| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: My Top Ten of 2016

Posted on 12 January 2017 by LeslieM

On the evening of Oct. 21, 2009, the flight crew of Northwest Flight 188 accidentally lost radio contact with air traffic control and flew approximately 150 miles past their destination of Minneapolis, Minnesota (MSP). Unfortunately for the pilots, besides losing their flight credentials, David Letterman, in response as to how this could happen, released the Top Ten Northwest Airlines pilot excuses. Having piloted under the Northwest colors myself, it pains me to admit that number seven —“Tired of that show-off Sullenberger getting all the attention”— gave me a chuckle.

It just so happens that Sullenberger, aka Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, also graced my list of the Top Ten resources in 2016 That Made Me a Better Person.

10. (Movie) God’s Not Dead 2. As a staff member with First Priority of South Florida, a non –profit organization operating under the Equal Access Act which “gives students the right to initiate and lead a Christian club on campus,” this movie reminded me that with nearly half a million students in the public middle and high schools of Southeast Florida — with statistics indicating that over 90 percent of these teens do not know Christ—one of the greatest mission fields is right in my own backyard.

9. (Podcast) Revisionist History by Malcolm Gladwell. This series challenged me to think differently about the past, and while I may not always agree with everything Gladwell has to say, I’m reminded that empathy begins when I leave the island of self.

8. (Podcast) The Andy Stanley Leadership Podcast. One particular episode stirred me to consider that if EQUIP, our student ministry, disappeared, would it matter? Would anyone miss it? I was forced to reevaluate the culture I was creating and enact a strategy to ensure it was a culture of continual improvement through a clear mission and vision. This podcast required me to defend why EQUIP exists.

7. (Movie) Sully. I’m moved to tears when the bustle of New York City drops everything to rescue the 155 passengers and crew of US Air flight 1549 when the plane lands in the Hudson River. This movie reminds me that there is much good in this world, and, as the old cliché states, “Not all heroes wear capes.” Sometimes they just ride ferry boats to work.

6. (Book) From the Pen to the Palace: A Youth Ministry Evangelism and Discipleship Dtrategy for a Post-Christian Culture by Benjamin Kerns. Benjamin introduced me to a world where the prodigal son never returns. It’s a context I have to understand if I’m ever to reach a generation that’s always lived in the “pen” and has never experienced the “palace.”

5. (Book) Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. The title says it all and it’s my favorite book about how teams should operate.

4. (Movie) I’m Not Ashamed. This true story crafted from the journals of Rachel Scott, who was killed for her faith during the 1999 Columbine shooting, reminds me why it’s important to live boldly for Christ.

3. (Podcast) The Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast. Pastor Craig helped me to understand the importance of being a leader that communicates effectively. He also taught me how to embrace change and to accept nothing less than my God-given leadership capacity.

2. (Book) Soul Keeping: Caring For the Most Important Part of You by John Ortberg. There is a reason Pastor Doug Sauder recommended this book to his entire staff, and why it’s my No. 2. This book helped me understand exactly what my soul is and how I can administer the proper “soul-care.”

1. (App) The YouVersion Bible App. Truthfully I could just say The Holy Bible — it is all we need. But what I love about the YouVersion Bible App are the reading plans that span every topic and situation imaginable. With this app you’ll never have to say, “I don’t know where to start.” It also includes multiple languages, translations and even audible versions. A truly transformative 2017 begins here in God’s Word.

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: The perpetual relationship

Posted on 05 January 2017 by LeslieM

The ham sandwich

A Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest were good friends. At a picnic one day, the priest was eating a ham sandwich.

You know,” he said to his friend, “this ham sandwich is delicious. I know you’re not supposed to eat ham, but I don’t understand why such a good thing would be forbidden. When will you break down and try it? When will you stop being so stubborn about your ancient laws and just start enjoying life. Will you ever become integrated and taste ham?”

To which the rabbi replied, “Sure, at your wedding.”

And this is the theme I wish to discuss with you today.

