| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Challenges, comebacks and championships

Posted on 23 June 2016 by LeslieM

The 2016 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers had quite the battle in winning the series last Sunday against the Golden State Warriors. Despite being down 3-1 by the time game five rolled around, LeBron James and his teammates found the will to defeat the defending champion Warriors for three straight games, and made history in the process. The odds-makers were sure that Golden State would repeat since no team had ever overcome a 3-1 deficit. A further hurdle was the fact that Cleveland had not had a major sports championship team since 1964, and had never won the coveted NBA title. The 2016 Champions proved that odds can be overcome and challenges can be conquered.

In the emotional post-game interviews with reporters, LeBron James acknowledged the great struggle he and his teammates had to overcome. It was a deeply fulfilling night for the Cavaliers’ star player who had made it his goal to bring the championship home to Cleveland ever since his return from a four-year stint with the Miami Heat.

Fans in Cleveland had voiced their displeasure with LeBron when he left Cleveland in 2010 to play in Miami. They had felt betrayed and abandoned, and their team suffered its worst seasons without James’ skills and leadership. But, on last Sunday night, all was forgiven as delirious fans celebrated the win in the streets of Cleveland, and hailed their hero, Lebron James.

In 1 Samuel 30, David and his men returned to their campsite in Ziklag to find it a smoldering ash heap, the result of a sneak attack by the Amalekites. Further compounding their distress was the fact that their wives and children had been taken captive by the enemy. The emotional trauma of the moment overwhelmed the tough fighting men who cried until they had no more power to weep. Frustration soon gave way to anger as they then contemplated stoning their leader, David, who had become the object of their blame. David somehow found the strength to encourage himself and inspired his men to pursue the enemy in the process.

There are powerful life lessons in both the Biblical account of David and his men, and in the championship quest of LeBron James and his teammates:

1) Never make a permanent decision in a temporary situation. Down 3-1 in the finals, LeBron could have concluded that the odds were too great and the championship run was over. David could have given in to his despair and considered suicide when his men turned against him.

2) There are times when the help you need lies deep inside of you. When you are playing on your opponent’s home court and thousands of fans are screaming and booing to distract you, it takes incredible focus and internal fortitude to stay true to your game. David was able to retreat from the unnerving sounds of mutiny around him and seek solace and encouragement in spiritual communion with God.

3) Acknowledge God’s presence and power at work in your life. LeBron opined that God (the man upstairs) must have intended for the Cavaliers to take the hard road to the championship. David looked to God for direction concerning a mission of recovery and was inspired to pursue.

4) Setbacks can turn into comebacks. The Cavaliers’ heroic effort paid off, winning them the championship and great respect in the world of sports. David eventually caught up with the Amalekites, recovered the kidnapped families and returned with the spoils of war.

May you and I find the courage to face our obstacles, confident that we can overcome them, and may God enable us to do, with His aid, what we cannot do on our own.

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: “Love your fellow as yourself”

Posted on 16 June 2016 by LeslieM

This week, we celebrated the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot. On Shavuos, G-d gave the Jewish people his Torah.

A gentile once came before Shammai and said: “Convert me to Judaism, on the stipulation that you teach me the entire Torah as I stand on one leg.” Shammai drove him off with the builder’s measuring stick in his hand. [The Talmudic sage Shammai was a builder by profession.]

He then came before Hillel, who converted him. Said Hillel to him: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary — go and learn.”

Hillel and Shammai were two leading rabbis of the early 1st century BCE. They lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus, in the turbulent and bloody century before the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. It is in this conversation that Hillel sums up all of Torah — to treat another person like you would like to be treated. Imagine, if each of us would live that way!

One century later, Rabbi Akiva would comment on the verse “Love your fellow as yourself.” This is a cardinal principle in the Torah. As we once again receive the Torah on Shavuos 2016, this remains the summary of all of Torah: Treat the other like you wish to be treated.

Judaism is a religion of words. G-d created the natural world with words. We create, and sometimes destroy, the social world with words. That is one reason why Judaism has so strong an ethic of speech. The other reason, surely, is its concern to protect human dignity.

