Is This an Issue that Matters?

I witnessed an argument between two earnest souls.  One had taken the position that Jesus miraculously, creatively produced more bread and fish at the feeding of the 5000.  The other took the position that the miracle was the opening of the hearts of those present to share what they had with them as had the little boy with his basket.

I would like to take a third position.  What does it matter?  The real point is the people were fed.  But the arguers were adamant as if they had been there and personally saw what happened.  While I tend to lean toward the creation of more bread and fish, I also think changing the hearts of selfish people is a great miracle.

Sometimes we get worked up, generate a lot of heat and hard feelings over issues that really are insignificant.  Issues that relate to our salvation – these are what matter.  How Jesus did or did not do something has not been shared with us.

I confess that through the years I found myself sucked into meaningless arguments and afterwards I always regretted it.  I went away wishing I had not spoken.  Silence on issues of which we were not witness to, issues on which God has not given us definitive information, issues that tend to divide us when we really don’t know the actual facts seem to me to be a ploy of Satan to draw our attention away from Jesus and His command to love each other.

I have some young men in my classes that are studying to be pastors and I see the fervor and fire that burns in their hearts.  Hopefully they will always use that zeal to lift up Jesus and proclaim Him and only Him to be our savior.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 28, 2017


Dear Yorick

My class this morning was moved to a classroom containing a real human skeleton.  While waiting for all my students to arrive I tried to remember the names of all the bones.  I haven’t done that since high school biology class.  I need to bone up a bit to get all of them.  While lecturing he was looking over my shoulder.  I wanted to turn around and say, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; . .”  Hamlet Act 3.  And I wanted to add from Act 5, “To be or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them? To die: . . . ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub; for in that sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause.”

If only Hamlet really had known Jesus his fear would been stilled.  But then we would be missing one of the world’s greatest soliloquies, which should give all of us pause to reflect on the wonder of the promises we have received from Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life. Surely Satan cringed with contempt when he heard Jesus say in front of a tomb of a man who had been dead four days, “Lazarus, come forth.”  It was a hallmark moment in the history of mankind.  If you are a friend of Jesus, death is temporary.  A fleeting moment of nothingness and then the trump of God blares across the universe.  Please refresh yourself by rereading the close of I Corinthians 15.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 31, 2017

Baby Talk

Have you ever listened to people talk to a baby?  Often it is the sweetest, syrupiest sound.  Since we learn to talk by mimicking the language of adults I have wondered how it is that we don’t permanently talk baby talk all our lives.  I think there is a gummy candy commercial with adults talking like babies.  I think it is so creepy.

It did remind me of I Corinthians 13:11, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.”  I wondered if God uses “baby talk” to communicate with us.  Because He knows everything and we know so very little, does He condescend and make things as simple as possible when He wants us to know something?  It seems as though that would out of necessity have to be the case.  Yet Isaiah 1:8 says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”  Hebrews 1:1 says, “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by  his Son . . .”

And Jesus said to His disciples, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.”  John 16:12.   There it is.  While God does NOT speak to us as babies, He does note our limitations and adjusts for each of us individually.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 20, 2017



I was raised with the idea that one can only love things that are alive.  I really can’t love my car.  But I come really close to love when I think of my GPS.  I am directionally challenged and until I got a GPS I was a master at getting lost.  Statistically one should only turn the wrong way at an intersection 50% of the time but I am sure I destroyed that stat.  It got so bad that I would choose which way to go and then go the other way.  And sure enough I was right the first time.

Fortunately when it comes to major decisions in life I had help.  I always counted on Proverbs 3:6.  “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”  That’s not to say I haven’t made some poor choices through the years.  But the really important choices worked out and I thank Him for being my divine GPS.

The secret to making this work is not magic. It is a matter of prayerfully asking for guidance when studying His word. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105   Paul had a template for his letters.  He started with a greeting and almost immediately got into some heavy theology.  Before he finished he almost always spent considerable time talking about practical Christian living.  The close of Romans and Ephesians are especially rich with directions for living a Christ-like life.   Treat yourself to a careful quiet reading of Ephesians 5 & 6.  The man was amazingly smart.

So I love my GPS and really, really love my spiritual GPS.   Use it and never worry about getting or being lost.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 12, 2017

Culture and Faith

It is easy to confuse one’s culture with one’s faith.  Our culture is about customs and socially acceptable practices and behaviors.  Our faith is about our relationship with God and growing and becoming more like one’s God.   Culture is about the way we dress and what music and foods we enjoy or don’t enjoy.  Faith is about morality and how we treat each other.  How often through the years have I not only seen immorality thrust upon others in attempts not to make people like Jesus but to make them like us.

I have been guilty.  In my mistaken zeal I championed that all our students at our school in Africa wear neckties when coming to church.  I sent young men back to their dorms to “finish dressing” before they could be counted present at church.  How often have I judged people by the items in their grocery carts and chastised a fellow faculty member for his politics.

Now years later I realized how misguided and unChrist-like I was. Jesus’ brother James wrote, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”  Please note the admonition is to keep oneself unspotted and not our neighbor.  Paul wrote, “For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14.

We all have personal tastes, likes and dislikes.  That is okay.  We just need to be careful not to censure someone because they like vanilla and we like chocolate.  Since we cannot go back and undo we can rejoice that God understands and is quick to forgive.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 11, 2017

My Christmas Present

One of my Christmas presents this year was a port under the skin on my right shoulder.  It was supposed to reduce the number of needle sticks.  Instead of trying to find and missing a vein they just stick the needle into the center of the lump on my shoulder.  It still hurts when they stick me but at least it is limited to one stick.  The port provides access to a large central vein thus creating a more efficient way into my heart.

