| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Controversial topics and what students are saying

Posted on 08 March 2018 by LeslieM

As a parent desiring to train up your children with a biblical world view, be encouraged by the responses given by young people from varying ages, schools, socioeconomic status and nationality in the following areas:

NFL protest

Colin Kaepernick told NFL Media that he started the national anthem protest by taking a knee because he was “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” While Kaepernick may have desired to raise awareness of a serious social issue, the students like Lucas, 12, a Deerfield Beach Middle School student, had this to say, “I feel like you should be able to express your first amendment rights, but not in such a way that’s disrespectful to the citizens and the country.” Katie, 16, a Deerfield Beach High School student added, “There’s people out there literally dying because they love this country.” Overall, among this group of students, the protest failed to convey its message.

Gender dysphoria

Gender dysphoria, as defined by Andrew Walker in God and the Transgender Debate: What does the Bible Actually Say About Gender Identity, is when “someone experiences distress, inner anguish, or discomfort from sensing a conflict between their gender identity and their biological sex.” While the students expressed compassion for those experiencing such distress, when it comes to children “it should not be encouraged,” says Anna, 16, Highlands Christian Academy student, “they’re not old enough to make that decision.” Julia, 18, also a Highlands Christian Academy student, agrees, citing the example of a young boy wanting to be a girl because he was envious of his parents’ affection toward his baby sister, mistaking their attention being related to gender.

Same-sex marriage

Author Andrew Walker also notes about a post-Christian nation, “With declining [Christian] influence, greater opportunity emerges for different value or ethical systems to displace Christian morality as the widely accepted norm.” As such, Wilson says acceptance is growing for gay and lesbian relationships. However, even though both gay and straight individuals possess the “same inherent dignity,” these teens, again, while open to compassion and embracing the person, affirm the Biblical view: God’s design and purpose for marriage (is between one man and one woman).

Abortion

With the advancements in biology, which have shaped science curricula, students like Julia, were able to clearly articulate the stages of birth and intelligently argue against the choice for abortion. While the group predominately favored the pro-life stance, due to the complexity of the issue, some students did wrestle with how to respond should a young girl become pregnant due to circumstances beyond her control. Based on responses, greater awareness and how to respond is needed.

#metoo movement

Students were not aware of this movement.

Illegal immigration

When it comes to the topic of illegal immigration, the students concluded the following: 1) Quicker, and simplified, path to citizenship is needed for those seeking a better life and are here working. 2) Illegal immigrants who choose to consume from entitlement programs without any contribution should face deportation. 3) The United States should use federal dollars in support of citizens in need within the border. 4) There is need for an intentional conversation leading to viable immigration reform over simply saying, “build the wall.”

Gun control

The night I conducted this interview was the eve of the Douglas Stoneman shooting. Many present shared their personal connection to the school, from having friends there to having graduated from the school.

When I asked the question about gun control, one student said, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people,” followed by applause from the group. Yet this impassioned response, which included voicing support for carrying a firearm for protection, included being in favor for smart gun regulations — such as exploring new methods to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the country.

They also expressed their concern for a more effective method to address mental health issues.

In summation: students engaged in a growing relationship with Christ tend to predominately reject relativism, and when faced with situations that challenge universalism, avoid generic talking points and search for real solutions.

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. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.

[Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect views of The Observer].

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CLERGY CORNER: A Moment of Silence for Stoneman Douglas

Posted on 01 March 2018 by LeslieM

Teaching children that murder is wrong because it is against the law, or it is not “nice,” or it runs against the social norm, does not penetrate the core of many youth. It is a shallow argument. By teaching our children that the Creator and Ruler of the world has deemed certain behaviors as wrong and evil, and this Creator cares about the behavior of every person and expects of him/her to behave with goodness and kindness toward others, and will hold this child responsible for their actions, we can hope to ingrain these values in them in a far more effective way. The child must be given to understand that the world is not a jungle, for there is a Creator and Master who sees and evaluates all his actions.there is, in the expression of the Talmud, an “eye that sees and the ear that hears.