Psychological injury may be no less harmful and sometimes is even more harmful than physical injury. Hence the rule: never humiliate, never put to shame, never take refuge in the excuse that they were only words, that no physical harm was done.

In 2008, world renowned composer Benjamin Zander gave a TED Talk called “The Transformative Power of Classical Music.” This is how he ended his talk: What we say really makes a difference. The words that come out of our mouth really do matter. I learned this from a woman who survived Auschwitz, one of the rare survivors. She went to Auschwitz when she was 15 years old. And her brother was eight, and the parents were lost. And she told me this.

She said, “We were in the train going to Auschwitz, and I looked down and saw my brother’s shoes were missing. I said, ‘Why are you so stupid? Can’t you keep your things together for goodness’ sake?’ the way an elder sister might speak to a younger brother.”

Unfortunately, it was the last thing she ever said to him, because she never saw him again. He did not survive. And, so, when she came out of Auschwitz, she made a vow.

She said, “I walked out of Auschwitz into life and I made a vow. And the vow was, ‘I will never say anything that couldn’t stand as the last thing I ever say.’”

Now, can we do that? No. But it is a possibility to live into. Never ever embarrass someone — not a child, not even an adult, not your spouse, not your child, nor a stranger.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon! For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Care a little more

Posted on 09 June 2016 by LeslieM

I’ve heard that social media is good and bad. Unfortunately, both are an oversimplification, void of a deeper understanding (as I would argue that social media has both “good” and “bad” qualities — key word, qualities).

One of the “bad” qualities is what researchers have determined about stories in our social media newsfeed, how they carry equal weight. Everything shares the proverbial front page. Couple that with the saturation of tragedies posted, desensitizing us to their weightiness, and no wonder silly cat videos go viral. The “bad” qualities have led us straight into being overwhelmed, jaded and complacent … case-and-point, me.

Last week, while scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, I came across a picture of a young boy lying in a hospital bed connected to monitoring equipment. The tag line asked for prayer. I started to pray. I wish I could say that I rolled out of bed and dropped to my knees. Or that I at least prayed something more meaningful than, “Lord, be with this young boy; heal him.” But I didn’t. And it was then and there that the Holy Spirit convicted me. I asked God to lead me in what I should pray. What flashed through my mind next was probably one of the most authentic prayers I’ve ever uttered. “Lord, I wish I cared more.”

The truth: I was going through the motions — knocking out my obligatory prayer. I wanted to sleep. But God, after His conviction, prompted me to continue to aimlessly scroll through my newsfeed. He knew that just a few posts away was the same boy, except this time, the picture included detailed instructions how to pray. God is good and I prayed — for real.

While the main plot was that of the young boy — whose surgery went well — the side story included my growth. I decided from that day forward I would commit to caring more. Philippians 2:4 reads, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” and Romans 12:10 says, “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.” I want to take this wisdom to heart as I live the command of John 13:34-35 to “[love] each other [just] as [Christ has] loved you,” so that “[your] love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.

Did you know that the average age for children being recruited for prostitution is 13 years old, which Peter Haas, in his book Broken Escalators: Funny and Frightful Lessons about Moth Eating and Moving to the Next Level, reports that these children who are coerced or trafficked comprise nearly 20 percent of Internet porn. And just how much cash is spent on pornographic material daily? Haas confirms that among China, the U.S., Japan and South Korea, a whopping $236 million is consumed … per day. What else happens per day? Haas continues, 21,000 children under 5 years old die from poverty-related illnesses. Toss in racism, terrorism, corruption you name it, and it can be overwhelming living in a world that has succumbed to sin.

If you’re like me, you will want to do something. You will want to care more. I love what Benjamin Kerns writes about righting injustices in his book From the Pen to the Palace: A Youth Ministry Evangelism and Discipleship Strategy For a Post-Christian Culture; he calls us to “[leverage] our power for the benefit of others.” We see this modeled by Christ in how He cared, how He loved. Eugene Cho writes in Overrated: Are We More in Love with the Idea of Changing the World than Actually Changing the World? whether it was the widow, the leper, the adulterer, the prostitute, the marginalized, the oppressed, the forgotten, the rich, the poor, the hurting, the joyful, (you name it), Jesus lived justly and He calls us to follow suit: to love as He loves … to care more.

