Not Transferable

While reading the fine print on a coupon my wife noticed that it was not transferable, which seemed strange considering it had come addressed to OCCUPANT.  Did this mean that I could not give it to my neighbor and he could not give his to us?  Perhaps it meant not transferable to a different restaurant.  I have noticed that the various donut shops in our town will take each other’s discount coupons.  But I have never known restaurants to do so.

I did think of something much more significant that comes to OCCUPANT.  Romans 10 says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”  That seems to cover OCCUPANT.  That means anyone.  God is not fussy about gender, race, age or nationality.  He is an all purpose savior.

Now that brings us to the not transferable.  It is not. We cannot be saved for another.  It is a highly personal relationship with our saver.  I know that many parents would exchange their salvation for one of their children.  However, that does not work.  That was done once.  Jesus gave His life for all.   Once you give something of which you only have one, you cannot give it again.  In Romans 6:10 we read, “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; . .”  He could do that because He was without sin.  Hebrews 4:15   We can’t.   There are some who are baptized for past ancestors.  Sorry.  That is not transferable.

So I still do not understand the coupon we received in the mail.   But I am overwhelmed by the power of us being occupants of earth and each receiving a non-transferable gift of salvation.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 28, 2014

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


On Discerning What Is Really Important

Many years ago I organized a necktie party. (No not the traditional kind.)  It seems in the eagerness of my youth I confused western culture with Christianity.  It is a common error of missionaries – especially young ones.  It is difficult for us to sort out traditions from what really matters.  I wrote to one of the churches I had pastored as a very young man and asked them to rid their closets of neckties and send them to our school in Uganda.  When they arrived I passed them out to our male students and required them to wear them for church services.  After all we must dress properly if we are to come into the presence of the King of the Universe.  The problem was neckties were not the local custom, to which I should have been very much more sensitive.

When we baptized a man who already had more than one wife we required him to put away all but one wife.  (He always kept the pretty one.)  And so we created homes with mothers with children and no father figure.  Fathers would make monthly visits to bring food and money to those homes.  I do believe we created a lot of guilt as a result of those visits.  Once again we confused Christianity with western culture.   The only thing Paul had to say about such men with more than one wife is that they not be church leaders.  Some of the men were more perceptive and compassionate than we.  They came to church every week and just were never baptized.

Psychologists call what I (we) did “Group Think.”  In our group we had convinced ourselves we were on moral high ground and God was on our side.   May God make us wise enough to discern real truth from our acculturated beliefs.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 27, 2014

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


The Hunting Catalog

A L. L. Bean Hunting catalog came in today’s mail.  It reeks with testosterone. I feel manly just turning the pages and looking at the Labrador Retrievers holding slain ducks in their dripping maws.  My credit card wanted to leap from my wallet as I savored the waterproof boots, jackets and GPSs.  I imagined sitting in a Massachusetts swamp with my faithful Lab as we filled the air with duck calls designed to lure prey. Of course I would need one of the “Cool Weave Camo Crew” outfits so I would seamlessly blend into the surrounding reeds.  I would watch for ducks with my 2800 dollar Swarovski binoculars. Instead of using a shot gun I would use my L. L. Bean bow and arrow and fell those ducks like Native Americans did in my swamp 200 years ago.  My primal instincts were honed to an edge as my dog and I patiently waited to slay and retrieve a lesser species. Triumphantly we would take our success home in a four wheel drive pickup truck for my wife to pluck and roast.

It is amazing what happens in my head from merely looking at a catalog.  I am not alone.  This catalog was masterfully designed to stir such feelings.  It almost worked, but I didn’t purchase anything.  There is power in the printed page.  There is power in our Bibles.  As we read stories of Jesus moving through the crowds in Galilee we are moved as we see Him lovingly, powerfully restoring health of body and mind to those He touched.  Instead of primal instincts filling us with a desire to kill something we are filled with visions of life – eternal life.  There is power in the Word.  Don’t leave it on the bedside table gathering dust.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 26, 2014

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



The Uniqueness of Jesus

“Requite injury with kindness. Keep behind, and you shall be put in front.  He who is great makes humility his base. To know, but to be as one not knowing, is the height of wisdom.  To the good I would be good; to the evil I would also be good, in order to make them good.”  Sound familiar?  If we were asked to identify the writer most of us would say Jesus.  However, they are just a few of the sayings of Lao-Tse, a Chinese philosopher who lived 600 years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.  This is just one small sample of the vast treasure of wisdom literature written prior to Jesus.

