| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Three ways your graduate can live a life worthy of their calling

Posted on 08 June 2017 by LeslieM

A study was conducted to measure the resiliency of young students. Researchers were curious to learn how a child would respond to increasingly difficult tasks based upon whether the child’s behavior or innate ability is praised.

Children who were praised for their innate ability, such as affirming that they did well because they are smart, bore unexpected results: This common method of encouragement actually caused many children to shy away from more difficult tasks. Since the value was placed on “being smart,” they skipped on more challenging tasks because they didn’t know if they were capable; so why risk it by trying something and possibly failing and losing the status of being “smart.”

Conversely, children who had their behavior praised yielded opposite results. Many in this participating group welcomed the next challenge. They had nothing to prove, or more accurately, to lose. If they failed, it wasn’t attached to their personhood — their capability. Instead of believing they weren’t smart enough, they believed with more effort they could be successful.

Here’s the thing: God says to commit our plans to Him, so bending to His will not (try) to force God to bend to ours. And we’re also challenged to live a life worthy of our calling. Both these things present us with real challenges and dangers. Yet, this group of graduates has grown up in a world where everyone from first place to last receives a trophy; expectations such as driving or having a summer job have diminished and failure is the worst possible thing, ever! In essence, we constantly affirm, “You are special and you deserve to be treated like royalty.”

Yet, at the same time, we struggle to grasp why a staggering percentage of graduates leave the church … why so few commit to their decision to follow Jesus that they made at age 7.

The root of the issue is identity. The call to follow Jesus is the exact opposite of what they’ve been taught to believe about themselves. We’ve missed the opportunity to pour into them that they have a God that created them, cares for them, adopted them and will never leave them. This message has been replaced with participation ribbons.

But, it’s not too late. God is a patient and loving God who desires all to come to Him. We need not to lose hope, but cling to it.

Here are three things your graduate can do to live the life worthy of their calling.

1. Allow your graduate to experience failure. They have been protected from the discomfort of failure and now are woefully unprepared not only for the real world, but God’s call. This summer is the perfect time for graduates to experience failure and recognize it’s not that bad. Learning how to fail is essential to trying what’s destined to fail without divine intervention, but they’ll never know all that God has for them if they are too scared to try.

2. Help your graduate commit their plans to the Lord. Set aside some intentional time with your graduate to study the Word. Stop asking them what they want to be or where they want to go to college. Challenge them to discover how God has specifically gifted them, in this given context, to live wholly for God and then seek His guidance for the best course to fulfill that role.

3. Remind your graduates of their identity in Christ. Teachers, coaches, mentors, etc., are important figures in your graduates’ life; but, if you value worldly identities: status, power, image and wealth identity, the efforts of the others’ voices will quickly be drowned out. Whether wealthy or not, or somewhere in the middle, don’t miss the opportunity to teach on identity and stewardship.

Join me in praying for your graduates, that they shake off any identities keeping them from following God’s risky and challenging plan for their life; that they allow the Spirit to remind them; that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, a child of His, able to do all things through Christ who straightens them.

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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Posted on 01 June 2017 by LeslieM

Was there Torah before Torah was given? It says in Zohar (Teruma) that G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. What does that mean? There are many stories in Torah that imply that, indeed, there was a Torah before the Torah was given:

Noach bringing in different number of kosher animals … How did he know which were kosher?

Avrohom, our forefather, fed his visiting angels matzo as part of their meal. It was Pesach. Isn’t Exodus an event that happened some 700 years later? What was he celebrating? They hadn’t rushed out of Egypt yet.

Jacob put on Tefillin. In a very curious manner, the Torah tells us a story how he created spots on branches, and the Zohar says it was his way of putting on Tefillin.

The famous Yeshiva that Jacob studied in on his way to his uncle was the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Noah’s sons. Were they studying the Talmud?

Yehuda went before his family to build Yeshiva in Egypt. What did they study in his Yeshiva?

