He didn’t have any friends. Literally, zero. So last week, he tried to impress a few potential buddies through a risky decision at school. Fortunately, it only cost him a 10-day suspension.

This week, he’s suffering the consequences…and still alone.

The Need for Friends
“Nick” attends the middle school Christian club where I speak every Tuesday. He’s also a member of my church. His younger brother is my son’s best friend. But Nick doesn’t have a best friend. Actually, he doesn’t have any friends.

Determined to change that, on Thursday morning of last week he snuck an OTC medication onto campus and tried to make Lean. Instead of impressing his peers, the honor-roll student was caught and suspended.

It was a wakeup call for his family…and me.

In the aftermath of counseling and consoling his family, I learned from a multi-decade long study that Nick isn’t the only one who struggles; the number of close friends Americans have is shrinking

. Here are just a few of the revelations:


Dinners With Refugees



Free Methodist bishops have called church members to “embrace all” and “go global.” Dearborn (Michigan) Free Methodist Church Associate Pastor Megan Weber is embracing people from around the globe without leaving Dearborn. She recently began hosting community dinners at which local believers dine with refugees.

“Community dinners are a place where we can lay aside our agenda — or our need to convert the other — and just be, and listen, and let God develop trust and relationship.” Weber said. “I am just trying to be a good steward of the experiences God has given me and the doors He has been opening in our community in working with refugees.”

Weber said her vision has been influenced by authors Hugh Halter and Carl Medearis. Halter teaches that Jesus’ life and ministry took this order: incarnation, reputation, conversation, confrontation, transformation. Medearis writes, “The distance between Jesus and people isn’t doctrinal. It isn’t political or social or even theological. It’s a matter of personal contact. Jesus collided with two fishermen, and their lives were changed.”

“We need Free Methodists colliding with people that are different than them,” Weber said. “As we invest in the lives of refugees, we are living out the incarnation where we are gaining a reputation, and there is opportunity for conversation. When we become good listeners, others trust us with their hard questions, but that first comes in setting aside agenda.”


Love That Won’t Let Go



In a 1975 movie, Monty Python set out on a farcical search for something that had captivated the imagination of Western Christians since the 12th century, the Holy Grail. The story of this most publicized and precious relic in the history of Christendom originated in the year 717, when a hermit monk reported he had a vision about the dish Jesus used at the Last Supper. During the medieval period, the mythology surrounding the Holy Grail expanded, and it came to be recognized as an object that could bring healing and even eternal life. Reportedly, it was not just the dish that Jesus used at the Last Supper. It came to be described more like a chalice, and it was understood to be the very chalice in which Joseph of Arimathea (the man who buried Jesus) was said to have collected the blood of Christ at the foot of the cross.

Shortly after Christ’s death and resurrection, Joseph was said to have traveled to what is today Great Britain, taking the chalice with him. But alas, the chalice went missing. This was a convenient turn of events for King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, because their search for the Holy Grail kept them busy for a very long time. Similarly, real-life Crusaders who sought to rid the Holy Land of Muslims also pursued the Holy Grail on their journeys that ironically mixed violence and faith. Along with Monty Python in modern times, cultural icons Indiana Jones and his father, Dr. Henry Jones Sr., also obsessed over finding the Holy Grail in the 1989 movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”

Historian Richard Barber, who has written a book on the topic of the Holy Grail, tells National Geographic, “There are so many people out there looking for the thing. Actually, it’s more exciting that someone can imagine something in the 12th century … that is still a hot concept 800 years later” (


Three Words Every Young Person Wants To Hear

Three words every young person wants to hear

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in conversations with young people that bump along awkwardly and end abruptly. As one of our ministry volunteers recently shared, “I am apparently terrible at getting more than one-word answers in conversation with most of the guys.” Can you relate?

Perhaps this is because good conversations tend to be elusive in a society that is relentlessly self-focused. We haven’t had good listening modeled well for us, and in turn we struggle to offer that gift to others. We don’t even know how to ask a follow-up question that generates something more than minimalist vocabulary.

Most of us who are parents also struggle with conversational momentum with our own adolescent kids. If you find yourself in the same “How was your day?” rut as the rest of us, let’s just go ahead and confess together that we are desperate for better language when we connect with our family after work and school.

“Tell me more”


Love Like Medicine



Imagine visiting the doctor with multiple complaints. Your chest feels tight and your breath is short; your head is thick, focus fleeting and thinking slow; your reflexes are off, coordination awkward, movement erratic and aimless. After describing these symptoms, the doc nods and quickly jots a one-word prescription on a pad and hands it to you. As usual, it’s nearly impossible to read what the doc wrote. You look at it one way, and then turn it over the other way. Gradually, you begin to figure out what it says, but, if you’re right, you are puzzled. (You even wonder if the confusion is another symptom!) Because on the pad, it appears to say, “Love!”