When morality is based on my own moods and inclinations, or the norms of the school or the society, I can end up justifying the most heinous crimes. Germany was the most advanced nation in science and philosophy, yet in the name of science it produced the most chilling criminals in the annals of human history.

King David put it in Psalms: “The genesis of wisdom is the fear of G-d.” When children are inculcated from the youngest age with a “fear of G-d,” in the healthiest sense of the term, with a recognition that G-d has deemed certain behaviors evil, and He is watching them, there is a far greater chance for them to behave morally, despite internal turmoil and all types of challenges life my confer upon them.

There is one man I know seeking to create some change in one city.

At the border of Crown Heights and Brownsville, in an impoverished corner of Brooklyn, stands the hulking, tan brick building that houses P.S. 191, the Paul Robeson School.

The school serves a student population that is remarkable in its disadvantage: 99 percent of its roughly 300 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade qualify for free or reduced-price lunches; some live at the homeless shelter next door.

But, every morning at 8:30, half an hour after rambunctious kids come bouncing into the building in their blue school uniforms, this school becomes remarkable in a different way.

It gets quiet. For a full minute, there is only silence.

After a teacher and a handful of students announce the moment of silence over the loudspeaker system and offer something to think about for that day — a personal goal, or how to help someone else — each and every person at P.S. 191, from the littlest 4-year-old pre-kindergartener to the principal, pauses for 60 seconds.

P.S. 191 has been observing this morning ritual for the past three years, ever since Avraham Frank, a Chabad Chasidic Jew heeding the late Lubavitcher Rebbe’s call (back in the 70s and 80s when the violence in schools increased dramatically) for a daily moment of silence in public schools, walked in off the street and introduced the idea to the principal. So far Frank, a white-bearded 64-year-old with a day job managing home attendants for New York City’s Human Resources Administration, has persuaded administrators at 13 public schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens to institute a moment of silence.

His goal, he said, is to get moments of silence into schools “all over the city.”

Though school-sponsored prayer in American public schools has been prohibited since the 1962 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Engel v. Vitale, voluntary, student-initiated, private prayer is not. In response to the ban on school-sponsored prayer, there has been a nationwide push for the introduction into public schools of daily moments of silence that students can use to pray or reflect.

I have seen tremendous changes behavior-wise and in terms of punctuality,” said Sonia Witter- Clue, the supervising school aide. “The kids want to be here for the moment of silence. When they miss it, you can see they’re upset.”

Her 5-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old son, both students at P.S. 191, love it so much that they insist on having a moment of silence even at home on the weekends, she said.

And it has had a direct impact on the kids’ academic success, said Hadar Gafhi, the school’s assistant principal.

It focuses the children,” she said. During the moment of silence “they’ve made their resolutions for the day and are ready to learn, and they get right to work,” Gafhi said. “We’re seeing tremendous academic growth in our kids.”

Today, we need a paradigm shift in education both at home and in schools across the country. We must teach our children to be “mentchen” not only for the police not to get them in trouble or for people to disapprove of their behavior, but because there is something called right and wrong — and it matters. Kids will get that.

Thirty years ago, on May 17, 1987, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, penned a letter to President Ronald Reagan in The White House.

…It is particularly gratifying that you… bring to the attention of the Nation and of the International community the need of upgrading education in terms of moral values, without which no true education can be considered complete.

Consistent with your often declared position, that ‘no true education can leave out the moral and spiritual dimensions of human life and human striving,’ you, Mr. President, once again remind parents and teachers, in the opening paragraph of your Proclamation, that their sacred trust to children must include “wisdom, love, decency, moral courage and compassion, as part of everyone’s education.” Indeed, where these values are lacking, education is – to use a classical phrase – “like a body without a soul.”

