Night Court

When in high school I belonged to our school temperance association.  For a reason beyond my understanding, the faculty sponsors took us to a night court in Baltimore.  I had never seen anything like that.  They must have emptied the drunk tank just as we arrived.  The courtroom was awful.  I can still remember the smell of cheap booze, vomit and men and women who had not bathed in who knows how long.  One by one in an assembly line they appeared before the judge, pleaded guilty to whatever charge, and were sentenced to time served and shuffled out the back door.  Next, they brought in the “ladies of the night” and once again one by one they plead guilty and I remember they were each fined $50.00 and shuffled out the back door.  For a teenage boy raised in a middle class home that made sure I got to church each weekend, this was another planet.

I hadn’t thought of this in years until this evening when I was reading one of my favorite books, The Desire of Ages – a life of Christ.   I read the following paragraph and this all came flooding back.  “Our Redeemer has opened the way so that the most sinful, the most needy, the most oppressed and despised, may find access to the Father.  All may have a home in the mansions which Jesus has gone to prepare.”

As I read the above paragraph, I suddenly realized my pharisaic attitude of feeling superior to those poor souls thrust me into their group.  Thankfully Jesus will forgive me.  Even snobs can be redeemed.  “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:25

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 17, 2017


English is not a proud language.  It has no shame in adding new words to its ever growing inventory of available units of communication.  Each year the publishers of dictionaries include new words taken from current usage.  One of this year’s additions is sheeple, a portmanteau of sheep and people.  Once we say it, the meaning speaks for itself.  We sheepishly follow the crowd.  What’s trending on Facebook is an example of something catching the fancy of a few and then having millions follow.  Fashions regularly produce the “emperor’s clothes” because thought leaders start something and the rest of us fear to be different.

1000 years before Jesus came to us David wrote Psalm 23.  800 years before Jesus, Isaiah noted in chapter 53, “All we like sheep have gone astray.”  Handel even included it in his famous oratorio The Messiah.  In Matthew 9 we read, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”  Our sheepish behavior is nothing new.  But how wonderful it is that Jesus not only understands, He has compassion on sheeple.  One of His most familiar parables is about the one lost sheep and the shepherd going out to search for it.

Just as long as Jesus keeps loving sheeple I don’t mind being one.  I could think of many worse things to be.  Jesus said, “Follow me.”  My response is gladly, because we know where He leads.  Heaven will be full of sheeple. The challenge is to know who to follow. That is the main task of the Holy Spirit.  He woos us, nudges us and sometimes shoves us in the right direction.  Jesus said, “I am the way.”   So come and join me.  I’m a sheeple and you’re a sheeple and together we will be led home.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 1, 2017

Heaven Will Never Be Full

There is a fascinating concept at the close of Hebrews 1.  Angels are described as ministering spirits to care for the heirs of salvation.  That’s us.  According to Romans 8 and Galatians 4 we are adopted into God’s family and are heirs of salvation.

Several years ago I was in Tokyo and needed to get on a subway during rush hour.  The train stopped at our platform and when the doors opened it was full.  I assumed I would have to wait for the next one.  I could not have been more wrong.  There were attendants on the platform that started pushing us onto the train.  I think the assumption was, it is never full.  Forget the idea of personal space.  I have never been so close to so many people at one time.  Sardines in a can have more space.  In an attempt to breathe I had a mouthful of long black hair from some unnamed lady.

Thinking back on it I think angels are like those attendants.  Heaven will never be full.  There will always be room for one more.  Angels dog our paths each day waiting to give us a shove into the Kingdom.  They are ministering spirits who are so very happy and so very unselfish they, like Jesus, long for everyone to be saved.  There assignment is simple and straightforward; save people. I think they are pretty good at what they do because there is a wonderful verse in Revelation describing the redeemed assembled around God’s throne.  It reads, “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”    That’s us.  How grand!

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 28, 2017

Love Rarely Makes Sense

When my older son was three we parked by a meter.  I reached into my pocket for a dime but inadvertently dropped it and watched it fall into a storm drain.  It wasn’t very deep and I could see the dime. I thought I could pick up the drain cover and lower my son in to pick up my shiny dime. But it looked very dirty and who knew what else was down there.  There was no way I would lower my son into a sewer for any amount of money.

