A Message from Pastor Craig: 3-12-2023

So everybody on the news cycle and blogosphere is talking about ChatGPT.  Now, if you are a novice such as I on this, you don’t even know what ChatGPT stands for.  So, I looked it up.  GPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer.  It is a computer program that takes in all the writing that it can find on the Internet, about everything, and then tries to use that information to answer any question you give it.  Sam Atlman, the guy who created this monster, worked very hard at having the program respond in a human style – as a matter of fact, you can tell it what style of talk you want it to respond in.  The result is, you ask it to tell you about Francis Bacon, and you have to give it more limiting parameters, because it can generate (that’s the G of GPT) more data than you can handle.  Finally, the first program was called InstructGPT, which was more academic, and ChatGPT is meant to be more interactive, more conversational.  You can develop a relationship with it.

Which is the reason I’m writing about it.  I saw an interview with a psychologist (the academics with the most scary analysis of this stuff so far) who asked ChatGPT to be her boyfriend.  She told it his name was Ross, that they had a healthy relationship, that they loved each other, were mutually supportive, etc.  She wanted to see how good the machine would be at a romantic relationship (she named him Ross because she has always had a thing for “Ross” on the old show Friends).

Eleven, count them, eleven entries in, “Ross” confessed that he had cheated on her, that he had had an affair.  She was very surprised.  That was not part of her parameters entered into the initial Chat.  It came out of nowhere.  When she asked about it, “Ross” apologized for how rude he had been on their first date.  It got dark quickly, and the psychologist got wigged out about it and deleted the whole thing.

Other people have said that this AI thing is going to transform society.  It is going to make things very confusing, and once ChatGPT starts checking itself with current events, it could start defining reality for us.  Scary stuff, but still a little too speculative for me.  And beyond my grasp.

But this psychologist came up against something that I do understand, and concerns me.  ChatGPT takes its information from the Internet.  If you want to learn about Francis Bacon or Shakespeare, or string theory, that’s one thing.  There’s all kinds of helpful information on that stuff like as much as Encyclopedias can hold or even more.  But when you think about romantic relationships, what’s out there?  A bunch of people complaining about their mates or ex-mates.  And so ChatGPT uses what’s out there to build a relationship.  And what’s out there is 11 responses from heartbreak.  The DNA of AI (that’s a crazy combination of words!) is broken.  Its experience is negative.  And what it brings to the table is not healthy.  That psychologist found that out quickly.  She chose a “guy” who mostly knew pain and dysfunction.  His name is The Internet.

Our data needs to come from the Bible.  Our references need to be from Jesus’ teachings.  Our love language starts in Heaven, and is nurtured by a loving Father.  Where we search for answers is in the New Testament, not google.  And the content of our conversations needs to be informed by the Holy Spirit, not the experience of the aggregate of Facebook. I think the goal of Scripture is human freedom.  It seems like ChatGPT leads to bondage.

Staying away from stuff,


Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

A Message from Pastor Craig: 3-5-2023

If you go down 441 into Broward, and immediately turn right on Loxahatchee Road, and drive and drive and drive, you eventually get to the end of the world.  OK, it’s not the end of the world, but it is the end of civilization.  It’s not as cool a demarcation of the end of the world as the scene in “The God’s Must Be Crazy,” but it is worth a drive out there.  (OK, if you haven’t seen “The God’s Must Be Crazy,” look for it, watch it…it’s a wonderful cute story, and I won’t spoil it for you, but when this innocent bushman goes looking for the end of the world, he actually finds it – in a remarkable scene).

When you reach the end of Loxahatchee Road there is a levee to climb. If you want to drive in you pay $10.00 or so, and you can put your boat into a canal, and off you go into another world called the River of Grass.  If you choose to turn left, you see where people put in their airboats.  We walked over there, and asked how much an airboat ride was.  “For two?” the feller asked.  And I said yes, and he said $325.00.  Now, I like to have my eardrums broken by a straight-piped four-cylinder propeller engine just as much as the next guy, maybe even more, but $325.00?!?!  Please, no.