With the summer recess approaching, one cannot help wondering how many juveniles could be encouraged to use their free time productively, rather than getting into mischief – if they were mindful of – to quote your words – a Supreme Being and a Law higher than man’s…”

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Parkland, Black Panther and God

Posted on 22 February 2018 by LeslieM

Why did God allow this to happen? That was the question my youngest daughter asked as we watched the news coverage and wrestled with our emotions over the recent tragedy at the High School in Parkland. I’m not sure that my answer satisfied her, or me for that matter. The question is always difficult to answer whenever it is asked in times of personal or public heartache. I mumbled something about our freedom to make our own choices in life, and how God does not force His will or His way upon any of us. We are free to choose and, unfortunately, some choices result in pain and suffering, for ourselves and others. The young shooter made some decisions last week that have severely impacted families, our community, and our state. Much hand-wringing, anger, despair and frustration are being displayed as a nation comes to grip with another sad 21st Century reality.

If God did, in fact, intervene to give us all only what we desire, and prevent any loss, would we be happy or satisfied? An affirmative answer is too easy to express, and the question demands further consideration. We’re all different and have varying tastes, preferences and experiences that combine to make us as unique as we are. What pleases one horrifies or offends another, and, when we are thrust together in community such as we are, it is inevitable that conflict will arise. Laws are enacted to provide boundaries for our protection by limiting our freedom. For the most part, we all try to live peacefully and make compromises when necessary to maintain harmony; but, every now and then, something happens to remind us of our imperfection.

Why did you leave him behind? That was the question posed by T’Challa to his father in the movie Black Panther. A young boy, of royal lineage, was left fatherless and alienated from his ancestral people, which gave rise to anger and a warped view of reality that he would grow up to impose upon his people and the world. That decision to leave him behind ultimately led to a nation in turmoil and a world in jeopardy. The fictional conflict in Black Panther and the real tragedy of Parkland converge at the point of consequences to decisions that are made by broken individuals. The villain of the movie and the shooter in the school are both tormented souls in need of healing and guidance. Proverbs 14:12 notes, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” When we reject the collective wisdom of family and community, we are left to our own imperfect perceptions informing our decisions, with potentially disastrous consequences.

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus offers us guidance as to how we should live. With respect to those with whom we differ and oppose, Matthew 5:44 records, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” The implementation of that directive alone would spare us from many of the tragedies we impose upon each other. God will not force us to do it, however; we are left to choose our own way.

It is my prayer that more of us would choose the way of love and peace, the way of God. My heart goes out to the victims of last week’s violence, along with prayers for comfort, peace and strength for their families. I pray for the tormented souls among us who need to be heard, healed and cared for. I pray for our government and legislators to heed the cries of the children in the streets, and to take steps to better protect them. I pray for a return to the safety, guidance and stability that used to mark the nuclear family. I pray that all of us would heed the wisdom of God and make better decisions for ourselves and those around us.

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: Joy in discipline

Posted on 15 February 2018 by LeslieM

And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 1He was in the wilderness for 40 days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.”

(Mark 1:12-13 NRSV)

The 40 days of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter. This is a season when we are encouraged either to give up something decadent or start something healthy. I have always found Lent to be a joyous time even during the struggle. In our resistance, we are reminded why … it is because of God. And when I crave something decadent, I am forced to think about God. And let’s say, during Lent, I think about God a lot.

My son and daughter came back from Youth Group with a burning question. While Lent is 40 days, from Ash Wednesday to Easter, Sundays are not factored into the 40 days. Therefore, do Sundays count?

And, if Sundays don’t count, would it be OK for us to break our pledge? My kids deducted that there is a loophole in Lent. My daughter gave up chocolate during Lent, but if the Lenten Loophole allows, maybe she could have a candy bar on Sundays. My son gave up pizza during Lent, but maybe Sunday would be a day where he could enjoy a cheesy slice of heaven.

I don’t think I had a great answer. But I did ask them the question: “What does your conscience tell you?” They both seemed disappointed. They made the right choice. Maybe my answer wasn’t that bad after all. But that wasn’t the only time I was confronted with the “Lenten Loophole.”

A choir director who served in a church I once served did not like Lent because she found it to be, in her words, depressing. We omitted the word “alleluia” from worship during Lent and would bring it out during Easter really giving that word a new and special meaning.

