| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Defiant gratitude

Posted on 16 November 2017 by LeslieM

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

Before I begin, I want to encourage all people of faith to set aside their differences and unite in solidarity behind the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Let us pray for the 27 who were killed, the 20 who were injured, the community and our nation as we mourn together at the wake of yet one more national tragedy, this time in a place of worship. It is a difficult request; please pray for the gunman and his family as well. He, too, was a victim of evil.

Forgive me, reader, as I allow myself to write as I think. This is my fourth attempt at writing this column and I have started and stopped three times leading up to this final attempt. Why, you may ask. The answer is simple. I am writing about Thanksgiving in the wake of another national tragedy, this time in a place of worship.

As a pastor, I feel a little vulnerable. I think that this is a natural reaction considering the fact that 27 were killed in a place of worship. As a living and breathing human being who is tired of this phenomenon, I am angry. And I feel that my anger is more than justified.

I think I stopped and started three times leading up to this final attempt because, quite honestly, I wasn’t feeling thankful. And I certainly didn’t want my emotions to get the best of me and, honestly, they were getting the best of me. And then I read this passage from Philippians 4:4-7.

I think anytime I read an epistle of St. Paul I consider two things, the writer and his audience. The reality for Paul, as well as the Philippian Church, was a reality of Christian persecution. While I, as well as most of you, was surprised by the atrocity in Sutherland Springs, Texas, neither Paul nor his audience, the Church of Philippi, would have been surprised at all. That was the reality of the early church.

That being said, Paul writes these words: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Is Paul unaware of his own circumstances or the challenges that face the Church of Philippi? Paul doesn’t seem to have a problem being thankful in a time when most people, me included, would.

And then I looked at the words again: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” He did not write “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes, and when you feel happy, Rejoice.” There is a something about Paul’s words that stubbornly cling to hope when society is on the brink of throwing in the towel. I read words of a faith that is, if you will, defiant, as if to say, I am not going to let the circumstances surrounding me drag me down. I will give thanks always, when I feel like it, when I don’t feel like it, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am angry because I will not give the victory to those who would take this away. I call this defiant gratitude. It isn’t glib. It doesn’t ignore the painful reality and the challenges we face. It simply says, “You won’t win, Devil. The victory belongs to God.”

These words played a pivotal role in changing my attitude into an “attitude of gratitude.” But not only that, I have an “attitude of defiant gratitude.”

Thanksgiving is a national holiday as well as a religious one. It is a chance to unite all people of faith, whatever faith that may be. The reality of evil is something that we all face and even our places of worship are vulnerable.

Let us unite in Thanksgiving with defiant gratitude. Let us praise God no matter what the risk may be. Let our families carry on with their celebrations and let us never lose sight of the fact that that which unites us is much stronger than that which divides us. Our greatest common denominator is God. And to God alone, let us give our glory.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Why sending thoughts and prayers amidst tragedy matters

Posted on 09 November 2017 by LeslieM

This is an open letter to those understandably frustrated at the “thoughts and prayers” sentiment made by people of faith during times of tragedy.

I confess that I am an idealist,. not always in the truest philosophical sense; think Clark Griswold (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation): high expectations followed by the disappointment of reality.

For example, I guess it was my years of watching Ponch and John ride tandem down California’s 405 that led me to believe all workplace duos share the same level of camaraderie. Imagine my surprise when one of the first captains I was paired to fly with wouldn’t shake my hand. I wish I could say he was a rarity in the profession, but sadly I flew with many jerks, albeit well-qualified jerks.

So I dreamed of the day when I would be the captain and could decorate my home with thousands of tiny, non-blinking, white lights. Oh, but when I flipped that switch, the lights didn’t come on. I thought once I was captain I could control all aspects of inter-personal relationships, that all would be peachy on the flight deck. Needless to say, I found myself disappointed. I learned quickly that there are far too many factors to control, and, though I may be in charge of the plane, I wasn’t in charge of much overall — a lesson in humility.

Have you ever tried to control a situation to no avail, or made it worse? Has a situation or tragedy made you feel powerless, defeated or overwhelmed? When I experience these feelings, I send my thoughts and prayers.

