Sometimes It Comes to That

It’s not going to come to that.

That’s what I told myself. I would turn out to be incorrect.

I have been wrong plenty of times in my life, but in this particular instance, I was travelling south on I-65 with my family. We left northern Indiana for the middle of Tennessee, telling ourselves we would stop when we were a) close to Murfreesboro and b) tired of driving for the day.

Having run into several traffic jams and being reasonably close to fulfilling both a and b of our requirements, my wife started to search for hotels on her phone. Her search turned into despair quickly as we realized that apparently everyone in the Midwest decided to travel south in I-65 on the same day. A few phone calls      revealed there were no vacancies within 50 miles of where we were.

At this point, we had reached Murfreesboro. I went into the last few hotels around, only to be told, “Sorry, we have no more room in the inn.” It was like being told, “Welcome to your new life as a travelling hobo.” The deep and anxious thought, the one I told myself would not come to reality, was about to become our reality.

My family slept in our van. We found a truck stop designed for this kind of thing, found a parking spot and, chuckling to ourselves, renamed our van the Red Van Inn.

Given the fact that sleeping in the driver’s seat does not offer great comfort, I had plenty of time to think about what had caused this turn of events. Sure, it was our choice not to book ahead on a planned stop. I can own that. But hours before, I had prayed for God to take care of us. Did I now think God hadn’t answered my prayer?

Interestingly enough, I have been finishing a book called

Astonished: Recapturing the Wonder, Awe and Mystery of Life With God by Mike Erre. When discussing Jesus’ words encouraging us to be like the birds of the air and the grass of the field when it comes to worrying about God taking care of us, he wrote:

Many have succumbed to the lie that if we follow Jesus, everything will be okay; and we define okay as comfort, security, and safety. Obviously that is not the biblical testimony. What do we do when we follow Him and it doesn’t work out the way we planned? Where else are we going to go?

Clearly this applies to matters of greater concern than where I sleep for one night. Mike then reminds us those birds Jesus talked about would often be used in sacrifice. And the grass? It’s “here today and          tomorrow is thrown into the fire” (Matthew 6:30).

I don’t think the point is about the security of birds and flowers. The point is the carefree-ness of the birds and flowers. They don’t worry about being taken care of. They live fully because they don’t fret about their dying.

Half sleeping in my van that night, the truth was that I still had plenty for which to be thankful to God. He may not have answered my prayer in the way I would have preferred, but God did not stop caring for my family that night. Aside from remembering to book hotels ahead of time, I am left wondering what else God may have wanted to teach me from this experience. I know that I want to stay fervently alert and pay attention to all God has for me.

One last quote from Mike Erre’s book, though not his, leaves this desire firmly planted in my heart.

Those who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without    anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself. ~Miguel de Unanamo


Baptism, Anyone?

My oldest grandson, Jacob age 9, loves to call and we talk about the Detroit Tigers. We discuss his favorite pitcher, Justin Verlander, or his favorite hitter, Miguel Cabrera. He calls me when he is   feeling sick so we can pray together. And every once in a while he calls when he just misses me. Those calls usually occur after his bedtime and he is over tired, and the conversation will begin with a tearful, “Papa I miss you.”

A couple of weeks ago, Jacob called and said, “Papa I have decided I want to be baptized.” I told him I thought that was wonderful and then came the next words. “Papa I want you to do it.”  I don’t know if he will ever understand what a gift that is to me. The truth is, I love my grandson. I first held him when he was minutes old and we have been buddies ever since. I dedicated him when he was an infant but this is something even more special. He is choosing, because of his personal relationship with Jesus, that he wants to be baptized, and I get to be a part of the process.

Have you ever thought what it must mean to Jesus when we ask Him to be our Savior?  Most of us talk to Him all the time, and tell Him about what is important to us and what He could do for us. But salvation? That is different. He loves us so much that He died for us. And when we ask Him to be the Savior of our lives, it tells us in the Bible, that all of heaven rejoices. Baptism is the outward   expression of Him coming into our lives. It is letting the world know that we are His.