In the meantime, in an effort to find happy and uplifting music without the word alleluia, she found music that was a little quieter and more contemplative and, in her words, she found that music depressing.

Can we sing this song?” she asked as she handed me a piece of music riddled with the word “alleluia.” I told her no, for obvious reasons. She said “But, Sundays don’t count during Lent.”

Truthfully, this started a great conversation. We talked about the value of being quiet and contemplative. We talked about the traditions that most people brought with them to Florida, namely, observing Sunday as a part of Lent. And we found some music that was happy and uplifting that didn’t include the specific word “alleluia.” I think we both grew from this conversation.

Before I go any further I want to make it clear, Sundays do count during Lent. Easter is a moveable feast but always lands on a Sunday. Ash Wednesday is a moveable feast but always lands on a Wednesday. Omitting Sundays from the 40 days is a matter of Math, not a matter of Faith.

But I think the bigger issue is loopholes. What do we gain by looking for an escape clause? What benefit do we receive when we are given permission to cheat? And, ultimately, who are we cheating? Who are we kidding?

There is joy in discipline. When we resist temptation, we find ourselves stopping, pausing and reflecting on why. The why is God and the moment of contemplation is a moment of joy. I look at Lent less as an obligation and more as an opportunity. And, when I confront a day or more over and above the 40, I embrace this as yet one more opportunity.

What do we find in a loophole? We find empty space. At best, we experience a delicious moment that disappears and leaves us unsatisfied. We may even find disappointment. But we will not find joy.

Joy is hard to come by. But Lent is God’s gift to those of us who seek joy. Have a blessed and joyous Lent.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Why ‘never quit’ may be the worst advice

Posted on 07 February 2018 by LeslieM

When I was a 20-something, I knew there were two things that must not be named: Voldemort and the phrase “I quit” — because conventional wisdom commanded we follow the perseverance of Navy SEALs, who during training never “ring the bell” — never quit — because in the words of one commencement speaker, if “you want to change the world, don’t ever, ever ring the bell.”

What if that’s the worst advice. What if the only way to live a life worthy of your God-given calling is to quit? If you’re experiencing frustration, burnout and hopelessness, may I suggest ringing the bell in these seven ways?

1. Quit worrying about what people think of you. Lecrae, a Christian rapper, recently tweeted, “If you live for people’s acceptance, you’ll die from their rejection.” You can’t make everyone happy, so quit trying to please everyone and live a life worthy of your calling.

2. Quit investing in bad habits. I hate jogging, but I do it regularly — mostly so I can continue to eat all the Chipotle I want. I know that if I come home after a busy day and hit the couch, the only marathon I’m participating in is binge-watching The Office on Netflix. However, the advice Rory Vaden, author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, which is posted on my front door, reminds me daily that success requires doing the necessary things even if I don’t feel like doing them. It’s not a quick fix, but a lifestyle change.

3. Quit taking yourself so seriously. A general aviation magazine wisely noted that professionalism has less to do with a paycheck and more to do with your attitude. Flying passengers was definitely a serious job, but that didn’t stop me from having fun — I once threw a party for my passengers while sitting on a taxiway awaiting departure clearance to LaGuardia.

4. Quit asking the easy questions. Adam Grant, in his recently released book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, shares how corporate cultures that welcome individuals with dissenting opinions are more creative and make the greatest impact on society. Quit asking the easy questions like “What makes me happy?” and start asking “How do I quit being a comfortable consumer and become a risk-taking producer?”

5. Quit being so easily offended. David McCullough Jr., in his 2012 commencement speech to Wellesley High School, tells graduates that contrary to what little league trophies, exceptional middle school report cards, or even doting family members suggest, “You are not special … even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion, there are nearly 7000 people just like you.” Same is true for you and me: We aren’t any more special than the next, and that’s okay.

