Colossians 1

Posted on Jun 18, 2018

In Acts 9 Saul, soon to become Paul, is bashed off his horse by a brilliant light. “Who are you Lord,” he asks? “I am Jesus,” boomed the answer. And so Paul began an incredible journey to find out everything he could about this Jesus. Years later in a letter to the Colossians he told them who he discovered Jesus was. His description of Jesus in chapter one is unsurpassed in superlatives.

This is what he wrote. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. Everything in the universe was created by Him. Visible things, invisible things, birds, angels, powers, authorities, anything you can name He was before it all. Not only did He make it He maintains it. He was supreme in the beginning and will be supreme in the end. He will lead the redeemed and the resurrected through the universe. He conquered death for Himself and will do so for us. He is so big everything is encompassed by His mind. He will fix all the things that are broken by sin. Everything will again vibrate in harmony. All the fullness of God lives in Jesus. No longer should we look at the distorted pictures of God written by those who lived before Jesus. From now on look at Jesus and we will know who and what God is.

All of this from the pen of a man who once murdered Christians and in verse 23 Paul proclaims himself to the messenger of this amazing God who died for us and lives for us.

Written by Roger Bothwell on Sept. 5, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

“I Am Very Rich”

Posted on Jun 17, 2018

It’s raining tonight. The sound of the raindrops striking the copper roof of our bay window is mesmerizing. Certain sounds and smells open cobweb covered doors in my mind allowing a flood of memories to rush to consciousness. Tonight the rain on the metal roof inundates me with thoughts of Africa. For six years I taught in a one room red brick school building with a tin roof. Every morning the sun would draw water off Lake Victoria building enormous cumulous clouds that rolled north about noon. By two o’clock those clouds were over my little school and by some prearranged signal would open up. The sound was deafening. I loved to stand by the glassless windows and watch rivers of water pour off the corrugated roof. It always smelled so good.

My students, married men studying to be pastors, would be lost in their assignments but occasionally one would come and stand by me. One afternoon when the rain subsided enough to hear each other, one who stood near me asked, “Bwana, does it rain everywhere in the world at two in the afternoon?”

“Joel,” I said, “I wish that were so. But what does happen everywhere at two every afternoon is a down pouring of God’s blessings. It also happens at three and four and five. It never stops. We just need to be aware.”

In terms of material things Joel was very poor by our standards. That afternoon he put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Buwana, I receive those blessings. I am very rich.”

He was. I was.

Written by Roger Bothwell on Sept. 4, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

A Much Better Ending

Posted on Jun 16, 2018

I was standing in a grocery store checkout line behind what looked like a three-year-old little girl. She was a Shirley Temple look-alike and with the sweetest smile she asked her mom for a piece of candy. Now, I approve of parents not giving children candy each time they ask, but this time the refusal was abominably mean. This little girl was not only at eye level but also nose level with the candy. As she stood there the candy was at times but an inch away. First she sniffed the Three Musketeers Bars, then the Snickers, then the Mounds, and then the Krackels. My imagination was in high gear and I could completely empathize. Soon my nostrils were quivering and I was salivating. Obediently she did not touch but oh she was so close.

She was better than Eve. Remember this? “The woman saw that the tree was beautiful, that its fruit was good to eat. So she took some of its fruit and ate it.” Ouch. Nothing was ever the same again. I am so glad the story does not end there. Paul continues it in Romans 5:19, “One man disobeyed God, and many became sinners. In the same way, one man obeyed God, and many were made righteous.” That’s a much better ending.

As I watched the little girl and her mom leave it was my turn to stand by the candy. I was more fortunate than the Shirley Temple look-alike. It was not at my nose. It was by my knee. So I too made it out of the store without any.

Written by Roger Bothwell on Sept. 2, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Are You Weary?

Posted on Jun 15, 2018

The earth had turned me away from the sun yet another time and the sky was glorious. Mauve clouds were strewn across the western horizon midst a 70-degree summer evening. I was standing on the Old North Bridge at edge of Concord, Massachusetts in the shadow of the Minute Man Statue, but my thoughts were not thoughts about the Revolutionary War. Instead I was staring down at the tea colored river flowing under the bridge. Directly beneath me a painted turtle was swimming upstream for all he was worth but he wasn’t making any headway. The river never tired. It just kept coming. If he was going to make any progress he needed help. Finally it got too much. He took a breath and sank out of sight.