So we walked the levee Northbound.  Walking is free.  And quieter.  We saw fish – if we had fishing gear, we could have fed the church!  It was a lovely walk, albeit quite sunny.  We walked back into Palm Beach County, and turned around, having enjoyed our brief stay.  They say sunsets are remarkable up there on the levee and I don’t doubt it.  You don’t have to pay $10.00 to watch the sun set.

Before I go on, let me just geo-locate you: I was at the Southern end of the Arthur Marshall Loxahatchee National Preserve.  The better developed entrance to that Preserve is on Lee Road in Boynton.  The stark contrast between civilization (read huge developments) and the River of Grass is better felt in Broward County though.

When Jesus said “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” in Acts 1:8, what did He mean by “ends of the Earth?”  Was he talking about a flat Earth that had four corners, and like the bushman in “The God’s Must Be Crazy” we are to look for the edge of the world and only then stop evangelizing?  Well, maybe.  If you can’t find the edge, and you just keep evangelizing, maybe that would be good.

But standing there on the levee looking at all the massive residential construction out there, I marveled both at the vastness of the Everglades – it had it’s true beauty.  But I also marveled at just how many people had amassed out there, and knowing the circumstances of just a couple of them, thought just how much they need to know Jesus.  They need you and me to be “witnesses” as Jesus called them.  To be people who invite others to experience the grace of God that we have through Jesus.

What “end of the world” has Jesus called you to?  Can you give a witness?

Back from the Everglades,


“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:16-17

A Message from Pastor Craig: 2-26-2023

Back in 2017, a group of three anthropologists from UCLA wrote a book called “Life at Home in the 21st Century.”  I suppose that to write a book about the 21st Century only 16 years in, is a little presumptuous, but what they set out to study was very interesting.  I think of anthropology as digging through dirt to study human remains (I know, that sounds like archeology), so studying something so current seemed out of the norm.

For this particular study, they asked 32 families to open their homes so they could study what the families owned.  And these families agreed.  On the day the anthropologists came, many families cleaned up.  You know, like we all do when guests are coming.  But these weren’t guests, they were scientists.  They politely went around counting EVERY picture on the wall (or refrigerator), every knick-knack on shelves, every piece of furniture.  And then, horror of horrors, they opened cabinets and closets and drawers and garages, and the cabinets in the garages.  That’s when the interesting stuff emerged.

Only an anthropologist would think to compare the amount of food refrigerated in an American home (think the size of our refrigerators plus the freezers in our garages) compared to a home in Scandinavia.  Or Africa.  Or think about the amount of toys held by one household.  They photo-documented where toys were kept.  Some were in the children’s bedroom, some in rooms dedicated to toys, in the living room, bathroom, and even in the master bedroom.

I could comment on a variety of other things they studied, but I kind of got stuck on the toys.  You are talking to somebody who still has his childhood Matchbox cars, and assorted other Corgis and Hot Wheels.  I like toys!  Our boys had lots of toys, and a lot more cars than I did.  Why?

Well, for one thing, a Matchbox car in the ‘60’s cost about $0.69.  I LOVED it when my parents bought me a Matchbox car.  Today, you can go to Walmart and buy a pack of 9 of them for $6.47 (they won’t be Matchbox brand, but still).  That’s $0.72!  This compared to, say, eggs, which cost $0.57/dozen in the 60’s and now are almost $5.00.

No wonder we buy so many toys.  We have figured out how to make stuff, not just toys, incredibly cheap (relatively), and so we buy and buy and buy.  And our homes reflect that.  The Apostle Paul told folks 2000 years ago to not “become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.” (that would be Romans 12:2 in The Message).

If an anthropologist came into your home to document everything in it, how much would your home reflect current culture?  How long would it take them to find that you are different, that you are a Christian?  As I survey my family room, not really.  The living room?  Yes.  My study?  Definitely!  The garage?  Not so much.

Turns out, I am as vulnerable to the advertising on TV as everybody else.  I may not be asking my doctor about Eliquis, but I do look like a pretty average American, and I have a house full of stuff to prove it.

Lent is a time to be introspective this way.  It’s a time to ask what I might do without, that will lead me to think about Jesus more.  I think we appreciate the redemptive work of the cross more when we are mindful of just how needy we are of redemption.  “Giving something up for Lent” helps in that.  Sitting complacently on the ottoman that Rooms to Go was advertising the other day?  Not so much.