6. Quit taking pride in being busy. Senior pastor of Life.Church, Craig Groeschel, writes in his book Chazown: Discover and Pursue God’s Purpose for Your Life, “Everyone ends up somewhere, but few people end up somewhere on purpose.” Why? Because it’s easier to say, “I’m busy” — which sounds like we’re important, than it is to discipline yourself and live your values and priorities consistently. Schedule time this week to reflect on what matters most to you. Remember Andy Stanley’s advice that a “yes” is a “no” to something, which conversely is true.

7. Quit living your dream. Mark Batterson, author of Chase the Lion: If Your Dream Doesn’t Scare You, It’s Too Small, talks about how our dreams are tied into the dreams of those before us, up-line, and the dreams of those that come after us, down-line. His point: to honor both those before and after us we must quit our wimpy personal dreams and act upon the desires God has placed deep within our hearts — dreams that require divine intervention to be accomplished.

From this day forward, quit the status quo — the safe and predictable life — while chasing the purpose God has for your life (which is anything but safe and predictable). Begin to pray and seek wise counsel so that you’ll be able to quit the “right” wrong pursuits and behaviors limiting your God-given capacity as a person and leader. Then ring the bell.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at Deerfield Beach. Before being able to accept his God-given calling, C.J. had to completely trust God and quit being a commercial airline pilot. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: A bus of politicians

Posted on 31 January 2018 by LeslieM

A busload of politicians were driving down a country road, when suddenly the bus ran off the road and crashed into an old farmer’s barn. The old farmer got off his tractor and went to investigate. Soon, he dug a hole and buried the politicians. A few days later, the local sheriff came out, saw the crashed bus and asked the old farmer where all the politicians had gone. The old farmer told him he had buried them.

The sheriff asked the old farmer, “Lordy, were they ALL dead?”

The old farmer said, “Well, some of them said they weren’t, but you know how the crooked politicians lie.”

Einstein Lost His Ticket

Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist of the last generation who was also somewhat absent minded, was once traveling from Princeton on a train when the conductor came down the aisle, punching the tickets of every passenger. When he came to Einstein, Einstein reached in his vest pocket. He couldn’t find his ticket, so he reached in his trouser pockets. It wasn’t there, so he looked in his briefcase but couldn’t find it. Then he looked in the seat beside him. He still couldn’t find it.

The conductor said, “Dr. Einstein, I know who you are. We all know who you are. I’m sure you bought a ticket. Don’t worry about it.”

Einstein nodded appreciatively. The conductor continued down the aisle punching tickets. As he was ready to move to the next car, he turned around and saw the great physicist down on his hands and knees looking under his seat for his ticket.

The conductor rushed back and said, “Dr. Einstein, Dr. Einstein, don’t worry, I know who you are. No problem. You don’t need a ticket. I’m sure you bought one.”

Einstein looked at him and said, “Young man, I too, know who I am. What I don’t know is where I’m going.”

Friends, it is hard to trust politicians. And today many of us wonder, like Professor Einstein, where we are heading.

Splitting the Atom

The Lubavitcher Rebbe argued that discovery of atomic power must change the way we think—about ourselves, our potential and our responsibility toward our environment.

Atoms — those particles that make up the core of all matter, making up everything we see, touch, smell, and taste — are beyond tiny. A single human hair is about as thick as 500,000 carbon atoms stacked over each other. Your fist contains trillions and trillions of atoms. If one atom was as big as a marble how big would your fist be? About the size of the earth! Or, to put it in other words, all atoms of humanity can fit into a teaspoon. Go figure!

You’d have to be crazy to speculate that as tiny a particle as an atom can have an impact, never mind one that can alter the face of earth. It would seem as foolish as one can get far more absurd than telling me that an ant crawling on my porch will transform civilization.

But that is exactly what we discovered in the 20th Century. As Einstein demonstrated in 1905, there is a huge amount of energy in an atom. When an atom is split, the energy is released, creating a “chain reaction,” splitting more and more atoms, releasing more and more energy. The Manhattan Project successfully used this energy to create nuclear bombs, which devastated Japan and ended the Second World War.