The Dalai Lama

Rabbi Ben Zion Krasnyanski, the Chabad rabbi on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, was once present at a large spiritual seminar in Manhattan, with many a Jewish Buddhists in the crowd. One man asked him, “Rabbi, I know that you believe that for a Jew to find spiritual fulfillment, he ought to search for it in Judaism. And I resent that. Why would you not tell a Jew that there are many paths to attain meaning and enlightenment, Judaism being only one of them? Take Buddhism for example. It is, I maintain, a legitimate spiritual path for the Jew. Look at the Dalai Lama, the head monk of Tibetan Buddhism. He is an awesome fellow, beloved, peaceful, enlightened, gracious, tranquil and happy. Why would you not encourage Jews to use his path for spiritual meaning? Would it be so bad if we Jews were as fine and wonderful as the Dalai Lama?”

To which the Chabad rabbi responded “You have just defined the Dalai Lama in powerful adjectives: fine, wonderful, awesome, beloved, peaceful, enlightened, gracious, tranquil and happy. I would love to accept all these titles about him. But we Jews have a sacred tradition which dates back 4000 years. We do not believe any compliments about any man in the world, no matter who he is, until we first consult the man’s wife. We believe that only the wife of a man really knows him and if she consents to all the compliments about her husband, then we can accept them. Only the wife is a “valid witness” in Judaism. So as much as I would love to accept all your words of praise about the Dalai Lama, as a rabbi I must adhere to the Jewish rule and I must first speak to Mrs. Dalai Lama and hear what she has to say about her husband. Here is the deal — If she agrees to all of these titles, then, yes, I confess you are right. Buddhism is the way to go. But if Mrs. Dalai Lama disagrees, then, I stick with Judaism and you must also stick with Judaism.

To which the man responded, “Primitiveness, rabbi, has just emerged in full splendor. How old- fashioned and isolated can you be? I knew that ultra orthodox Chassidic rabbis are out of touch with reality, but so out of touch? Do you not know that the Dalai Lama may never get married? He is to remain a celibate for his entire life! By definition of his being, the Dalai Lama he could never have a “Mrs.!”

Ah,” responded the rabbi with a smile. “That is exactly the point! He is not allowed to have a Mrs.”

You see,” the rabbi said, “The path of Buddhism, and many similar paths, fascinating and meaningful as they may be, demand that the head monk remain unmarried.”

In 2008, a reporter interviewed the Dalai Lama, and asked him, does he not desire intimacy, marriage, family? The Dalai Lama said: “People marry, soon after, they divorce. Again, they marry, and may divorce again. Those who marry always have trouble…. If you live together, happy, and get old, there is the issue of who goes first, who dies first. Human attachment to your children and partner becomes an obstacle to peace of mind. The attachments are a trap… Monks are detached. One of the practices in all major religions is detachment. Don’t have too much attachment, and you’ll be content. You have it in Catholicism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, all major religions.”

But the Dalai Lama knew not to mention Judaism because Judaism’s approach is different. In Judaism, the deepest spiritual fulfillment is attained only through deep and powerful concrete relationships here on earth. The Kabbalah explains why. Before creation G-d was alone. There was nothing but G-d, nothing but divine truth, light and purity. So why did G-d decide to create you and me? G-d was the ultimate Monk, fully detached and fully one and integrated. It is Niravana all of the time, one in all and all in one. So why did G-d disturb the silent peace and create a chaotic universe?

Because He wanted a relationship. So He made Himself vulnerable and He suspended His infinity to create space for the universe. So in Judaism, we touch the purpose of creation when we, too, come out of our cocoon and we connect with people deeply; when we turn the “I” into a “we,” when we create space for each other and we learn to love deeply and passionately.

So, on the holiest day of our calendar, the high priest who enters into the most sacred space on earth, may not be a spiritual bachelor. He must be a married man. You know why? Because it is in marriage where you must learn to be in a perpetual relationship, not only on your terms, but also on another person’s terms. For a marriage to work, you must be concerned with your partner 24/7. You must become one. And it is in our oneness with other people, that we emulate G-d who created the world in order to enter into a relationship with us.

