The Gospel Is Outrageous

I know someone who just cannot bring himself to believe in our Christian Good News.  He is a thoughtful person.  He is not turned off by our call to a high standard of living nor is he reluctant to be sacrificial in giving.  He understands that a Christ-like life style is a blueprint for a happy life.  He understands that we live in a world where bad things can happen to anyone.  Good people are not exempt from diseases and accidents.  What he objects to is the absurd idea that a being so powerful, so wise and so omnipresent could become one of us.  The universe is so vast, so endless.  It is filled with trillions of galaxies, each filled with trillions of solar systems containing an endless amount of opportunities for intelligent life on Goldilocks planets. We are a mere speck of cosmic dust in a wonder of gigantic proportion.  Too him, for us to believe that we are so significant that the Creative Force would become a human baby and spend thirty some years with us, only to have us mercilessly slaughter Him, is egotism to the nth degree.

He believes our inflated idea that we become God’s sons and daughters giving us a future inheritance equal with God Himself, is simply out of proportion to reason.

I have to agree with my doubting friend.  The story of redemption, the story of Bethlehem, the story of Calvary, the promises of resurrection and eternal growth are outrageously beyond reason.  He believes the Good News should be called the Outrageous News.  But just because it is too good to be proportional doesn’t make it untrue.  It just makes it all the more stunning.  It does not nullify but enhances our grasp of just how much we are loved.

Written by Roger Bothwell on December 1, 2014

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


November in Heaven

Robert Frost wrote, “Not yesterday I learned to know the love of bare November days before the coming of the snow.”  “The desolate, deserted trees, the faded earth, the heavy sky.”  “These dark days of autumn rain are beautiful as days can be; She (my sorrow) loves the bare, the withered tree . . .”

I am so glad we live on a tilted earth.  Without the tilt we would live without the seasons.   For six years my wife and I lived almost on the equator at 4,000 feet of elevation.  It was delightfully the same every day.  We never saw it colder than 62 nor warmer than 82.  I missed the crispness of 40 degree mornings.  I missed the tang of winter on my nose.  I missed scoping a thin sheet of ice from the birdbath and peering at the out-of-focus world on the other side.

There are those who describe heaven as a monotonous place of perfect everything.  Will we never see the skeletons of maples reaching high above the earth against a gray sky?   However, astronomers tell us there are thousands of Goldilocks planets in our galaxy.  Surely some are tilted and some will have autumn for us to leaf peep and walk with our feet scuffling through noisy piles of brown leaves.

Eternity is filled with an endless variety for us to be endlessly mentally stimulated to learn and understand the beauty of life.  How grand to see layer upon layer into its quarks, hadrons and leptons.  God is a scientist and to be like Him is to quest the depth of how and what things are.  We know why.  That was answered at Calvary.  All is for love.  There is nothing more profound. Understanding love will be our most intriguing enigma.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 17, 2015

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


I’m So Smug

I’m feeling very smug this evening.  We just drove by our supermarket and the place is packed.  There are people driving around the parking lot looking for a spot.  I can only imagine what it is like in the store.  The reason for my smugness is we went at 8 a.m. and had the store to ourselves; one of the perks of being old and almost retired.

Don’t you just hate smug people?  I do.  Therefore, I should be experiencing self-loathing.  But I’m not.  Smugness isn’t nearly as offensive to me when it is I who is the smug one.  So let me be very offensive to the rest of you who had to be at work this morning and were not able to go early to the grocery store.  Here goes.  My church is better than your church because Jesus loves my church more than He loves yours.  We are going to heaven for sure and maybe you will get there.  It depends on just how merciful God is.  You see we had the “Truth” and you didn’t and that makes a huge difference.  And even if you get there we will have bigger and better mansions than you.  You will be on the other side of the tracks.

There.  Have I offended you?  As foolish as all of that was, it reflects how we sometimes act even if we give lip service to not being that way.  I have had people knock on my door and tell me my baptism wasn’t any good because an elder from their church didn’t perform it.  Wow.  Talk about smug!