Unlocking the secrets of the atom, fundamentally changed how humans interacted with nature, and created a whole new set of challenges facing humanity. But it also uncovered a vital truth. The tiniest atom, which can’t even be seen by the eye, can generate a reaction that can literally destroy the world! And if this is true of the power to destroy, which runs contrary to the design and purpose of the universe, how much more so when the power is invested positively: Even the tiniest soul can transform the world.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Living on purpose

Posted on 25 January 2018 by LeslieM

One understanding of purpose pertains to a person’s intent or resolve. The start of a new year provides an opportunity for many of us to make resolutions regarding the days ahead. A life of purpose is about more than making simple resolutions, however. It is about demonstrating commitment and dedication to what we hold dear, seek after and earnestly desire.

The biblical story of Daniel provides insight as to how we can fulfill our intentions. In the first chapter of Daniel, the young Hebrew is taken to Babylon and placed in a program of assimilation into the culture and learning of the king’s court. The daily diet, however, violated the strict religious guidelines that he had been taught to observe. Verse eight relates, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.”

Daniel’s purpose was established in his heart and provided a strong foundation for its fulfillment. He had determined to honor his God by refusing to partake of the allotted food, choosing a simple diet of vegetables and water instead. It was a risky proposition since he was a captive. His decision made from the heart positioned him to succeed in keeping his vow. With regards to our own resolutions, if the heart is not in it, we will likely never accomplish it. Your noble pursuits will always face challenges, but you can succeed if you purpose it in your heart.

Daniel appealed to the chief eunuch to exempt him from the required diet to maintain his religious purity. The fact that he verbalized his intent further reveals his determination. He needed to activate his purpose by speaking up about it. There is a vital connection between what the heart feels, and what the mouth utters. Matthew 12:34 teaches, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” As Daniel proclaimed his commitment, so too should we declare our intentions and speak them into existence.

Having purposed and proclaimed his intent, Daniel next had to perform what he had spoken. The dubious chief eunuch agreed to Daniel’s 10-day challenge, after which he would examine and compare Daniel’s fitness with the other young men. It has often been said that actions speak louder than words, and Daniel had to back-up what he had declared by sticking to his regimen. He dutifully ignored the sights and smells of the king’s delicacies while enjoying his simple diet. We should be similarly committed to seeing our intentions through. Confirm your words with action. People of purpose keep their word and do what they say.

Finally, Daniel proved himself with respect to what he had purposed. He was willing to be tested at the end of the period to validate his intent. The findings revealed that he was in far better health than those who had feasted on the king’s food.

The evidence of our commitment is often revealed in the test and we should be prepared to so authenticate our purposes. If your intentions are right, God will support your endeavor. Let us determine to be intentional in our living. Let’s purpose, proclaim, perform and prove ourselves capable of attaining our goals. In 2018, let’s live on purpose!

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Into the habit of prayer

Posted on 18 January 2018 by LeslieM

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 NRSV)

January is a good month to “take inventory” and move forward. The old year is behind us and the new year is in front of us. We learn from the past in order to plan for the future.

Financially, we prepare ourselves for taxes. Painful though it may be, we have to do it. And we look at our past spending and future expenditures and discover where we can change certain behaviors. We look back at some of our bad habits and try to get rid of them. Just as important, we start some new habits that are beneficial.

Physically, we consider our health and well-being. Perhaps, we schedule an annual physical. Perhaps, we join a gym or change some eating habits. January is a month when gym memberships jump. We quit our bad habits and start new ones.

If we take inventory on our finances and our physical health, maybe we should consider our spiritual health. There are any number of questions we can ask ourselves. Certainly, we get into bad habits and can start good ones. I would suggest that we get into the habit of prayer.

It was impressed upon me, as a child, that you pray when you wake up and when you go to bed, that you pray before you eat even if you are at a restaurant and others may see you. Prayer became second nature. As I look at prayer as a habit, I realize that there is a lot of room for improvement not only when it comes to the frequency of prayer, but the prayer itself. So I have two suggestions to take into consideration when it comes to prayer. One is on the quantity of prayer, the other is on the quality.