Why thoughts? For me, because I’m selfish and need to stop and redirect what I’m thinking about and fulfill my humanity by thinking of others, to “mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). Offering my thoughts says I am with you in that I agree you have been wronged. It’s that President Bush moment whilst standing upon the rubble of 9/11 saying, “I hear you; the rest of the world hears you.” My offering of thoughts says to the victims: I hear you and you will not suffer alone.

Why prayers? Because praying reminds me I’m not God. Praying reminds me that we have a God that, as we earnestly seek Him, will not abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). And just as it was naïve of me to think I could control everything as a captain, it would be even more naïve to think amidst a national or global tragedy that I am the solution or know the solution. However, on my knees, I am seeking God in if, how and when I am to personally respond, yielding to the wisdom of a God who is sovereign — measure twice, cut once.

Additionally, I find hope in knowing, as Jon Courson writes in Praying Thru the Tabernacle, “that the burdens that are so heavy to me are no problem for Him.” Hope, because in that time of prayer, I am reminded of God’s nature and character, that He is active: He sent His son to die on a cross for all our sins. My first action then, in any situation, is to humble myself and return to the feet of the One who acted first.

Sending thoughts and prayers is a healthy and humble way for the faithful to affirm unity and remind those affected where to find hope — their everlasting hope — and take the appropriate action without adding to the harm.

Romans 8:36-39 says, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” … despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below. Indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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 connect with him though social media: @thecjwetzler.

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CLERGY CORNER: Can G-d forgive men’s sins

Posted on 01 November 2017 by LeslieM

Like a shepherd examining his flock, causing his sheep to pass under his staff”

(Ancient Jewish Prayer)

Why is this parable used to describe the experience of G-d judging us?

In Jewish law, we tithe our sheep, allowing each to pass through a narrow door, and every tenth one is dedicated for a sacred cause for an offering to G-d.

What happens if the animal has a blemish and is not worthy to be used as an offering? The animal still becomes sacred, yet exchanges it for money, conferring its holiness on the money with which we will purchase a complete one for an offering.

The only way that the animal can be disqualified is if the animal would have died within 12 months on its own due to an illness. Such an animal is not only not good for G-d on the altar, but cannot be eaten by kosher observant Jews even if slaughtered correctly. If the tenth animal happens to be disqualified, then it never becomes holy.

Why doesn’t the blemished animal get off the hook, but the ill one does?

Because the blemished animal is still kosher to eat if slaughtered correctly; however, it is only forbidden to be brought as a sacrifice on the altar. But an animal that is ill and forbidden even from Jews to eat, that can’t become holy.

This is a profound message. If I have a blemish and I can’t be brought as an offering to the Holy Temple, I am still holy and G-d forgives our blemishes. But if I am ill, if I can’t be taken even by people, if people hate me, then G-d can’t forgive me. I need to apologize to the people.

On this unique concept of clemency, in a show of unrestrained compassion, G-d forgives any sin He can, but He does not forgive those he “cannot.” How can G-d forgive a sin which I have committed against Mr. Goldberg? G-d is not Goldberg; for a sin I committed against G-d, G-d can forgive me. For a sin I commit against Goldberg — Goldberg has to forgive me!

Only those who were wronged can right. Only he who has suffered and only he against whom a crime has been committed is entitled to forgive, if he so desires.

The story is told of the rabbi of Brisk who was once unassumingly traveling home on the train. He shared company with a group of callous Jews playing cards. Bothered by his aloof attitude, one of them demanded that he join the game or leave the car. When the rabbi didn’t comply, the fellow physically removed him from the train car.

When the train arrived at Brisk, also the stop of the offender, he was shocked to see the throngs of people who stood there waiting to greet their rabbi. Mortified, he ran over to ask forgiveness but was denied. The rabbi would not forgive his abuser. Not able to be calmed, he tried again and again. Finally, he made contact with the rabbi’s son and begged him to find a way for him to be absolved.

The boy, surprised at his father’s uncharacteristic behavior, agreed to do whatever possible. He visited his father and began discussing the laws of forgiveness. Their discussion touched upon the law that a person must not turn away someone asking his forgiveness more than three times. Taking his cue, the boy asked his father, “What about So-and-So; he’s asked you to forgive him numerous times; yet, you deny him forgiveness?”