On Mother’s Day in May, Kay and I will be up at Jacob’s church so I can baptize him. If baptism is something you would like to consider, let me encourage you to come and talk to Pastor Rick or me.  It is a wonderful opportunity Jesus has given us to exclaim to the world that we are His. I would love for us to have a baptismal service. A service in which anyone who is ready to make a public statement about having Jesus as their Savior will have the opportunity to be baptized.


Pastor Paul Parker




How Social Media is Disrupting the Lives of Teenage Girls

by Nancy Jo Sales

Once upon a time, only the wealthy and privileged could afford to have their portraits painted by a small, select circle of artists. With the advent of photography, parents of all backgrounds could have pictures of their children, which were coveted as documents of their development and a way to show off their innocent beauty and charm to family and friends.

Today, with smartphones and social media, we all have in our hands the means to broadcast our pride and joy to the world. And we are cultivating our children’s online selves from birth—or even before, in utero. Ninety-two percent of American children have an online presence before the age of 2. Parents post nearly 1,000 images of their children online before their fifth birthday. “Sharenting” has given parenting a whole new dimension: viewer-rated performance.

The usual debate centers on whether posting pictures of one’s children’s ­online—or allowing one’s children to do so—is safe from a privacy or security standpoint. And as we have seen in the recent abduction and murder of 13-year-old Nicole Lovell of Blacksburg, Va., concerns about online predators are more than just a moral panic: they stem from something real. Lovell reportedly texted with one of her alleged killers, 18-year-old David Eisenhauer, a Virginia Tech student, on Kik Messenger, an app known among kids as a place for the exchange of sexts and nude selfies.

But while we’re consumed by the tangible dangers of messenging services like Kik, Yik Yak, After School and other anonymous apps, we may be missing a different influence: our own behavior. Kids today are often accused of being narcissistic, but they may be learning their exhibitionist ways from their parents. Accompanying the boom in selfie culture is a rise in competitive spirit, as well as a disturbing trend of sexualization. Likes, hearts, swipes—­validation is only a tap away. And one of the easiest ways to get that validation is by looking hot. Sex sells, whether you’re 13 or 35.


POLITICAL QUESTIONS—What’s Our (Political) Mission?

It may seem strange to speak of a “political” mission.  I hope in these paragraphs to suggest why it is not.

Here is our situation as I see it: we live in a nation deeply divided—conservative vs. liberal; Christian vs. other or no faith; Christian conservative vs. Christian progressive; and the list goes on.  The divisions run deep and generate alarming heat but little light.  Notably these divisions sync up well with the current political scene, and the amazing set of circumstances in which we now find ourselves.

As of this writing, the beginning of Holy Week, it looks as though our country will choose between two candidates, either of whom would bring to our nation an unprecedented, historic presidency.  On the one hand, for the first time in U.S. history a woman would take the oath of office as President, a woman whose husband has already served two terms as President.  Historic and remarkable any way you look at it.  It would be the second consecutive electoral “breakthrough” of a sorts, since President Obama was the first African American to be elected (twice) to the office.  This would-be Madame President would bring considerable political experience with her into office, which itself would likely further divide Americans who assess that experience in radically different ways.

On the other hand, the U.S. would elect a total political outsider whose public record includes virtually none of the usual experiences and accomplishments past presidents have offered.  This, in his case, will actually have added to his appeal.  And what of that appeal?  As it now looks, his victory will have been fueled precisely by his outsider status combined with his success in connecting with and enlivening the frustration, anger, fear and desperation of at least “enough of us” Americans.  Stunningly, he will have done so while saying and acting in some of the most outrageous (and patently “unchristian”) ways for anyone in history who has seriously sought the White House, and by doing so with no shame or regret.

Both of these most likely candidates scare many followers of Jesus.  At the same time, however, both also enjoy a significant and strong level of support from manyprofessed followers of Jesus, some openly and some secretly.  Both likely candidates can produce polling data, confirmed by the primary and caucuses to date, that support their confident claims that people of faith are with them.  Thus, in the political arena the deep divide between “conservative” and “liberal” is like a watermark behind avowedly Christian-political responses.


