Childhood Confusion

As a child I was often puzzled by some things taught to me.  I was told that even though we were saved we could never see God because His righteousness would destroy us.  However, one of my assignments was to memorize the Beatitudes and one of them said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”   And one of the Bible stories I read said in Exodus 24, “Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel. Under his feet was something like a pavement made of lapis lazuli, as bright blue as the sky. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

I was also taught that I was saved by grace.  But in the next sentence I was told I had to return tithe, keep the Sabbath, not eat certain foods and on and on.  Even as a child it just made no sense. The contradictions were rampant.  I even was instructed to memorize Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”  Talk about confusion.

Years later the light bulb came on.  My teachers confused the fruit of a Spirit-filled life with works.  Instead of understanding that the light of God is a progressive process (The light shines more and more unto the perfect day.) they tried to mesh the old (failed) covenant with the new (successful) covenant.  Jesus was revolutionary.  He was the light that revealed to us the only way of salvation that works. This did not come easy to the early church.  Sometimes we still struggle with it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 9,2013

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


A New Car for $69 a Month

A few days ago I saw an automobile commercial offering us the opportunity to drive a new car for only 69 dollars a month.  As we all know (I hope we all know) somewhere along the way, either up front or at the end, we will pay.  It is merely a matter of how they package the financing.  Car companies are not in business to give us cars.  They have just become creative in the way they loan us money.   I understand that some car companies make more money loaning us money than they make on the cars.

At first I wanted to say that God is different from car companies.  God doesn’t loan us anything.  He gives.  But that isn’t true.  This present life is temporary.   We don’t get eternal life until we accept the gift.   This life is a loan that comes with the opportunity of exchanging it for eternal life.  I then wanted to say that this life is a test run that exhibits how we use life and God will not give us eternal life if we demonstrate horrible behavior that would turn eternal life into eternal misery.  However, that smacks of salvation by works, by demonstration, by convincing God we can be trusted with eternity and will not mess up eternity.  God is not looking for us to be flawless in our execution of this life as much as He is looking for those with contrite hearts.  He is longing for us to recognize our need for mercy and be willing to change.

David in Psalm 51 says it so well.  “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 27, 2013

Spring of Life, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA94574


No Them – Just Us

While waiting in a line I could not but overhear a despicable and ignorant conversation happening between two men waiting in the same line.  The conversation started just fine but quickly degenerated.  It began with the observation that Thanksgiving and Hanukkah overlap this year and this would not happen again for 76,000 years.  Just then a Muslim woman with her head scarf walked past our line.  Then it started.

“Why do we allow those people to be here?  Don’t people know this is a Christian country?”

The irony of those ignorant remarks came on top of the Hanukkah remarks.  How interesting that this conversation was occurring in Massachusetts populated by the Puritans with their biased exclusivity.  Fortunately Massachusetts moved on from that, though we still have blue laws.

Religious liberty has been the hallmark of America.  This remarkable idea, rare in the world, made us different and set a standard that many other nations have since emulated.  It is amazing this concept took root here and grew when one looks at human nature.  It is natural for us to see others as “them” and ourselves as “us.”   “Them and Us” is the root of suspicion, exclusiveness, dislike and ultimately hate that bears its ugly fruit in pogroms and war.

Our self-love wants the best for “Us” and second best for “Others.”  One of the ultimate goals of character building is to become someone who sees others as “Us” and to want for others what we want for ourselves.

Jesus understood when He said, “Love ‘others’ as we love ourselves.”  Paul understood this when He wrote “While we were God’s enemies He died for us.”  It is easy to love “Us.”  Our goal as Christians is not to love “Them” but for there to be no “Them.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 28, 2013

Spring of Life, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA94574


Dogs and Children

If you have or have had a dog you will understand how quickly they learn the word “walk.”   You think they are asleep and you casually say “walk” and instantly they are dancing in front of you.

“Where’s the leash?  Let’s go.  Stop messing with your coat.  Why don’t you wear one all the time like I do?”

So you stop using that word and replace it with “go around.”  A week later they know those words.  Then you start spelling but that also is quickly learned.  In our house we are now working on the word, “circumvent.”  It’s only a matter of time.