King David gives up an opportunity to kill Saul when he is chasing him. He says “the primordial analogy says, “Bad comes from bad people” … “See, I’m not bad.” With that, he refers to Torah. What does that mean? The Torah does not speak as an analogy. It speaks of fact, stories, laws, history, morals, etc. — very factually. And why primordial? Primordial means the first, preceding. Kabbalistically referring to the Being that always was — G-d. The Torah is an example or analogy for G-d.

What is an analogy? When trying to explain a topic which may be out of reach to the listeners, one will clothe his thought in a tangible example. When trying to explain a complicated mathematical equation, one may try with a simpler one first to give a handle with which to use. G-d is not relatable to the human creation. The Torah is the means which he provided us to then identify with Him.

The Talmud tells us it was heard in the Heavenly abode, lucky is the one who comes here with his Torah. The Torah that we study is material. The life of the world to come is holy and spiritual. How would bringing our material world Torah to the holy higher spheres help or be meritorious and anyway?

The answer is that the Torah we study here is an analogy for higher levels. If we have our Torah with us, we have an analogy with what to be able to understand higher and deeper levels. With each level that we advance, we enter another truth. But we also enter another analogy for an even higher truth. So the ultimate truth, permeating all planes, all levels, clothes itself in different analogies throughout that journey. When we understand the Torah on the first level we’ve understood and grasped the truth there. When we come to the second level, that first one is now only an example. When we reach the third level, the second level becomes only an analogy with which to understand the third. And so on and so forth. It’s the same with the Torah.

Jacob studying, putting on Tefillin, was not about the way we have it now. It was about the truth which Tefillin relates to us. Tefillin has a message — why black, why square, why these passages, why on your arms and your head? On one level, we can say it’s to bind us, our minds and our hearts, to G-d.

On a deeper level, we can say it is referring to two modes and methods of serving G-d and bringing out each one in its unique way. The arm one is bound, an active wording in the brocho. This refers to one’s emotions, which one does not have control over. They roam around; they react. One is not fully in control of them; therefore, we bind them as an active command to continuously ensure they are bound to the service of G-d. The mind one represents our intellect. We can control where our thoughts go. We allow them to develop as we choose. That’s why the Mitzvah is to have them on your head. It’s something you can control from the outset. So even though we speak of leather, paint, ink … we really refer to emotions, intellect, service of G-d — the same with all the other examples.

The actual story of the Torah is also the means to the deeper meaning behind it. There’s a story in the Talmud, of the sage Yonatan Ben Uziel, when he would study Torah, any bird that flew over him would burn [because he studied it at the level it was revealed on Mount Sinai].

Rabbi Mayor Schapiro, founder of Lublin yeshiva, explains two types of students. The first one would analyze the story asking what are the legal implications? Would he be liable to repay the bird? Was it a direct cause? Was it indirect? What stage of indirect was it, etc? The second student would look at him and say you missed the whole point. Although those are good questions, the point is the sanctity of the student of Hillel. The point is the holiness that he has attained. The story is only hinting to a much deeper reality.

When we study Torah, we need to be cognizant of this. We need to open our eyes to this duality that is within the Torah. It’s not about face value. It’s about what’s insinuated and being taught deeper. We need the simple understanding too. But we also need to open our eyes to the deeper realities of divine wisdom within. We need to recognize that these are all different words being used to express G-dliness. These are different clothing used to tell us of the divine reality.

The Torah being given changed nothing; it just gave us better expressions to be used for simplicity’s sake. We now put on real Tefillin and affect our emotional and intellectual service of G-d. The Torah is an analogy for the primordial being. Now go and study it.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: A new day, a new thing!

Posted on 25 May 2017 by LeslieM

Our modern world has grown accustomed to newness, originality, innovation and fresh ideas. Consider that the 20th century was the apex of the Industrial Revolution, which dramatically transformed the way in which we live. The television, air conditioning, antibiotics, lasers, aircraft, computers and the Internet — things we cannot imagine living without today — were the products of the previous century. The 21st century advances have given rise to 3D printing, nanotechnology, the bitcoin, tablets, stem-cell treatments, Smartphones and social media.

