The God of Second Chances

second_chance-696x397Author’s note: every week I run across good stories and illustrations that I just don’t have enough time for in my sermon.  Today’s story is a challenging one that was left on the cutting room floor for my sermon on March 18, 2018 from Jeremiah 31:31-34.  I have the source listed as “Adapted from Andrew H. Rogers,”

One night in a church service a young woman felt the tug of the Holy Spirit in her heart. She responded to God’s call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The young woman had a very rough past, involving alcohol, drugs and prostitution. But, the change in her was evident. As time went on she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry of the church. It was not very long until this physically and spiritually beautiful young woman caught the eye and the heart of the pastor’s son. The relationship grew, he asked her to marry him, and they began to make wedding plans. This is when the problems began.

You see, about one half of the church did not think that a woman with a past such as hers was suitable for the pastor’s son. The church began to argue and fight about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting. As the people made their arguments and tensions increased, the meeting got completely out of hand. The young woman became very upset about all the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry, the pastor’s son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain all this was causing the woman he loved who was soon to be his wife. He began to speak and his statement was this: “My fiancé’s past is not what is on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of Christ to wash away our sin and make us new persons. Maybe we are even questioning whether or not Christ can wash away my and your sins, even the worst of them. So, does he wash away sin or not?”

The whole church began to weep as they realized that they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Too often, even as Christians, we bring up the past and use it as a weapon against our brothers and sisters.  Forgiveness is a foundational part of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  If the blood of Jesus does not cleanse the other person completely then it cannot cleanse us completely.  If that is the case, then we are all in a lot of trouble.  What can wash away my sins?  Nothing but the blood of Jesus! End of case!!!!

It is a powerful question: Does Christ wash away sin or not? If he does not, we are all in trouble. What about us? Are we willing to give a second chance?  In Jeremiah, God says to us, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” In Jeremiah, the people of Israel had completely broken their covenant promises and God was upset. They had blown it big time. Only a miracle could save them now. That miracle was to be found in the love, forgiveness, and second chances of God.

A Prescription for Salvation


(Author’s note: this is the introduction to my sermon on March 11, 2018 “A Prescription for Salvation” from Numbers 21:4-9 at First United Methodist Church Winnfield, LA)

A guide at Blarney Castle in Ireland was explaining to some visitors that his job was not always as pleasant as it seemed. He told them about a group of disgruntled tourists he had taken to the castle earlier in the week. “These people were complaining about everything,” he said. “They didn’t like the weather, the food, their hotel accommodations, the prices, everything. Then to top it off, when we arrived at the castle, we found that the area around the Blarney Stone was roped off. Workmen were making some kind of repairs.” “This is the last straw!” exclaimed one lady who seemed to be the chief faultfinder in the group. “I’ve come all this way, and now I can’t even kiss the Blarney Stone.”

“Well, you know,” the guide said, “according to legend, if you kiss someone who has kissed the stone, it’s the same as kissing the stone itself.” “And I suppose you’ve kissed the stone,” said the exasperated lady. “Better than that.” replied the guide. “I’ve sat on it and you’re more than welcome to kiss me there.”

Last Sunday we left the people of Israel at Mount Sinai where they had received the commandments of God. They spent about a year at this holy mountain. (They arrived at Sinai in Exodus 19:1; they did not break camp until Numbers 10:11.)  In today’s text, the people of Israel are like those complaining tourists.  In our text for today, they are on the move again through the wilderness. God had graciously provided for their needs with manna in the morning, but all they had was an attitude: “We detest this miserable food” (v. 5)! It was manna, heavenly food, but they were tired of it. We don’t really know what “manna” means. Some scholars say that the word “manna” came from the word meaning “what is this”, others say it comes from the word “to despise,” so that the very name of the daily provision from the hand of God was being mocked every time they gathered it in the morning.

Because of their complaining, God infected them with a plague of poisonous snakes. This is a strange and maybe even repulsive story to us. This story still has meaning for us because the Israelites are not any different from us, and I believe God teaches us a three-part lesson through this experience of the children of Israel: first, their discontent (vv. 4-6); second, their petition. (vv. 6-7); third, God’s prescription (vv. 8-9).

Rules for Living

exodus 20_1-17(Author’s note:  this is the conclusion of my message on March 4, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield from Exodus 20:1-17 titled “Rules for Living”)

We live in a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before. We live in a world where old standards of morality are being questioned. Into this world of upheaval and change, the Ten Commandments still ring true. Thousands of years have come and gone since Moses came down from Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments provide a series of rules and ethics for life. These Ten Commandments have not budged one inch in calling men and women to the same ethical standards of life. Times may have changed, but the principles of these Ten Commandments are eternally the same.