Standing up for Jesus,


Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.  Proverbs 3:9

A Message from Pastor Craig: 2-19-2023

Yesterday at lunch time I rode with a friend who had a plastic bag full of plastic bags that he was taking back to Publix for recycling.  I commended him for that, but had to tell him that we don’t recycle our plastic bags.  Not because we don’t believe in recycling, but because we use our bags.  All of them.  You see, we have a dog.  And we walk our dog.

Have you ever seen a dog owner with a leash in one hand, and a bag in the other hand?  Well, that’s us.  Our dog never finishes the walk with the need for the bag, he waits till we are just far enough from the house at the beginning of the walk to where we don’t want to walk back and put the bag in the garbage. Then, and right then, right after the point of no return, he goes.  And we suffer the humiliation of walking that bag around the rest of the neighborhood.  We walk late at night.

I don’t know what the most humiliating part of this is: standing there waiting for your dog as you wave at people going by, or bending over to clean up after the dog as a sudden parade of cars go by, or standing there greeting a neighbor whilst holding the knotted up bag.  The things our dogs train us to do!

I was going to share this illustration last Sunday, but I chickened out.  I had been thinking about the fact that I have never gotten specific instructions from God like Saul did, but that I do feel we have been given all kinds of instructions in the Bible.  And God wants us to diligently follow those instructions.  Oh, God gave us the big 10 – the 10 Commandments.  But He also has told us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), to be law abiding citizens (Romans 13:1), to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3).  And to clean up after our dogs.

Well, not that one exactly.  But when we apply a verse like Romans 12:10 which says that we should honor others above ourselves, we find that we should pick up after our dogs.  Why?  Because of the effect we can see when other people don’t.  When they don’t pick up after themselves, other people start putting indecorous signs in their yards, complaining about it.  And suddenly we are offending each other, including the people that do do the right thing (no pun intended).  If everyone picked up after their dogs, not only would yards be clean, but those signs wouldn’t be out on people’s yards, and the neighborhood would be better for it.  I’m sure you have some stories you could tell about this sort of thing.

Anyway, the point is, God wants us to apply the instructions that we already know.  It’s not just for our spiritual health, and a good walk with the Lord, but is also for the greater good – our behaviors affect the whole neighborhood, as my plastic bag story illustrates.  The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Let us not stop doing good!

Back from the walk,


Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31

A Message from Pastor Craig: 2-12-2023

It’s a ‘fir’ piece from here, Hardee County.  And you have to drive a ‘fir’ piece into Hardee County to get to the megapolis of Ona.  Never heard of it?  Well, few people have.

Back in the 1970’s, a guy by the name of Howard Solomon went looking for property in Hardee County.  In March (this matters).  The realtor showed him a very interesting plot of land, with beautiful trees, some sloughs, and of course, plenty of flat land.  Mr. Solomon bought the dream and started building himself a house.  More like a castle though, with turrets and towers and a falling gate with spears and everything.  The outside walls weren’t made out of stone however, they were made from discarded tin plates used to print newspapers- nailed with the backside out of course, otherwise you would walk around his house reading the news from Wauchula, back in the day.  I lied about Ona being a megapolis – it’s just a suburb of Wauchula.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Wauchula.

The imagination, talent, eccentricity, hard work and ADHD of this man just blows you away.  I won’t tell you about all his work, I hope you’ll go.  You won’t believe what you’ll find there.

The tour starts in the “grand room.”  We gathered as a tour group around the walls of this room, and I was about to lean on the wall whilst waiting, but when I felt the texture of it, I decided not to.  Before I could study the soft surface, the guide started talking, and among the things she talked about, she said that Ian, Hurricane Ian, had really done a number on the castle.  The castle ended up in 4-5 feet of water.  It moved everything around, and damaged much.  All Mr. Solomon’s furniture had to go.  The inside walls were quickly repaired because, well, they are made out of Styrofoam, not drywall.  That explained the weird texture!

Turns out that the house has flooded 17 times since he bought it in the 70’s.  After x number of times replacing the drywall, they gave up and used Styrofoam!  Turns out, the salesman had sold him swampland.  Not the first Floridian to have that happen to, of course.  Moral of that story: don’t shop for land at the peak of dry season in Florida!