He replied, “Him? I cannot forgive him for he didn’t offend me, the rabbi of Brisk; he offended the simpleton he took me to be. If he would have known who I was, he would have never behaved this way; he assumed I was a simpleton and hence he can violate my dignity. I cannot forgive him, because it was not me who he shamed. Let him ask forgiveness from a simpleton.”

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Changing Seasons

Posted on 26 October 2017 by LeslieM

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

King Solomon’s observation of life and human behavior resulted in numerous conclusions which are undeniably true. This particular truth relates to the fluid nature of the human experience. Nothing remains the same, everything changes, and there is an appointed time or season when change will occur. In nature, we identify the progression of time through the changing of the seasons from spring to summer, from summer to fall, from fall to winter, and from winter to spring. Each comes with its own unique personality and characteristics (colorful flowers, hot sun, falling leaves, frigid temperatures).

Depending upon where one lives in this country or on this planet, some seasons are more readily seen and experienced than others. Those of us who live in South Florida feel like it’s always summer here, but the seasons still change. An awareness of the coming change in a season enables us to prepare for it and to adjust to its uniqueness. Summer weather calls for t-shirts, shorts and sandals, while winter’s cold necessitates sweaters, hats and scarves. As we age, we also go through seasons of life with characteristics, expectations, and responsibilities that are unique to each phase. The one constant, however, is that there will be change. Nothing lasts for too long, and each season fulfills some purpose.

The varying experiences that we face (challenge, struggle, satisfaction, success etc.) also tend to be seasonal. Sometimes life is great, and everything seems to be going your way with the wind at your back and calm seas all around. At other times it feels like you’re in a storm and you’re struggling just to stay afloat. We would love to park at the particularly pleasant and rewarding experiences of life and live the remainder of our days there in peace and tranquility. The inevitability of change though indicates that we’d do well to be prepared when our situation undergoes a transition to something else. Though we may not appreciate change, especially when it involves moving from something good to something bad, Solomon’s wisdom indicates that each season serves a purpose.

If you are favored with good circumstances (a good season), celebrate your accomplishments and enjoy your life. Be mindful, however, that things may soon change. If you are in a bad situation (season), seek to understand what lessons it may offer for your future benefit, or for others who are around you. Know that it will not last forever, and that you may well come out the better for it. Sometimes the challenges and difficulties of life are necessary to release the hidden greatness, brilliance, and potential that lies in all of us. Consider that the caterpillar must go through a period (season) of isolation, darkness, and struggle before it emerges as a beautiful butterfly. And oysters must endure a season of agitation and discomfort before producing the precious pearl.

Whatever season you may find yourself in, make the most of it by adjusting to its demands and facing it with confidence. Thank God for bringing you to it, and trust Him knowing that He will see you through it. You have not arrived at it by accident. Though you may be incapable of controlling what happens to you, the power to manage your response is all yours. Be grateful to God for His blessing or His mercy in each circumstance. He has brought you to this for a season and for a purpose.

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: Tragedy: A Call to Metanoia

Posted on 19 October 2017 by LeslieM

Dear Readers:

I write this article with a heavy heart in the wake of the senseless act of violence in Las Vegas. First and foremost, I grieve for the victims and grieve with their families and friends. The whole nation feels the pain and suffering, and it is my prayer that we stand united against violence and work together to prevent an act of this nature from happening again.

I also bear the responsibility of a religious leader who must respond to this act with words of healing and hope. I do not want to repeat the offenses of irresponsible religious leaders who seized the opportunity to grandstand or, worse, blame the victims for their demise. And considering the foolish responses of some, it is tempting to remain silent. Alas, silence is not an option.

After prayerful reflection, I went to scripture. How did Jesus respond to senseless acts of violence or random tragedies? The answer is in Luke 13: 1-5. Jesus was speaking to a crowd that had two tragedies on their mind as Jesus was speaking. One was an act of violence committed by Pontius Pilate’s soldiers against Galilean worshippers. While the historical details are fuzzy, the one thing we know is innocent Galileans were killed by Roman soldiers under the command of Pontius Pilate. This was a senseless act of violence.

The other event was a random event that probably was the result of faulty architecture. The Tower of Siloam collapsed and innocent people were crushed. Again, the people in the crowd wanted to make sense of this random occurrence.

