| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Hope for a turnaround

Posted on 27 August 2015 by L.Moore

The city of Newark, NJ has the distinction of being one of America’s oldest cities, behind Boston and New York.

During the early 19th Century, it thrived as an industrial giant; but, after WWII, it suffered a fate similar to other urban cities that saw a loss of manufacturing jobs. As residents left to find work in other places, urban decay and societal decline set in, culminating in the riots of the 1960s.

What was once a thriving city was reduced to an urban wasteland and a dilapidated relic of a bygone era.

Things slowly began to turn around, however, as city planners and officials sought to adapt to the changing times by refocusing and rebuilding the city.

Today, Newark boasts a reduced crime rate, a vibrant downtown area with hotels and entertainment venues, an arena home for an NHL hockey team, a major league baseball stadium and gleaming office skyscrapers.

Unlike some other cities across the country that have failed to emerge from a ghost-like existence, Newark has demonstrated that an environment once deemed to be dead can be reanimated and experience new life.

What is true for turnaround cities is true for people as well.

I recently heard the inspiring story of a young man who wandered into a church several years ago. He had been in and out of jail and was trying to turn his life around. No one would hire him because of his criminal record but he was determined not to end up a statistic.

The pastor encouraged him to give his life to God and to trust Him for his future, which the young man did.

What skills do you have?” the pastor inquired.

I’ll do anything,” he responded.

Would you be willing to try your hand at a property cleaning business?”

The young man agreed to do it, and the pastor helped him to produce dozens of flyers advertising his services and placed them all over the town.

Within weeks, he had his first cleaning job, and soon other calls began to come in. The young man partnered with a friend in a similar situation, and they soon saw their business grow. They were now able to comfortably take care of their families and were making more money than when they were hustling in the streets.

There is always hope for a turnaround from the failures and setbacks in our lives.

Opportunities are always lurking behind the obstacles that confront us. We must be prepared to make adjustments and adapt to new realities or we may find ourselves mired in stagnation.

To His ancient people, who were suffering in captivity and oppression, God gave a powerful promise: “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

Those who trust in God today can count on Him to be of similar assistance in their lives.

He can show you a way through the wilderness, and He can sustain you in the desert.

What challenges are you facing that appear to be hopeless? What deteriorating situation are you desperate to break free from?

Invite God into your life and trust Him for direction. Examine all the options around you and prayerfully pursue the opportunities that emerge.

Remember that any difficulty that is lasting does not have to be everlasting. There is always hope for a turnaround.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: We have been there

Posted on 20 August 2015 by L.Moore

Everybody needs a change once in a while. It might be something as simple as a change in hair color. It might be a change of attitude or lifestyle. And even if you don’t want to change, we all know there are times we have to adjust to change whether we want to or not.

Try and imagine the changes the Children of Israel had to go through after being freed from slavery, wandering around in a strange new land.

Not only were they in an unknown place, but they had no idea how long they were going to be there.

When someone is admitted to a health center, they are coming to a strange place and they have no idea how long they will be there.

In the wilderness, the Children of Israel had to learn to sleep under very different conditions. And those of us who have had to go through a medical ordeal face a similar issue as we find ourselves having to sleep in a strange bed, with pillows that are not as fluffy as we are used to. We may have an injury or a surgical area that makes it impossible for us to sleep in the position that we are most comfortable in.

In the wilderness, The Children of Israel had to adjust to different sights and different sounds.

Those of us who have spent time in the hospital can relate.

There are the constant beeps of medical equipment, the lights on all night long, the noise coming from the staff and from those who cannot help but moan in pain. And there is the waiting.

The Children of Israel did not know how long they would be stuck in the desert and, as patients, we have no idea how long we will have to wait for the aide, the nurse, the doctor or our pain pills.

And then there was the Manna, the food that fell from the heavens.

They had to get used to the Manna, as it was simply not the food they were used to. And, one thing I can tell you for sure, no matter how good the food in a health center or hospital might be, it sure as shootin’ is not the food we are accustomed too.

And, depending on your illness or injury, you might have to get used to using a special utensil to eat with or you might need to be fed. The Israelites were told to gather a double portion on Fridays as they were not permitted to gather food on the Sabbath and, if they tried to do so, the food would be rotten.

Who among us hasn’t faced a test or procedure where we are told that we better eat or drink a little more on this day because, as of midnight, we will not be able to have anything to eat or drink.

