Leftover Scars

Lots of prayers and some very good doctors have been responsible for my recovery from leukemia.  I am going on three years of excellent health for which I am deeply grateful.  However, there have been some undesirable remnants.  One of which is I have been left with a very low tolerance for bug bites.  The tiniest of creatures can create on my arms or wherever swollen, itchy patches that take days to subside. Springtime is wonderful but in Massachusetts May skies fill with little black flies that swoop in like Kamikaze pilots.  Finally, we got a 90 degree day that should take care of them for another year.  In a few days I can stop scratching as long as I avoid mosquitoes and ticks which will be with us all summer.

Our bodies are wonderful at repairing themselves, yet scars and other annoyances are usually left behind to remind us.   We are never quite as good as new.   Our souls are the same.  We mar them with sinful deeds.  We ask for forgiveness.  God is gracious, merciful and good to us and He cleanses us.  See I John 1:9.  Yet, we are never the same.  Sin diminishes us.  That’s why something is labeled sin.  If it enhanced us it would be labeled a blessing.

God gives us a new start, record-wise.   But our brains don’t.  We are never quite what we could of, should of, been.  God looks at us as if we had never sinned.  But the person looking back at us from the mirror always knows better.  So flee from sin as we would from a roaring lion.  While we might survive the lion’s attack, we will always be scarred, at least until this mortal puts on immortality.  See I Corinthians 15.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 27, 2016



No Watered Down Promises

Lest you be tempted to think no one keeps their promises let me assure you there is no mayhem in heaven.  When God promises something He means it!  It is never watered down with anything.  We are promised eternal life.   That is not a million years.  That is not 100 million years.  That is forever.  Obviously there has to be intervention of some sort.  The way we are now I am not sure I want to live to be a hundred.  I know that for sure when I get out of my easy chair.  If it feels like this now what will it feel like at hundred.  I would need an entire bottle of Ibuprofen just to stand up.

We are talking about eternity where we continue to develop.  Next earth year we will be better than last earth year. (I’m not sure how we will count years.)  Last week some middle aged man prayed with my wife and asked God to bless her now that she is in her sunset years.  Oh dear.  He is very fortunate he got to say amen.

Since God never waters down a promise try this one.  “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy. . .” Jude 24   If you have a nagging guilt about something in your past, ask for forgiveness and forget it.  He is able.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 3, 2016


Talking to My Dog?

A few days ago I wrote about walking in my yard on a moonless night looking for my black lab.  All the while she was invisibly walking around right behind me.  Last night we had a quarter moon as I once again went out to bring her in for the night.  It wasn’t long until I saw darkness following me around.  Considering myself to be a quick study and not to be fooled again I headed back to the door talking to her.  Then I reached back to pet her.  Emptiness – it was my shadow!!  My dog was still sitting in the corner of the yard watching me talk to nothingness.

It would have been saner had I been talking to myself.  This time I was talking to thin air.  This happens to be the reason God gave us the first commandment.  “Thou shall have no other gods before me.”  Since there is only one real God, placing other gods before Him would be praying to nothingness.  God is trying to keep us from wasting our devotion and intellect.  Praying to nothing isn’t going to get us anything.

God is so wonderfully practical.  Each of His commandments has a practical application for enhancing the quality of our lives.  There isn’t a selfish bone in His body.  His total focus is on our well-being.  He instantly hears all our prayers and answers not according to our requests but according to what is best for us.  Often we misjudge His actions but someday He will make it all clear and we will rejoice in His wisdom and grace.  He never makes mistakes.  Our talking with Him is never talking to shadows.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 15, 2016



On Taking Responsibility

Spring semester is waning. Projects are coming due. Procrastinators are not yet panicking; that will happen in about ten more days.  Last evening I made an impassioned appeal for my undergrads to PLEASE get their assignments turned in. (This is something you never have to do with graduate students.)  After class three students stayed after to ask how to do the assignments!  When I explained (for the umpteenth time) they accused me of never having told them before this.  I felt like I was in the Garden of Eden hearing Adam blaming God, followed by Eve blaming the serpent.  I would have been so much more sympathetic if they had said, “I never heard” instead of saying, “You didn’t.”  Perhaps that was asking too much.  That would have meant they were responsible.   (I’m sure they would have taken responsibility if something good had occurred.)