The speed with which today’s generation adapts to new things has caused some to hail this as the century of advancement. No longer do people spend their entire lives trying to figure out formulas and strategies for improvement. The ink is scarcely dry on the latest press announcement when another more impressive achievement occurs. In the past, individuals would invest huge amounts of time to create. Their whole lives were spent working on inventions. [Some say] Thomas Edison tried 10,000 times before creating the light bulb; Henry Ford spent years before he created the affordable car and Ford Motor company.

Today’s pace is much quicker. Someone remarked that today “we want everything yesterday and technology makes it happen.” In an article in Virgin’s online magazine Disruptors, Alison Coleman wrote, “Unlike the great inventions of the Industrial Revolution that have stayed the course, today’s next big thing is superseded at an alarming speed by the next, next big thing.”

If the 20th century was the century of big innovation, this century is about innovation improvement. Every day brings the possibility that some ‘better thing or process’ is being introduced to society. And more people are moving away from the old toward what is new.

In Isaiah 43:18-19, the prophet declared hope to a people distressed by their captivity. It included an admonition against lingering on memories of the past — “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” A generation had come and gone, and they saw no sign of change on the horizon. They longed for release and a return to the life of the past. But he stirred their expectation by proclaiming that God was preparing to do something different, remarkable, unconventional and new!

Change, progress and advancement are part of the human experience. Some changes we embrace and others we lament, while longing for ‘better,’ simpler times. As believers, we ought to welcome newness and freshness. If improvement and convenience are the result of change, then we benefit. Even setback and loss can teach invaluable lessons. God’s word gives ample indication that our lives and experiences with Him are to lead us to progress, growth and spiritual maturity. Life does not have to be monotonous, stagnant and dull. Change that is promised and initiated by Him is always good. And every day brings the experience of new mercies. In this season of commencement, summer travels and family reunions, let’s be determined to expect and embrace something new!

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: Luke 10:25–37

Posted on 18 May 2017 by LeslieM

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

(Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31 NRSV)

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Is civility enough? I ask this provocative question in light of a society where civility is lacking and, that being said, it is still not enough, not if we want to change the world for the better.

I was in conversation with a Rabbi in the community where I previously served. We talked about a Coexistence Festival in Sarasota and the topic of tolerance came up. We agreed that interfaith dialogue was an important step in the right direction because we are neighbors coexisting in the same community. Finding common ground in faith is a great way for religious leaders to lead the charge, ecumenically. By the way, “ecumenical” means “community minded.”

Yet, the Rabbi in his wisdom questioned the word “tolerance.” And he asked me a question, which I found to be enlightening: “How would you like it if you heard me say ‘Jeff, I tolerate you?’ Would you feel good inside?” He made a good point. Civility is not enough.

Yet, civility is still lacking. Drive in any grocery parking lot on Saturday. Hesitate one tenth of a second at a green light. Go shopping at the mall in December. Stand in front of somebody in a parade. We have a hard time coexisting in public and we haven’t even got to religion or politics. We literally haven’t even left the parking lot.

While we struggle for civility, a golden rule is shared, shared by many faiths. In our faith it is found in Matthew 7: 12 In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (NRSV) Treat people the way you want to be treated. This is a good start, but it only takes us to civility. In fact this golden rule is bronze, at best. It isn’t enough. We have gotten to tolerance but we haven’t gotten to love.

Engaged in dialogue, Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment. Aside from the first, to love God, he mentioned the second and he replied: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31 NRSV). Now we are getting somewhere. Now we are starting to move the dial of progress in society. Now THIS rule IS golden.

But who is our neighbor? This was another question that was asked of Jesus. I think the person who asked him wanted to hear the answer: “the people I like.” Liking the likeable, loving the loveable, what is remarkable about that? Then Jesus responded to his question not with a short answer but a parable, the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable was all about liking the unlikeable and loving the unlovable, and finding value in a person from a culture and religion that was despised. Jesus’ answer was anything but comfortable. “Love my neighbor? I don’t even LIKE him.”