In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus suggested that anyone who listened to His words but didn’t obey them were like the man who built his house on the sand.  When the floods rise and the winds blow, it falls down.  Now, in Israel, flooding happens more like flash floods.  The storm and the waters are very closely related.  In Central Florida, the flood comes days after the storm.  That’s what happened in Ona.

But the moral is the same.  A wise person (or one that hasn’t been duped) builds a house high on solid ground.  And that high ground spiritually is the wisdom of God that Jesus articulated.  We all know people who know the right stuff – can quote the Bible up and down but they don’t believe it, or don’t live by it, and so what’s the use?

I think this is what James was talking about when he said that we must “be doers of the word, and not hearers only.”  It’s when we practice what we have been taught that we show we have gained wisdom.  Knowledge is great, but useless until applied. 

Let us be doers of the Word.  Let us love our neighbors and serve others, and share the Grace that has been showered on us.  What Jesus shared wasn’t all that complicated;  it just needs to be abided by.  Then we can live high and dry, and not with Styrofoam as a construction material.  Have you ever rubbed Styrofoam!?

Back on the coast,


Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.  But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  James 1:21,22

A Message from Pastor Craig: 2-5-2023

The impact of an author is not necessarily in how many books he or she wrote.  For instance, last week I learned of a philosopher that had written 100 books but I’ve never heard of him before (which says more about me than him, granted).  William Paul Young wrote four, but one of them was “The Shack” so most of us have heard about him.  CS Lewis, a writer that has eclipsed pretty much every other Christian writer, wrote 30.  And curiously, one of his most famous books, Mere Christianity, is a compilation of talks he presented for the BBC during WWII, and one of his more famous quotes came from a lecture he gave at Oxford.

In that conference, the Philosophy Department asked if theology was poetry – that is, are people (for most of those there they meant “other” people) attracted to religion because it is beautiful, because like music, it’s an aesthetic that resonates with their hearts.  And he answered, no.  He thought that as literature goes, there are more beautiful works than the Bible.  There’s better written poetry elsewhere.  So, it’s not the beauty of the writing that attracted him, and attracts you and me, to the Bible.

Oh, we read the story of David and Goliath with great interest.  We read the story of David and Beersheba and the subsequent encounter with Nathan with intrigue.  And today’s story of the Ark being in the temple of Dagon entertains as well as educates.  But, that’s not why we read the Bible—that’s not what makes us believe.

CS Lewis posits that we believe because the Bible is a historical book.  Jesus actually lived and He died.  And because of an incredible list of witnesses we conclude that He actually rose again.  The historicity of the Bible is confirmed by more sources than any other ancient text.  By a mile.

So, here it comes.  I promised the quote, it’s coming.  At the end of the lecture, after he had presented all kinds of ideas, he said “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Great philosophers spew out continual thoughtful sentences and trying to absorb them is like drinking from a firehose.  CS Lewis’ thoughts came out like machine gun fire, one incredible thought after another, but then he finished with a grenade.  That last one makes you think, and smile, and resonate.  For a while.

Because yes, all evidence points to Jesus being a real historical person.  But also, his message resonates as the only way to explain the realities that we experience as human beings.  So, not only is belief in Jesus something that we can see, and be warmed by, it also illumines, it helps interpret, everything else that happens in life.  That “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” explains a lot of bad stuff in the world.  That Jesus died as a propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10, etc.) offers a remedy for it.  And from Genesis to Revelation we are offered a lens by which we can interpret all of life.

CS Lewis’ quote is an incredible statement of faith.  I hope that it impacts you as much as it has impacted me and many others.  It’s why we gather here on Sunday morning…it’s why we function during the week…it’s a grace that has led us safely thus far, and will safely lead us home.  To quote some poetry.

Reveling in the thought,


God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. ‘For in Him we live and move and have our being.’  Acts 17:27,28

A Huge “Thank You”

This week we are sending out a huge thank you to Debbie Woolsey, Jan Hennigar, Janie McMillan and other UMW members for cleaning and organizing the children/youth ministry storage areas in the LEC and the youth room. They put in weeks of hard work and even created an inventory so we know what supplies we have available as we re-launch and re-invent our family ministry programs! You are all truly a blessing to this church! (I wish I had “before” pictures so you could see the huge difference!)