I know Jesus loves smug people.  But He despises their smugness and saves them despite it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 26, 2015

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


The Knife Sharpener

When I was a small boy a man with a large grinding wheel came down our street.  The wheel was on a wheelbarrow kind of pushcart with a treadle.  His voice was loud and clear as he called out for us to bring him our dull knives. My mother hurried from the kitchen with two knives and a dime.  It was wonderful to watch as sparks sprayed over his leather apron.  I had never seen anything like this before and long after he had gone I thought how wonderful it would be to have such a job. I imagined the joy of honing knives to a keen edge as I made fireworks for the neighborhood children.

In a way I used to imagine being a preacher was a similar task.  One could thunder in a pulpit producing light to hone the spiritual lives of the saints.  I probably started off that way.  But as the years passed by I learned to value the still small voice that moved across a congregation honing in a non-thunderous way.  I learned the quieter the congregation the more they were listening.  One does little pondering while making noise.

Perhaps the best moments producing the keenest edge to our spiritual intellect come not from gatherings of the masses but those one on one encounters with Jesus.  I have come to appreciate the words to the hymn, “I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses and the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses.  And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 25, 2015

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


On Sharing God’s Wisdom

It has been said that Socrates was the wisest man in Athens because he knew that he knew nothing.  Probably the smartest we ever are is when we graduate from high school.  From there on it is downhill as we learn all the things there are that we do not know and what we thought we knew wasn’t correct.  One thing Socrates surely did not understand was how to get along with people.  He alienated so many people in Athens, even his wife, they condemned him to death.

Paul was educated in western thought and knew all about Socrates.  Perhaps he was imitating Socrates when he said in I Corinthians 2, “I came among you determined to know nothing except our crucified Christ.”  He said he came not with the wisdom of the world or other forms of rationale.   He knew the deep things of God were foolishness to those who are not in tune with God’s Spirit.  Apart from the subtle working of God’s Spirit on someone’s mind it is impossible for us to convince them of God’s plan for their redemption.

There have been times when people have come to me after a sermon and said, “Thank you for saying ….”  I finally understand.  That would be wonderful that I was such a good teacher.   The problem is I knew I never said what they said I said.  I have often wondered if the gift of tongues is not in the tongue of the speaker but in the ear of the hearer.   God is hungry to save and he does so despite us.   All the things we think we know, all the theories, definitions and schema, are nothing without God’s intervention in the minds of our hearers or readers.

“I came among you determined to know nothing except our crucified Christ.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 26, 2014

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



No Self-Made Men and Women in Heaven

If you are not a sports fan you probably missed something quite impressive that happened this past weekend.  Actually it started a week ago.  A young football player for the New England Patriots rushed over 200 yards and scored four touchdowns in a single game.  It was such a remarkable feat he was featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated.  However, on Friday he was late coming to practice.  The young sports hero learned an important lesson in discipline and humility.  Because he was late he was not allowed to practice.  Because he did not practice he did not play on Sunday.  He was made to stand in full uniform and watch the Patriots win without him.  I think he will be on time to all upcoming practice sessions.

While I am not so naïve to think character building was his coach’s main purpose, that would be winning games, it is a fact that games cannot be won without discipline and teamwork.  It isn’t all about one person.  Life is that way for all of us.  None of us succeed all by ourselves. We are aided by teams of people.  The self-made man wasn’t self-made.  Yes, he went to work every day.  But, he went in a car he did not build on roads he did not build using gas he did not refine.  He ate food he did not grow and wore clothing he did not sew.  He solved problems with information given to him by others who came before him.  We build on the shoulders of the giants who preceded us.

Neither will we be saved by our own efforts.  We are not self-saved.  Eternal life is a gift to all who will accept it.  We are Jesus-made forgiven saints.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 25, 2014

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


Sometimes the Herd Is Right

There were at least twenty of us driving our cars at a dutiful 65 miles per hour when suddenly a car whizzed past us doing at least 80.  He never saw it until it was too late.  The blue lights came on as he sped past the state trooper we were following.

I know we are not supposed to follow the herd.  We have all heard sermons about the people who wouldn’t get into Noah’s ark because it wasn’t the popular thing to do.  But once in a while we should slow down enough to ask just why the herd is doing what it is doing.  It isn’t always advantageous to be different. The herd isn’t always stupid and blind.  While it is true sometimes the herd gets it wrong, but not always.  Usually there are good reasons for why things are the way they are.  Before we declare the herd to be senseless sheep we should take a few history classes.  History courses aren’t in the curriculum merely to make us hate school.  If they are taught correctly they will keep us from making the same mistakes our forbearers made.