Join me and, together, let us be the Church — one that loves others by caring more than just in thought, but in deed.

C.J. 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: Let your music soar

Posted on 02 June 2016 by LeslieM

The story is told of a king who decided to reward a peasant who had done him a great service. “Shall I give him a sack of gold? A bag of pearls?” thought the king. “But these mean virtually nothing to me. I want, for once, to truly give something – something that I will miss, a gift that constitutes a sacrifice for me.”

Now this king had a nightingale who sang the sweetest songs a human ear had ever heard. He treasured the nightingale over all else and found life unbearable without it. So he summoned the peasant to his palace and gave him the bird. “This,” said the king, “is in appreciation for your loyalty and devotion.”

Thank you, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, and took the royal gift to his humble home.

A while later, the king was passing through the peasant’s village and commanded his coachman to halt at the peasant’s door.

How are you enjoying my gift?” he inquired of his beloved subject.

The truth to tell, Your Majesty,” said the peasant, “the bird’s meat was quite tough – all but inedible, in fact. But I cooked it with lots of potatoes, and it gave the stew an interesting flavor.”

Is this freedom?

People often ask, “Why does Judaism prohibit me from doing whatever I want? Why can’t we just be free, liberated and individualistic? Why are there so many laws, instructions and rituals in Judaism that govern every aspect of one’s life, from the way we eat to the way we marry? Would it not have been nice if the opening of the Ten Commandments would have read like this: ‘I am the Lord your G-d who has taken you out of Egypt in order to set you free. Now, young women and men, listen ye to my words! You can do whatever you want, wherever you want, however you want, with whomever you want, as long as you don’t hurt another person. I honor your individual rights to choose your own lifestyle and behavior, without anybody governing your decisions. Conform not to any standard; just live it up!’”

Is this why we left the house of bondage in Egypt – to become slaves to the Almighty?

The Sages saw it otherwise. “There is no free man, except for he who occupies himself with the study of Torah” (Ethics of the Fathers, 6:2.) Really? If anything, it is exactly the other way around: as long as you don’t learn Torah, you are free to engage in so many activities, the options are open. Once you embrace Torah, there goes your freedom … Torah mixes into everything … A life that is faithful to the precepts of the Torah is indeed greatly “constricted” and “confined.”

Scattering the energy

On the face of it, the Jewish code of behavior is a limiting factor, something that detracts from the great variety of possibilities that life has to offer. In truth, however, the very opposite is the case.

A life without parameters is a life that quickly dissipates into the cosmic heterogeneity in which we exist, draining it of all power and impact. When we follow our instincts, habits, cravings and appetites without any restrictions, our inner momentum, focus and depth are weakened. When we allow ourselves the freedom to go in every direction, when there are no boundaries or limitations and we are free to do everything and anything – our light scatters all over the place and we never realize our ultimate power and potential. Our energies are squandered, our richness is compromised, our creativity silenced and our brightness dulled.

Conversely, when we “restrict” the light, and do now allow it to flow anywhere and everywhere, we fine-tune our inner creativity, we cultivate our power, we become the most powerful people we can become, we access all of our momentum and we can vaporize even steel …

It is like the chords of a violin which must be tied down to allow the music to play. Torah and Halacha (law) do not come to tie us down, but rather to allow our music to soar.

The Baal Shem Tov teaches that the word Halacha is the acronym of “let the whole earth sing to G-d.” What is meat-and-potatoes for one person is a nightingale for another person, capable of producing the most beautiful music in the world.

Shavuot is the Holiday in which G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people 3,328 years ago. This year, we celebrate Shavuot on June 12 and 13.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon! For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The power of words

Posted on 26 May 2016 by LeslieM

This election cycle has produced an ongoing war of words between opposing candidates. And while it is not a new phenomenon in the contest to attain a political office, the growth of Twitter and other social media platforms has increased the exposure that candidates and their words normally receive. In this season, the demeaning and destructive tone of political rhetoric has resounded among both of the dominant parties of this country. Many are beginning to lament that what ought to be a contest of ideas has degraded to carefully crafted attacks intended to destroy one’s opponent.