Death of Cultural Christianity Will Help the Gospel

Grammy Nominated Christian Rapper Flame Explains Why ‘The Death of Cultural Christianity Will Help the Gospel’Grammy-nominated Christian rapper Flame makes a statement on his new album Forward suggesting the death of cultural Christianity will help the Gospel, and during an appearance on CP Voice he elaborated on that message.

Forward is Flame’s eighth studio album and the record addresses various topics including Christianity in America, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana, and what he believes to be a shift in culture that will advance the message of Jesus.

“We’ve assumed for so long that America is a Christian nation. We assume it’s a pseudo kingdom of heaven and God is doing something extra special in America, as if this is a theocracy where God rules like Ancient Israel. And I think it’s helpful for people to know the reality of our current state. Yes, the framers of the Constitution were informed by some Christian ideas and that was very helpful. But when people can realize God’s true heart for repentance and reconciliation, versus being a good person, it helps them to rightly access where they are in their lives,” said Flame to CP Voice.

Without cultural Christianity, those without any association to the faith will have an easier time seeing the difference between someone who has God in their life and someone who doesn’t, according to the rapper.

Flame also makes a bold declaration in the beginning of the album where he says “Christianity without friction in the culture will die.”

“Christianity is a missionary movement. It exists to move into people’s lives and to introduce them to God Himself, His love, His kindness. So if Christianity falls back and doesn’t engage, then it’s meaningless. It doesn’t offer anything,” he asserted. “So I had to highlight that to kind of get us thinking about how we should exist in a progressively secularizing American culture.”

Flame further emphasized his point that Christians should be active in the culture and aware of the changes happening around them, including what he believes to be the erosion of religious freedom in the U.S.

Polis, Politics and Kingdom

“Life in the city”.  That is what is hidden in the Greek word we translate as “politics”.  Polis is the Greek word for city.  All cultures and kingdoms prior to Greek culture and kingdom had large cities.  The city was not a Greek invention.  The polis (city) was a key part of other kingdoms as well.  But, when ancient Greece arose, the cities had a different feel- a different culture and ideal.  In other kingdoms, the cities were provincial, mono-cultural, mono-religious, and mono-racial populations for the most part.  Those who did not fit the majority were slaves, not citizens.  Kings called for conformity.  They punished divergence from kingdom culture, decrees and laws.  There was not much of an effort to elevate or esteem cultures that were different from that of the king or historic people group of that particular land.  This is somewhat of a generalization.  But, it is a generalization with historic substantiation in most parts of the world.

Greece was more than a bit different.  As a major trade country that had conquered both proximate and distant empires, ancient Greece was ahead of its time.  By the third century B.C. it became perhaps the first multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-ethnic citizenry among the countries of the world.  People moved freely in and among Greece’s cities.  For us, it seems a foregone conclusion that you could be a citizen of a country and yet have your origin in another place.  However, this was uniquely common in Greece.

Plato wrote profoundly about the unique and lively experiment of Greece.  In The Republic, he appealed for civilization to be centered upon justice and human virtue rather than the monolithic demands and control of traditional kings and kingdoms.  He explored virtue and how that contributes to a civilized culture.  He was convinced that there needed to be a genuine concern by all for the common good of a diverse population.  There needed to be an essential civility that would be based upon common virtue.  He tried to spell out what those common, supreme virtues should be.   Wisdom, courage, temperance (or moderation) and justice were the glue for healthy societies.

Aristotle viewed Plato’s understanding of the polis as ideal and unattainable.  But, he improved upon it describing political structures that might best address how people live together in the polis.  He also expanded the ideals of virtue and ethics.  He held that it is essential for virtuous people to be organized and socially engaged in ways that benefit the whole.  These thoughts on the city either stemmed from or drove Aristotle to conclude that there might even be universal laws that drive and shape virtue and healthy community.  He stopped short of being a monotheist, but held that a common and universal good existed.

Greece was a rare civilization indeed, ahead of its time and perhaps in some ways ahead of ours.  The Roman empire followed and carried Greek thought into the construction of their governance and culture.  Though it strived for the best form of government that might achieve the needs of society, it languished to find success.