Ham we may not eat, but marriage — oh yes! So if you’re looking to make a New Year’s resolution – emulate G-d by working on your relationships.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetain 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: A Shepherd’s Story

Posted on 29 December 2016 by LeslieM

The first human beings to know about the birth of our Lord were a bunch of shepherds. This is a story about one of those shepherds, but you won’t find anything about him anywhere, because shepherds weren’t well thought of in those days. This shepherd was a young boy on the night our Lord was born. He was excited that his father let him stay up late and be with the other shepherd boys. After a while, his father called him so they could make one final check of their flock to make certain all the sheep were accounted for and none were distracted by the lights in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a hub of activity in those days, because all who were descended from King David were there to register for the census.

After they checked their flock and settled down by their fire, a gloriously angelic being appeared to them. The boy and his father were terrified, but the angel’s words calmed them, “Fear not, I bring you tidings of great joy.” He spoke of a baby who was born that night and told them to go and see him because he was the promised Messiah. The boy turned to his father and they stood looking at each other with tears of joy streaming down their cheeks. They had heard their rabbi speak of a Messiah, but never expected to be the first to see him.

They gazed up into the night sky and one star appeared brighter than all the others. They followed that star to a stable, and saw a man with the clothes and rough hands of a carpenter. He was standing protectively at the side of a young woman who was holding a new-born baby.

Can this be what the Messiah looks like,” thought the shepherd boy. “He’s just a baby.”

After a while, the boy and his father went back to their flock, but they knew their lives would never be the same. He later found out the man’s name was Joseph and the woman’s name was Mary.

They stayed for a while in Bethlehem, but then went to Egypt to escape King Herod’s order that all young boys were to be killed by his soldiers. He feared that one of them might grow up and challenge him as “King of the Jews.”

Years later, the shepherd boy grew up and had his own flock. He heard of a prophet from Nazareth whose name was Jesus. He remembered that Joseph and Mary were from Nazareth, so he decided to go and see the prophet for himself. He found him by the Sea of Galilee and he thought to himself, “My heart is filled with the same joy and hope I felt that night in Bethlehem so many years ago. I like how he calls himself our shepherd, and how he promises to keep us from being lost and to protect us from predators.”

A couple of years later, the shepherd was in Jerusalem for the Passover with his wife and children. Jesus was there also, but he was taken prisoner by Pontius Pilate, and he was tried and scourged. The shepherd followed him through the streets of Jerusalem as he carried his cross to a hill outside of town, to a place where the Roman soldiers crucified Him. The shepherd sought out his disciples and stood with them three days later at the Resurrection. It was then that all the promises Jesus made came true.

The shepherd thought, “He wasn’t the King we expected, but he was the one we needed. And looking back on that night in Bethlehem, I realize that many people may never understand what happened. I was an eyewitness and I hardly understand myself, but this much I do understand, on that night, a bunch of lowly shepherds became sheep, and the Lamb of God became our shepherd.”

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, is the rector at St. Peter’s Anglican Church at 1416 SE 2nd Terrace in Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. Morning prayer is Wednesday at 10 a.m., Holy Communion is Thursday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m. For more information, call 954-695-0336.

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CLERGY CORNER: The real meaning of Christmas

Posted on 24 December 2016 by LeslieM

It is easy in our modern times to forget the significance of the Christmas event. With all the emphasis upon twinkling lights, holiday shopping and family gatherings, there is a need for a purposeful reminder that without Christ there would be no Christmas. The Biblical and historical account of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is of great importance to the whole of humanity. Believers would argue that it offers the single greatest influence upon this world. The gospel of Matthew recounts the events that preceded and surrounded the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph are betrothed for marriage when she is suddenly discovered to be pregnant. An angel speaks to Joseph in a dream to allay his fears and to convey the supernatural and eternal significance of what has taken place.