First, do we pray enough? I am amazed at faith traditions that call their faithful to pray three, five, as much as eight times a day over and above bedtime and meals. What would happen if we challenged ourselves to pray at least once a day over and above our regular prayers?

In a bygone era, church bells could be heard and the faithful were reminded to pray. It is hard to imagine the sound of church bells drowning out the noise of traffic. What can remind us of prayer?

A little feature on my cell phone is the ability to set an alarm. Cell phones can be alarm clocks and remind us of events that happen throughout the day. I set my alarm to go off once a day to remind me to stop and pray. This little reminder has kept me spiritually grounded and added the additional blessing of prayer.

Second, how do we pray? Any prayer is good, including memorized prayers. Perhaps, there is a table blessing that you have used throughout your life. Perhaps, there is a prayer you have prayed each night before you went to bed.

Of course, you can pray without memory. I have noticed some people are pretty eloquent in their public prayers and some are intimidated by the idea of praying out loud. No worries. Talk to God, he knows what you need better than you.

It is easy to get into the habit of “saying prayers.” I always correct people who will invite people to pray by saying: “Let us say the Lord’s Prayer.” I say, better yet, let us “pray” the Lord’s Prayer. Let us slow down, listen, concentrate and focus on each word Jesus taught us to pray. In short, if you want to improve the quality of your prayer, slow down.

These two little points may help you throughout this new year. On behalf of Zion Lutheran Church and me, Pastor Jeff Gross, I want to wish you a very blessed and Happy New Year.

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: Stop raising good kids and start raising saved adults

Posted on 11 January 2018 by LeslieM

Meet Kevin and Sandy Chapman, parents of four boys and a recently adopted daughter. They were high school sweethearts who have, at various times in the last five years, fostered 15 different girls.

Life is busy. Kevin and Sandy both work while juggling church activities, four different sports schedules, helping with the boys’ homework and caring for an infant.

It’s a struggle at times,” says Kevin, as they work to model for their children a life surrendered to God, and pray other families will follow suit. In their pursuit of intentionally investing in their children’s spiritual lives, the Chapmans will tell you that it doesn’t come without its challenges.

Sandy says, “We’re not perfect by any means… It’s okay to mess up; it’s all a learning process. Ask for forgiveness; know what you did and make right of it.”

Find solace in knowing that building and modeling a lifestyle centered upon God — a lifestyle your children will hopefully adopt as adults — won’t materialize overnight (but is nonetheless, still mandatory). Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.” So disciple you must.

Yet, an increasing number of church-going parents are choosing “do not,” expecting the church to fill the void. In his book Youth Ministry: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Get It Right, David Olshine calls this approach to discipleship “payroll entitlement,” which is the hiring of professionals to care for and shepherd youth apart from disconnected parents. As such, youth ministry “has often-times unknowingly contributed to the breakdown of parents’ role in the discipleship of their children” by accepting the role of the primary disciple-maker. This is a problem.

Deuteronomy 6:6-9 instructs parents to impress upon their children God’s commandments—to talk about them at home, in the car and even while eating at Chick-fil-A. To feed and shepherd the flock God has given them… “to be the primary nurturers of their children’s faith,” Olshine writes.

To what end? According to John Piper, it’s a faith that allows for complete satisfaction in God, a faith that is “captured by the Gospel of Jesus,” authentic, sustainable and non-pursuant of behavior modification, and “churchy experiences.” It is faith that changes the heart because Jesus has become their “one, overriding hope and their greatest love,” writes Jack Klumpenhower in Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids. And this begins when parents, like Kevin and Sandy, believe and live as though following Christ is life-changing and “better than anything else.”

Parents, show your children Jesus. Model for them a surrendered life in everyday interactions — exemplifying what it means to love God and love others. Your example is leading your children toward or away from Christ.

To do this, you won’t need skinny jeans or Snapchat. Start with what’s doable for your family and be consistent, and have some fun. Aside from their regular devotional times, Kevin recently gathered the family for a night of listening to and the singing of worship songs. Hugs, tears and forgiveness followed as the Chapmans realigned themselves with God’s priorities.