Lloyd Douglas told how he loved to visit a little old man who gave violin lessons. He had a studio, a small room in a row of rooms where other music teachers taught. One morning he walked in and by way of greeting, said, ‘Well, what’s the good news for today?’ ” Putting down his violin, stepping over to his tuning fork suspended from a silk thread, the violin teacher struck it a sharp blow with a padded mallet, and said, “There is the good news for today. That, my friend, is ‘A.’ It was ‘A’ all day yesterday … it will be ‘A’ all day tomorrow, next week, and for a thousand years … the soprano upstairs warbles off-key … the tenor next door flats his high ones … the piano across the hall is out of tune … noise all around me, noise … noise … noise; but that, my friend, is ‘A.’ and it always will be.”

Some things remain constant in the midst of noise and change. Some things, like the Ten Commandments, are timeless and permanent! You can come back to them and confidently follow them with your life. They are rules or guidelines for living that come to us from God. Are you following his guidelines for living?

Keeping the Ten Commandments requires some deep commitments. But there is one thing more to be said. THE TEN COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT ENOUGH by themselves.  The Ten Commandments are wonderful, they’re essential, they simply are inadequate.

8 of the 10 tell us how not to live, not how to live. When Jesus was asked to cite the greatest commandment, he did not mention any of the Ten Commandments. He cited a law greater than all the commandments put together. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind . . . and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Notice that these 10 commandments have 2 main components. The first four commandments focus on your relationship with God- they have a vertical focus. The last 6 commandments focus on our relationship with each other- they have a horizontal focus. Put both the horizontal and vertical components together and they make a cross. Similar to the one Jesus gave his life upon.

The Ten Commandments are great, but they are not enough. What is needed is to add to these laws the love of Jesus. That is why Jesus said that he had not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it. To fill it full of love. The rules for living- they show us how to relate to God, how to relate to others, and steady us in a changing world. But Jesus lived, died, and lived again to show us how live them out in everyday life. Whose rules for living are you following?

Sacrifice for the Good of All

Sacrifice for the Good of All

(Author’s note: This article was originally published in the March 2018 FUMC Winnfield Newsletter “The Cross and Tower.”  The entire newsletter can be accessed at

lsu baseball logo

It’s that time of year again! The crack of the bat! The ball hitting leather! Stand for the national anthem, then the umpire says “play ball” and the baseball or softball game begins. At the writing of this article, I have just watched Winnfield Senior High’s first baseball game of the year, opening weekend for the LSU Tigers, and am anxiously awaiting to see if my favorite Major League team, the Houston Astros, can become the first World Series repeat champions since 2000. Yes, it is time for the rite of spring, America’s game, baseball and softball.

This game that is often called “America’s pastime” contains something unique. It is an idea that carries over into the life of the church and especially applies to us during Lent, that spring season when we prepare our hearts and lives for the death and resurrection of Jesus. The idea that bridges faith with baseball and softball is sacrifice.

In baseball and softball, a sacrifice occurs when a batter voluntarily makes an out for the good of his or her team. Often, this is done to move a runner to the next base or even to score a run for the team through a sacrifice bunt or a sacrifice fly ball.


sacrifice cross

In faith, a sacrifice is an animal or person who gives his life for the good of all. In the Old Testament, this was done through the shedding of blood of animals. In the New Testament, one man, Jesus Christ, gave his life so that we might have life. 1 John 2:2 says “He (Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (NIV)

I am thankful for baseball and softball. Not only because I enjoy watching it, enjoy watching the children and youth of our church play, enjoy being outside,  but because it keeps this word “sacrifice” in our vocabulary. Think about it. When is the last time you used the word “sacrifice” outside of a baseball/softball or faith context? When is the last time you thought about what it means to make a sacrifice and what it costs? The haunting question that comes back to us is what have we sacrificed for the good of others, for our team, for our faith. The truth is that we don’t really like to sacrifice our wants, our desires, our at bat, for the good of others. But that is exactly what the batter is asked to do. That is exactly what Jesus did.


The next time you watch a baseball or softball game and a player makes a sacrifice for the good of the team, I hope you’ll think of Jesus, who sacrificed himself for the good of all

Questions to ponder:  Are you a baseball/softball fan?  Why or why not? When is the last time you mentioned sacrifice outside of a baseball/softball or faith context?  What have we sacrificed for the good of our team or our faith?