Initially I thought of writing about why we keep pets and making an analogy as to why God keeps us.  However, that is a horrible analogy because we are not God’s pets.  We are God’s children.  There is a huge difference. No matter how much time I spend teaching my dog, she will never comprehend thoughtful issues. She knows to protect her territory (our home).  She searches the house and starts bumping me when food is on the table.  As grand as those things are they are not reading or creating art.  Nose art on the car windows doesn’t count.  In some ways she is more loyal than most people.  She is more forgiving than most of us.  She understands shame and will, until she is too old, dance when I come home.

However, despite all her ingratiating qualities, she will never bring me the deepest feelings of satisfaction that I get from my sons.  God knows this satisfaction.  If we are to be in His image He had to give us the ability to procreate.  It is the closest thing we can do to bring us into His image.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 26, 2013

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


God Is An Opportunist

Two guys were pumping gas on the opposite side of the pump I was using.  I wasn’t paying any attention to their conversation but when one of them left to go inside for coffee the younger came around the pump and said to me, “I apologize for my friend’s language.  He is really quite vulgar.”   I thanked him for his concern. Even though I heard voices I had not mentally registered any vulgarity or really anything at all.

It made me wonder about my classes.  Even though my students hear my voice I seriously doubt if many mentally register anything at all.  Then there is the issue of the Holy Spirit trying to communicate with us.  That still small voice sometimes roars at us and we never register anything at all because we are not paying attention.  God is always present; therefore, no opportunity for Him to tell us something is wasted.  God is an opportunist.  One might even go so far as to accuse Him of being pushy.  The reason He is that way is He understands the eternal importance of our responses to Him.  If we saw a child playing in the middle of the street we would do everything we could to get her attention either by yelling or running to grab her.  God sees the truck coming.  Usually we do not.

Let’s go back to the young man at the gas pump.  I appreciated his concern and civility.  He did not have to say anything to me.  I am guessing his parents did a very good job raising him.  We usually judge a craftsman by the quality of their work and I can’t think of any craftsmanship more important than parenting.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 25, 2013

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


A Thanksgiving Promise

Thanksgiving is inventory time.  It’s time to count one’s assets.  I have noted that the longer I live the longer grows the positive side of my life’s balance sheet.  Of course there are some negatives.  If there weren’t we wouldn’t call it a balance sheet.  However, the positives are so heavily weighted on my balance sheet, if I were a public corporation selling stock the share value would be rising every day.

Have you ever had so much good happen to you that you started worrying about what was coming, because you know in a world filled with disasters and disappointments the streak cannot keep going?  I have family and friends.  I have a warm home in a wonderfully snowy New England.  I have my health.  Yes, I do.  I am better.  After eight years of struggling with leukemia and trying five different kinds of chemo and trying experimental procedures in Philadelphia I am finally better, not from the list I just mentioned, but from a new pill just made available a few months ago and it works.  Thank you for all your prayers.

It is the prayers that bring me to my/our best blessing.  We have a God who truly is a loving and caring Father.  It was risky when Jesus told us to call God, Our Father.   It was risky because some people have lousy fathers.  I was blessed with a good one.  If you had a lousy father then think of God as the father you wish you had had because He is the best.  He is so good He makes Opie’s dad, Sheriff Taylor, look bad.

If your balance sheet has lots of negatives let me assure you that our heavenly Father knows and is going to be sure to compensate you for that with wonders untold.  That’s a Thanksgiving Promise.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 27, 2014

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


The Devil Didn’t Make Me Do It

I know some people who really think they are important enough to be personally tempted by Satan himself.  What an ego!  Since only God is everywhere present that is saying a lot about just how important those persons think they are.  The truth is even if Satan was dead we wouldn’t get any better.  We are sinners just as he is and we are really good at tempting ourselves and blaming it on someone else.

This is part of the mindset that invents conspiracies.  Recently I listened to someone go on about how the United States faked the moon landing in the 1960’s.  Do they really think the Russians, with whom we were having a space race, would have allowed us to get away with a fake?  Nothing would have made them happier than to have exposed us as frauds.  There were thousands of people involved with the moon landing.  Surely there would have been one whistle blower in the crowd.

