to fear the future and to rest in the promises provides an incredibly rich life.  However, that is not the endgame.  Upon receiving the gift of salvation we enter into a new experience.  A new challenge is presented.  With eternity secured we now embark upon an endless journey to grow into the likeness of the One who saved us.  It is a maturation that will never ripen to its fullest.  The more we learn the more doors for further exploration appear before us.  There are so many doors we have to choose from we think once finished with one we will return and take another.  However, each door opens to us ten more doors from which we will select yet another.

Blessed is the one who is never satisfied.  That is the one who will eternally quest for more intellectual, spiritual and artistic horizons.  Each challenge obtained not only whets our appetites for more but in the process transforms us more into the likeness of the One who made us, saved us and who knows all things.  I once knew a man who maintained he was fully satisfied with himself and life.  He felt that he was mature.  I felt sorry for him.  In a certain sense we will not (should not) ever reach maturity.  I once heard a man posit that should he live forever eventually he would become bored.  That is because he does not know what he does not know.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.”  Yes, filled with righteousness but never quite filled with knowledge of the secrets of God’s universe.  Our diplomas and degrees are but decorations from “kindergarten”.

Written by Roger Bothwell on July 23, 2012

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



Stereotypes and PC

We live in the age of being politically correct – PC for short.  One of the understood rules of being PC is not to stereotype people.  Each person is an individual with a unique character.  The worn out axiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a good rule to guide our social behavior.  However, there is another side to the issue.  Stereotypes develop because the people in certain groups do copy each other.  We learn our speech patterns, manners and behaviors from the people around us.  Native Bostonians have a particular sound as do Mainers, Canadians, and people from the Great Lakes Region.

Marketers are successful if they pay attention to demographics.  If you watch the 6:30 evening news on any one of the major networks, you have to notice that most of the commercials are aimed at older people.  One medicine after another is hawked for its potency.  These ads are mixed with a few spots by investment companies telling us how to prepare for retirement. I doubt if these are the ads that run on the Disney Channel.

It’s true that each of us comes with cultural luggage and we should celebrate it.  It is important to belong and not be alone.  We live in a land that celebrates individuality.  That’s great.  However, no one exists in a vacuum.  We can only be successful if we acknowledge that we build on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.  There is no such thing as a self-made person.  That is a myth that plays to our pride.  Now that I have said this I have to admit that I grew up singing the song Dare to Be a Daniel.  Some of the words of which are “Dare to stand alone.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 16, 2012

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