Picking up on the buzz, perhaps even overhearing the conversations of the people, the question arose: “Did these victims do something to bring on the wrath of God?” Jesus gave two answers.

The first answer was “No.” In other words, these bystanders were indeed innocent. God did not punish them. The Romans were clearly the ones to blame for the senseless killing of the Galileans. And who knows who was to blame for the collapse of the Tower. One can only speculate; but it wasn’t God. That much was clear.

The second answer was “However.” The words that followed the “however” did not negate the first answer. However, they may be words that do not sound good to the ears when we hear them in our English translation: “Unless you repent, you will perish as they did.”

I think it is the word “repent” that gives me pause. The word “repent” conjures up images of self-righteous, sanctimonious, judgmental preachers pointing their fingers and frowning at the sinner. Shame-based motivation not only exposes the hypocrisy of the one who uses it, but also just plain doesn’t work. I certainly don’t want that image to remain on our minds, especially at the wake of a tragedy.

So I go to Koine Greek, the language of the New Testament, and come across a word that is much, much better than the English translation. That word is “Metanoia.” Metanoia simply means “to change one’s mind.” The prefix “meta,” which means change, is found in words like “metamorphous” or “to change form.” That word makes me think of butterflies. Butterflies are a much better image in the wake of a tragedy.

So, coming back from the Greek to the English, I can say these words that truly are helpful in the wake of a tragedy. “Unless we learn from this experience, or ‘change our mind,’ we will be doomed to repeat it.” If a tragedy of this nature comes and goes, and we don’t learn from it, then we really are in trouble. This is just common wisdom.

If Jesus is telling us anything, it is this: “Learn from this.” It is my prayer that people of authority can set aside their differences and work for common solution that will keep us safe. That is my prayer.

There are many more things to be learned from this experience that can benefit us right now. I will tell you a few things that I have learned, not only from this tragedy, but the ones that have preceded this (which is an unfortunately a long list).

First, love. Tell the people in your life that you love them. Love your family, your friends and neighbors. Love your enemies too. Love is hard work, but it is worth it.

Second, forgive. “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:6). It is not worth it to hold on to a grudge. If you think a grudge is heavy, try a missed opportunity to forgive.

Third, embrace life. Life is a gift from God. Let us never take this gift for granted. Whatever your religious persuasion may be, I think we can all benefit from love, forgiveness and treating life as a gift.

May God heal us and change us for the better.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: 3 compelling ways to stand out in a world obsessed with fitting in

Posted on 11 October 2017 by LeslieM

Whether it’s a name etched in cement or a boot print on the moon, we desire to make our mark — something that says, I was here. And, if we’re lucky, not even death will prevent our name from continuing beyond our physicality.

However, the problem with fitting in with the world is that it’s hard to stand out. We’re called to be “the light of the world — like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden,” like a lamp to be “placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” living differently “for all to see, so that everyone will praise [our] heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:14-16 NLT).

The following three ideas will help you do more than just leave your mark on Earth, but alter the Kingdom for eternity and bring glory to God — for which there is no greater purpose.

1. Recognize there is a fine line between identifying with the world and being identified by the world. When we attach our identity to anything other than Christ, we risk alienating the very people we are called to love and serve. Whether it’s the kind of vehicle driven or the amount of education achieved, etc., it’s easy to unwittingly project that if you don’t have what I have, you are on the outside, which is the exact opposite message of Christianity.

I never want my lifestyle to make me unapproachable. I might identify with others based on similar interests, but I never want those interests to become my identity. Christ came to invite those on the outside (which includes you and me) to be on the inside where everyone is welcome — yes, even that annoying neighbor you work so diligently to avoid.

2. Accept that being accepted by Christ comes at the expense of being accepted by the world.

If the world hates you, remember that it hated Me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (John 15:18-19 NLT).

To put that in context: Somewhere around A.D. 60-120 King Nero had Christians set on fire as a source of illumination and also had them ravaged to death by dogs for entertainment. While many in the Western culture won’t encounter such atrocities — actual persecution, not #FirstWorldPains — those living for Christ will experience push-back for their beliefs. However, be encouraged knowing that you have access to the Holy Spirit’s power when encountering opposition from a world that released Barabbas and crucified Christ.