Upon further self examination as well as life experience, I have come to a thought. We don’t have to tackle civility before we address the need to love. In fact, if we aspire to love one another as we love ourselves, civility will fall into place.

Tolerance and coexistence are fine, but they are, at best, mediocre aspirations. I don’t want to merely coexist with my neighbor in mutual tolerance. I want to love my neighbor. Love is what moves the dial in the right direction.

Now that we have left the parking lot, we can move into the direction of a mutual existence that is grounded in love. In love, we can dialogue and build ecumenical bridges with people of different faiths. In love, we can engage in political conversations with friends with whom we disagree. In love, we can think twice before we honk at the person who pulls out of his or her parking spot without looking, or cuts us off, or hesitates for more than a second at a green light. Let all that you do be done in love.” (I Corinthians 16:14)

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: A gracious boss and even more gracious God

Posted on 11 May 2017 by LeslieM

When I was a first officer, one of my responsibilities included the preflight inspection. This proverbial “kicking the tires” began with checking pressure gauges and the plane’s structural integrity, and usually ended with me searching for a ramp agent for the code to get back into the jet-bridge.

On one particular flight from Greensboro, North Carolina to Memphis, Tennessee, I made a small mistake. While opening the panel that revealed the gauge for the crew oxygen level, I noticed the power wasn’t established to the aircraft yet, which was needed for the check. I decided I would continue the rest of the preflight and then circle back to this particular panel, which I left open.

By the time I had scuttled around the entire plane — having crawled under the wheel wells to check the fire detection loops and poked my head in the aft avionics bay, etc. — my brain had jettisoned the whole open panel thing.

As we departed toward Memphis, immediately after we raised the gear, a loud whooshing sound filled the flight deck. Having completely forgotten about the panel being open, we both assumed there might be a structural issue with the plane and prepped for a return to Greensboro.

Since we had yet to burn off the enroute fuel, we would have to do what’s called an “overweight landing.” It’s nothing unsafe; but, prior to a subsequent departure, a mechanic must review the aircraft to ensure no damage was incurred due to landing heavier than designed.

We landed and radioed for a contract mechanic, which meant a serious delay. The captain was cool with my mistake and we chilled on the ramp, knowing it’d be best to steer clear of the angry people inside. While we waited, the local firemen stopped by with their new shiny truck and offered to give us a ride and demonstration of its capabilities — though I wasn’t sure they could provide the fire protection I needed.

I was raised to take responsibility for my actions so, upon our return to Memphis, I headed for my boss’ office for the “carpet dance.” I confessed my error, which undoubtedly caused havoc for most of the passengers and cost the company thousands of dollars — probably more than my first officer’s yearly salary at the time.

Though this incident occurred in my early 20s, I still remember how gracious my chief pilot was as he asked whether I had learned something from the experience. I had. From that day forward, no matter what … never leave a panel open.

My point? Imagine that you lent $20 to one friend and $2,000 dollars to another. After an unexpected bonus from your employer, with this new income you decide to forgive both debts. Which of your two friends will have a greater thankfulness and joy? As we know in similar stories recorded in scripture, the one who had the greater debt forgiven.

Speaking from experience, I’ve had to ask others for forgiveness many times; but, it’s the moments similar to those above that move me the most. The greater the debt the greater is the thankfulness.

So I have to ask, why aren’t we living everyday in the awareness of what God has done for us —the sin He’s blotted out for our sake through His sacrifice on the cross? Why do we neglect to meditate upon the depth of this grace in a way that moves us to respond in some capacity?

My concern is that too many of us are living a lukewarm and complacent faith, unaware how big our mistakes are and how awesome (how deep!) His grace is. Litmus test: If you’re not talking about Jesus (and what He’s done personally for you) I’m not sure you fully comprehend His grace and forgiveness.

If this is you, perfect! Put down the paper and get alone with God in His Word and remind your soul that “Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for u,” and that “victory is ours through Christ, who loved us” Romans 8:34; 37.