Jesus stepped into human history at a time when Rome was attempting to improve upon the Greek ideals.  Jesus spoke to and acted upon the need, dilemma and solution addressed by the Greek philosophers in a more holistic way than they were able to dream or articulate.  He spoke not only of the polis, but of a Kingdom with higher common virtues that were not mustered by will and inner strength or community need but by God and implanted and shaped by his Spirit.  The citizens of this Kingdom would be even more diverse than the ideal polis imagined by the Greeks.  The Kingdom of God promised to be a kingdom with people from every race, tribe and nation living under the rule of a faultless king and for the good of the world.

This diverse and complex citizenry would share a common forgiveness, love, Spirit, eternity and power to rise above the gravity of selfish living.  Instead of sharing the Greek common virtues that were “put on” or mustered by will and determination, the citizens of Jesus Kingdom share a common fruit that is “put in” the forgiven- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  This is a very different Kingdom, with different politics and a different way of living not constrained to one city, country or civilization.

Now, here we are more than 2.000 years later and trying to figure out how to live together in the city (country) under the current politics that has been layered with thousands of laws and which seems to lean away from being virtue centric for either the citizenry or those who lead it.  But, those of us who follow and have been transformed by Jesus must understand that His Kingdom produces what the polis never can or will.  It offers something that is no longer even an ideal in this world.

In this current world, politics is reduced from the Greek ideal of improving how we might get along as we live together; to matters of control and forced compliance/diversity.  In our context, politics is defined by factionalism, competing ideals and leveraging followers.  Unlike the Kingdom of God which appeals for the selfish to become selfless servants and hence revolutionize society, politics appeals for little more than a sound economy, affordable education, a national defense and border protection- rather small goals.  If achieved, society will not be transformed by any of these.  The ideal of a society with higher purpose, deeper virtue and profound intimacy brought about by a common Spirit is not even a hope much less a conversation.  The most profound hope is to have a government to either completely leave us alone or meet all of our personal needs.  Both of these extremes exhibit a sickness in our expectation and lack of hope.

Here we are in the middle of the political season.  In fact, it seems as though we are always in the middle of a political season.  However, it is unavoidable at present.  I am reminded how far we have moved from the ancients’ quest for creating a harmonious existence in the city.  Even more, I am amazed at how far we have moved from the ideals of Jesus, even in our transformed communities.  Some among us are even leveraging the name of Jesus for something far less wonderful and hopeful- the best a political party can muster.  There is, however, a radically higher idea for society and an extraordinary community brought together by selfless, sacrificial love and expressing palpable, unbreakable unity.  I wish with a deep sigh that the politicians could understand that the Kingdom is the only way to learn how to live in the city/country.  I wish that they could understand that Jesus and his followers are not persona non grata, but the hope of this world.  I pray that Christians might put more prayer for and less hope in the kings and kingdoms of this world- for those who lead.  We simply don’t pray enough.  And, we simply hope too much that somehow our government will fairly represent the Kingdom of God or help achieve what only God can achieve.  I pray that believers everywhere will invest in Kingdom expansion the kind of energy that is put into political aspiration.

Our deepest desire should be to love God and serve Him.  In doing so, we will better love and serve others.  In doing so, we will better serve in the Kingdom.  In doing so, we will do for this world that which politics will never achieve- transform society.  I appeal to those who read this to vote and engage in the process.  But, I appeal to those who vote to pray and understand that Jesus will do more in and through His children than government can ever do.  The polis always thrives when God is at work and His Kingdom comes and flourishes on earth as it is in heaven.

In my sixth decade of seeing God work simply increases my faith. Born in California, raised in Washington, ministered in Washington, Oregon, Canada, Philippines, Idaho and now all over the world has given me reason to believe and praise. My wife, Marlene and four children (Luke, Mitch, Samuel and Charese) give me reason to give deep thanks. My eight beautiful grandchildren (Jalen, Jordan, Katelin, Andrew, Eli, Callia, Asher and Mikaela) give me reason to see that grace reaches beyond our immediate present into our un-conceived future. Serving with a great team in the Free Methodist Church makes me a blessed person in a blessed place, serving with blessed people.