3. Leave the results to God. Too often, I succumb to the need for instant gratification. It’s tempting to want to sow the seed, water the soil, then watch impatiently for the stem to break the surface. To put that into a modern context: I’ll post a picture on Instagram then immediately check to see if it got any likes. (I know I’m not alone in this). However, living for immediate results leads to burn out. Paul likens faith to a race, and, if I’ve learned anything from Aesop, it’s that “slow and steady wins the race.” Plus, leaving the results up to God not only eliminates feelings of inadequacy (since we often try to use results to bolster our own credibility, acceptance and worth from the world), but it also communicates to God that we trust Him and believe He deserves the glory.

Though the temptation to fit in is real, we cannot stand out while trying to do so. Yet, if we maintain our identity in Christ, accept that there will be opposition and trust God with the outcome, I believe our desire to fit in — be accepted by the world — diminishes and we, instead, become restless to reach a lost and hurting world for Christ, one that is dark and in need of the light we’ve been given. So abandon conformity with this world and leave your mark on eternity by asking God where you are to be different, then get to writing in the wet cement He’s laid before you.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: How did the Mona Lisa become the most famous painting?

Posted on 05 October 2017 by LeslieM

Why is the Mona Lisa the most famous painting in the world? Her enigmatic smile? The mystery surrounding her identity? The fact she was painted by Renaissance pin-up boy Leonardo da Vinci? Sure, all of these things helped boost the popularity of the 16th century masterpiece. But what really catapulted the small, unassuming portrait to international stardom was a daring burglary over 100 years ago.

When Italian handyman Vincenzo Peruggia, who worked as a handy man for the museum, stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre museum in Paris, in August 1911, he never could have guessed her absence would be the very thing that made her the most recognizable painting on the planet.

Suddenly, images of the artwork were splashed across international newspapers, as the two-year police hunt hit dead-end after dead-end.

It wasn’t until December, 1913, two years after the theft, that Peruggia was finally caught and the Mona Lisa recovered, becoming the best known painting.

It is fascinating to note that when the museum reopened, after being closed for a week following the larceny, throngs of people came to stare at the spot where the Mona Lisa had been. In fact, during those two years, more people came to see the vacant spot, than came to see the Mona Lisa before it was stolen all the years before!

Today, she is the jewel in the Louvre’s crown, helping attract around 10 million visitors to the Paris museum annually.

Had Peruggia instead slipped another artwork under his cloak that fateful day, it could have been a very different story.

If a different one of Leonardo’s works had been stolen, then that would have been the most famous work in the world — not the Mona Lisa,” said Noah Charney, professor of art history and author of The Thefts of the Mona Lisa.“There was nothing that really distinguished it per se, other than it was a very good work by a very famous artist — that’s until it was stolen,” he added. “The theft is what really skyrocketed its appeal and made it a household name.”

So, in a very funny way, the best thing that could ever happen for the Mona Lisa was that it was stolen! “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Without knowing it, the thief of this painting, trying to hurt the Louvre and restore dignity back to Italy, did her the greatest favor and transformed Mona Lisa into the legend it is.

Friend, you have just grasped the essence and the beauty of Yom Kippur. Each of our souls is a beautiful piece of art — even more beautiful than the Mona Lisa. Each of our lives, carved in the image of the Divine, is unique, dignified and extraordinary.

But we often allow our “art” to get stolen. We allow our souls, our goodness, our holiness, our purity, our inner power to be compromised, to go under cover and become absent from our lives. We search and we search and it is so hard to reclaim!

Yet, if we persist, as we rediscover our inner piece of art, its value becomes infinitely more precious — even more than before the theft! It is precisely due to our challenges, failures, breakdowns, mistakes and frustrations that when our goodness, our inner power, our Neshamah- Soul is recovered through repentance, it is so much more powerful, bright, and brilliant!  

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Preparing for the storm

Posted on 28 September 2017 by LeslieM

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have demonstrated why we must take every precaution whenever a storm threatens. We had scarcely come to terms with the devastating impact of Harvey on areas of Texas and Louisiana, when meteorologists began informing us that another, potentially more powerful hurricane was forging a path towards South Florida. Scenes of wind battered homes, downed powerlines, rising flood waters and boats flung onto shore struck fear in many hearts. State and local officials began warning residents to evacuate the most vulnerable areas, to stock up on water and other supplies, and to secure their properties from possible damage.