Jesus’ moral teachings and life lessons were not new.  What was new about Jesus was something far more significant than the Sermon on the Mount and other such passages. Along with His great wisdom Jesus revealed His divine identity to us by saying such things, “I and the Father are One.”  “Before Abraham was I am.”   And Thursday evening before the cross He said, “I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

He is totally unique and He left us with some very specific promises regarding our eternal futures.  Via Paul, Jesus left us with the understanding that our righteousness is the fruit of our relationship with God and grows out of our gratitude for His lifting from us the burden of the Law.   Christianity is unique because it is the only religion ever that has God pursuing us for the sole purpose of giving us salvation.  Every other requires works.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 25, 2013

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


Beyond Grace?

Once in a while a student will startle me.  It happened this afternoon.  Out of the last fifteen classes she has been absent twelve times.  That wasn’t startling.  What made me almost gasp was her question, “How am I doing?”  She has heard three lectures.  She missed an exam and she wants to know how she is doing!

Now I am a grace man.  I understand needing forgiveness. I hope I am never the man in Jesus’ parable about the fellow who was forgiven a million dollar debt and then met a man who owed him a thousand dollars for which he threw him in jail.  But her question seemed to be beyond grace.  What I had expected was her to ask, “Did I miss anything?”  To which I usually answer, “No, nothing happened during the twelve classes you missed.  We just sat here.”  What I am thinking is there is a place for some grace in the classroom but primarily our educational system is based on works.  School is not grace based.  It is performance.

However, as I drove home, I wondered if it was ever possible for a sincerely repentant person to be beyond grace.  Hebrews 7:25 says, “He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”  “To the uttermost” and “always lives to make intercession” are amazingly powerful words.  I have this belief that the faintest prayer from the weakest will not only be heard but cause extreme action on the part of heaven.  Do I believe in deathbed confessions?  I surely do.  Our God is in the business of saving people even if He has to squeeze them under the door.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 25, 2014

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


Watching the Winter Olympics fills us with wonder at the prowess and ability of human beings.  When we choose to be we can be marvelous creatures.  But occasionally watching the Olympics reminds us of our ordinary tendency not to take responsibility for our faults.  Speed skaters blamed their suits.  Some skiers blamed the soft snow or the angles of this and that.  We should not be surprised.  It started in Eden.  Adam blamed God for giving him Eve and so it began. Scrapping children most always say, “He hit me first.”

It’s natural.  All my life I have made excuses for my failures.  It has never ever been my fault.  I am even now excusing my behavior by saying it is natural.  I was born this way.  Psychotherapists earn very good livings by helping people figure out who to blame.  It could have been a flawed father or mother.  And it is true.  Mom and Dad were flawed.  We all are.  It’s human to be flawed.

This brings me to II Peter 1.  “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature . . .” The very idea is thrilling.  We do not have to be only human.  God wants more than anything to be a part of our lives by being a part of us.  We can have, upon request, internal strength to perform a wonder.  We can overcome our native impulses to blame something or someone for our failures.  Real men, real women, real champions man-up (woman-up) and instead of blaming decide to do better next time.  Blaming others might make us feel good inside but rarely makes us look better to others.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 24, 2014

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

Happy Wife

Once upon a time there was a man with a thousand wives and this is the gained wisdom he shared with us.

“Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth.”  Proverbs 5:18.

“A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day;” Proverbs 27:15.

“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.”  Proverbs 21:9.

A jeweler here in town put up a billboard and summed it up in just four words.  “Happy Wife – Happy Life.”

Moods are very contagious. They spread through a room like a virus – happy or gloomy.  Sometimes we have had a miserable day at work.  We had to pretend to be nice because we need the paycheck.  But when we get home we think it is safe to spill our vile on our families.  Beware – It isn’t safe to do so.  We end up poisoning the one really safe place we have.  If we need the catharsis take your dog to the basement and dump on him.  He will reward you with lots of licks.  I once knew a very attractive couple who were skilled in the art of verbal barbs.  They were better than Don Rickles.  We all howled with laughter until one day they announced their divorce. Bite your tongue when that ever so witty putdown comes to mind.  At the time it might not seem like it made a difference.  It did!  It was one more straw.