There are days when most of us think we are swimming upstream. We get to work only to discover the inbox is fuller than yesterday. We open our credit card bill only to realize we are losing ground. We just gave to the church roof fund only to learn the church also needs a new furnace. We put new tires on the car and find out the exhaust system is going. We rejoice to realize the value of our home has inflated but so have our property taxes.

Well, fellow swimmers, I have good news for you. When you are weary there is Someone there to help. Jesus promised, “Come onto me and I will give you rest.” Try Him. He works. He probably wouldn’t pay your property taxes but He will give you the patience to roll with it.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 31, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Good Things Are Worth Waiting For

Posted on Jun 14, 2018

We have an old cherry tree in the side yard. Its bark is tattered and there are holes in the trunk but it still seems to be pretty healthy for each spring it is laden with the loveliest pink blossoms. One of its strong arms stretches out over the azalea bushes and bare dirt. There is supposed to be grass there but it blocks out the sunlight and drinks all the water. I don’t mind for hanging from that strong branch is a child’s swing. Mostly it just hangs patiently waiting for a small child to come and fly up and down. It doesn’t get used much and I could tell it all the children have grown up and won’t use it anymore. But I doubt if it would believe me. I think it knows someday someone small child will sit in it and call out, “Push me, please, push me.” “Higher, higher.” Then all the waiting will be rewarded as it soars again bringing joy and laughter to a little voice. Even the cherry tree will be delighted. Good things are worth waiting for.

Jesus said in John 14, “In my father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you and if I go and prepare a place I will come again that where I am you may be also.” Those rooms patiently sit all furnished with our favorite things with our name on the door. They could think we are not coming but they know better. Jesus will keep His promise and the rooms will fill with joy and laughter. Good things are worth waiting for.

Written by Roger Bothwell on Sept. 1, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

More Than a Sanctuary

Posted on Jun 13, 2018

God directed Moses to build a place of worship filled with visuals that would teach the people about His nature. The children of Israel had come out of a pagan environment filled with gods who needed to be appeased. The nations around them were worshipping capricious gods who could viciously turn on them if they did not make them happy. It was a huge task for God and Moses to change all that. They were an ignorant people with little if any literacy skills and just as we fill our children’s books with lots of illustrations so the sanctuary was a treasure house of illustrations.

The very name sanctuary was to reveal God’s desire to make them safe in a dangerous world. It contained a table of bread to demonstrate God’s assuring promise to feed them. It had candlesticks that they might understand God would enlighten them. The sanctuary was a place accused people could find safety until they had a just hearing. It illustrated in the morning and evening sacrifices that God would provide Himself a lamb and provide forgiveness.

The world is still a dangerous place and we need a safe place. In John 10:28 Jesus promises us He will hold us safely in His hand and no one can harm us. In John 7:37 Jesus promises to quench our thirst. In John 6:37 Jesus promises to feed us. And the end of each Gospel is an account of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.

We don’t need a sanctuary building any longer. We have Jesus. He is all the sanctuary ever was and many times more.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 30, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Lighting Up My ???????

Posted on Jun 12, 2018

The wind blew out my match as I was lighting a citronella candle to ward off the mosquitoes. I relit the used match by putting it in a flame of another already lit candle. Again the wind blew it out. Again I relit it. Again the wind blew it out. Now there was no longer enough match left to try again so I started fresh with a new match. Afterwards I wondered why I had been so frugal with that first match. Matches are so inexpensive you can often get them free. Could it be I just don’t want to admit defeat?

I have often wondered how often God tries to use us to light up the world. Does He send the Holy Spirit into our lives only to have us by our attitudes and disobedience blow out the light? Does He try again to use us? How many times does He try before He decides there isn’t enough left and so He tries someone new? Do we ever become useless to Him?