Almost immediately water disappeared from store shelves and gas stations were bombarded by long lines of cars. Home supply stores struggled to keep up with the demand for plywood, and contractors began working longer hours to accommodate calls for help in securing homes.

The level of preparation and response was tremendous. It is estimated that well over a million people heeded the advice to evacuate, and the clogged traffic on I-75 North and the Turnpike gave evidence to the concern of the public. There were even power and utility companies from other states making preparation to aid Florida once the storm had passed.

Thankfully, for the most part, Florida avoided the worst of Irma’s fury. Any loss of life is always regrettable, and the destruction in the Keys was heartbreaking to observe. The storm is gone, however, and there is time now to reflect and put things into perspective even as we rebuild, resume and restore. Storms of nature, particularly hurricanes, can be forecast, but they are largely unpredictable. No one can say for certain what path they will take, and what intensity they will arrive with. All we can do, as our governor repeatedly warned, is to expect the best but prepare for the worst. Storms of life (adversity, setback or heartbreak) are also unavoidable and unpredictable, but we should equally take precautions to minimize their impact as well.

While it is easy to secure windows with plywood and shutters, our hearts and emotions cannot be ‘covered’ in the same way. A hard heart and disconnected attitude are antithetical to the normative human experience. We need something more akin to hurricane-impact windows and doors that negate the need to cover-up during an approaching storm. Able to withstand powerful wind forces, they are made to protect while offering the intended function of allowing light in and visibility out.

How does one reinforce the heart and emotions to be able to survive the storms of life? Take time to cultivate and appreciate the relationships that matter most in your life. A devoted spouse, loving family and committed friends are indispensable aids to staying grounded during trying times. A fine house, fancy car, and even money, are unable to comfort the anguish of a bruised spirit. We were designed to fellowship with others and we will need them when the storms come. Proverbs 17:17 tells us, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Faith is also an invaluable asset to the strength of the heart and mind. Despite our knowledge and understanding, there are still things beyond our comprehension and control. Believers have settled on the fact that there is someone greater than ourselves, who holds our lives in His hands. It is comforting to put your trust in a God you cannot see but whose presence you can feel. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, will not we fear, though the earth be removed and carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters therefore roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof… The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” With this kind of protection in place we can survive the storms of life.

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: Finding our strength

Posted on 21 September 2017 by LeslieM

First and foremost, my prayers are with our whole community as we recover from Hurricane Irma. This ordeal has brought the community together and, together, we will get through this. I think that it is safe to say, it could have been worse and we should be grateful that the projections that we feared did not come to full fruition. That being said, there was a lot of loss. And while we pray prayers of gratitude, we also pray for those who lost a lot, including our neighbors who took the hit directly in the Florida Keys, the Everglades and the Naples area [and the Caribbean and elsewhere].

I also want to say to all of the first responders, emergency workers, those working to restore power, news reporters, or anyone else who worked around the clock to and through the storm, thank you. Hurricanes remind us of who the real heroes are and God used these brave men and women to keep us safe through the worst part of the storm. God bless you and the work you do.

I have served 21 of my 23 years of ministry in Florida and I have seen my share of hurricanes and tropical storms. I have to say, this one had me scared more than any. I can say that hurricanes have the tendency to put things in perspective. It takes a mortal threat to realize that some things we deem as important really are not that important and the things that are important, like life, family and friends, cannot be replaced. We know the difference between a problem and a nuisance. It is a problem to lose your home; it is a nuisance to lose your cable.

I wish I could say that my first hurricane put things in perspective for me and they have remained their ever since. But when the storm passes, the dust settles, the branches and debris are cleared away and the power comes back on, things go back to normal. After normal comes, comfort follows, as well as contentment. It doesn’t take long before one finds oneself taking things for granted.