Mission Trip Memories

VISA Missions Trip Memories– By Loraine Engelberth

“How will we ever find the rest of the team?” asked Carol Madoski as she and her husband, Dick, arrived at Heathrow Terminal in London, England from California on January 12, 2003. The team they were joining was a VISA (Volunteers in Service Abroad) team of six more individuals from Winona Lake, IN (Evelyn Mottweiler, Bill and Loraine Engelberth), Nancy Bertch (New York), Judy Peterman (Indiana) and Sally Blom (Illinois). The group of eight were heading for Zimbabwe, Africa, where they would join Henry and Bonnie Church, Free Methodist missionaries, to use their varied talents for three weeks in a major two-prong project at the Free Methodist Wesley Bible College in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. The Midwesterners had arrived earlier at Heathrow and quickly connected with Dick and Carol. Eventually arriving in Harare, Zimbabwe, the group was greeted by the Churches and they were off on an action-filled three week stay.

A partially-completed guest cottage to be used by visiting teachers at the Bible College and a disorganized, discouraged-looking library/classroom being used by the students was to be the focus of the volunteers as they each shared their unique talents to make good things happen during the following two weeks. A new bookcase was built and finished for the library and needed improvements were made in the cottage as  cleaning, painting and new construction took place. Every book was removed from the dirty, silverfish-infested library shelves to be cleaned, organized and repaired when necessary, with each team member pitching in wherever needed.

Each day brought not only the work on the projects, (in temperatures sometimes over 100 degrees!) but much good fellowship as the team interacted with local Pastor Dube and his family, as well as enjoying the new experiences and sense of accomplishment as the impact of the many hours of hard work became more obvious. Various visitors arrived to marvel at the improvements and the vice-principal of the Bible College was thrilled to have the library/classroom organized and arranged to provide needed resources for his       students.

We shared worship time with our African brethren each Sunday as we traveled to different churches where we were welcomed and encouraged with words and music—an African children’s choir is a memory never to be forgotten. Welcome breaks included visits to interesting historical sites in the area and among the       highlights was the opportunity to see native African animals in the wide open spaces of extensive game parks where they are protected. And, of course, we visited Victoria Falls, marveling in the beauty of that magnificent sight.

Staying each night at Pa-Nyanda Lodge gave us opportunity to be refreshed and share experiences as we had devotions together after having enjoyed a delicious meal we were summoned to by drums and kudu horn blasts!

As we summed up our experiences, each of us felt enriched and challenged by sharing our time, talents and financial support to advance the work of the Kingdom. Missions came alive in an amazing way for every member of the team as we reached out in this way.

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The Growing Popularity of Death

David R. Smith

Six days ago, our community in Central Florida was rocked when a middle school student took his life. Just three months earlier, another teen in our county attempted suicide in front of his class.

Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones being struck by this tragedy.

Studying Death
It’s grim work, but the Center for Disease Control tries to monitor the suicide rates in specific age brackets each year. According to their most recent data, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among 10 to 14-year olds. (Sadly, you read that correctly.) Equally heartbreaking is the fact that it’s the second-leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year olds and 25 to 34-year olds!

It’s worth noting that the CDC has also discovered that more and more teens are turning to suffocation/strangulation methods in recent years. According to the CDC’s numbers, “most suffocation attempts do end up killing the victim.” Furthermore, the CDC is now discussing and researching something parents and youth workers have acknowledged for years: when reports on certain suicide methods are discussed in the media – conventional or social – officials usually see an increase in that particular mode in the future. That connection has some wondering if social media is fueling a national epidemic of teen suicide.


Let Me Tell You How I Came to Know Jesus

Acts 13 lists a guy by the name of Manaen and we are told he was a childhood friend of a Herod who would be King. Manaen is listed in Acts 13 among the prophets and teachers of the church in Antioch. If these two facts combined don’t raise some eyebrows, then maybe you’re not familiar with the name Herod.

From the Bible, we’re not given anything more about the life of Manaen. He was a leader in church and he used to play tag with Herod, who was decidedly not a leader of the church.

 Can you imagine the background of Manaen? Did he go over to play at Herod’s house? What was that like? What did he overhear?