G-d gave the Children of Israel a list of rules to live by. The medical care providers (though they are certainly not gods) tell us what we should and shouldn’t eat, what kind of exercise we should do and for how long, and when to take our meds. They tell us what rules we should follow to live what will hopefully be a longer and healthier life.

The question is, Will we make those changes? Will we comply?

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Shattering the Holy Grail of Academia

Posted on 13 August 2015 by L.Moore

To say that I was an excellent middle school football player would be a lie. Frankly, I stank. But I kept trying — mostly because scorching summer afternoon practices were followed with a refreshing ice cold carbonated beverage: the Slurpee.

I can remember one day, having been completely consumed with my Slurpee that I hopped in the wrong car, going so far as to buckle my seatbelt! It wasn’t until I heard from the driver, “Well, who are you?” before I realized my embarrassing mistake. I quickly unbuckled my seatbelt, tucked my tail between my legs and dashed back to my actual ride.

I suppose we all have similar mesmerizing Slurpee moments. In fact, I believe there is a pandemic of such infatuation moments happening today. Kids’ eyes are affixed to screens, teens to themselves via the selfie-stick (don’t get me started on that one) and adults to their work. At best, children are quiet, teens look their best and adults are efficient; at worst, children lack time-management, teens mask insecurities and adults neglect their responsibilities. But amidst such duplicity, I’d like to focus on one particular affixation as we prepare for back-to-school: grades.

It’s Cameron Dallas’ character Felix, in the movie Expelled, who says it best about grades, “Straight As, [they’re] the Holy Grail of Academia … catnip for parents” and the “reward for properly raising your kid.” But is it? Should it be? Will high marks keep your child from living in a van down by the river? Hardly.

As a former high school teacher, I’m not implying parents abandon their concern for the report card. All I’m suggesting is that we re-evaluate our obsession or, dare I say, all-consuming search for the “Holy Grail of Academia.” Here’s why: because grades (the end), have increasingly become more valuable than the effort to obtain said grades (the means), which has opened the door for grade inflation in both the high school and college realms.

It’s become a simple business transaction. The academic institution is looked upon favorably due to a booming population of students with high GPAs and parents are satisfied because of their child’s seemingly exceptional performance. Win-win, right? Except that such an emphasis drives students to judge their self-worth based on a letter (rationalizing whatever means necessary, like cheating, to achieve those high marks — the worldly standard by which they are measured.) I’m sorry to say, but straight As might mean nothing more than your child knows how to work the system.

I don’t mean to imply that all students with straight As are system manipulators. It’s this: Straight As or not, stop measuring your student solely by four letters. Understand that not all students are “A” students, and that’s okay. I can’t tell you how many times I watched academically-gifted students “earn” high grades with little effort and be praised, whereas students who busted their butt only achieved a “C” accompanied by little to no recognition (now that’s a tragedy).

And understand that when we receive something, like high letter grades, for something we didn’t work hard to obtain, that’s when entitlement rears its ugly head. So let’s change the paradigm.

Here’s my professional recommendation: Praise your student’s effort and help them understand their identity in Christ, because in all honesty, does anything else really matter? You can personalize Matthew 16:26 to read “And what [does your child] benefit if [they get straight As] but lose [their] soul?”

You know why being a terrible football player didn’t matter to me? Because I knew God had a different path for me — an awesome one and something only He could equip me to begin. So, this school year, let’s go #BeyondTheLetter when evaluating growth.

Look to Galatians 5:22-23 for the standard: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law.”

Is your student understanding what it means to love unconditionally? Finding joy during trials? Developing patience? Kind to others? Seeking a deeper understanding of faith? Gentle and exhibiting self-control?

If so, rest assured that no letter grade is going to stop the plans God has for your child — even should they fail a course or two along the way.

CJ Wetzler is the NextGen Pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain, and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments, he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The walls of our hearts

Posted on 06 August 2015 by L.Moore

I want to talk with you about walls today. Why? Because we all put up walls; and because I felt myself climbing the walls as I tried to figure out what to write about this week.

I sat at my desk and I looked at the walls. Those walls contained pictures and those pictures made the walls speak to me. Those walls spoke to me about their family history.

They spoke of the Walls of Jericho and how Joshua made those walls come tumbling down.

Those walls told me how some of their family became famous for keeping people out and how some became famous for keeping people in.

Those walls talked to me about the Great Wall of China, which was built to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire from the attacks of Nomads.

They told me about The Berlin Wall, built in the middle of Berlin by East Germany to stop East Berliners from escaping to the west. Thank goodness that wall went down in 1989 with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Those walls told me of the great Walls of Troy, built to protect the city of Troy.