In his observation of human life and behavior, King Solomon concluded that “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). There is a power inherent in words to set or change the course of a person’s life and destiny. Our earliest awareness of this is during childhood, when kind words spoken to us make us feel good about ourselves whereas harsh words create hurt, fear, or sadness. The old expression “sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never harm me” was not true at all. Name calling, especially among children and the emotionally fragile, can inflict grievous psychological and spiritual injury. Consider the effect that bullying has on young people who felt trapped, and who gave in to despair.

We must be careful to monitor what we say in conversation with each other. Even as adults we are not immune to the effects of positive or negative discourse. An ill-timed word can quickly create an argument, but a well-placed word can just as soon quiet a verbal tempest. What we say is important, and how we say it is even more so. Our thought life is affected primarily by the words that we hear or read throughout our lives, and we communicate chiefly through our speech and conversations. How much easier would it be for us to live together if we were more encouraging, helpful, and kind with our words?

Jesus taught that we will be called into account for the things that we say. In Matthew 12:36-37 He stated, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

It is true that the intense emotions of our particular circumstances can often be the stimulus for hasty speech and unplanned outbursts, but a well-managed demeanor is a characteristic of mature individuals. Constantly apologizing for words that were spoken can be indicative of a problem that one should seek help in correcting. Those who excuse their harsh and critical language may discover that their words will return to haunt them one day.

Perhaps this is why King David demonstrated an awareness of the power of words in some of his psalms. He advised, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies” in Psalm 34:13. And he prayed that God would approve of his conversations in Psalm 19:14, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” That sounds like good practice and a good petition for all of us to mimic and employ in our interaction with each other. Choose your words carefully for they have power to bring about both good and bad.

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: Give me some passion

Posted on 19 May 2016 by LeslieM

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people: “Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel: Your fathers dwelt of old time beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor; and they served other gods.”

Why does Joshua begin admonishing the people with the observation of how morally degraded our ancestors were? Besides, which of our ancestors worshiped idols? Abraham smashed the idols and embraced Monotheism! True, it took Abraham some time until he discovered that the idols were futile. But why would we make mention of that at this point?

The answer is powerful. Joshua is not simply describing our disgraceful past, “In the beginning our fathers served idols; but now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Rather, Joshua is explaining why indeed G-d brought us close to His service. “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Had our fathers not worshiped idols, G-d could have never brought us close to Him.

What indeed was the difference between our grandfather Terach and our father Abraham? If Abraham rationally realized that the statutes of his father were nothing but lifeless, stone images, and that the universe must have a transcendental designer and creator, why could his father not understand this?

The foundations of Judaism do not require blind faith. They are rational. To assume that a house was built by contractor, not by mistake as a result of an avalanche randomly combining the bricks, is not irrational. To accept that an infinite and brilliant world has a designer who is mindful is rational. To accept that quintillions of atoms, structured in a way to create all the matter around us, were organized by intent is not foolish. To observe billions of units of DNA embedded in a single cell of a tiny organism and assume someone organized them is as irrational as thinking that a computer program consisting of three billion organized codes was randomly compiled by error. And remember, DNA does not create a computer program; it is the source of life.

If so, why is it that some are like Abraham — they will reject the deities of the time and embrace truth, while others will be like Terach, continue to stick to old, comfortable irrational notions?

The answer is “In the beginning our fathers served idols”— and that is why “now the Omnipresent One has brought us close to His service.” Abraham worshipped idols! That is the key. He took faith seriously. He craved to know the truth. He was idealistically searching to find what is at the core of life. He served idols with passion, and deep commitment, believing that they constitute the answer to the question of life.

His father Terach was not searching for truth, only for comfort. The god statues provided a fine business and he would not be disturbed by philosophical questions.

Do you care for truth or not? That makes all the difference. Our forefathers worshipped idols. They passionately believed this was “it.” When they found the real G-d, they channeled their passion toward truth.