But that is exactly what God did with His Son.  He lowered Him into this sewer of sin not with a chance He would be harmed, but with the sure knowledge the rats would attack and kill Him.  There is no way He would have done that for any amount of silver or gold.  God owns all the silver and gold in the universe.  He did it for something far more precious – YOU.  You, the apple of His eye, are worth every pain, every lash of the whip, each nail, each thorn, each slap and each mocking insult.

I cannot begin to think I am worth that.  Sorry, but I cannot think you are worth that.  But God’s love is so vast and so broad and so much deeper than I can imagine.  If He tells me I am worth it.  If He tells me you are worth it.  I will take Him at His word and believe His promise that He will return to take us to our eternal home.  When we first enter His throne room and see the splendid glory of Jesus we will thrill to think He left that for earth and the cross.   How can it be?  It doesn’t make sense.  But then love rarely does.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 14, 2017

Real Power Is Real Knowing

Recently I was fascinated by the intellectual content of the person with whom I was speaking or should I say lack of content.  He was a professor at a college where he had obtained his BA, MA and doctorate. He made mention of his comfort there because many of his colleagues were also alum from that school.  And so the cycle of information and ideas was repeated over and over.  The same ideas he had heard during his undergraduate years were regurgitated during his graduate education.  They were preaching and teaching to themselves. This person was teaching from the same texts he had been assigned as a student.  Granted there are some classics that should be shared by each generation.  These are not of which I speak.

The freshness of intellectual growth is the fruit of exposure to new ideas and new prospectives.  Without this the content of our lives becomes we and them.  We, of course, are correct, orthodox and holy and they are just plain wrong.  But we try to be kind and use words like misguided or uninformed, when we are the uninformed ones.  Ignorance is a frightening thing.

Knowledge is power.  God is omnipotent not because He is some gigantic muscle man in the sky.  He is omnipotent because He is omniscient.  He creates not because He is a magician waving a magic wand.  He creates because He knows how.  Thus it is that He longs to save us that we might join with Him in creative ideas.  To be like Him is to grow.  Yes.  He grows.  He is love and love grows.  Love is not a stagnate state.  It is an envelopment of life and others and reaching beyond ourselves to enhance those about us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 27, 2017


Mario Cuomo, governor of the State of New York from 1983 -1994, father of Andrew Cuomo,  a governor of New York, and Chris Cuomo, co-anchor for ABC’s 20/20, told the story of his parents coming to America from Italy with nothing.  His father came first and got a job digging ditches in New York City, he saved and was finally able to bring his wife.  When telling the story Mario fantasized a conversation that might have occurred between his mother and the immigration official on Ellis Island.  “What assets are you bringing to America?”  “I have nothing.”  “Do you have any family here?”  “My husband is already here. He is a trench engineer.”  “A ditch digger!”  “Yes.”  “What do you expect to find in America?”  “My husband, a safe place to raise children, freedom, and before I die for my son to be the governor of the State of New York!”   (In 1988 and 1994 Mario Cuomo was considered to be the front runner for the democratic nomination for president.  He chose not to run.)

“I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” *  Where else but America?

Often we fantasize about being immigrants going to heaven.  Folklore has us being questioned by Saint Peter.  “What assets are you bringing to heaven?” “A repentant heart.”  “Do you have any family here?”  “Jesus is my brother and God is my Father.” “What do you expect to find in heaven?”  “My family, a safe place for my children, freedom and never dying.”  “Welcome home!”

“I go to prepare a place for you and if I go to prepare a place I will come again and receive you unto myself that where I am there you may be also.”   John 14.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 20, 2017


I Love Free Stuff

I love getting free stuff, which attracted me to a furniture commercial which promised if the Boston Red Sox won the first four games of the World Series all the furniture I would by would be free.  I would get a check in the mail, so the more I bought the more would be free.  I found myself sitting in front of the TV trying to think of something to buy, which was totally ridiculous.

Car commercials are a bit deceptive.  They promise $10,000 cash back if I buy their vehicle.  It sounds like I would be getting something free until I read the word “back.”  That means I paid them my $10,000 up front and they are returning what was already mine.  That’s not free.  I am just getting the real price of the vehicle.