Those walls shared the story of one of the newest members of the wall family, The Vietnam Memorial Wall, which was built to honor those who fought and died or are still Missing in Action from yet another horrible time of war.

And, those walls proudly shared with me the story of their Jewish Branch, the Kotel, the Western Wall, the sole remnant of the Holy Temple located in Jerusalem.

Rabbi Riskin notes that Harav Kook, speaking of the Western Wall, said, “There are some hearts which are made of stone, and there are some stones which are truly hearts.”

Cardiologists may be able to go inside our bodies to see the wall of our heart, but there is an emotional side to the heart as well. Jerusalem is the heart of our people and The Wall … the Western Wall … is the heart of our city … and the seat of our soul.

Others may have damaged the walls of our heart, but we have found a way to bypass the damage by building something through the study of Torah that can survive beyond the walls.

Harold B. Lee wrote that, “The most important work you and I will ever do will be within the walls of our own homes.” What have we done and what are we doing of importance in this, our home?

Comedienne Goldie Hawn said, “Comedy breaks down walls. It opens up people. If you’re good, you can fill up those openings with something positive, maybe combat some of the ugliness in the world.”

As slaves in Egypt we lived a life imprisoned behind the walls of the Pharaoh. G-d freed us from those walls. He showed us that there were other walls for us to get through, as we walked through the Red Sea with a wall of water on both sides of us.

We still have many walls to get through. We have walls to break down and we have walls to build up.

Maryanne Hershey wrote, “May your walls know joy. May every room hold laughter and every window open to great possibility.”

Joshua may have blown a horn and knocked down the walls of Jericho, but, in just a couple of months, we will blow the Shofar for the High Holy Days.

May the blasts from that Shofar remind us to fill every space in the walls of our heart with loving kindness, and let us say, Amen.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the spiritual leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Family Matters

Posted on 30 July 2015 by L.Moore

One evening recently, my wife and I stopped into a small boutique shop in our neighborhood after dinner.

While browsing, I spotted a decorative plaque that read: Remember, as far as anyone knows, we are a nice, normal family.

The shopkeeper noticed my chuckle and said the plaque had been a huge seller.

My interest was piqued. I went home and did some research on the licensing of this quote. Turns out, it’s being printed on everything from coasters to clocks, and sales have skyrocketed in the last few years.

Why do so many people relate to the sentiment? Because, deep down, we all feel like our families aren’t what they should be.

There are skeletons in our closets. There are old scars and new wounds left by broken marriages, wayward children and countless disappointments.

Most of us even worry at one point or another that our families may border on being (gasp) dysfunctional. So we do our best to portray a nice, normal image to the on-looking world.

Here’s some comforting news: Every family is dysfunctional. The question is to what degree?

Family can be a source of support and grounding, but it can also be a hotbed for conflict and unresolved tensions. Thankfully, there are steps you and I can take to help keep our families strong and filled with love:

Focus on God – Establish your family on a solid foundation by focusing on God.

Start by taking time to pray together every day. If you aren’t in the habit of praying as a family, it may be awkward at first. Don’t let that stop you. The cliché is true: The family that prays together stays together.

Forgive Quickly – Every family is made up of flawed human beings. You’re not perfect and neither are those closest to you, so you aren’t going to get through life without being hurt. Decide to forgive your family members of their wrongs quickly. Showing grace and allowing for each other’s mistakes is the oil that keeps the machinery of family running.

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Prioritize Quality Time

Investing time in family members is essential to deepening relationships and keeping things on course. Build more family time into your routine:

Have Dinner Together. Several times per week, have dinner as a family.

The dinner table is where community is built.

Celebrate Successes and Special Occasions: Birthdays, graduations, weddings and holidays are powerful times to reconnect with family and focus on God’s blessings.

You and I have a responsibility to create healthy families, but we have to simultaneously turn them over to God. We can build foundations, but we can’t control outcomes.

As we put God first and then let go and trust him to work out his purposes, He will.

In the process, he’ll build strong, beautiful families who display his unconditional love to the world.

I would love for you to join me at The Journey – Boca Raton this Sunday at 9:30 or 11 a.m., as we continue our teaching series about a guy who knew a few things about family dysfunction and other hardships, Joseph: From Pit to Pinnacle.

As our guest, you’ll receive a free copy of Unshakable: How to Stand Strong Through Life’s Storms – an essential guide to weathering the inevitable difficulties we all face. Visit www. bocajourney.com for more details. I hope to see you there!