Matthew 1:21 records, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The name Jesus means “he shall save.” His mission and purpose were, therefore, indicated in His name. Because of Adam’s transgression, mankind was plunged into a quagmire of iniquity that manifested in rebellion against God. The stranglehold of sin had to be broken so that men could experience true fellowship with God as originally intended. Jesus was God’s agent of salvation who would take the sins of the world upon Himself, die in our place, and secure God’s forgiveness and mercy. Christmas remembers and celebrates His coming to fulfill this task for our benefit.

Sadly, many choose to ignore this aspect of Christ’s coming. There are those who offer peace, love and goodwill as the essence of the Christmas message. God’s gift of His Son, they claim, ought to inspire us to give of ourselves to others during this time of year. While that may be a commendable way of viewing the Christmas event, it is not its essential message. John 3:16 clearly states that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And the angel in Matthew 1:21 said that He would save His people from their sins.

Many would agree that the world needs salvation – from hunger, war, brutality, poverty and hate. These seem to be the real issues facing people today; and, if we could resolve these problems, the world would be a better place. The folly of such reasoning lies in the denial that man is unavoidably and inevitably a sinner who cannot help himself. Even if those issues were resolved, new ones would be created to take their place. Men are hungry, fight wars, hate and produce poverty because of sin. Deal with the sin problem and we will see clearly to end hunger, cease from wars, eliminate hate and eradicate poverty. Ignore it and we are doomed to an endless cycle of misery, frustration and depravity. The prophet Jeremiah (17:9) said it best, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Jesus is God’s solution to man’s sin problem.

The greatest Christmas gift was God’s own Son, sent to be the Savior of the world. The malls and shopping centers are full of anxious consumers searching for the right gift. God’s gift is waiting for you to receive Him. You won’t find Him in a display window, on a department store shelf or through an online special. You will find Him wherever the heart is tender toward the purposes of God. You will find Him wherever there is trust in the Father’s eternal will. You will find this gift wherever there is brokenness and sorrow over one’s sinful condition.

Accept God’s gift! Embrace God’s gift! Make this the best Christmas ever by responding to the love of God and putting your trust in Him. That’s the real meaning of Christmas.

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: Blessed distractions

Posted on 15 December 2016 by LeslieM

It was a crowded day at the mall and a woman just had to go to the mall and pick up one more Christmas present. The problem was that she was due at any minute and her husband, doctor, parents and friends told her that she shouldn’t go to the mall. But she insisted. Her best friend tried to talk her out of it, but then found herself driving her very pregnant friend to the busiest place at the busiest time.

The mall was loud and chaotic. People were in a hurry, hustling and bustling with a nervous, yet exciting, energy. And when she found herself in the right shop, it happened.

There was no way to get out of the mall in time. Her best friend told the owner of the shop that a baby was going to be born and, as good fortune would have it, there was a nurse in the shop. The store owner wasn’t sure that she could afford to take two or three clerks off the floor to assist the woman in need, but she did, knowing that this was going to put a dent in her sales. And then, in the back room, a beautiful baby girl was born with a nurse, three clerks and a best friend surrounding the mother and child. The child was wrapped in tissue paper and lying in an open cardboard container.

Her husband got word, via text message, and he drove as fast as he could and bobbed and weaved his way through the crowded mall to see his newborn daughter. When the father saw his beautiful daughter, it was love at first sight, and everybody in the room experienced the joy, including the owner of the shop.

When all was said and done, the owner was grateful for the “blessed distraction” that allowed her to put life in perspective, witness the miracle of birth and feel the bond with her customers, who shared the miracle with her. She may have lost some time and money; but she experienced something far more valuable. Thank God for “blessed distractions!”

I love the song “O Little Town of Bethlehem” as much as any Christmas-loving Christian. It is certainly not my intention to ruin the song, but I must point out that the “Little Town of Bethlehem” was called “The City of David” in the Christmas narrative of Luke. Now, the word “city” is relative, and it may not have been a booming metropolis; but it was booming. A mandatory census was put in place and people travelled to their ancestral homes. In Mary and Joseph’s case, that was Bethlehem and together they traveled back home from the place of their residence, Nazareth. No doubt, they travelled in a caravan with other relatives and, when they arrived at Bethlehem, there was no room for them in the inn. With “No Vacancy” signs on every hotel in the City of David, it was anything but “silent.”