Paul had this issue with the church in Galatians.  It seems that after he presented the Gospel, which is free, others would come and tell them, “Well, yes, but, you have to do such and such.”  Paul wrote, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel which is really no gospel at all.”  Galatians 1:6.   Beware of the word “but”; what usually follows is heresy.  “Yes, salvation is free.  But …”

When I was little I loved parades because toward the end of the parade clowns would throw pieces of candy to the crowds.  That was free.  Perhaps there will be parades in heaven and the angels will shower us with wonderful things that are truly free.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 25, 2017


The Benefits of Being Nice

Anyone who has ever spent time as a patient in a hospital knows the medical profession is anti-sleep.  Maybe it’s because the staff that covers the night shift are resentful of anyone who gets to rest.  Last week I was consistently awakened at midnight to take my vitals.  Really?!  And then at 5 A.M., I was awakened to draw blood.  Now I try to be a nice guy.  I try to be polite and thoughtful of other’s feelings but when the phlebotomist came in at 5 and turned on all the overhead lights suddenly blinding me and producing visions of the apocalypse, well, let’s just say; I wasn’t overly Christ-like.  And then it occurred to me.  I had an epiphany. We all know you should always be nice to anyone who is handling your food.  I realized how stupid I was not being nice to a woman who was about to pierce me with a ten foot long needle!  And yes, just in case you wondered, she did make me pay for my rudeness.

Often times I excuse my bouts of rudeness by remembering Matthew 23 where Jesus isn’t “gentle Jesus meek and mild.”  Then I have to remember His wrath was produced by those with power abusing those without power.  My displays are because I feel disrespected.  There is a huge difference.  Jesus never lashed out when it was personal.

His message to us in the Sermon on the Mount is consistent regarding our going the second mile and turning the other cheek.  If we really want to witness we do so by our behaviors and responses and not by handing out pamphlets.  He did say, “Hereby will men know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 24, 2017

To Know Pure Love

One of the most wonderful sounds I ever heard was coming home and hearing someone shout, “Daddy’s home” and to hear the thunder of small feet running to me.  The sheer joy of loving and being loved surpasses all other human emotions.  How very empty it would have been had I insisted or commanded such behavior. Love is only love when it pours spontaneously from a willing heart.

Revelation 4:11 is the reason why we are.  “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”  God being God could have created a world without free will or the possibility to choose evil.  He could have programmed us to daily give Him praise.  We would never have known there was any other option.  But He would know.  The praise would be empty and joyless. Love would not truly exist.  When He made us and our world He made the best of all possibilities.

The heartbreak and horror of hatred and disloyalty that arose could not be allowed to eternally ruin what can be so good, so pure and so excellent.  And so John 3:16.  Jesus was the full expression of the Father. We needed to know the ideal.  We needed to know what was intended and what will be again someday.  Love needed a way for us to be a part of that future.  And so Hebrews 1:2 “In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 25, 2017

II Timothy 2:15

I have a student who genuinely believes all the science involved in a search for a cure for cancer is a scam designed for a few people to get rich and all we need to do to cure cancer is eat raw foods and drink lemon juice.  At first I thought she was just spoofing me but she convinced me she was serious.  Oh, how I wish she were correct.  How wonderful it would be if it were that simple.  Something that wonderful could not be kept secret.  Good news spreads quickly.   This is the same student who did not know that our sun was a star.

Ignorance is not a sin.  At the same time to be ignorant is not a crown of glory making someone the envy of the world.  On my way home I thought of Paul’s counsel to Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  II Timothy 2:15.  I understand Paul was telling Timothy to be the best pastor he could be.  But inherent in the idea is a message for all who are not pastors.  Be good at what you do.   And to be really good at what you do, one needs to study.  We learn from those who have gone before us.  We stand on the shoulders of our parents and they on the shoulders of our grandparents.  We don’t have to start from scratch every few years.

We should study to rightly understand Scripture.  On top of that we should be informed about knowledge connected to our occupation and then to other arenas.  Unfortunately, knowledge is growing faster than any of us can assimilate.  Therefore, eternal life isn’t just a great idea.  It is a necessity.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 21, 2017