On the Up and Up

I was surprised today to hear someone use the phrase “on the up and up” to mean the revenues of a company were increasing. All my life I thought “on the up and up” meant something was “above board,” “honest,” “legal,” or “trustworthy.” It occurred to me I could be talking with someone about my college and ask if everything is on the “on the up and up” and have them respond “no” because our enrollment did not increase this year. I would have gone away thinking something illegal was going on, when that was absolutely not what the other person meant.

Once again I was reminded of how very important words are and find it amazing that we ever communicate with each other. No wonder nations go to war. How often have we started shooting just because we think someone said something the other did not mean to say?

Using the phrase “on the up and up” with the meaning I always knew, I would to say, “Satan never offers anything “on the up and up.” He promises all manner of good things that always end up in death. His promises are always “on the down and down.” But Jesus is another case. He never breaks a promise. When He says, “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; . . .” (Ephesians 1:7) He means it. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is always “on the up and up” and you can mean that with either definition.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 11, 2003.
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

The Selfless Friend

Being on a college campus each day is delightful, not only because I have a captive audience that has to listen to my views, but because I get to listen in on students who know everything. Just today I sat quietly listening to two theology students arguing about what we will be like in heaven. One proposed we will be spiritual beings and the other was adamant that we will be as human there as we are here, only perfect. I enjoyed their conviction and surety that they knew.

I was tempted to share I John 3:2 with them but I held my peace. I did not want to spoil the party with John’s counsel. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; . . .” I guess I was so amused because when I was young I too knew everything about God and heaven.

I do like the idea that whatever we will be, we will for sure be like Jesus. Sometimes I am overwhelmed with Jesus’ generosity. He seems not to want to “Lord it over us” even though He is Lord. In Romans 8 we are promised we will be co-heirs of the kingdom. In Revelation 3 we are promised we shall sit with Him on His throne. In Philippians 1 we are told He never hesitated to become one of us. He is a selfless friend.

So whatever we shall be, it will be wonderful!

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 11, 2003
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

The Silk Red Tie

It was a beautiful silk red tie covered with black labs. I don’t usually buy neckties. I wait for someone to give them to me but this one really spoke to me. I just had to have it. Today I wore it for the second time. Today I ate a sandwich with tomatoes and mayonnaise. Today a tomato slipped out between the two pieces of bread and covered my wonderful new red tie with mayonnaise. Some days it barely pays to get up.

I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to wipe it with my napkin lest I press the mayo deeper into the fabric. So I did what I always do when I don’t know what to do. I took it off and took it to my wife.

Now I figure you know where I am going. Jesus is the ultimate stain remover. “Though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.” It occurred to me that Satan loves to have us try to get out of trouble by ourselves. He knows we will just smear it around and make it worse. We can try our best and it isn’t good enough. We need help. Fortunately the help is there.

In one of Jack Kennedy’s more famous speeches he said, “There is no problem that man has made that man cannot fix.” While I loved the man’s rhetoric I had to disagree with him on this one. We make lots of problems we cannot fix. But Jesus is always ready and waiting and He can fix anything.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 10, 2003
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

“My Grace Is Sufficient”

Not long ago I became extremely frustrated with a colleague who I thought was being extremely narrow minded and reaching way beyond his authority. When I confronted him I shocked myself by saying something to him about him. It was not something I had premeditated. It just popped out of my mouth. It was demeaning and hurtful. Immediately I asked his forgiveness but it was too late it was out. Words out of the mouth cannot be put back.
He has not forgiven me for I notice he avoids me. I followed Jesus counsel in Matthew 5, “if a brother has something against you go to him.” But he will not see me.

The most difficult part of this is forgiving myself for my indiscretion. I have long since forgiven him for the initial trigger. I have discovered the more difficult person to forgive is me. Why did I say what I did? Where did it come from? Obviously deep within me are seeds of things not so nice and if something as trivial as what he did produced such in me, what horrors lurk there waiting to respond to a real hurt? Would I physically harm someone who harmed someone I love? Would I, could I kill someone? I want to say, “Of course not.” But I am not so sure. Could it be that any of us are capable of anything if the right psychological button is pushed? I have come to believe that is so.

Like Paul I cry out, “Who will rescue me from me?” And Jesus responses, “My grace is sufficient even for you.”

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 9, 2003.
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

Heaven–Where Is It?

While walking in my yard last evening, noisily pushing and crunching fallen oak leaves with my well worn tennis shoes, I was basking in the moon created shadows when suddenly, just for a moment, a chilling cold wind moved across my face. It was a taste of winter to come. It was a promise of snow to blanket the now slumbering earth. I could almost hear carols announcing the coming of the holidays and the gathering of loved ones.

Some might have cursed the cold harbinger that momentarily swept through the bare arms of the maples hovering overhead. Some might have wished for a flush of warmth to remind them of August nights. So much of life is focus. We can see the snot dripping from a small child’s nose or instead see the beauty of a child beginning the great adventure of life. We can see the mud tracks on the kitchen floor or instead see the wagging tail of someone thrilled to see us.

How often do we sit and wait for someone to make us happy when the happiness is already there waiting for us to but see it. Perhaps heaven is not just some distant place far away in the universe but also a place inside us.