And then, in the midst of the hurry and scurry, hustle and bustle in a city with a nervous, and yet, exciting energy, a “blessed distraction” occurred. Jesus was born.

When word got to the shepherds, not by text but singing angels filling the sky, they bobbed and weaved their way through the crowded streets of Bethlehem, maybe even with their sheep at toe. Can you imagine?

This reimagining of Christmas may change your perception, and I apologize if I ruined it for you. But I find this image to be more meaningful, especially in the context of our Advent season where we find ourselves so distracted in our preparation for Christmas that we forget to prepare ourselves for Christ. You may even say that sometimes Christmas stands in the way of Christmas. We need “blessed distractions” to reorient ourselves to that which is most important in life. We need to stop, pause and reflect upon the miracle of birth, the blessing of family and friends, and the bond that strangers feel when they witness a miracle together, and are strangers no more.

But this isn’t just another “blessed distraction.” This event transformed life as we know it. God enters into our chaos of shopping malls and city streets with a gift to all humanity. And, though it may be inconvenient to some, it certainly reminds us that we are loved by God.

May the “blessed distraction” of Christmas transform your life this year.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Away in a Smartphone

Posted on 08 December 2016 by LeslieM

Legend states that ostriches bury their head in the sand when frightened. While this is a myth, we humans have a similar and very real coping mechanism for boredom: We bury our heads in the proverbial sands of technology, namely the smartphone.

Nonetheless, I recognize the significant value of such a device. It is not the enemy. This week, the Life. Church YouVersion Bible App surpassed 250 million downloads worldwide. Now virtually wherever a screen exists there is a way to connect with God’s Word. However, while we have an unprecedented capability to share the Gospel from our smartphone, say for example through social media, there is less sharing of the Gospel story that reveals our brokenness, and need of a savior, and more of the illusion that we’ve got it all together. We don’t need Jesus; we need likes.

Comedian Louis C.K. wisely notes that the cell phone has robbed us of our ability to be still — to be alone. He’s says that’s why when you look around, everyone is texting and driving, which for teenage drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is six times more deadly than driving while intoxicated.

He said, “People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because people don’t want to be alone for a second.”

How important is it to find times of solitude? Luke 5:16 states that “Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” Prior to preaching in Galilee, Jesus woke early and “went out to an isolated place to pray” Mark 1:35. Other times we read that He “prayed to God all night” Luke 6:12. And before He would be betrayed by Judas, Jesus “knelt down and prayed” experiencing such agony that “His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” Luke 22:41; 44. It was in this time alone that Jesus experienced rich and meaningful intimacy with the Father, becoming acutely aware of the needs of the world and gaining the necessary strength needed to fulfill His purpose of rescuing humanity.

What if Jesus had not sought retreat for prayer and neglected — or had been too weak or burnt out — to fulfill His call? Has the light of a screen become a distraction that has darkened our capacity to be the light of the world? Are we so uncomfortable alone — actually desiring distractions — that we’ve become blinded to the needs of those around us—our light covered (Matthew 5:14-16)?

Left unchecked, such distractions cheat us from time alone with God that strengthens us, prevents burnout and invigorates our desire to actively share the Gospel. In 1 Corinthians 7:35 Paul challenges us “to do whatever will help [us] serve the Lord best, with as few distractions as possible.” Why? Because the stakes are too high to casually dismiss. What are the stakes? If you truly believe in God’s Word, eternal damnation is at stake—everyone from the barista who serves us your cup of joe to the guy who cuts us off in traffic, Scripture states “For the wages of sin is death”—separated from God forever (Romans 6:23).

Famous magician and atheist Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, after having been approached by an audience member that he felt was genuinely concerned for his eternity, once said, “If you believe that there’s a heaven and a hell, and people could be going to hell or not getting eternal life… how much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

So here we are, with the greatest resource to share this message of everlasting life and we use it to keep our heads buried from the world around us — avoiding the discomfort of being alone. Let us — me included — take a cue from Jesus, that we fight for time alone with the Father recognizing that “life is too short and our purpose to great” (to quote Craig Groeschel) to allow the distractions of smartphone — or whatever our chosen vice — to keep us from being the Body of Christ. Heaven and Hell hang in the balance.