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: Give me some passion

Posted on 04 May 2017 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 till 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. For all upcoming events please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Following Jesus’ example

Posted on 27 April 2017 by LeslieM

The recent celebration of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ provided an opportunity to reflect upon His enduring impact and influence on millions of faithful believers the world over. The consideration of these events underscores the effectiveness of His mission, which was to redeem and provide eternal life. But His obedience to the will of His Father in fulfilling His mission is also instructive for those who would obey and honor God in their lives. In all that Jesus did, He showed His followers how to relate to God and their fellow man. He provided for us a pattern, a model and a fitting example of what a surrendered life looks like.

Mark 10:45 records Jesus as saying, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” This summation of His mission points to three areas in which believers are challenged to follow His example. He came to serve, to suffer and to sacrifice His life for the benefit of others. In a similar manner, we are called to serve, must be prepared to suffer and be willing to sacrifice for the glory of God.

That Jesus came to serve is undeniable. Philippians 2:7 remarks that “He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” A bondservant was one who willingly offered himself in slavery to another. Jesus’ followers are enlisted to serve, and expected to do it willingly. We certainly serve God through our obedience and worship, but we are also expected to serve each other as well. On the night before He was betrayed, Jesus surprised His disciples by washing their feet. He then remarked, “If I then your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). True service includes doing humbling and menial things to help others.

Jesus’ suffering was predicted in messianic statements in the Old Testament. Isaiah 50:6 says, “I gave my back to those who struck me, and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide my face from shame and spitting.” And part of Isaiah 53:10 states, “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief.” The Father purposed and allowed the suffering of His Son. The Son willingly endured the suffering, looking ahead to the joy that lay before (see Hebrews 12:2). Believers’ suffering is also promised and we are to expect and endure it. Indeed, suffering is part of the human experience (due to Adam’s disobedience, not God’s meanness). Believers can face suffering in this life with hope however. In Romans 8:18, Paul confidently asserts, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Jesus was victorious through His suffering, and so shall we be, if we are faithful to endure.

The sacrifice that Jesus made was the ultimate one: He gave His life as a ransom. His death secured our redemption and provides for our fellowship with the Father. We may not be called to give our lives as martyrs but we are called to lives of sacrifice. Our brokenness over our sins, obedience to God’s will, and praise to Him are all acceptable sacrifices that the Bible notes. Jesus was clear in Matt 16:24-25, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” There’s no denying that He did just that in His earthly existence. May the Lord’s exemplary life inspire us to truly honor Him by following His pattern of service, suffering, and sacrifice.

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: Disciple defined

Posted on 19 April 2017 by LeslieM

In his book Habitudes for Communicators: Images That Form Leadership Habits and Attitudes, author Dr. Tim Elmore cites three reasons people change: They know enough that they’re able to; care enough that they want to; hurt enough that they have to. Unfortunately, the latter of the three inspired my change while attending junior high.

For no other reason than I was simply being cruel for cheap laughs, I continually taunted a fellow swimmer who I’ll refer to as Heather. One evening as Heather exited the pool (and I’m still mortified by my words), I looked right at her, crinkled my nose while making a sniffing sound, and asked, “What’s that smell? Smells like a wet dog.”

Simultaneously, there was both hurt and anger in her eyes. She clinched her fist and barreled toward me. I froze. I was both a jerk and a moron, for I had poked the proverbial hornets’ nest by picking on someone who chose to workout in the mornings and swim for two hours every day after school. With full vigor she wielded her fists — still tightly clinched — like a wrecking ball against my body. Probably due to blunt-force-trauma, I can’t remember exactly what she said, but I do remember the moment her strength weakened from the anger-induced adrenaline.

Heather’s arms fell to her side, now almost too exhausted to wipe away the tears as she slunk away, leaving me standing alone wrestling with my thoughts; I was bruised internally as much as externally. And because I literally hurt, I wanted to change, so I immediately prayed, “Lord, I don’t want to be funny if it means hurting others.”

Last week, I wrote about God’s command to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). This week, it seems fitting to clarify what it means to be a disciple.