In addition to impromptu nights of worship music, Sandy encourages parents to keep a prayer journal for their kids. Because every child struggles differently, replace generic prayers for specific ones that address the child’s exact needs, she adds.

Consider sponsoring a child overseas and involve your children in the letter-writing process. Expose them to the realities other children endure; spend time as a family packing and distributing kits for the homeless, talk about how to responsibly engage in social issues; encourage your children to share their faith at school or through the context of their sports — even if they attend a private Christian school; or catch a movie and discuss its message afterword.

It takes work, but even the most regular activities, like driving to school, can be repurposed as discipleship opportunities.

The Chapmans agree that no parent will regret the intentional time spent disciplining their children. They’ll see how God used those moments to stir within their child a longing for Him and His commands.

Their children will have aspired beyond being “good adults,” and instead, by the grace of God, become saved adults who themselves, make disciples.

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. He loves to mentor the next generation of leaders and considers himself a fast food connoisseur. For questions or comments, connect with him on social media: @thecjwetzler.

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CLERGY CORNER: Thoughts on the New Year

Posted on 04 January 2018 by LeslieM

Re-Election

In our lives we are running for re-election every year as we close one year and open another. In our election, it is our spouses, our children, our parents, our friends, co-workers, employees, employers and G-d that get to vote. We need to reclaim the admiration of all of them in order to win re-election.

If your children had a chance to “vote” for their dad … or not, what type of vote would you receive? How would your children judge you today as a father? Do we just manage them and throw toys at them so they don’t distract us, or do we create a space in our soul every night to nurture them? Do you let them know in very real ways that they matter?

Small Steps

We try to enhance our lives through small steps, not through huge sweeping changes, for those never last. We add one more mitzvah or resolution into our lives. We resolve that this year we will make one small but real change in our lives.

Let me tell you a story: There once was a poor woman who had no money to feed her children. One day she managed to acquire an egg.

Dear children,” she exclaimed, “let’s not eat this egg! If we wait a while, the egg will hatch and we will have a chick. The chick will grow into a chicken that lays eggs every day. They will also hatch, and soon we’ll have a flock of chickens. We’ll sell the chickens and buy a little calf. The calf will grow into a cow and will give birth to many calves that will grow into cows. Before long, we’ll have a big ranch with a large herd of cattle. Listen, dear children, this little egg will make us rich!”

In her excitement, the mother held up the egg for her children to see. It slipped out of her hand – and cracked wide open on the kitchen floor.

We often make the same error. During this time, we often make lofty albeit worthwhile resolutions. But, as soon as the New Year passes by, we go back to our old ways and the good intentions evaporate. The challenge is to ensure that our resolutions are rooted in the present, and at a level at which we can actually make day-to-day progress.

Be Real

Abe is talking to his friend.

If there’s one piece of simple advice I can give you, Marvin, it’s this. I read it in the Times yesterday and it worked immediately for me.

I’ve finally found inner peace. I’m sure it will work for you too.”

So give me this advice, already,” says Marvin.

OK, here it is,” replies Abe. “The way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you’ve started.”

Really?” says Marvin.

Yes,” replies Abe. “I looked around to see all the things I had started but hadn’t finished. So, I finished one bottle of white wine, a bottle of red wine, a keg of beer, the bottle of whiskey, and a large box of gourmet chocolates. You have no idea how good I felt.”

On the New Year, we are called to take a TRUE look at ourselves.

A liar,” said the Maggid of Kelm, “is worse than a thief or robber. A thief steals at night, but is afraid to steal by day. A robber robs night and day, but only robs a lone individual or a few people; he is afraid to rob too many at once. The liar, however, lies both at night and day, both to the individual and to the world.”

Are we real people? How many lies do we say a day? Do we say white lies? Are we honest in our conversations and dealings? Are we true to ourselves as we should be?

Most of us walk through most of our life distracted from the most important and truest question of life: Why are we here? Today, I encourage you to look out, be sensitive for those precious moments — when you may discover a deeper, truer part of yourself — and take it with you.

Have a Happy New Year!

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

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