Robert Frost wrote, “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out.”  I would like to add, “Before I tear down a wall I’d ask to know why the wall was first built.”  Taboos and traditions are/were there for a reason. God’s commandments were given for a reason.  They are not there to keep us from having fun.  It is just the opposite.  They are there to guide us to the abundant life promised us by Jesus in John 10:10.  If only we could get our young to know that.  But maybe we can’t because we don’t get it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 24, 2014

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



The Test of Our Honor and Values

When Jesus’ disciples saw Him walking to them over the stormy sea they were filled with horror thinking the specter of death was coming for them.  Then above the roar of the wind they heard, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”  Those words still echo in our ears.  Paul wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”

After 9/11 we rushed to give away our liberty in exchange for safety.  The very liberties paid for with the blood of patriots were signed away and today we have the specter of someone listening to our phone calls.  Why have we done this?  Because we forgot what Jesus said.  We forgot what Paul said.   Fear is worse than death.  Death causes all thought to cease.  But fear terrorizes us with unimaginable thoughts.  The strength of our honor and our values are tested when faced with fear.  The terrorists listened well to FDR when he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  By the slaughter of hundreds they filled a billion with fear.

The bogeyman lives.  He/she is real.  But Jesus is stronger.  Before his death by the people he was seeking to evangelize Jim Elliot wrote these famous words, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”  And David wrote, “Yeah, though I walk through the valley of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me.  Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”

We learned it as children let us remember it as adults.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 23, 2015

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


Something to Remember at Our Thanksgiving Tables

There was a photo on the front page of our daily newspaper this morning that made me ashamed to be part of the human race.  A lady (No, a women. She was no lady.) was holding a sign that read, “Feed our Kids – Not 10,000 Refugees”.   When we allow our inner dark side to express itself in xenophobia or any other evil we allow those who despise our value system to win.  By denying what makes us special (our Christian values) we are lowered to the same ignorance as those who would destroy us.

What makes us special isn’t that we are richer than others and have food.  We are special because we believe our Bible that says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.’” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  Furthermore refugees are 99.99% not our enemies.  They are hungry people who have lost their homes and area fleeing for the same safety we enjoy.

When someone slaps me on the face and I slap them back, they win.  Even if I slapped them harder than they slapped me, they win.  They have reduced me to their level. They made me less like Jesus.  If we can only remember what Jesus’ very own did to Him, perhaps we can (with His help) rise to be like Him.  And just one more thought for the woman with the offensive sign, in America we have enough food for our kids and 10,000 refugees.


Written by Roger Bothwell on November 20, 2015

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


Cold Pizza

I love cold pizza for breakfast.  You know – those pieces that are left over from the night before and have been on top of the fridge overnight to keep them away from the dog.  They are so good.  They aren’t floppy any more.  They are nice and stiff and only require one hand to hold.  They have all the necessary ingredients.   They have grains in the bread, dairy in the cheese and vitamins in the onions, green peppers and tomatoes.

There are certain things that just get better with age.  Some people age well.  Their wisdom, kindness and understanding more than make up for the wrinkles and lack of hair. The story of Jesus gets better as the years go by.  It mellows with meaning as we grow to more thoroughly grasp its importance and the unselfish love that under-girds its power. When I was little I loved the idea of going to heaven because of the goodies, which were mansions, streets of gold, petting lions, etc.   Now, it isn’t so much about material things as it is about maintaining the companionship and love of friends and family.  It’s about safety and comprehending the mysteries of existence, which can be totally baffling.

I like old cars, old music, old books and old people.  Old cars I can understand.  I can open the hood and tell what the parts are.   The old music I can enjoy and not find annoying.  Many old books grapple with the mysteries that will be opened to us. I can empathize with old people and their aches and pains, their concerns over grandchildren, and their endless lists of doctor’s appointments. But, best of all, I never tire of the old, old story of Jesus’ love for us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 21, 2014

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