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: Getting dirty

Posted on 01 December 2016 by LeslieM

I want to tell you a story about a little boy and a summersault.

When Sholom was 10 years old he was given a new suit that he was very proud of, especially its beautiful gold buttons. It wasn’t very easy to come by a new suit in 1930s Moscow, and certainly not one as nice as this one. Sholom wore his suit for the Jewish High Holidays that year and was extra careful to keep it nice and clean.

The climax of the High Holidays is on Simchat Torah when our joy knows no bounds. What was Simchas Torah like in Moscow during the height of Stalinist terror? If you would imagine that it was quiet and solemn, that would be an intelligent guess, but you’d be forgetting about Yonah.

That Simchas Torah Yonah had drank plenty in honor of the holidays and he was out in the streets dancing. He even grabbed a strangers to dance and drink with him. I’m not sure that we can even fathom the audacity and chutzpah!

To see Yonah make merry in the streets, you would never know that it was a Jewish community living under the state-run terror campaign and that arrest and even execution were a regular part of life. It was the Jewish Holidays and Yonah was in another world, a world in which Stalin and his secret police simply didn’t exist!

Then, Yonah took his joy to new levels and starting doing somersaults in the streets! A crowd gathered around him and Yonah got all the community Jews to do the same – somersaults in the streets.

Yonah noticed a 10-year-old boy standing cautiously off to the side. The boy was dressed in an obviously brand new suit with shiny gold buttons. There were no dry cleaners in 1930 Moscow. One tumble in the muddy street and that beautiful suit would never be the same. Yonah, the master educator and mentor knew exactly what the boy was thinking and also knew exactly what had to be done. You also know, yes?

This was what we call now days “a teachable moment.” You cannot plan for a “teachable moment;” you cannot engineer it. It is just an opportunity that arises where a teacher suddenly has a perfect, fleeting chance to endow the student with a lesson he or she will never forget. The teachable moment must be seized by the teacher or lost forever. Yonah knew what the suit meant to the boy, but Yonah also knew what the boy would need to learn in order to survive and thrive as a person living in dark times. Wanting to keep your suit nice and clean is the normal thing for a boy that age to want, but there are times when a person just has to do the abnormal thing – a somersault in the muddy streets even if it ruins your suit would be a great way to break free from the chains of communism.

MACH A KULAH” (do a summersault) Yonah shouted at the boy. All eyes were now on him “ DO A SOMERSAULT” they all shouted with joy. There was no way out of this. The suit was about to get ruined. Ten-year-old Sholom took a plunge. It was a silly, crazy, defiant act, and it was very necessary – the defining moment of a young man’s education. Everyone cheered as Sholom tumbled head over heels in the muddy street!

Sholom survived the war, started a family and became a Rabbi and business man always teaching and inspiring along the way.

Sholom is my grandfather. He would eventually marry Yonah’s niece — my grandmother, Pesia. Incidentally, Yonah and his wife never had children. He eventually was caught by the KGB and passed away while in prison.

My grandfather, Rabbi Sholom, passed away this week at 89 years old in New York. He was surrounded by children, grandchildren and great grandchildren who are all proud Jews, and we are living the life he got dirty for. That “teachable moment” will forever be passed on through his family, most of whom are Rabbis and teachers across the globe.

You see getting dirty never felt so good! When you know getting dirty will help defy the challenges we face in this world so that we can be a free charitable and loving people, then getting dirty is just a pleasure.


Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetain 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: Count your blessings!

Posted on 23 November 2016 by LeslieM

This is the season to be grateful for the things, the people, and the experiences that make life enjoyable. A comfortable home, friends and family, and a well-earned accomplishment are examples of what cause many of us to be thankful. But what of the challenges and stresses that wear away at our patience and resolve? Gratitude is not the first thing that comes to our mind or our will when facing them. Discouragement, distress, helplessness, frustration and anger are probably among the first inclinations we will have in times of difficulty.