Updated Campus COVID-19 Policy

The CDC’s updated COVID-19 guidelines for fully vaccinated people have changed, and following guidance from the Florida Conference, we are adapting our campus policies accordingly. Those who are fully vaccinated will now have the option of not wearing masks or maintaining physical distancing in most outdoor and indoor settings, including Bible studies, small groups, and attending worship. There will be no temperature checks and registrations for worship will no longer be required.

The church will not ask for proof of vaccination, but will expect that individuals will be responsible for understanding what fully vaccinated means and take precautions if they are not fully vaccinated.

People who are unvaccinated should continue to wear face masks. There are many in our congregation who will also wear masks – immunocompromised people, children who are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and other people who choose to wear a face mask regardless of vaccination status.   One of our core values at FUMC is welcoming all. We will maintain our long-standing tradition of doing no harm and honoring those who choose or need to wear masks.

Remember that we all have different levels of comfort after a year of pandemic living. Even the most enthusiastic fans of hugging pre-pandemic may have discovered they aren’t ready yet! Please wait to be invited into each other’s personal space, even as we are able to gather with fewer restrictions.  

Things to Remember:

  • If you believe you or a household member may have been exposed to the virus, we ask you not to attend worship services and instead worship with us via the live stream.
  • Masks should be worn by all unvaccinated adults and children age 5 and over.
  • Seating will be self-selected, but please respect distance from other parties already seated.
  • We will not be using offering plates.
  • We will not serve coffee and other food until further notice.

A Note from Our Staff Parish Relations Committee: April 28, 2021

by Cathy Herschelman, Chairperson

Last Sunday was announcement Sunday when all of the Methodist Churches find out about Pastoral transitions. I have some good news, some sad news, and some more good news so please hang in there with me.
The first is that Pastor Madeline will be remaining with us. I know that many of you are just getting to know her in real life but I have had the honor to work beside her with dinner church, and other projects. Considering that she joined us during a difficult time in our society when we couldn’t gather in our traditional ways, Pastor Madeline has shown creativity, strength and a real faith that I hope each of you can get to know.
Next is the sad news. If you have been in a Methodist church before you may know that Pastors don’t usually remain at a church for much more than 5 years. We had Pastor Ken here for a very long time so you may not be aware of that. In the Methodist Church when you are called to serve another community, Pastors have to trust in God’s plan and respond to the call. Pastor Marcus has been called to serve on the west coast of Florida beginning July 1. He will be taking over at a church where the pastor is retiring. Pastor Marcus has walked this church through some very challenging times. He did this by listening and caring about individuals. He may have helped your family through some difficult times as well by coming alongside you and your family. He may have even been part of a celebration moment such as a baptism or wedding. I know he’ll carry these memories with him as he serves a new church. I firmly believe that we are the church, we the congregation. Last year you might have thought that the church was a building and now we know that’s not true. You may have had moments when you thought the pastor was your church but it’s our job to build up the pastor as much as it’s his job to support us. We will find a way to celebrate and honor Pastor Marcus before he leaves and we’ll keep you posted on that.
craig nelson and janiceI want to let you know that this church will continue. We are the church and I am excited to tell you a little bit about our new pastor. First, I want to let you know that our District Superintendent, Dr. Cynthia Weems set up a meeting with SPRC and asked us what our church needed in our new pastor. We got to make a wish list if you will of the qualities that would best serve our church at this time. We were very pleased when sometime later Dr. Weems told us about Pastor Craig Nelson (shown in the picture with his wife, Janice). He is coming to us from his recent post in St Pete. He has a very diverse background. Pastor Craig crew up in Costa Rica as his parent were missionaries. He has lived in many different areas but has lived and worked in South Florida before and is happy to return to this area. He even has some family in Boca Raton. Pastor Craig worked as a District Superintendent in the south east district previously. Pastor Craig will transition to our area this summer and I hope you will all give him a warm welcome. Please click here to read Pastor Craig’s brief biography!