National Geographic Travel Catalogue

The postman brought us a travel  catalog this morning.  It is 142 pages of enticement.  Now if only the postman would bring me the resources to utilize this colorful bait to travel the world.  If you can name it there seems to be a trip designed to take you there.  I would like to go to Cuba.  If I go this March I can go for $7,595.  Of course there is an additional $7,595 if I take my wife.  Excuse me.  I don’t want to buy Cuba.  I just want to visit.  The small print tells me it does not include airfare from Miami and back.  That is an additional $600 a piece.  Hey – the last time I looked it was only a 90 mile trip!  The jet barely has time to put its flaps up.

I also happened to have another travel brochure.  It’s called Ephesians.  And the wonder is all travel is prepaid.  Listen to this enticement.  Paul was a master promoter.  “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

How about that?  In John 14 Jesus told us He was going to His Father’s house to prepare places for us.  And Paul tells us we are to be seated with Christ in heavenly realms.  Now I understand that some people are stay-at-home types that don’t like to travel, but really this is just too grand to refuse.  So come with me.  Please.  I’ll even tip the angels for you when they check your bags.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 5, 2017

The Gift

About thirty years ago a group of youth pastors in Northern California invited me to accompany them on a trip up Mount Shasta.  As a forty something I was the old man among all these twenty somethings.  At over 14,100 feet it is the fifth highest in California and is still a potentially active volcano.  The top is embraced by a heavy scent of sulfur.  On the second day as we neared the summit it slowly dawned on me that I was doing very well for an older guy.  The young men started lagging.  One of them did become ill from the strain in the thinner air.  About noon I passed the last two and found myself standing alone on the top.  I was feeling very studly as I sat and watched the others arrive.

On the way down I noticed myself being at the end of the line and working to keep up.  How could this be?  How could I be so comparatively strong going up and not so strong on the way down?  Then it dawned on me. (I can be mentally slow.)  It was a set up.  Those guys had colluded.  During the last two thousand feet they deliberately fell back allowing me to summit.  They never said a word about it in my hearing range.

I have come to think that Jesus does this for me on a daily basis.  He grants me little victories to encourage me on. At the end (or as I should say, “The real beginning.”) He will give me a crown of righteousness. (Romans 8)  I might be tempted to think that I did it.  But when seriously contemplating I will realize how improbable that is.  It is a gift as was my summiting Shasta.

Written by Roger Bothwell on January 30, 2017


One of my undergraduate students from Haiti came to class this morning looking like he had just stepped off the cover of GQ magazine.  His suit was well tailored, double vented with creases on his trousers that would cut your finger.  His tie matched a handkerchief in the breast pocket of his jacket and all was spotless.  The first words out of my mouth were “You look hirable.”

It is so easy to judge someone by their appearance.  It is such a natural thing to do that James, Jesus’ brother, speaks of it in chapter 2.  “Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

One of my favorite stories about Jesus is he touched the leper while the leper was still a leper.  Jesus honored everyone.  He could sit with Nicodemus or with Zacchaeus.   Of course they were both well dressed so let’s remember the demoniacs of Gergesenes. Both were disgusting to look at but in Jesus’ eyes they were his first two missionaries sent out to preach.

If we are to be like Jesus, everyone no matter how they appear, is a soul for the Kingdom.  Jesus saves to the uttermost.  Hebrews 7:25.

In my case this morning I am happy to say the inside perfectly matched the outside.  He is a fine, fine young man.   He really is hirable.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 1, 2017

The Express Line

Things are not always the reality of their billing.  The line at the supermarket said, “Express Line – 14 items or less.” What was not true was the word “Express.”  The four people in line in front of me each had only two or three items.  The problem was the snail that was checking us out.  Not only was she the slowest moving human I have ever seen she was very nice.  She was so nice she was calling everyone “dear” and “deary.”  I was “deary.”  She seemed to genuinely care about us and wanted to know if we were well, did we find everything we were looking for, how was the weather outside and to top it off she was showing us pictures of her grandchildren.  I loved it that everyone was patient and kind to her.  But it wasn’t express.