Author George Mikes relates the following story in one of his books: In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, “Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?”

The rabbi answers, “Take your goat into the room with you.”

The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists, saying, “Do as I say and come back in a week.”

A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before.

We cannot stand it,” he tells the rabbi. “The goat is filthy.”

The rabbi then tells him, “Go home and let the goat out and come back in a week.”

A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, “Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there’s no goat — only the nine of us.”

The church in Thessalonica was facing persecution but the believers were standing firm in their faith. They were commended by the apostle Paul, in his first letter to them, along with praise for being examples to believers in Macedonia and Achaia. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul writes this: “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” He did not mean to suggest that every bad experience was God’s will for the believer, but that believers can find a reason to be grateful in both success and adversity, as well as anything in between.

Life could always be worse, as the illustration of the goat in the room reveals. Let me ask you, hasn’t God been good even in your bad times? Can you not find a reason to be full of appreciation even in the difficult seasons of your life? Is there no one on the planet whose state of existence is worse than yours? You may have a lot to complain about, and may long for something better, but does that mean you can’t be grateful for something right now? Allow me to strongly suggest that you have many reasons to be thankful. An old hymn of the church encourages us to take stock of God’s goodness when times are bad: When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. The last verse instructs, So, amid the conflict whether great or small, do not be discouraged, God is over all; count your many blessings, angels will attend, help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

This Thanksgiving, enjoy your time with family and friends. Spend time with God and thank Him for the many blessings in your life. Participate in some of the numerous opportunities to be a blessing to others during this time of year. Serve a hot meal, donate a turkey, wrap a gift, volunteer your time. Count your blessings and be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

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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Posted on 17 November 2016 by LeslieM

Thanksgiving is a great time to recall the many blessings that surround us. If I were to write about every blessing that I have received, I am sure that there would not be enough ink and paper in the world. So I chose one in particular.

One of the blessings of my life, as well as the life of my family, is the blessing of being part of Southeastern Guide Dogs, which has its headquarters in Palmetto, FL. When our children were very small and I wanted to spend time with them and be visible in the community, my wife and I decided that this would be a great opportunity to accomplish both. As a pastor, I needed to find a new hobby or a new passion that was completely different than what I was doing in my career. So we started being “puppy raisers.”

Puppy raisers raise puppies and train them until they are old enough to return to Palmetto and complete their training to become Guide Dogs for the sight impaired. While many do not qualify for that very special job, most dogs take on another job such as arson dogs, classroom dogs to assist in reading, dogs that help people who suffer from seizures, etc. And, of course, some of them wind up as pets.

Some people told me that they thought it was cruel to subject children to the trauma of raising a puppy only to let them go. Then we, as a family, went to a graduation when the sight-impaired and their companion were venturing off into the world. My kids, at a very young age, realized that the rewards that came with this sacrifice far outweighed the heart-ache of saying goodbye.

Now, we have the privilege of being “breeder hosts.” We host a dog, Gizmo, who has given birth to three litters and will probably give birth to a total of four. We also hosted Bentley, who sired 82 puppies before he “retired.” Now he is our pet.

I share this because, through the experience my family and I have had with Southeastern Guide Dogs, we have seen God at work in a very profound way. We have a greater appreciation of our Creator because of the lives we have seen blessed by God’s creation.

This experience opened my eyes to the reality that God honors animals and created them to bless God’s people. I became keenly aware of the multiple times animals are mentioned in the Bible and the important roles that they have played throughout both the Hebrew and Greek Testaments.

From the beginning of humanity, God gave dominion to humans over the “fish of the sea, the birds of the air and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NRSV) And, when humanity disappointed God, God went out of his way to protect his creation by assigning Noah the task of building an ark for two of every creature (Genesis 6:19-20) and seven pairs of every clean animal (Genesis 7:2).

Animals even get honored and mentioned in the 10th Commandment when God warned us not to covet our neighbor’s oxen or donkey.