Nelson Searcy is the founding pastor of The Journey Church in Boca Raton.

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CLERGY CORNER: Why the storm?

Posted on 22 July 2015 by L.Moore

As we enjoy the high days of summer in South Florida, we are wary of the potential for tropical storms and the dreaded hurricane to interrupt our lives.

If you have ever given it any thought, you will have considered that just about every place on the planet is subject to some type of storm.

In this country alone, there are a variety of natural manifestations that affect the different areas of this nation.

Snowstorms in the Northern states, tornadoes in the Midwest, earthquakes on the West Coast and hurricanes in the South are just a few of the inevitable realities that we will have to contend against and live with.

More than a disruption to our lives, storms are destructive and potentially deadly.

Recent news coverage showed the damage caused by flooding in Kentucky and Arizona. Homes were saturated with water, vehicles were swept away and lives were put at risk. Similarly, an ice storm can topple power lines and damage roofs.

Hurricane force winds can decimate unstable structures and make projectiles out of debris. And raging fire storms can wipe out thousands of acres of forests and destroy an area’s ecology.

While some would place the cause of storms on man-caused climate change, they have really been occurring as long as life has existed on earth. But why do storms occur, and what purpose do they serve? Outside of human involvement, storms have origins that are best explained by scientists and meteorologists.

Their purpose may be a mystery to their victims, but those who study storms point to some advantages. Hurricanes and winter storms are said to vent off heat from the lower levels of the atmosphere. And the same storm that erodes the beach on a barrier island actually fortifies the back side of the same island through new sediment deposits carried by the wind and waves. In addition, nutrients on the ocean floor are stirred and cycled to the surface to boost marine life. And lightning is said to maintain the electrical balance in the atmosphere, as well as help with nitrogen deposits in soil.

We’ve likened the adversities of life to storms, and even refer to them as such. Could there also be an intent in some of the difficulties that we inevitably face?

If one looks closely enough, he may indeed find some semblance of a purpose for his pain. Many successes have resulted only after a series of setbacks. Necessity (want or lack) is said to be the mother of invention.

A weakness in one area may cause us to discover a strength in another. And some people with disabilities are driven to achieve, and often excel, in their efforts.

While answers to the purpose for life’s storms are not always easy to discover, and some may never be found, it does not hurt to ask. As King Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes 3 verse 1, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Faith in God has enabled many believers to weather the storms of life. The comfort of Biblical promises, and the strong sense of God’s presence has provided peace through some of the greatest challenges.

As you prepare for the possibility of a hurricane, make sure you also have the spiritual equipment to help you survive the emotional and spiritual upheaval that may come your way. “You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat” (Isaiah 25:4).

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: A prayer of Thanks

Posted on 16 July 2015 by L.Moore

There is a prayer that is traditionally recited upon wakening in the morning. It is the Modeh Ani which basically says, “I thank You G-d for this new day.”

What a wonderfully positive expression of gratitude to begin anew.

Oddly enough, I recently read an article online that talked about the most important thing in a happy marriage and, according to that particular analysis, the No. 1 ingredient that was found to exist in happy marriages was that both partners took the time to express gratitude to their partner on a daily basis.

I used to sarcastically tell a story about gratitude in marriage.

I would say how wonderful it was (and please don’t call me a male chauvinist for this … it is just a story) about how after a couple returns home from their honeymoon, the wife lovingly works in the kitchen to prepare these amazing meals each evening.

And, for the first two weeks, or, if you are really lucky, for the first two months, the husband lavishes praise upon her, letting her know each and every night how grateful he is, how delicious the food is, how loving it is for her to take the time to prepare each of his favorite dishes.

And then, you should pardon the expression, the honeymoon is over.

The husband now takes all those wondrous meals for granted and does not express any gratitude at all.

Now, instead of the wife feeling that what she is doing is appreciated, what used to be a joy to her now feels like she is stuck slaving away in the kitchen.

Make no mistake about it, gratitude is important and it is important not just to the recipient but to the acknowledger.

Now let’s turn back to the prayer that is traditionally recited upon waking.

How many of you get up in the morning and your first thought is, “Oy, my aching back?” How many of you wake up in the morning and simply think, “Oh no, not another day?”

Not a very positive way to start the day, and it immediately triggers your brain to put the emphasis on negatives.