While it might be amusing to invent conspiracies and be the center of attention at a party as we espouse our fantasies, it is important to know the difference between what we make up and what is real.  Peter certainly knew that many conspiracists would make up theories to mock the resurrection of Jesus.  In II Peter 1:16 he wrote, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”   And John wrote, “We touched the Lord of Glory with our own hands.”  Peter died a horrible death for Jesus.  Do we really think he would have endured that for a made up story?

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 13, 2013

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


Rescue Stories

Tolstoy begins his classic novel Anna Karenina as follows, “ALL happy families resemble one another; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Have you ever noticed the interest level of Christmas letters from various families?  The ones that report 12 months of joy and perfection are not nearly as interesting as those that beguile us with 52 weeks of interesting misery and failure.  “Jim lost his job.  Jacob broke his leg. Nancy is pregnant.  I’m taking Prozac.” is much more interesting than “Jim got a huge raise. (We hate him for that.)  Jacob won all his ball games and Nancy was 4th runner up in the Miss Mudville beauty pageant.”  Movie directors often put a bad word in their production to keep it from getting a G rating, which is a death knell at the box office.  Cinderella is interesting because of her evil stepmother and step sisters.  It wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if the prince wasn’t rescuing her.

This brings me to our projected concept of heaven.  Being that there will be no misery, no broken legs, etc. will we entertain each other with travelogues of our universal sightseeing? Or will our minds only be filled with philosophical discussions of our new insights into the plan of redemption?  We will certainly develop artistic skills.  Will the products of our studios be mirrors of perfection as opposed to few such interesting works we see here?

The story of redemption is interesting for us in that it is a rescue story.  Jesus saves us from evil.  He saves us from Satan.  He saves us from the wicked.  He saves us from ourselves.  So just how will we spend forever?  What will we read?  What will we paint and talk about?  There is so much we need to know about our future.  It is more than petting lions.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 14, 2013

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


“That Is a Symphony.”

Yesterday my wife was observing in a first grade in Boston when a little guy snuck up to her and smugly whispered in her ear, “I’m the best in the reader in the room.”  Then he waited for her to tell him how wonderful he was.  How grand it is to be six years old and be so guileless.  As adults we play this game differently.  When we do something really good and people compliment us we often defer by saying something like, “Thanks, but it was just okay.”   That usually elicits a repeat of the compliment and inwardly we love it.  It is music to our ears.  We are not as guileless as a six year old.

Everybody has a gift and blessed is the person who knows what it is and has an opportunity to use it.  I become distressed when I hear people tell young people, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  That is not so.  We can dream of winning marathons or performing in Carnegie Hall, but we have to have the talent.  I cannot be a National Basketball Association player even if I dream it.

We bless children when we help them find their gifts and enable them to be the best at whatever matches those gifts.  When people tell them how good they are, teach them to say, “Thank you.”  That is music to them and to the one complimenting them.  While I am thinking of music to our ears, the best thing we will ever hear is Jesus saying to us, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: . . . enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”   Now that is not just music.  That is a symphony.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 22, 2013

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

Beer Pretzels

Just recently I have had a relatively minor spike in my blood pressure. It is nothing to be concerned about but something that raised my curiosity.   Why?  I think the answer became evident upon examination of my diet.   One of the delights of my childhood was what we called beer pretzels.  They are large hard as a rock pretzels decorated with large grains of salt.  Instead of being called beer pretzels they are marketed as sourdough pretzels.  A few weeks ago while checking out of our supermarket I was beckoned by a large container of those childhood delights.  It had been years since I had any.  I could not resist.  And so night after night for the past few weeks I have been chomping down lots of salt, thus the higher blood pressure.

In high school physics class I learned for every action there is a reaction.  Jet airplanes are a prime example.  It is also true in every aspect of life.  Friendly people have friends.  Nice people usually are treated nicely.  We do live in an imperfect world and some people spoil the reaction.  There are exceptions.  Mostly what we eat affects our bodies.  Some people smoke all their lives and live into their nineties.  But let’s be honest.  We know those people are an exception to the rule.  Be abusive to others and end up spending a lonely old age. Return tithe to God and discover blessings that would have remained unknown.

My favorite is making friends with Jesus and living forever.  That’s a good one.  I can’t think of a better reaction to any action.  As for my pretzels, I finished them and will resist another container.  I think.  I will try.  They are awfully good.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 21, 2013

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