I was struck by some of the details in Jonah 3 when even the animals wore sackcloth as a sign of repentance in the city of Nineveh. (Imagine your pet in sackcloth) And, ever the stickler on details, God even knows when a sparrow falls. (Matthew 10:29)

And even if we move from animals to people, what profession was most honored in the Bible? I think we know it is the shepherd.

I am grateful to be a part of Southeastern Guide Dogs. I am grateful for the unique bond we had as a family that learned a skill together, a skill that has blessed numerous people. I am grateful for having four different puppies go through our loving hands and into the loving hands of people who cannot see, children who struggle with reading, people who suffer from seizures, or veterans in therapy.

Happy Thanksgiving and embrace this holiday as a time to count your blessings. Happy counting.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Alexander and the Wonderful, Magnificent, Not Bad, Very Good Year

Posted on 10 November 2016 by LeslieM

Annually, Universal Studios Orlando hosts Florida’s largest Christian music event: Rock the Universe. For two nights, youth groups, families, and everyone in-between, experience electrifying worship music led by many of the top Christian artists — rides all day, spirit-stimulating concerts by night.

My first experience baffled me. Moments into the start of the concerts, all but one of the students in the youth group (that I had recently inherited) sat down, in the middle of thousands of people, uninterested. Quickly, they pleaded with the other youth leader to take them back to the hotel, which he obliged.

One 12-year-old, Alexander, stayed. And it was a good thing he did. Midway through the Switchfoot concert, lead singer Jon Foreman climbed atop the fencing that was set between the stage and the audience. When Jon put his hand out for support, Alex was in the right spot at the right time ready to extend his own hand up to help.

It was an unforgettable night that launched the mentorship between Alex and me.

Throughout the year, we’d find time to talk about God, life and everything else that piques the curiosity of a pre-teen. While I’m more inclined to share his moments of growth, he’d prefer I tell you that he shot me with a paintball gun in the head, twice.

But it was the last night of summer camp that captured my heart the most. It was minutes after midnight when Alex finally declared he was ready to surrender to Christ — for real. (Truthfully, there are days I miss being an airline captain, but even just one night like this one reminds me it’s all worth it. God’s plan for our life is worth it.)

By that summer’s end, on one of the greatest days of my life, Alex and I hit the ocean surf for his baptism. Friends and family gathered just south of the Deerfield Beach pier, and with the whole world watching, Alex publicly declared his faith by going under the water and rising up a new man in Christ!

Following the baptism, we were both surprised with tickets to the upcoming Switchfoot concert, where much of this began. And so, this past weekend, Alex and I ventured into downtown Ft. Lauderdale for Relient K, which is the band that started it all for me during my teen years, and Switchfoot at Revolution Live.

Unbelievably, Jon Foreman reprised his audience jaunt. He climbed in front of us on the second level, and, just like that, we were thrust to center stage — for my favorite song I might add. Switchfoot had done it again, creating a night to remember, coming full circle for Alex and me.

During our Monday mentoring hangout this week, I asked Alex if God had recently prompted him to any sort of action. He specifically mentioned feeling led to sing during the concert, to not worry what others might think. What a valuable lesson: To learn that God is going to ask us to do things outside our comfort zone as we cling to the wisdom found in 1 Thessalonians 2:4 in that we are to “please God, not people.”

Alexander learned this lesson and it will be of much value as he lives a life for God. But it didn’t happen by accident.

In short, if you’re looking to grow in your walk — to live a spirit-let, God-given purposeful and courageous life for Christ, look to Alex’s example: 1) He stayed when everyone else left. 2) Not only did he stay, but engaged. 3) He accepted guidance and correction from a mentor (after being open and transparent about his faults). And (4) he is available. He made time to grow and pursue God — working toward the call on his life. For Alex, this is just the beginning of his story; and maybe this is the beginning of yours too.

From this day forward, shake off any complacency and excuses that keep you from being fully alive as a son or daughter of the Most High — open to rocking not just the universe, but the Kingdom of God.

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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