Modeh Ani, on the other hand, has you start your day with words of thanks, of gratitude. The practice of thanking G-d each and every morning just for waking up teaches an important lesson. You see, just because we get up each and every day does not mean that we should take it for granted.

Neither should we take other daily things for granted.

Funny, we don’t give a thought to breathing until we have difficulty catching our breath. We don’t give a thought to our heart beating until we feel those beats out of sync.

A friend of mine recently needed some eye surgery. I was on the phone with her late at night to see how she was doing and she said that it is amazing that she is beginning to be able to see again.

I learned something very special from those words. How many of us close our eyes at night to go to sleep and, when we wake up in the morning, we rub our eyes and open them up to start the day? How many of us take the time to thank G-d, not just that we have a new day, but that we can see again?

Blessed is G-d who enables us to open our eyes and see.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: What does “church” mean?

Posted on 09 July 2015 by L.Moore

A conservation scientist theorized that much of the negative feeling toward sharks is in the presentation, specifically the background music.

For example, when sharks are shown onscreen, ominous music is playing, almost vilifying them. However, for dolphins, it is always an upbeat and joyful tone — playful and fun. (No wonder everyone loves dolphins). During his experiment, when sharks were onscreen, cheerful music was playing, and just the opposite for the dolphins. As the researcher guessed, our brains were tricked. The sharks appeared to be the heroes of the sea, and the dolphins, the vicious creatures lurking below. And while it may be awhile before public opinion sways toward shark acceptance, one thing is for sure: What is heard affects human response.

So I am left wondering. Because people hear the old adage “going to church,” does this simple statement wreak havoc upon the mission of Christianity? How can one both go to church, and, what’s this now, be the church? Something does not align. And because of this misalignment, we sit comfortably in the pews playing church.

We are go-ers not do-ers of the Word. I don’t know about you, but that is not acceptable for me. I want my community to hear (through our actions) about the Church — its people loving others as He first loved us.

To do this we must recognize the Church is not a place one goes. The Church is the body of believers with a heart to serve and on a mission for God, taking the Word and putting it into action.

A popular First Baptist outreach event is our Laundry Love. Each year, we flood a couple of laundry mats with rolls of quarters and eager hands. Beyond the free wash, dry and fold are the hours of meaningful conversations and prayer. Inevitably, both patrons of the laundry mat and volunteers alike leave the event changed. On that day, we are the Church. Yet, the day is about something more. The point of an outreach is not to leave our safety zone, do a good deed and run back to base camp. No. Outreaches equip people to be the Church in all facets of their life — beyond Sunday. Trust me. There is nothing more humbling than folding another man’s tighty-whities. But it is in that moment of humility when hearts are changed. The reality of God is revealed and people’s faith becomes real; a paradigm shift occurs — from being about the sermon (going to church) to serving (being the Church). They are two very different things. One is a thing; the other is a way of life that brings glory to His name.

Truly, at the end of the day, what else matters than bringing glory to His name? It is not a request, but a calling. Yes, each of us is called to share the Good News. What’s that? You do not feel qualified … something about needing a degree to teach about Jesus?

Well, I’ve read and studied the Bible over. I have yet to find where Jesus denies someone based on their lack of formal education. Christ is about the surrendered heart, knowing Him, not just knowing about Him.

So be encouraged; check out what Hebrews asserts, Christ “equip[s] you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever.” That is right; you are called and He will equip you to be the Church — to complete His will, to bring glory to His name.

Does that get your heart racing? To know the Creator of everything has placed within you a mission to reach His people for the Kingdom? My prayer is that from this day forward you never just go to church again. Instead, you would be the Church.

Pastor Jeremy Earnest is pastor at First Baptist Church, 701 NW Eller St. Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. www.deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: A light unto the nations

Posted on 02 July 2015 by L.Moore

I was in Orlando not too long ago and I had the pleasure of watching the incredible fireworks display as the sun set at Epcot. But, as much as I enjoyed the sights and sounds there, I did not get those goosebumps that I get watching similar displays on the 4th of July.

For some reason, this year, a question came to my head about why we celebrate the 4th with fireworks. The first person I asked told me that it had to do with a letter written by John Adams to his wife as the Continental Congress adopted the final version of the Declaration of Independence which said: “I am apt to believe that (Independence Day) … ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to G-d Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

I thought that I had my answer. I thought that I knew why we shot off fireworks on the 4th.

But as I was preparing to write this article, I was looking over a recent Torah reading that we have done in Synagogue. And we have been reading a lot about death recently. We read about how to purify oneself if one comes in contact with a dead person. We read about the death of Miriam. We read about the death of Aaron. And, we read about the death of Moses.