Jim Putman, in his book Real-Life Discipleship: Building Churches That Make Disciples, defines a disciple as someone who is following Christ and being changed by Him, saying,“[We] must recognize and accept who Jesus is, and we must place ourselves under His authority,”caring about what He cares about … people, like Heather. As Matt Walsh expresses, we cannot claim to have faith in a Lord if we aren’t willing to follow Him in a way that changes us. “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (John 15:14).

Having the knowledge that I hurt Heather was only a fragment of the solution. It wasn’t enough to tell her that I would change, rather restoration of the relationship required actual changed behavior — as in discipleship — by allowing “God [to] transform [me] into a new person by changing the way [I] think [and behave]…” (Romans 12:2). See Matthew 7:17-20 where Jesus taught that we would know a tree by its fruit.

How do we either know enough, care enough or hurt enough to change? Three components must be present in our life. First, we must recognize our brokenness — enough to want to change. Though Western culture tends to idolize self-sufficiency, it’s only in our brokenness that our need for a savior becomes visible and we see the depth of His grace that draws us to Him. Secondly, we must be available. If we are too busy — even with good things like family and work — this hurried life will prevent us from being rooted in a foundational understanding of God’s nature and character, diluting the recognition that He is worthy to be our King. Third, we must be teachable. We must be willing to fight for a faith that is deep like river versus shallow like a flood. Think Acts 2:42-47: devoted.

As I mentioned last week, start small like I did with a simple, yet powerful prayer that forever changed the trajectory of my life. You can borrow this one from my playbook: “Lord, help me want to love You, to know You, and to serve You.” A caveat: Get ready because if you’re truly accepting and repentant, the Spirit will begin to fill you with the knowledge of the Father and change you into a fully devoted follower of Christ — a disciple.

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: What’s your biggest fear

Posted on 13 April 2017 by LeslieM

I love the locker room scene in Moneyball when Scott Hatteberg, played by Chris Pratt, is asked by a teammate about his biggest fear after having transitioned from playing catcher to first base. Hatteberg nervously smiles and shares, “The baseball being hit in my general direction,” (insert chuckle).

His teammate, bewildered, takes a moment to eat a spoonful of cereal before asking again, “Seriously. What is it?”

No. Seriously. That is,” confirms Hatteberg.

Whether or not my career playing catcher in Little League qualifies me to have an opinion, I have to admit, Scott’s response resonates with me. Undoubtedly, it would be a tough transition for any catcher.

I see a similar parallel when it comes to Christianity. Whether you grew up in church or came to know Christ later in life, both lifestyles can tempt one to remain in their comfort zone. Neither camp is immune to the perplexities and difficulties of life. But we’re “catchers,” which is to say we’re human and resilient by nature, we’re okay with dropping down in the dirt from time to time to corral a wild pitch or two. We feel at home, secure in our padded gear, and even should a ball slip past, there’s always the backstop.

But something changes when we genuinely surrender to God’s will. It’s like He’s asked us to leave behind what we know, maybe tradition or ignorance, and take up a new position on His field. It’s a paradigm shift. It’s the same field yet a completely different — and scary —experience.

He’s asked us to play first base — kinda.

Look what happens when Jonah is asked to change positions: “The Lord gave this message to Jonah: ‘Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh. Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.’ But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord” — Jonah 1:1-3 NLT.

Did you catch that? Jonah “got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.”

Jonah grabbed his catcher’s mitt and headed not for first, but for the locker room!

For many of us, that’s exactly how we respond when God commands that we “[Go] and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” — Matthew 28:19.

If we’re honest, that’s the proverbial ball being hit, not in our general, but specific direction.

For some, there is a fear of being labeled intolerant, or bigoted. Maybe there is worry of losing a promotion or status. For others, it could be an anxiety of not being good enough. How could God possibly use me? Does He know what I’ve done (?)! And there are those that panic at the idea of a lifestyle or career change.

Whatever it is, whatever God is asking of you specifically, playing first base requires us to focus and lean in to this incredible calling of making disciples.