Taking responsibility when there is blame to be had (manning up) is a key factor in living a successful life.  It is THE key factor in being saved.  “If we confess our sins He is able to forgive.” Confession is manning up.  No going to therapy so we can blame our parents, no playing Flip Wilson by saying, “The devil made me do it.”  Life is choices.  Unfortunately not all of them work out so well.  The good news is God is eager to save, eager to forgive, eager to give us fresh starts, even if we need them on a daily basis.  When describing love in       I Corinthians 13 Paul wrote, “Love keeps no record of wrongs.”

My students will make my day when they turn in their assignments.  We can make God’s day by saying, “I did it.  I’m sorry.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 13, 2016



“I Wanted to Hear Her Sing”

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  I love to hear you sing.  At least that was one of the reasons of a man who this weekend during a church choral number got out of his seat, walked to the front and moved the microphone so it was precisely in front of his wife!  Afterwards he told me, “I wanted to hear her sing.”  He did.  We did.

Love is an amazing thing.  Without it life would be so bland or maybe not at all.  It was with a heart full of love that God knelt in the grass of Eden and formed man with full intention of giving him Eve.  It was with a heart full of love that same God permitted what has to be for all eternity the most horrific act ever.  God did not resist as the great, great, great, great grandchildren of that first man ripped handfuls of beard from God’s face, spit on Him and smashed nails into His hands.  In 1955 Paul Webster wrote, “Love is a many splendid thing.”  In this particular case “splendid” is not the right adjective but I cannot think of a word graphic enough to fit that appalling scene.

And now with a heart full of love that same risen God is our high priest in the heavenly sanctuary creating a dossier on each of us detailing a case that justifies the salvation of each of us.  “Every high priest is selected from among the people and is appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”  Hebrews 5:1

In a dream I asked God why He saved us and He replied, “I wanted to hear you sing.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 11, 2016



Let the Son Do It

If it had been the beginning of November I would have cranked up the snow blower and cleared the driveway.  Five inches of snow packed down by the car would have made the driveway icy for three or four months.  But this is April with the forecast of 56 degrees in two days.  It didn’t matter if the car packed it down; it would all be gone in 48 to 72 hours.  So I allowed the sun to do it for me.

If I weren’t a morally weak human (we all are.), I would work hard to be saved and worry like crazy that I had missed some small little sin.  I am morally weak, but not totally stupid.  Wanting to be saved, I decided to let the Son do it for me.  This is not an issue of being lazy.  It is being a realist.  No matter how hard I would try I would fail.  Even Paul couldn’t do it so he wrote, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Now I can relax and team up with the Holy Spirit to be more like Jesus every day.  Not to be saved, but because I am ecstatic with joy that the Son has done the saving.  The Son is my hero and I want to be like Him.  That is the quest.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 8, 2016




Unclaimed Millions

March 21 was the deadline for a one million dollar Powerball winner in Wisconsin to claim his prize.   The ticket owner most likely never knew he had such a prize.  It was probably washed in his shirt pocket or is in the box between the front seats of his car.  It doesn’t matter now.  The money has gone into the black hole of the state budget.  Actually 57 million dollars worth of lottery prizes have never been claimed just in Wisconsin.  Imagine what the number is nationwide.

One cannot help but think of Jeremiah 8:20, “”The harvest is past, the summer has ended, and we are not saved.”  The horrible truth is even though God is immense in mercy millions will be lost.  This is not God’s fault.  He is innocent.  Provision has been made for everyone.  That is difficult for us to understand considering the places and circumstances under which some people live or have lived.  The glorious truth here is we don’t have to understand because an amazing all loving God has worked that out for each person born.  Finding out how will be one of the joys we will experience in heaven.  Paul wrote in Romans  11, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  Unsearchable are his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord?”