The story of Jesus stresses that the medicine we need is love. Like a one-word script, Jesus says, “Love!” If you doubt this, let me recall that in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke we read similar accounts in the ministry of Jesus that raise and answer the question, “What is the greatest commandment in Israel’s law?” All three accounts give the same identical answer: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Mark 12:29–31 NRSV).


Called to Love



Love God. That is the greatest commandment. It is one of the two commandments from which the entire covenant is formed (the other being to love others). Truly, though, the commandment is a bit abstract. How do we love someone who is completely different from us, even in ways we cannot comprehend and have never seen?

John gives us a very simple and basic statement of what it means to love God: “This is love: that we live according to his commands. This is the command that you heard from the beginning: live in love” (2 John 6 CEB).

To live in love is to live according to God’s commands. In other words, those that truly love God will obey Him. Those that seek to love Him more fully and completely will seek to obey Him more fully and completely in their lives.

God’s commandments are all-encompassing in our lives. He tells us how we ought to act and react. He tells us how we ought to treat others around us. The best summation of the commandments given to the followers of Christ are found in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5–7).

Do not forget as well, that Jesus also gave a commandment to evangelize. I know people who claim to be entirely sanctified and refuse to share the good news with other people. They think they perfectly love God and others and yet will not even invite other people to church. If they are going to break this fundamental commandment of Christ, then their love is not perfect.


Love Like Mike



I’m writing this article a few hours after attending the funeral of Mike Lawson, a fellow member of John Wesley Free Methodist Church in Indianapolis who died of cancer two days before his 63rd birthday. Mike was known in the church and the surrounding community for his passion for worshipping God and learning more about Him. He showed up for every available church activity that his schedule would allow. During the funeral, a longtime women’s Bible study leader shared that Mike — a hockey-loving painter — asked if he could attend a women’s group meeting because he was so eager to learn all he could about his Creator. Mike could have worried that people might tease him for being the only man to break the gender barrier of this Bible study, but his love for God exceeded any concern about what other people might think.


Be the Grandparent Your Teen Needs

Today we’re offering you something a bit different; an audio clip from the good people at Heartlight: Parenting Today’s Teens. Click here to listen to their encouragements to how anyone can be a great grandparent. We’d add that this can be done with the children and teenagers in your church.


Guest: Tim Kimmel

Grandparents can have a profound influence on their grandkids during the teen years! And those years can develop into rich connection and long-lasting relationship. This weekend on

Parenting Today’s Teens,

Mark Gregston lists five do’s and don’ts for interacting with your grandkids and offers encouragement for your unique and vital role within the family.

Danger in the Front Seat

by David R. Smith

The number of fatal automobile accidents involving teen drivers has risen drastically in the past 5 years, 14,000 in all. On average, 15 very unlucky young people die every day on American roads.

It looks like teenagers can get into just as much trouble in the front seat as they can the back seat….

In February of 2017, just before the start of Spring Break vacations, two separate reports came out stating the same thing: young people tend to be very dangerous drivers. The first study, released by the National Safety Council, showed that 40,000 people (all ages) lost their lives in car crashes in 2016. The escalation in highway deaths between 2014 and 2016 hasn’t been this severe in more than half a century! The other report, submitted by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, puts most of this blame on the shoulders of young drivers. For example, compared to all other age groups, those between 19 and 24 are more likely to text while driving…and less likely to support legislation that would stop such distractions.

Another group of young drivers – teenagers – are also guilty of contributing to the carnage. Teens are statistically 1.6 times more likely to be in an accident than their adult counterparts. Researchers say this reality stems from three major mistakes teens make behind the wheel: driving over the speed limit, driving with distractions (caused by texting, loud music, friends in the car, etc.), and driving without scanning the road ahead of them.


Setting Boundaries With Your Teen

by Mark Gregston

really like homemade waffles—especially when they’re topped with real butter, Canadian maple syrup, fruit, a pile of nuts… and more waffles. I’m serious as a heart attack about that. But while I love waffles, I hate waffling. And I’m pretty sure God is not big on that either. In James 1:8, we learn that a “double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” And in Matthew 5:37, we read: “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
This holds true for how we parent our children as well. That’s why when you set boundaries for your kids and teens, you had better make sure that you stick to your guns on whatever boundaries and rules that you’ve set for your family. This includes implementing pre-determined consequences for breaking those rules.

Rules Rule!

No one likes the word “rules.” It sounds—well, restrictive.
Yet who would argue the need for rules in a court of law, a school classroom, or just about any sport? Without rules, it would be an “anything goes” free-for-all! I’ve got to tell you… I hate stop signs and traffic lights… but I wouldn’t want to live without them.

Raising a family requires rules, too. Children need and want boundaries. The world makes more sense when they know what’s accepted and what’s not. Children feel safer when boundaries are explained and defined. And they find comfort in the consistency of parents who stick to their game plan.