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 www.fumcwinnfield.com)

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?