Not only has God made provision He pursues people with the gift in hand.  That is the task of the Holy Spirit.  Do you remember Michael Anthony, John Beresfoot Tipton’s man, in the 1950 TV series The Millionaire?  His job was to deliver the money.  All total there was $206,000,000 given away.  Our heavenly Father has an infinite amount to give.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 6, 2016



Spiritual Snobs

This morning I watched a little red squirrel crawl up a tree and out onto our suet feeder.  Much to his delight it popped open and the suet cake fell out onto the ground.  I’m sure I heard him say, “Yippee.”   Down the tree he scampered and proceeded to drag it away.  It was larger than he but that didn’t matter – all the more for him!

He reminded me of groups of people who try to hog up heaven just for themselves.  The rest of us are excluded because we are different.  We don’t dress the same as they.  We don’t eat the same foods as they.  We have a different theological idea than they.  Somehow a form of reasoning took over that said salvation is the fruit of conformity and mental lockstep instead of abundant grace.  It became salvation by knowledge.  It is forgotten that Revelation 7:9 says when describing the redeemed, “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

So I went outside and changed the scenario.  I put the suet cake back in its holder.  Once again it was for everyone.  Graciously I did not exclude the little red squirrel because of his behavior.  He still has access.  It felt good to do so.  It was the one Jesus-like thing I was able to do today.  As I walked back into the house through the snow (Yes, snow in April.)  I thought, “How grand that God’s love isn’t just for my group.  If it was, instead of being Christ-like, we would be spiritual snobs.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 5,2016


Never Being Put On Hold

News and World Report has proclaimed Massachusetts to be the best state in which to live because of health care, infrastructure, etc.  Apparently the people at U. S. News and World Report have never tried to contact the Massachusetts Registration of Motor Vehicles.  I was put on hold an hour ago and this very moment while I am writing I am listening over and over again to the same insipid music.  In fairness I have to say when I called the machine warned me my wait time would be over an hour.  If we are such a great state can’t we hire a few more employees?  Or, at least, how about getting a bigger musical play list when put on hold?

We are so blessed not to be put on hold when we need to talk to God.  If His system was comparable to the RMV and calls were coming in from all over the universe we could have a century or so wait time!  At least the music would be heavenly.

There are several promises in the Psalms regarding God’s listening ear and His response.  Psalm 91:15 is an example. “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.”   Psalm 139 is fabulous.  Please savor these words.  “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.  If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”  We get instant response time because He is always with us.  How grand!    (The final wait time with the RMV was 2 hours and 24 minutes.)

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 23, 2017


Why Samson Is Listed in Hebrews 11

Have you ever wondered why Samson’s name shows up in Hebrews 11?  Hebrews 11 is a list of moral and military giants and right there he is between Barak and Jephthah.  He is like the Hebrew equivalent of a Marvel Comic Book character who should be listed with Superman and Batman because of his super powers. He is an existential mess in need of therapy and is definitely not a moral hero.  He is anything but that.  Yet God puts up with him.  That is probably why he is listed in Hebrews 11.  He is not there because he was great, he is there because God is great.  Samson’s story tells us more about God than about Samson.

Samson was to be raised with a Nazarite vow.   It had three conditions.  Condition one was not to touch a dead body.  Well he touched plenty.  Just check out what he did with a donkey’s jawbone.  Next he was not to drink anything from grapes nor eat grapes.  He drank plenty.  God still blessed him.  Finally Delilah cuts off his hair and all three conditions have been broken.  God backs off and allows Samson to become normal.  But when Samson confesses his errors God is right back there with him.

This is the great part of the story.  Every time we mess up and confess, God is there.  That is the moral of the story.  Just like God was in the belly of a giant fish with Jonah, God is in prison with Samson.  Samson is a great story because God is great.  So the next time you mess up and feel abandoned remember Samson.  Surely you cannot be as bad as he was.  God doesn’t play favorites.  The message is God will always be there for you.  Always!

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 4, 2016