And if that scares you, that’s okay. It can be a seemingly overwhelming position to play, but here’s what you do: Start small. Speaker and Author Bob Goff, referencing Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed, communicates how beautiful it is that from something so small blossoms a place of refuge for the birds (Matthew 13:31-32).

Sometimes a simple remark such as “nice belt!” becomes the seed that blossoms into a relationship where both parties find refuge and begin to understand who they are in Christ and how to lead others to become fully devoted follower of Christ themselves.

The reality is that we weren’t all created to play first base. There are many positions, but what’s important to remember is don’t get caught up trying to play someone else’s position. Focus where God has you and lean in. Get your glove ready because a line-drive has just been hit in your direction. Have no fear but fear in the Lord. Go, and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. No, seriously, that’s it.

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 Secret of Maror at the Passover Seder

Posted on 05 April 2017 by LeslieM

Why do we eat maror, or bitter herbs, at our Passover seder? The first seder the Jews conducted was in Egypt, on the eve of the 15th of Nissan, the night before they departed from the cursed country. Moses instructed the Jewish people to eat during that seder roasted lamb or goat, together with matzos and maror (bitter herbs).

Why did they eat maror on that first Passover night?

Rashi explains, “G-d commanded them to eat maror to remember that the Egyptians embittered their lives.”

This seems absurd. I can understand that now, in 2017, we are instructed to eat bitter herbs to remember the bitter pain our ancestors endured in Egypt. But for the first generations of Jews, who experienced the Egyptian exile, whose infants were plunged in the Nile, who were beaten and tortured, who suffered unbearable agony and bitterness—they needed to eat bitter herbs, horseradish, to remember the pain?

Imagine: It is April 1945. The Russians entered Auschwitz. The Germans fled. The Jews are still in the death camp. You tell them, “Tonight make sure to eat maror, so that you remember how the Germans embittered your lives.” You’re kidding me? Bitter herbs to remember? I have to remember? And a bitter vegetable will remind me of it? I have lived on this hellish planet for years! All bitter vegetables in the world don’t begin to compare to what I have been through.”

One of the answers is this. The mitzvah to eat the maror is what allowed the Jewish to become free.

When people experience pain they often react in one of two ways: Some people repress it; others become defined by it. Some people don’t talk; they don’t want to face the pain. It remains etched in the depth of their psyche, paralyzing them unconsciously. Others do not stop talking about it. It becomes the sole focus of their life. Bad things people might have done to you completely occupy your mental space. Disappointments, challenging experiences and difficult moments become your defining reality. Both paths are understandable, but we are capable of more. And that is the secret of the maror.

When G-d instructed that generations of Jews eat maror on the night of the seder, He was sharing with them the Jewish way of dealing with all types of disappointments and painful experiences in life: Designate a time and space to eat it, to look at it, to deal with it, to choke over it, to cry for it, to feel the pain. But do not let it become the focus of your entire life, and swallow up your future and destiny. The Jews leaving Egypt, by eating maror, objectified their pain, meaning they transformed it into an important reality that they could look at, feel, study and learn from. But it did not become their entire reality. They were a free people. Otherwise, they would have left the Land of the Pharaohs, but the Pharaoh would have not left them.

Once you eat maror, then you can eat matzah and drink four cups of wine. You can say to yourself, there is also joy in my life. There may be challenges but there is so much opportunity. There may be frustrations, but there is blessing, and, perhaps, I can utilize my experience to grow even more and to help others around me.

We do not ignore pain or take it lightly. We do not delegitimize human feelings. We do not say “get over it.” No, we designate a sacred space in our heart and our seder plate for the “maror.” When we eat the maror, this is our focus. We honor our feelings and experiences. And when we do that, we can say: that was the maror. And now it’s time for the matzah and the wine.

We are hosting our annual Seder at the Jewish Center of Lighthouse Point. To RSVP: e-mail Tzvidechter@gmail.com or visit our website at www. JewishLHP.com. Have a happy and a kosher pesach!

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