There are so many things that are not what they are stated to be.  It started in Eden.  “Eat this fruit and you will be like God.  You will not die.”  It continues throughout history.  “We will be the master race.”  “Die a martyr and go straight to paradise with x-number of virgins.” “We are God’s special children.”  “God hates sinners.”  It goes on and on.

The need for us to spend time with God’s Word finding His love and care, finding His mercy and forgiveness, finding our purpose in life and finding that we can trust Him implicitly, is vital for our mental health and assurance that once we are part of God’s family the only way out is for us to leave.  There are some things that are actually better than stated and the big one is being a child of the Creator of the Universe.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 2, 2017

Professor Emeritus

The first time I ever heard the title professor emeritus I was quite impressed.  It was at a graduation service and I thought it meant the prof was super good.  Little did I know it had more to do with being OLD than with the quality of past lectures.  When I opened my mail today a card fell out of an envelope containing, you guessed it, an “Emeritus Commissioned Ministry of Teaching Credential.”  To reinforce the situation, in order to read the card I had to get out a magnifying glass.

Since it did not reflect the quality of decades of classroom performance I spent the afternoon wondering about what I do do that is good.  I have come to the conclusion I am a very good sinner.  I realize that is an oxymoron but I am very good at sinning and then skilled at trying to cover it up.  I should receive a credential recognizing that skill.

Paul must have felt that way when he wrote, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst.”  I Timothy 1:15. He also wrote the following about himself. “Though I am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”  Ephesians 3:8.  He said he was less than the least.  With Paul it wasn’t about Paul.  It was all about Jesus.   In Mark 2:17 we read this wonderful verse, “On hearing this, Jesus told them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

Therefore if you also belong to the “good sinners club” rejoice and be exceedingly happy because Jesus loves you very much.

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 24, 2017


He’s Back

I am so very sorry not to have written for a few weeks. Needless to say they have been very harsh weeks.  Without going into gruesome detail let me just say they involved electric paddles with someone saying, “Clear.”   I did not hear that.  What I did hear was “He’s back.”  Those are good words.  They will be even better when they apply to Jesus and not me. He promised He would come again (John 14) and when He does I’m sure many of us will proclaim with great joy, “He’s back.”  They will be the best words ever for this sin-sick world.

Two of Jesus’ most famous parables were the prodigal son and the lost sheep.  Jesus said, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15)  If we listen carefully we can hear the father shouting to the household, “He’s back. He’s back.”  Oh, the tears.  Oh, the joy.

Then there is the shepherd, who arriving at home, realized one of his sheep was missing.  Off he went into the night, listening for a sound that would help him find his sheep.  Later that night when he arrived home with his sheep in his arms, surely his family shouted to one another, “He’s back.”

If you would like to make the angels sing?  If you want to fill heaven with joy, right now, this very moment, renew your relationship with the Good Shepherd and I guarantee you the courts of heaven will be filled with song.  Angels will sing their favorite anthem entitled, “He’s Back.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on May 23, 2017

God’s Counselors

JFK once said the secret of success is to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you are and give good counsel. He said he wanted to be the dumbest person in the room.   Some people make the mistake of doing just the opposite and thus they never grow.

Who counsels God?  If God knows all then who can argue, who can disagree, and who could change His mind?  I realize this sounds like one of those sophomoric questions designed for who knows what.  But, I was reading Genesis 18 where Abram argued with God over the fate of Sodom.  One might say that was not an argument, that was a negotiation.  So I went to Exodus 32.  God is threatening to kill the Israelites because of the golden calf.  Moses stepped in with the following result, “Then the LORD relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.”

It appears that God is open to hear our ideas.  However, there is I Samuel 15:29, “He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.”  One might say in the above situations God never changed, He was giving Abram and Moses an opportunity to grow.  But that would mean God wasn’t dealing with them in good faith.