When I was young I wanted to light up the world. I think every seminary graduate desires that. Now I just want to light up my family and my classroom. Has my vision shrunk or am I just being realistic and pragmatic? Perhaps in God’s great scheme that is all I was ever supposed to do. Surely my thoughts are not unique. Surely we all have dreamed of being a light to the world. What is important is to be content with the one’s light.

“Let your light so shine before men, . .” Matthew 5:16

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 29, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Paladin

Posted on Jun 11, 2018

When I was a teenager westerns ruled primetime. There was everything from “Gunsmoke” to “Have Gun Will Travel.” Richard Boone played a crusading gunslinger named, “Paladin.” I always thought that was such a cool name and never dreamed of how very carefully that name was chosen.
The word “paladin” means crusader, a heroic champion. I should have known because the second line in the theme song is “A knight without armor in a savage land.” But, then I was only a boy and didn’t know much.

The more we know about something the more interesting it is. I have a good friend who teaches art history. Going through the San Francisco Fines Art Museum with him was a real treat. It was so much better than going by myself. He held me spell bound with all the details about the paintings we saw.

Knowing about Jesus is the same way. The more we know the more interesting He becomes. What is really interesting is Jesus said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” The more we know about Jesus the more we know about God. One of the key reasons for Jesus’ life on earth was to tell us the truth about God. Prior to Jesus’ ministry God got blamed for everything that went wrong. We should have known better because the Book of Job clearly reveals who is the source of trouble. Never-the-less God got the blame. Jesus reveals God to us as a loving Father who longs for His children to come to Him. He waits for us with blessings.

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 25, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

We Will Always Need Forgiveness

Posted on May 29, 2018

The completed thirteen year human genome project has ignited our imaginations. We now have a complete map of the human genetic code. Each of our 46 chromosomes is filled with the tens of thousands of genes that determine our physical appearance and health. Now we dream of altering our genetic material once we determine which genes produce weaknesses and defects. Not only do we hope to eliminate our physical problems we also dream of altering behaviors. Will we be able to isolate the genetic material that gives children with Down’s syndrome such a sweet gentle nature? Can we make Down’s syndrome a relic and also enable other children to have that gentle nature? Will we be able to eliminate alcoholism and other dependencies?

There are scientists who dream of injecting our cells with a 47th chromosome filled with all manner of physical and behavioral cures. Will we be able eliminate the “terrible twos?” Most likely we would not want to do that since that is an indication of maturity and the recognition of self.

Our future is filled with discussions of responsibility for misbehaviors and whether or not certain life style choices are really choices. If we think we have seen nature versus nurture arguments in the past, just wait, the most animated ones are yet to come. Moreover, where does repentance and character development enter the discussion. Will the Christianity of the 22nd century be very different from traditional appeals for divine help in being a better person? I doubt we will ever genetically alter away our selfishness. While we rejoice in human progress we will always need forgiveness.

Witten by Roger Bothwell on August 20, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

What Makes an Excellent Teacher?

Posted on May 28, 2018

All good teachers know long-term learning is environmental. A teacher who fails to learn about their student’s homes, ethic backgrounds, religions, languages and cultures is nothing more than a dispenser of information or a giver of assignments and exams. Real teaching interacts with students in the historical context of their roots. One of the great failures of American missionaries was eager evangelists rushing into countries dispensing what they thought was Christianity when it was American culture. They did not take the time to realize they had much to learn from the local people. Real learning about the Good News can only be meaningful as it relates to local customs and beliefs. Too often we treat other people’s culture as being inferior and something to be discarded.

If we used Jesus as our model we would do differently. Jesus did not just drop onto planet Earth proclaiming the things we needed to change. Instead He came as one of us. He was born here. He grew up here. He ate our food. He spoke our culture. He taught us using common things like yeast and coins. He talked about wedding banquets and sons who wanted to go off and prove themselves. He knew about bosses, workers and wages.

It was obvious the people loved Jesus because of the miracles but there was so much more. They loved Him because He was a great teacher. He knew about the things that touched their everyday lives. Luke 4:15 says, “He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him.”

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14

Written by Roger Bothwell on August 22, 2003
151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453