The Divine Deal

The Divine Deal

(Author’s note: this is the conclusion of my message “The Divine Deal” Genesis 17:1-9, 15-21 from Sunday, February 25, 2018 at FUMC Winnfield)

let's make a dealWhen I was a kid I loved holidays and summer.  Not just because I was out of school, but because I was home in the morning to watch TV game shows.  That was before many game shows were on at night, before there was such a thing as the game show network.  I got to watch the Price is Right, Card Sharks, Press your luck (with those crazy “Whammies”), the $20,000 pyramid and one of my favorites, Let’s Make a Deal.  One of the reasons I liked Let’s Make a Deal is that the audience dressed up as all kind of crazy things.

The basic concept behind Let’s Make a Deal (which is still on today led by comedian Wayne Brady and airs on our CBS affiliate each weekday at 2 PM) is that the contestant gets to choose between several items hoping to trade up for something better.  My favorite part of the show was the big deal of the day at the end, where the winningest contestant got to choose among one of three doors, as long as they were willing to give up what they had already won.  One door would be a bust, one would be ok, and the other would be spectacular.  Sometimes they won, many times they did not win the big deal.

          God offered Abraham and Sarah, and us, the big deal.  And fortunately for us there are not three doors, one of which is a loser, the other is so-so, and only one is the big deal of the day.  But God offers us the big deal, the best deal, if we will take it.  Now like on the TV show, it entails us giving something up.  Maybe our wants, our desires, our dreams, our selfishness to follow God.   Abraham and Sarah did as God commanded and God rewarded them far beyond their wildest dreams. Not as quickly as they might have thought for God’s timetable is not our timetable.  But God rewarded them far beyond anything they could ever have imagined.  God’s covenant offered them a better plan, the best plan and they followed it.  God has been faithful to his promises and covenant, have we?   Abraham and Sarah said yes to the divine deal, and their lives were never the same.  God is still offering us the Divine Deal today- what will we say?

Take Time to Fish Between the Cracks

toledo bend 3

Sunset from Sunset Marina on Toledo Bend near Many, Louisiana.

Bloggers Note:  Every week there are stories and information that I want to tell in my message but there is simply not enough time.  My message this past Sunday “Going Fishing” from Mark 1:14-20 was like that. This story by Terry Higginbotham was left on the cutting room floor.  But it is worth the read.  Please note: this is not my work.  The original author is Terry Higginbotham copyright 2004.


The summer of 1972, my brother and I were filling cricket and bait buckets for Mr. K.C. Bray at the Sunset Marina on the Toledo Bend Reservoir just south of Many, Louisiana.

It was just another hot, humid, July in the southwest Louisiana. Each day the same as yesterday and with almost certainty the same as it would be tomorrow. The wind was so still that the Spanish moss barely rustled in the old cypress trees. But these were the type of days I liked, cause the fishing would be good. Good fishing meant good tips.

Lil’ Brother and I never did make a lot of money, but enough to keep us just short of even on our account at Mr. K.C.`s store. Our daily provisions consisted of two cokes, a moon pie, a Miss. Dailey’s fresh made sandwich, and all the crickets we needed to catch our supper. By 7:00 p.m., every evening we would have our 3 bream apiece. We would gut `em, stick `em, and cook `em over a little fire we would make on the bank near our tent.

Lil’ Brother and I had spent the last two summers camping on the banks of the Bend. We fancied ourselves as a modern day Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. We were accountable to no one and responsible for only our daily bread. Don’t get me wrong, we were not bad kids nor did we come from a broken home. We had loving parents, grandparents, and friends. We were just lucky enough to grow up in a part of the world and in a time that allowed us to live free, truly free.

Our parents would come to the Bend on the weekends and we would get a reprieve from our day-to-day attempts to “survive”. We didn’t know until years later that mom and dad gave Mr. K.C. money to cover our supper in the case fishing ever went bad. They would bring us fresh clothes, comic books, candy, and fresh tackle for our nightly fishing. They would stay for the weekend then head for real world late on Sunday Evening.

On Friday night we would all go down to the dock. We would sit for hours talking about the week’s events. Lil Brother and I would tell about our adventures. Dad would tell us stories about the jobs he was on. Dad was an ironworker and we were fascinated by his stories of “walking in the air”. To us he was a superhero. Saturday we would spend the day fishing, swimming, and skiing.

Sunday morning was spent at “church”. We would go down to the dock, bait a couple of hand lines. We would then lower the hand lines through the cracks in the dock. The really big fish would rest in the shade, just under the dock. The best way to get to them was to fish through the cracks where the two floating partitions of the dock joined. While Lil’ Brother and I would fish for the Big Ones, Daddy would read to us about becoming “Fishers of Men”. Some of the best times of my life were spent belly down on that old dock, coaxing those big bluegills out with worms and crickets. As I look back on it now, it wasn’t because of the fishing but because of the time spent with Dad and Lil’ Brother.