How on earth did that fit into our upcoming Independence Day and the shooting off of fireworks? Well, oddly enough, there is more than one connection. First of all, it was Moses, Aaron and Miriam, with the help of G-d, who helped lead the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt to freedom and from the Pharaoh.

Independence Day is about G-d helping us free ourselves from what one could conceive as a more modern Pharaoh, King George III, which brings me back to the whys of fireworks.

You see, in Pre-Revolutionary years, colonists held annual celebrations of the king’s birthday and they did so with ringing of bells, with bonfires, with processions and with speechifying.

But, in 1776, some of those colonists changed things just a tad. Instead of celebrating the king’s birthday, they held mock funerals for King George III. This was a way of expressing being led to freedom from the monarchy. These celebrations included concerts, bonfires, and the firing of muskets and cannons.

So now I thought I had my answer about fireworks.

But, then, I learned from another source that while Congress was in the midst of dealing with war, such loud and beautiful displays were held to build the spirits of those whose loved ones were off fighting for our freedom.

So, now I had my answer.

Nope, because then I found an article that talked about how, after the Revolutionary War, we continued to celebrate the 4th with loud noises, lights in the sky and political orations to create a feeling of unity among all Americans.

Okay, so maybe I’m still not really sure why we have fireworks on the 4th, but we can still enjoy those wondrous displays. And, as for unity, let me remind you, with the recent tragedy in Charleston, that that incredible city has a music festival each year called Moja. Moja is a Swahili word and it means “One.” As we celebrate American Independence Day, let us remember that we are all one. Let us celebrate together in peace, as One Nation, under G-d, Indivisible with liberty and justice for All.

Shalom my friends,

Rabbi Craig H. Ezring

Rabbi Ezring is the Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Israel of Deerfield Beach (201 S. Military Tr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33442). Regular Shabbat services are open to everyone on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11:30 a.m.

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Posted on 25 June 2015 by L.Moore

There’s been a lot of recent news attention given to those in an apparent identity crisis.

Famed Olympian Bruce Jenner unveiled his transformation as Caitlyn on nationwide television.

Rachel Dolezal, a white woman in Spokane, WA, came under the glare of public scrutiny when it was revealed that she had been claiming to be a black woman. Her estranged parents were the ones who outed her for what they felt was a deception since there was no evidence of black heritage in the family tree.

None of this is really shocking in the context of contemporary society. We’ve known for years that there are men who want to be women, women who identify as men, blacks who want to be white, and now there are some whites who think that they are black. Surprising? Not really. Confusing? It doesn’t have to be.

The search for identity has prevailed upon human existence ever since mankind came into being. The Biblical worldview teaches that, in Genesis, God created man and woman giving them specific instructions that pertained to their identity and purpose in creation. It was the serpent, Satan, who posed the question that confused the first man and woman about who they were, and who they could really be (see Genesis, Chapter 3). Falling for the deception that they could be gods themselves, and make their own determinations about good and evil, they violated the one restriction of their Eden existence and plunged mankind into sin and rebellion against God.

The Old Testament portrays God as passionately pursuing mankind so they could reconnect with Him and discover their true identity.

He even established a nation through Abraham to distinguish the blessed life of submission and obedience to the Creator, from a dissatisfactory lifestyle of self-government and self-determination.

The challenge for those whom He called was whether to trust His way and forsake their own ideas, or to reject the notion of a God they could not see while charting their own paths in the visible realities of life.

Psychologists tell us that everyone longs for significance, and a sense of belonging and purpose in life. Our identities are an integral part of where we fit and how we function in the world. It is, therefore, important that we understand who we are and what we are to do, if we hope to find fulfillment in this life.

The New Testament portrays God as lovingly providing a remedy for man’s sin, and offering the opportunity to discover who each of us was created to be. It appears that what Satan suggested in the Garden was actually attainable, if one did it God’s way. John, Chapter 1, Verses 12 and 13, states, “But, as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

It is my prayer that Bruce/Caitlyn and Rachel find their true identity and purpose in a real relationship with God.

It is my prayer for all of those searching for meaning to their existence. The external preoccupation with one’s identity will never satisfy the internal quest for fulfillment.

Only God can fill that vacuum with His presence, His power and His purpose. Only the Creator can define His creation and declare its true intent.

How strange it seems, but also how wonderful it is to discover that in giving up ourselves to Him, we find out who we truly are.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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