But if you are a person who does not worship anybody or anything — only your own needs and comforts at any moment, then even if you understand the truth about the universe, it makes little difference.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The way a child should go

Posted on 12 May 2016 by LeslieM

I dare say that my role as a pastor for students and their families is considerably more challenging than my previous one as an airline captain. That’s not to downplay the demands of the airline profession — trust me, it’s intense. It’s just that when you find yourself embedded in the clouds, with no land in sight, the instrumentation, airport technology and air traffic control perform exactly as they’re designed to: guiding the plane safely, under zero visibility, to the runway. And, let me tell you, when you break out of the cloud deck at 50 ft. above the runway while hauling toward the Earth at roughly 150 miles per hour, it’s exhilarating … but, predictable … quite the opposite from children and teens.

There is the messy business of being called to “Train up a child in the way [they] should go” so that when they are older, “[they] will not depart from itProverbs 22:6. That begs the question: In which way should they go?

Dr. Seuss has a few suggestions, as do the authors of Nurture Shock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. They set out to identify a list of “supertraits” hoping children with a firm grasp of “gratitude, honesty, empathy [and] fairness” would become “good children” in which problems such as “stealing, feeling bored or distressed, excluding others, early sexual activity and succumbing to peer pressure” would essentially “bounce off them just as easily as bullets bounced off Superman.” What they discovered though, through copious amounts of research, is that these “supertraits” can’t be relied upon to act as “moral Kevlar.”

In this absence of a predictable outcome, control has become our new idol. In the documentary Trophy Kids, one parent of a 9-year-old shares his belief about the goal of parenting: “Get [your] kid to buy into your dream and to your ambition, that’s the key.” Another parent with twin 14-year-old boys informed them that their identity is in playing tennis, and that her will for them, for which she’s made a covenant with God on their behalf, is that they become tennis superstars.

Maybe the aforementioned parents teeter on the extreme, but a new generation of controlling parents has materialized called “Helicopter Parents.” Dr. Tim Elmore in his book Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future says this of Helicopter Parents: “These hovering ‘helicopters’ can be controlling and obsessive in their efforts to ensure that everything goes well for their children and that no negative incident affects their self-esteem or their prospects.” Little do these parents understand that, because of their actions, their child isn’t learning the ability to fail and persevere. The “hovering” parent is “[preparing] the path for the child instead of the child for the path.”

In Scripture, time and time again, God prepares the individual for the path, not the other way around. Take David for example. Battling Goliath wasn’t his first altercation. In 1 Samuel 17:33 we see that David “has been a warrior from his youth”— going all commando against lions and bears (“Oh my!” says every parent). Prior to the big match-up, Saul offered up his armor to David, which he declined, knowing it wasn’t needed. (How many times do we try to put our identity — that we rationalize as “armor” or “protection”— on the children under our care?) Later, we see that David “ran quickly toward the battle…1 Samuel 17:48, signifying his eagerness and trust in the Lord, slinging the stone, which had the same take-down force of a .45 caliber pistol, into the forehead of the towering infantryman armed with a spear — talk about your classic bringing a knife to a gun fight — “… thus David prevailed over the Philistine1 Samuel 17:50.

In David’s story, we see God’s design for the way a child should go — to prevail. They are to be equipped through undergoing challenging experiences, yes, struggles that reveal a true relationship with their Father, creating in them a secure understanding of their identity — who God has ordained them to become. From there, we can trust (in God) that they will eagerly take up their calling and accomplish — prevail in — His work, not ours.

C.J. 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: A Passover Seder narrative “This is the bread of affliction…”

Posted on 05 May 2016 by LeslieM

It is easy to miss the revolutionary idea behind the annual Passover Seder, in which we actively commemorate our slavery in Egypt and our subsequent redemption. In it, we attempt to turn hurt into a positive force.

We know that the parents most likely to abuse their children are those who were themselves abused when young. People who have been hurt tend to hurt others. The Seder came to reverse this instinctive response.

When the Jews had just been released from Egyptian slavery, the Torah commands, “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Because you were in Egypt and felt the pain caused by abuse, learn from it not to oppress the stranger, the orphan or the widow. You experienced injustice, therefore practice justice. You know what it is like to be a slave; therefore, do not enslave others. You have been hated; therefore, love your neighbor.