The night I went to bed and the power was out, I prayed to God a prayer that I didn’t intend to sound like I was bargaining with God. In hindsight, I think I did. But it went something like this: “God, if you spare the life of my family and my home, I will be eternally grateful and never forget.” The hurricane passed, the power came back on, the shower was warm, the air conditioning was cool, water was cold, coffee was hot and all was looking good. The gratitude was abundant, just not eternal.

First came normal, then came comfort followed by contentment. And then the old habit of taking things for granted set in. One of my children cried out in anguish: “Where is the Wifi?” Really? You just survived a hurricane and you are complaining about Wifi? And then I turned on the television which I had set to record a football game playing on a network not preempted by hurricane coverage. No electricity, no cable, no DVR, no football. And then I cried out in anguish: “I cannot watch the football game.” Really, I just survived a hurricane and I was complaining about my DVR?

I wish I could say I sustained my gratitude for a good solid week, but I found myself in that place where I was prior to the hurricane within a couple hours of getting power back. Yes, I am a person of faith, but an imperfect person of imperfect faith. And the hurricane taught me that lesson as well.

Now, we face the potential of other storms. We simply do not know what our near future is going to be when it comes to weather. All the spaghetti models in the world won’t tell us exactly what the future has in store for us. At best, we can make an educated guess. But we do know where we can find our strength to get through to the other side of the coming storm. Our strength comes with our faith in God.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Our collective prayer for the world

Posted on 14 September 2017 by LeslieM

As I write this, it’s 4:05 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, and I am hunkered down in my office patiently awaiting Hurricane Irma — stocked with Voltage soda and plenty of candy. This article releases after Irma will have passed, undoubtedly leaving a path of destruction and many asking why? Why God? Why Irma? Why Harvey? Why an earthquake off the coast of Mexico? Why the wildfires in Montana and LA [and Oregon]? Why the flooding in South Asia? Why?

Though we may not be able to fully understand the why ourselves, I do know our God is sovereign — fully in control. Still, naturally, we seek answers; yet it was the apostle Paul, a follower of Jesus, in his letter to the Romans, that writes, “How impossible it is for us to understand His decisions and His ways. For who can know the Lord’s thoughts?” Romans 11:33-34 NLT). So what can we do? James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16 NLT). So let us “[not] worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what [we] need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then [we] will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:6-7 NLT)

With that said, join me in praying in one accord, without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), the following:

Dear Lord, we first and foremost approach You in thanksgiving. We thank You for Your creation: the land and the seas; the sun that shines so brightly that we need specially approved glasses to gaze upon it. We thank You for salvation through Your Son Jesus — for His sacrifice on the cross that set us free from the punishment of our sins. We thank You for Your Word and the awe-inspiring ways You reveal Yourself to us. You are the Alpha and the Omega; the Beginning and the End. You are our Father in Heaven and we come before you with heavy hearts. God, to those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, beloved pet and/or property, we ask for Your peace and comfort to overflow upon them. Allow them to feel Your presence physically, but also recognize Your care and concern for them through the local body of believers co-laboring alongside them in the restoration efforts.

Father, continue to keep watch over the first responders: the military, police, fire/EMS, medical professionals, power company linemen, disaster relief staff/volunteers and anyone assisting in the relief efforts. We honor them for their sacrifice — physical, mental and financial, as they put their life on the line, and on hold, to serve others. We also pray for and give thanks for those who were unable to physically be present during a global relief event but donated money and/or resources.

Lord, we also pray for the local governments. Let them feel supported by their constituency and not grow weary in the completion of their duties. Remind them that You alone have established them in their role for such a time and place as this (Romans 13:1 NLT); and that they have access to Your power, wisdom and knowledge.

Most High, we also give thanks for and pray for the many churches, corporations and small businesses that have rallied together to provide relief such as shelter, food and other necessities that ensure safety and reestablishes communication between loved ones. Allow the private sector to know our gratitude for their sacrifice, assistance and sense of obligation to the world at large.

Lastly, we pray that through all that has occurred, and is still ongoing that the world will, through our unity, experience Your presence and recognize that you sent us — the Body of Christ (John 17:23 NLT), and that no trouble or calamity, persecution, hunger or danger — not even death; nothing in all creation, which includes natural disasters — can separate them from Christ’s love. “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is [theirs] through Christ…” (Romans 8:31-39 NLT). To You be the glory. Amen.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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