Tell her how wonderful she is.  Tell her how beautiful she is.  Tell her what a great mom she is.  And it will come to pass.  It’s the way we are.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 21, 2013

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


Maybe They Were Asleep

Earlier this week, just one driveway away from my driveway, a car burst into and was consumed by flames.  A fire truck arrived with all the hoses, etc.  It was quite a big deal.  However, even though I was home and awake, I missed the show.  I most likely would never have known about it had not a neighbor called to alert me.  Ever since his call I have been wondering how many other things I have missed or miss on a daily basis.  I certainly could never have been Sherlock Holmes whose powers of observation excelled.  Yesterday afternoon at three when my class was finished it was snowing very hard.  I mentioned to my students they needed to drive safely because of the heavy snow, to which, they looked out the window and “oohed” and “ahhed” because they had not noticed.  Since it had been snowing for over a half an hour I was pleased that I had them so engaged they had not noticed.  But now I am wondering if I was just missing seeing them not engaged but asleep.

It is the same when we read things.  Our focus has been trained to notice the ideas and opinions that match those we already have.  We also miss the ideas that conflict with our preperceptions or at best we see them and disregard them.  To be open, to be willing to recognize what we think comes from a culture and might not be how things really are is a gift we give ourselves.  I wish not to see things tomorrow in harmony with what I believe today.  I am not conceited enough to think I know all truth and I don’t want to miss more than I have to.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 21, 2014

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



We have a dry cleaning establishment in our city called Pasquale’s.  I wouldn’t bother mentioning it except it is run by a Vietnamese family, which doesn’t quite fulfill one’s expectations upon entering.   One does not hear “hola” as we come in the door.   Expectations are a huge part of our lives.  We usually shop at the same grocery store because we expect things to be in the same place week after week.  It is disconcerting when the store moves stuff around.  We marry people with expectations for a happy future.  We have children with expectations of lots of running and shouting and sometimes crying around the house.  When we find a brand of food we like we buy it again and again because of the expectation of its taste.

When we go to church we have expectations and often we are pleased and sometimes not.  When the latter happens we sometimes go church shopping until we find one that does meet our expectations.  When it comes to someday going to heaven we have expectations.  The rich part of that is we are going to be so very wrong.  Heaven will not meet our expectations because we don’t know how to imagine something glorious that we have never seen.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians, ‘“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ — the things God has prepared for those who love him.”   Later in I Corinthians Paul wrote about our resurrection bodies being as different as a seed is to the tree.  Maple seeds don’t look anything like maple trees.

If you are a person who always wants to be right you can forget about going to heaven because you will be – I was about to say, “Dead Wrong.”  But you will be “Live Wrong.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 20, 2014

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

It’s All about Motive

When the phone rings at 1 A.M. and we are roused from deep slumber the first thing that crosses our minds is something is terribly wrong.  So you can imagine my thoughts as I picked up the phone, cleared my head and listened to a telemarketer.  Yes – you read correctly.  A telemarketer at 1 A.M.!   Someone wanted me to purchase a home security system.  How ironic.  I needed someone to protect me from them!  Now it is only fair to mention there was not a live human on the other end of the line.  It was an automated call.  However, I imagine if I had pressed the requested buttons I would have eventually talked to something live.

As I sought to return to my dreams I drifted off thinking of Jesus’ story of the ten virgins in Matthew 25.  Verse 6 says, “At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!”   The story is about His second return to Earth and the rescue of His friends.  He closes by saying, “Keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.”  All my life I have been told to be ready. But what does ready mean?  If one grew up in a works oriented environment like I did, it meant be sure to do everything right.  Return your tithe, keep the Sabbath, don’t eat certain things were just some of the “do everything right.”

You can imagine my joy when I finally learned that being ready meant accepting His gift of grace and loving Him for saving us.  As for doing all the right things, Jesus said, “If you love me keep my commandments.”  It is all about love.  And why do we love Him.  Because He gave us grace.  You see.  It is all about motive.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 19, 2014

Spring of Life, PO Box 124, St. Helena, CA 945474