The Israelites could have well derived an entirely different lesson from their slave experience: “Do unto others as they did unto you.” Yet, the opening of the Seder is right in the beginning of the Haggadah; we declare, “This is the bread of affliction which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat.” Wait a moment! If I was given bread of poverty, I might give the same to others. The Seder says otherwise: We know the taste of poverty. What’s the conclusion? We will ensure that others don’t go hungry.

All of us have been hurt. What do we do with that hurt? This is the question which distinguishes between the free man and the slave. The free man uses the hurt to know how not to treat others, to empathize with others; the victim continues to perpetrate what has been perpetrated on him.

The Wounded Puppy

A store owner was tacking a sign above his door that read “Puppies For Sale.” Signs like that have a way of attracting small children and, sure enough, a little boy appeared by the store owner’s sign.

How much are you going to sell the puppies for?” he asked.

The store owner replied, “Anywhere from $30-$50.”

The little boy reached in his pocket and pulled out some change.

I have $2.37,” he said. “May I please look at them?”

The store owner smiled and whistled; out of the kennel came Lady, who ran down the aisle of his store followed by five teeny, tiny balls of fur. One puppy was lagging considerably behind.

Immediately, the little boy singled out the lagging, limping puppy and said, “What’s wrong with that little dog?”

The store owner explained that the veterinarian had examined the little puppy and had discovered it didn’t have a hip socket. It would always limp. It would always be lame. The little boy became excited. “That is the little puppy that I want to buy,” he said.

The store owner said, “No, you don’t want to buy that little dog. If you really want him, I’ll just give him to you.”

The little boy got quite upset. He looked into the store owner’s eyes, pointing his finger, and said, “I don’t want you to give him to me. That dog is worth every bit as much as all the other dogs and I’ll pay full price. In fact, I’ll give you $2.37 now, and 50 cents a month until I have him paid for.”

The store owner countered, “You really don’t want to buy this little dog. He is never going to be able to run and jump, and play with you, like the other puppies.”

To this, the little boy reached down and rolled up his pant leg to reveal a badly twisted, crippled left leg supported by a big metal brace. He looked up at the store owner and softly replied, “Well, I don’t run so well myself, and the little puppy will need someone who understands!”

When we experience pain in our life, we can become more bitter, or more empathetic. We can either say: I had this pain let me make sure you have it, too. Or we can say: I had this pain, I know what it feels like, I will ensure you don’t.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches located in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming programs and events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Life after Resurrection

Posted on 28 April 2016 by LeslieM

The film Miracles from Heaven recounts the real life story of Anna Beam. Suffering from an incurable condition, the 10-year-old girl has a near death experience (NDE) that dramatically changes her life. Made on a modest $13 million budget, the heartwarming story has delighted audiences worldwide and earned about $70 million at the box office. In recent years, there have been increased accounts of people who reportedly had a NDE. Studies focused on the after effects of such an experience have revealed common traits among those who supposedly died and came back to life. An amazing ability to live in the present, an abiding sense of deep confidence, decreased interest in material possessions, a strong sense of life’s purpose and a greater spiritual awareness are among those traits.

Though all survivors do not exhibit all of these traits, they possess enough of them to show how life-changing a NDE is. One’s outlook may change, his disposition may be significantly altered, and life is not lived in the same way as before. In some instances, one may even be completely different after having died and come back to life.

A similar change can be noted in the lives of true Christian believers. Spiritually, they have experienced death and now possess a changed outlook on life. Believing in Jesus Christ means that we have died to sin and have been raised to new life. Paul, the apostle, confirms this in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

There should be a distinct difference in our motivations, focus and prospects compared to what they were before we experienced new life. Many believers have attested to the change that following Christ has made in their lives, and to their lives. The late gospel singer/songwriter Walter Hawkins had a popular song on one of his albums that proclaimed, “a change, a change has come over me; He changed my life and now I’m free.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul puts it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”

This change is revealed in the interactions of the risen Savior with His disciples in the gospels. In the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension, the Lord confirmed for His followers back then, as well as for those who follow Him now, that salvation is more than just the restoration of fellowship with God, it is a call to service, an assignment in the kingdom, and life’s purpose is now to live in such a way as to bring glory to God.

Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His disciples were deliberate and intentional. They confirmed that He was indeed alive, but also included specific instructions about the ministry His disciples had been preparing for. He commissioned them to take His message to their people and ultimately to the nations of the world. Their obedience to the Lord’s directives brought about the establishment of the Christian church and way of life, which has impacted the world for 21 centuries.

Having celebrated the annual observation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, believers must now engage in self-examination of their own lives. The truths of our faith must be lived out and validated in our witness to the world. Then, others will know that there is not just life after death, but there is life after resurrection as well.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: The First Commandment

Posted on 21 April 2016 by LeslieM

The Biblical account of the Jewish Exodus from Egypt has been one of the most inspiring stories for the oppressed, enslaved and downtrodden through out history. From the American Revolution to the slaves of the American South, to Martin Luther King’s “Let Freedom Ring,” the narrative of the Exodus provided countless peoples with the courage to hope for a better future and to act on the dream.

Moses’s first visit to Pharaoh demanding liberty for his people only brought more misery to the Hebrew slaves; the Egyptian monarch increased their torture. The Hebrews would not listen any longer to the promise of redemption. Now, let us pay heed to this strange verse in Exodus, in the Torah portion Vaeira:

So G-d spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and He commanded them to the children of Israel, and to Pharaoh the king of Egypt, to let the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

G-d is charging Moses with two directives: Command the people of Israel and then command Pharaoh the king. However, the verse is ambiguous: What did G-d command Moses to instruct the people? The message for Pharaoh is clear: Let the children of Israel out of Egypt. But what is it that Moses is supposed to command the people themselves?

The Jerusalem Talmud says something profoundly enigmatic:

G-d instructed Moses to command to the Jewish people the laws of freeing slaves.

The Talmud is referring to a law recorded later in Exodus: If a Jew sells himself as a slave, the owner must let him go after six years. He is forbidden to hold on to the slave for longer. This was the law Moses was to share with the Israelites while they were in Egyptian bondage.

Who is free?

The answer to this question is profoundly simple and moving, and is vital to the understanding of liberty in the Biblical imagination.

Before Pharaoh can liberate the Jewish slaves, they must be ready to become free. You can take a man out of slavery, but it may prove more challenging to take slavery out of a man. Externally, you may be free; internally you may still be enslaved.

What is the first and foremost symptom of bring free? That you learn to confer freedom on others.

The dictator, the control freak, or the abusive spouse or parent, does not know how give others freedom. He (or she) feels compelled to force others into the mold that he has created for them. Uncomfortable in his own skin, he is afraid that someone will overshadow him, expose his weaknesses, usurp his position or make him feel extra in this world. Outwardly, he attempts to appear powerful, but, inwardly, his power is a symptom of inner misery and confinement.

Only when one learns to embrace others, not for whom he would like them to be, but for whom they are, then can he begin to embrace himself, not for whom he wishes he was, but for whom he is. When we free those around us, we are freeing ourselves. By accepting them, we learn to accept ourselves.

Who is powerful? He who empowers. Who is free? He who can free others. Who is a leader? He who creates other leaders.

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power,” Abraham Lincoln said. Ask yourself, do you know how to celebrate the soaring success of your loved ones and constituents? Do you encourage them to spread their wings and maximize their potential? Can you allow others to shine?

Pharaoh may set you free physically. But former slaves can become present tyrants. People who were abused often become abusers themselves. It is what they know about life; it is the paradigm they were raised with. They grew up in abuse and slavery, so they continue the cycle with others. The first Mitzvah the Jews had to hear from Moses, before even he can go the Pharaoh to let them go free was: One day you will be free. Remember that freedom is a gift; use it to free others.

Celebrate Passover – The Holiday of Freedom – with Chabad. We have a place for you at our Seder. To reserve, call Rabbi Tzvi at 347-410-1106

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location soon. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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