Emily Dickenson once wrote, “So instead of getting to heaven at last, I’m going all along!” And Jesus said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 8, 2003.
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

God’s Best

I should have known not to eat a peanut butter and pickle sandwich just after putting on a clean pair of khakis. It’s the dog. There is no way I can sneak a sandwich. As soon as I open the peanut butter jar her nose awakens her from a sound sleep. There is the fragrance of peanut butter in the air! Before the sandwich is constructed drool is dripping from both sides of her mouth in long strings. It is inevitable in a few moments it will be all over my clean pants. Then there are her eyes. They take on that look of hunger and despair that says, “I haven’t eaten in weeks. Could you spare just the last bite for me?” She always gets it.

In Matthew 7:11 we read, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” I guess I could change that verse to, “If we being evil, know how to give simple gifts to our dogs.” The point is clear. The God who made us in His image considers us to be of much more value than a dog. Therefore, He is keenly interested in giving us His best not just the last bite. God’s best was Jesus and we get to share His inheritance.

Even my dog is smart enough not to walk away from the gift of part of a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Since we are smarter than a dog, how could we ever walk away from God’s best?

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 6, 2003
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

Your “Texts” to God

In 1977 NASA launched Voyager 1 on a five-year mission. Just now, 26 years later Voyager has reached the outer limit of our Solar System. Part of its cargo is a golden record with a greeting to any extra-terrestrial who might intercept it. The message in English says, “Hello from the children of planet earth.” That message is also recorded in 54 other languages. It will be another 40,000 years before Voyager has a chance of entering another solar system.

In Daniel chapter 9 we find Daniel pouring out his heart in prayer. In verse 21 Daniel tells us the angel Gabriel flew swiftly to him from God’s throne to answer his prayer. When it comes to speed, Voyager 1 looks like some sort of Model T.

Isn’t it exciting to know our prayers are instantly communicated to God? There is no lag time. And not one of our prayers is classified as spam. Like any good parent God is excited to hear from us. When I open my email, the messages from my sons get read first. If I get something from them delivered by the U.S. Postal Service it gets opened immediately.

What a thrill to know our God is not limited by time or space. He is the commander of all. Everything is under His control. He responds to us as He also responds to another prayer coming from the other side of planet earth or on the other side of our galaxy? It matters not where the prayer originates. He pays immediate and incredible attention to every detail.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 5, 2003
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

Your Father Is Waiting

It is fascinating that one can diligently search the entire Old Testament and never once find anyone addressing God as “Father” yet Jesus urges us to do so. Jesus said, “When you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.” Matthew 6

Jesus saw God as a father eager to meet with us because He has the answers to our problems. Jesus doesn’t counsel us to go to a church prayer meeting where we might be tempted to pray for the other listening ears prying into our secrets. He does not counsel us to surround ourselves with “prayer warriors” but instead to go by ourselves into our secluded place deep within ourselves. It is there we will find our Father waiting.

Jesus goes on to tell us not to bother with some prayer formula because God is not an ego driven deity who needs to be buttered up before we make a request. God already knows what we need and He is eager to respond. He is waiting for an honest, simple relationship. This is where the promise gets good. You will not come away empty handed. “But my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

I wish we knew more about Joseph. He must have been a special man who role modeled for a little boy in a carpenter shop the depth of a father’s love.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 4, 2003.
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

The Worst Sin Is ……………..

When I was a little boy I used to try to figure out which sin was the worst. Surely it seemed that killing someone was worst than stealing something and stealing something was worse then telling a lie. In my little boy mind I had developed quite an interesting hierarchy of sins. But then I grew up and decided that since all sins led to eternal death and the crucifixion of Jesus there was no hierarchy. I figured they were all the same. But I have changed again. Once again I have a hierarchy. I have come to believe the sins of the heart are the worst kind. Killing, stealing, lying, etc. are merely the fruit of something far worst. The really bad sin is the one that gives us the liberty to judge others.

I saw a woman holding a sign with a demeaning label and vindictively she spewed her hatred into the news camera telling the world how good it felt to know God was on her side and that God hated the new Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire. I saw the worst kind of sin. I saw the conceit and viciousness that causes someone to think if we do not think like they do we are inferior and not God’s children. I saw hatred masquerading as righteousness. I saw someone saying, “God is on our side and not your side.” I saw the worst sin.

No wonder Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “If you hate someone you are guilty of murder.” Because the person you have murdered is yourself! Matthew 5.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 4, 2003
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574

A Call to Courage

“And they clothed Jesus with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about his head, and began to salute him, Hail, King of the Jews! And they smote him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon him, and bowing their knees worshiped him.” Mark 15

Surely all the universe watched in stunned awe as they witnessed this abhorrent behavior of the religious establishment toward the Creator of all things. No one could ever say Jesus asked us to do anything He Himself did not do. He said, “Resist not evil.” Matthew 5:39 He did not resist!

Surely it is the most difficult counsel ever spoken. When someone hates me it is natural to hate him or her back. But Jesus knew that hate kills not the hated but the hater. The evil thoughts we have toward another do not harm them, they harm us, the thinkers. Those thoughts literally ravage us with the results of our self-induced stress. If we can turn away the event is over. If we strike back we not only continue the battle, most of the time we take it to a higher more violent level.

How interesting that Jesus did resist evil when He saw it happening to others. It was only when it happened to Him that He silently took it.
His counsel to, “resist not evil” was not a call to turning a blind eye to injustice or to cowardly behavior. It was a call to courage: courage to do the right thing for others and courage to be the right thing for ourselves.

Written by Roger Bothwell on November 2, 2003.
Spring of Life, 901 Signorelli Circle, St. Helena, CA 94574