Recently my dad came to visit. I was in the midst of a major project and wasn’t spending much time with him. Maybe a few minutes in the morning and an hour or so at night, before I passed out from exhaustion. On his last night, I finally got to tell him about the new boat I just bought. About the rods and reels, tackle, and accessories just waiting until we got a chance to go fishing. I told him about the cabin on Toledo Bend that we were going to rent, as soon as I got enough time to go. I told him about how excited the kids were when I had brought home new rods and reels for them, last month. He seemed to enjoy the talk although he seemed very quiet and almost sad.

My dad left that next morning. As we shook hands, he drew me near and presented me with an old box. He whispered, “The secrets to a happy life are in here”. Dad was always a little strange when it came to good-byes, so I just smiled, waved and watched him slowly drive out of sight.

The small box was worn red with a small picture of a man battling a giant bass. Below the picture was the caption “Sunset Marina Toledo Bend Many, Louisiana”. I slowly opened the box and smiled as I became aware of its contents. Truly these were the “secrets of life”. In the box was a small bible with a bookmark with Matthew 4:19 printed on it. It had been a while but I did remember, “Follow Me and I will make you Fishers of Men”. Beside the Bible was a small hand line wrapped in a piece of paper with my dad’s handwriting scrawled on it. I unfolded the note and smiled as I read the simple key to a happy life.

“Son, Make time to fish through the cracks”.

Today isn’t just another hot, humid, July day in southwest Louisiana. Not quite the same as yesterday and with almost certainty the same as it will be tomorrow.

“Hey Jon, throw dad another moon pie”.

“Just a minute dad, I think Erin’s got another one”.

“Be careful not to lose him, it’s a little tricky getting ’em back through the cracks”.

“Hey dad”.

“Yeah, Jon”.

“Was fishing this good when you were a kid?”


(c) Copyright 2004 OuachitaGroup All Rights Reserved

Owner of and The OuachitaGroup, Terry Higginbotham, is an avid hunter, fisherman, and outdoorsman. He runs a research project studying the Whitetail Deer and the American Wild Turkey. Information from this study is available online at or by email at:

New Every Morning

daylily collage

A few pictures of the author’s daylilies from the yard.

Gardening has been a part of my family’s life for as long as I can remember. Some of my best memories took place in a garden, picking carrots, blueberries, blackberries, pears, and many other fruits and vegetables. We also spent many hours fertilizing, spraying, and caring for flowers like roses, calla lilies, and many other varieties.

Gardening not only connects me to my family, but also to my faith. The creation story in Genesis takes place in a garden (Genesis 2-3). The night before he was crucified, Jesus prayed in an olive garden, the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). Following his crucifixion, Jesus is placed in a tomb in a garden (John 19:38-42). After his resurrection, Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener (John 20:11-18). In Jerusalem, I visited the Garden Tomb, which could be the place where Jesus was placed, and where people from all over the world gather to worship. In death, many caskets and funerals, are graced with stands, sprays, and wreaths of flowers or live plants as a symbol of life even in the midst of death.

I have several plants in my garden. Roses, bearded irises, Louisiana irises, lantana, gladiolus, and annuals such as zinnias and salvinia to attract butterflies and hummingbirds. But my favorite is the daylily. I like dayliles for several reasons. First, they are tough. My daylilies have survived several moves, transplants, and other challenges that would kill many flowers. Often, they have bloomed in the boxes or bags in which I moved them! They grow almost anywhere, in almost any soil, though they do best with lots of sun. Second, there are many varieties and variations. If you don’t believe God likes variety, look at the daylily! Daylilies can be found in almost all shades of the rainbow (except blue). Some are small (as small as 2 inches), others are large (as big as 10 inches), while most fall somewhere in between. Daylilies have many forms.  Some have eyes or colored edges, others have rounded forms or long, spindly arms (usually called spiders). Daylilies have many varieties and variations.

My favorite thing about daylilies is that they are new each day. The scientific name (hemorocallis) literally means “beauty for a day.” And that is what they do. Bloom for one day. Only. Then they die. When I walk through my garden, one cultivar that was a beautiful flower yesterday is now a dull, lifeless husk. Conversely, one bud that yesterday was only the promise of a bloom has blossomed into a beautiful flower. Here today, gone tomorrow. Just like life. Just like us. The daylily reminds me of what lasts, and what does not. “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever” Isaiah 40:8. I am reminded, that like the lilies are new every morning, so is God’s mercy. “22 Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

The next time you see a beautiful daylily, beautiful for only a day, think about what lasts and what passes away. Maybe, like me, you will find a blessing that is new every morning.