Did he know about some baby Messiah? Were there rumors?

What did this guy grow up believing about the world? About Judaism? About John the Baptist? About Jesus?

Using other ancient texts, some believe Manaen’s family and Herod’s family had been connected for a few generations. Manaen was likely educated by private tutors along with Herod and his brother. What brought him around to become a believer in the book of Acts? Now he’s a leader of the Church?

I’ll likely not hear the many details of this man’s story until Heaven. What we do know is Manaen had a story that somehow led him from childhood friend of Herod to follower of Jesus.

Have you ever considered how much we don’t know about one another? Ever wonder about the highs and lows of each person…each week? Are the smiles pasted on for a Sunday show? What are the current struggles and pain for those with whom we share a pew?

Better yet, what are the past stories? How often have you wondered about how each person came to know Jesus? Were they born into a Christian family? Or were they born into a family that never even considered church?

If we’re not paying attention, Manaen is little more than a weird name tucked away in the New Testament. He may not have been significant enough to have his story in print. Yet he was a guy, with a family, a job, hobbies and a passion for Jesus. His life did have significance. He did impact people around him, even if we don’t get to know their stories either.

How differently would we act towards one another when we gathered if we thought more about this? I sometimes imagine Heaven lasts forever because it will be an eternal party with each of us sharing stories that all begin with, ‘Let me tell you how I came to know about Jesus.’

Too Busy to Reflect on Easter?

by Paul Parker

This past  Monday, Greenville College Choir performed at our church. Before the performance, our fellowship team provided a meal. As we sat eating the wonderful chili that Bill Smith and the fellowship team had put together, the Greenville Choir performed for us as a thank you for their food. The words below are what they sang.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord lift His countenance upon you

And give you peace, and give you peace. The Lord make His face to shine upon you

And be gracious unto you. The Lord be gracious, gracious unto you.   Amen.

When they had finished their singing, Kay asked me a question. I found that I was so moved by the beautiful music and overwhelmed by the sense of worship that I couldn’t respond. I was choked up and needed a second to regain my composure.
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A very similar feeling had come over me last Sunday morning as we took communion on Palm Sunday. The meaning of the of the broken body and shed blood was amplified by the calendar telling us it was Palm Sunday. And we, like Jesus commanded us to do in the upper room, were partaking of the juice and bread in remembrance of His act of love.

Sometimes I get so busy “doing” that I forget to pause and experience His presence. For some reason,   music seems to reconnect my heart and my mind. Last Sunday it was the hymn “Nothing But the Blood”:

For me it is impossible to think about the problems of the day and sing or listen to music. To me music is therapy for the soul.


Recently I have become acquainted with a new song. It was the song I heard when I came out to the car after meeting with the police officer and Sharon Mitterling’s family. Hurting families embracing in a situation that the world would turn into anger. What an awesome representation of God’s grace.

“Grace Wins”

In my weakest moment I see you, shaking your head in disgrace.

I can read the disappointment written all over your face

Here comes those whispers in my ear, saying who do you think you are
Looks like you’re on your own from here, cause grace could never reach that far

But, in the shadow of that shame, beat down by all the blame
I hear you call my name sayin’ it’s not over, and my heart starts to beat
So loud now, drowning out the doubt. I’m down but I’m not out

There’s a war between guilt and grace, and they’re fighting for a sacred space

But I’m living proof; Grace wins every time

No more lying down in death’s defeat. Now I’m rising up in victory
Singing hallelujah; Grace wins every time

Words can’t describe the way it feels when mercy floods a thirsty soul
A broken side begins to heal, and Grace returns what guilt has stole

For the prodigal son, Grace wins
For the woman at the well, Grace wins
For the blind man and the beggar, Grace wins
For always and forever, Grace wins
For the lost out on the street, Grace wins
For the worst part of you and me, Grace wins
For the thief on the cross, Grace wins
For a world that is lost

But I’m living proof, Grace wins every time

To sum up this article, no matter what your taste in music, find moments in the busyness of life to let the words that have been inspired wash over you and remind you that our God is real, loves us, and gives us beautiful music that draws us close to Him.