We also have Isaiah 1:18, ‘“Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord.”  Apparently Isaiah had a different relationship with the Lord than Samuel.  What we do know is God made us in His image and has given us rational powers.  We know He calls us to be His sons and daughters.  Good fathers don’t just order their children around they dialogue with them.  What a joy it is to talk with Him.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 3, 2017

In Times Like These

I was browsing a hymnal looking for just the right song to match my sermon this weekend when I spotted the old favorite, In Times Like These.  What a great song.  Ruth Jones, wrote it in 1944. WWII was raging and the Normandy Invasion was in June.  She wrote the words, melody and harmony while ironing – some people are so very gifted.

“In times like these you need a Savior.

In times like these you need an anchor;

Be very sure, be very sure

Your anchor holds and grips the solid Rock!

This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He’s the One.”

It seems like we have been at war somewhere in the world ever since.  Has there ever been a time when In Times Like These wasn’t appropriate?  Every morning seems to bring us something unsettling and even startling.  I often wonder how people manage who don’t have Jesus in their lives.  He brings amazing comfort.  His promise “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” could not be more appropriate and calming.

Sometimes we look at photographs of earth taken from afar in space and we look so isolated and so alone hurtling through nothingness.  Thankfully appearances can be deceiving.  We are not alone.  We are watched, nurtured and loved by the one who spoke us into existence.  In Romans 8 Paul points out the logic that if God gave us His only Son will He not then give us all the things we need.

He is our Rock not only at times like these but in all times and anywhere.  With His help our anchor will hold.  That’s a promise.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 6, 2017

Paul’s Emancipation Proclamation

Coming from someone who declared himself to be a Pharisee of Pharisees (See Acts 23) Galatians 5 is a doctrinal 8.9 earthquake.  It is an arrow piercing the core of our human nature that wants to do it ourselves.  When we are small and watching our parents do something we often cry out, “Let me. Let me.”  But we can’t.  Salvation is way beyond our skill set.  In the passage below taken from Galatians 5, Paul speaks specifically of circumcision because that was the issue of the day.  However, the foundation of Paul’s argument is the inherent principle.  That means we can supply any “work” in place of the word circumcision.  It could be food, tithing, etc.  Not that those are not important.  They are.   The point is they are not contributors to our salvation.  They are the fruit of salvation.

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. . . For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

Please note the “only” thing that counts.  It is a constant theme for Paul.  Please check out I Corinthians 13.  If I have not love I am only a clanging symbol.   Galatians 5 is Paul’s Emancipation Proclamation. It is a declaration of freedom.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 9, 2017

Persistence and Prayer

I used to think Thomas Edison took the honors for being persistent.  He worked 18 months until he got a light bulb that would burn for 13.5 hours.  However, I now think a Korean named Seo Sang-moon might be the most persistent man in history.  He is almost 70 years old and after 271 unsuccessful attempts to pass the non-driving part of the driver’s test he passed.  It cost him almost a thousand dollars in fees but he passed on his 272nd attempt.  The test givers cheered.

In Luke 18 Jesus tells a very interesting story about persistence.  It seems there was a widow who needed judicial protection.  The judge was not a godly man and didn’t care a bit about her but finally granted her request because she endlessly pestered him.  He was sick of her and gave her what she wanted to get rid of her.  Jesus goes on to say if this ungodly man would give this woman what she wanted how much more will our faithful heavenly Father hear us and give us what we need.  Jesus is not telling us we have to beg God for good things but merely pointing out the surety of God’s love.  We can count on Him!

I once heard a sermon based on this parable teaching us the necessity of repetitive prayer.  While there may be some benefit in repetitive prayer, not to change God’s mind, but to prepare us to receive, the lesson of this parable is just the opposite. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

The God who loves us dearly hears us and will answer when the time is right.

Written by Roger Bothwell on February 13, 2017