It Requires More Than Words

Posted on Jun 23, 2018

Today I shared my favorite of Jesus’ parables with my students. The reaction was, “Oh hum.” I was literally filled with pain as I saw the lack of response to Matthew 20 where Jesus tells us about the man who paid all his workers the same no matter how long they had worked. I love that parable. It tells us so much about God. It speaks of His grace, His liberality, His unselfishness and His desire to give each of us of His love without any prejudice. Yet I could not seem to light up my “Christian” students to the deep wonders of this story.

Surely the defect was with me, the messenger. Or could it be we have developed an insatiable appetite for new stories and new material? If we have heard something before do we not bother to apply any intellectual muscle assuming we already know about this item? At first I thought it was just undergrads so in the evening I tried it again with my graduate students and got pretty much the same detached stare.

It had to be me. A story filled with such grandeur could surely not fall on ears so calloused to the Gospel that it no longer stimulates. Merely telling people that Jesus loves them doesn’t seem to do it. We need to show them. We need to be filled with God’s power because the projection of our power just doesn’t hack it. Jesus tells us to let our light shine. Obviously it requires more than words.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 11, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

The Benefits of Being a Citizen of God’s Kingdom

Posted on Jun 22, 2018

When I was a little boy I used to wonder where in China I would come out if I started digging a hole in my yard and burrowed the whole way through the earth. Now as an adult I know where I would come out and it isn’t China. It would be in the Indian Ocean west of Australia. I guess that means warm salt water would come rushing out of the hole into my yard. Well, not really. But what I do know now is there is a name for the place on the direct opposite side of the planet. It is called the antipode. I guess hell is the antipode of heaven. Something else I have learned is heaven and hell don’t have to be a place but can be a state of mind.

Enjoying the benefits of being a citizen of God’s Kingdom does not have to be delayed to some far off time in the future. Jesus invites us to participate even now. We can bask in God’s approval. We can be at ease knowing our sins are forgiven. We can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives giving us direction and improvement in our facilities. Development is what God wants so much for us. Just as car models keep getting better and better so is God’s desire for us. He wants us to be healthier and smarter than we were last year. Our homes can be places where angels love to dwell and bring with them the blessings of heaven.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 10, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Your Image of God

Posted on Jun 21, 2018

Despite all we know about the human mind consciousness is still a mystery. The self and its awareness and interaction with its environment awes us. The mind is incredible. It is small enough to put in a box and yet big enough to hold the universe. We live our whole life inside our head. People can lock up our bodies but only imprison our minds if we allow them. In less than a second I can be any one of a thousand places. It is just a matter of accessing memories.

When pondering this wonder cognition scholars propose the idea that all meaning in life is self created. Our senses pour data into our minds and we assemble it into experiences. This is a fascinating thought when it comes to reading. It would mean there is no meaning in the symbols on a piece of paper other than that which we produce. Because each of us has a different set of memories, which are the tools we use to form new experiences, each of us brings a unique interpretation to words spoken or written.

I was then wondering how different people react to the statement, “God is our Father in Heaven.” If our earthly father was cruel is our heavenly Father someone we fear to meet? If our earthly father was caring and sacrificing is our heavenly Father someone we can hardly wait to meet? Father is a name that elicits as many different reactions as there are children. How important for us to proclaim the good news that our heavenly Father cares and sacrifices for all.

Written by Roger Bothwell on September 9, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

The Toymaker of Nazareth

Posted on Jun 20, 2018

There is something wonderfully satisfying about chopping firewood. Late summer days are good chopping days. Often I have tried to analyze what is so gratifying about swinging a heavy ax down on a nice piece of hardwood and having it split in two. Perhaps it’s the satisfaction of hitting the target when you swing down. Maybe it is the thought of preparing for winter for as nice as it is now the snow will come again. Maybe it is a feeling of kinship with our great grandfathers who had to do this if they were going to survive cold New England Januarys. Perhaps it is an innocent release of pent-up aggression. Or possibly it is just the joy of good hard physical exercise. Whatever it is I like it.

Each of us has something we enjoy doing. Everyone needs a release from the normal everyday routine of life. We garner great satisfaction in knowing how to do something well. Now I know there is no great skill in chopping wood but as primitive as it is, it pleases me to see the wall of split wood pileup in the garage away from the wet winter storms.

I have often thought of Jesus in His carpenter’s shop. He learned His trade from Joseph and we can only imagine that He was very good at what He did. I wonder how many of His tables and chairs sat in the houses of Nazareth. It is intriguing to think of the One who could speak worlds and galaxies into existence making wooden chairs or pull toys for Nazareth’s children.

Written by Roger Bothwell on Sept. 8, 2003
Spring of Life, 151 Old Farm Rd. Leominster, MA 01453

Our Creator

Posted on Jun 19, 2018

We spent the class period in Abnormal Psychology today learning how to use the DSM-IV. Most of my students had never seen one and were fascinated by all the things that can go wrong with a person’s mind. The DSM-IV is a fairly comprehensive volume listing mental disorders and how to diagnosis someone with a problem. Statisticians tell us one out of three of us will at one time or other in our life exhibit the symptoms of a mental disorder. That seems like a frighteningly high percentage yet when we look at the stresses of modern day life it’s a wonder the percentage isn’t higher. It speaks well for the stability of the average person.

Despite the thousands of years that have passed since our creation and all the genetic defects that could affect us we are not doing too badly. It is a marvelous testimony to the expert handiwork of our designer. There are some who believe after God made us He left us to breed and develop on our own. But Psalm 139 would have us believe differently. Verses 13 to 16 say, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; . . . My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth your eyes saw my unformed body.”

Our heavenly Father knew you when you were an embryo and a fetus. He knows you now. He knows your dreams and hopes and He loves you dearly.

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

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