We have all heard the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, which is a fairly accurate metaphor.  Jesus loved using metaphors.  Over and again He applied them to Himself.  John 14:6 is one that was used by the early Christian church.  He called Himself The Way.  He was and is the way into the heart of His Father.  “The Father loves the son and has placed everything in his hands.”  When I was a pastor I learned the way to a church members heart was by learning the names of their children and greeting each child by name.

The Way was the name for the early church.  When I was a boy the church I attended used to ask, “How long have you been in the truth?”  Early Christians asked, “How long have you been in The Way?”  Jesus is the way to the Father and the way to eternal life.  Often we become so obsessed with the destination we forget there is much joy while we are on the way.  Overcoming obstacles, negotiating detours, growing wiser by allowing Jesus, The Way, to be in us makes us stronger and better people.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 12, 2017

Trust Is Foundational

Current research in the field of child development posits that the most important foundational thing a baby learns is trust. Can they trust their caregivers to be nurturing and to respond to their needs?  Can they trust older siblings?  Trust is the basis of every relationship that will follow in their entire lives.

Trust is also the building block for faith and for the development of a relationship with God.  When Jesus told us to call God “Our Father” He was hoping we had ideal fathers and we could use that relationship as an avenue to love His Father.  So often we are not ideal parents and we sometimes betray our children’s trust unknowingly making it more difficult for our children to grow up trusting God.

Therefore Proverbs 3:5-6 is one of the more important texts in Scripture. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

One of my greatest blessings was to never doubt my human father’s love.  Therefore, it was easy for me to go to the cradle roll division at church and accept that my heavenly Father also cared for me the very same way.

The greatest form of evangelism is always keeping your word when you make a promise to your children.  If you promise to read three stories if Michael or Alicia goes to bed right away, be ever so faithful to read those three stories without skipping pages so you can hurry and go watch TV.  Being faithful to one’s children is completing the great Gospel Commission found at the close of Matthew.

Written by Roger Bothwell on March 29. 2017

Pattern Recognition

One of the things we discussed this morning in psychology class was pattern recognition.  We looked out the classroom window when a student, a good 85 yards away, was walking on the other side of the quad.  The person was walking away from us so we could not see his face.  I asked if anyone of my students recognized him and 75% of my students immediately told me who it was.  They explained it was the way the person walked, the way he carried his head and his basic body profile.

It set me to wondering if people ever see Jesus in us because of pattern recognition. Do we deport ourselves with a caring demeanor?  Do we walk with dignity?  Do we speak supportively toward others?  Are we more interested in promoting others instead of me me me?  It really can happen.  We are not slaves to our environment or heredity. There is no question that those two factors can make it more difficult for some than for others.  But the promises are real.  “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4.  And just how can we do this?  Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

A grandmaster chess player can easily memorize the placement of the pieces during a game.  It is very difficult for them if the pieces are randomly placed.  The patterns are wrong. They don’t fit expectations.  It is the pattern of our lives that enable people to trust us and want to be like us because the pattern of Jesus radiates in our speech and behavior.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April7, 2017



Stewards of My Father’s World

I heard something today that was so outrageous I backed up the television program to listen again to make sure I had not imagined what I heard.  I had not imaged it.  On a “Christian?” program the speaker inferred that we should be rejoicing that certain environmental programs are being reversed or not funded.  His logic was the sooner we destroy our planet the sooner Jesus will have to come to rescue us from our manmade mess. Whatever happened to the idea that God made Adam and Eve stewards of their garden?  How could this man ever again sing, “This is My Father’s World”?  How could he ever again pray for or raise money to help the victims of violent storms or rising oceans?  I was flabbergasted!  If I thought this was mainstream Christianity I would be so embarrassed I should have to call myself something other than a Christian.

Jesus told a very interesting parable about a man who left on a journey and gave funds to three of his servants to attend to while he was gone.  Two of them did fine.  But the third did nothing with his.  Upon return the master said to the steward who did nothing, “Evil and lazy slave! So you knew that I harvest where I didn’t sow and gather where I didn’t scatter?”  It gets worse.  Next the master said, “Throw that worthless slave into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 15

Somehow I have the feeling that the proper way to prepare the world for the second coming of Jesus is to fulfill the great gospel commission and spread the Good News.  Trashing our Father’s world is not only wrong, it is sick.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 6, 2017

Bragging Rights

Twice a day from Monday to Friday from first grade to eighth grade I rode school buses and I heard a lot of nonsense. One remark that still stands out in my mind came from a nerdy little kid proclaiming that his father knew everything. Even as a child I knew how impossible that was so I said so. I said, “No he doesn’t. That’s impossible.” You can be sure what came next.  “Yes, he does.”  After a few minutes of “No, he doesn’t” and “Yes, he does” we came to his stop and he got off.

Strange how things reverse when we get older because my Father knows everything. Yes He does. I quote from Romans 8, “For those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. . . the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” . . . Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

There it is.  Paul says it again in Galatians. And where did Paul get this marvelous truth?  From Jesus Himself who taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father, which art in heaven.”

Now it gets even better.  My Father can also beat up your father.  I also heard that on the school bus.  My Father is not only all-knowing He is all-powerful. I just love being a part of this family. If I were back on that school bus I would be a real braggart.

Written by Roger Bothwell on April 5, 2017