| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: With boundaries comes freedom

Posted on 13 June 2019 by LeslieM

My wife and I recently vacationed in Myrtle Beach, SC. Upon entering the condo, we immediately headed for the covered balcony to get our first glimpse of the South Carolina coast. Without even thinking, we leaned our weight against the handrail of the balcony located on the 11th floor! Those were the first minutes of many hours we spent on that balcony. We even let our 22-month-old granddaughter play on the balcony. One day, it occurred to me that none of us would sit on the patio, much less let an infant play out there, without the presence of the handrail. That handrail was a boundary that provided us with the peace of mind to freely enjoy the beautiful view from the balcony.
I had a similar experience many years ago when our children were young. We bought a house on a canal, and the yard was not fenced when we moved in. We noticed that our children would go only from the back door to the swing set and back. They never wandered near the water, nor to the sides of the yard. We eventually put a fence around our back yard and noticed that our children started using the entire back yard. They went down to the fence line at the canal and also began venturing toward the neighbors houses on each side of us. Again, it dawned on me… by defining the boundary, it gave a sense of security for our kids. It kept good things in, bad things out, and gave freedom to use the entire backyard, rather than only a small portion of it.
While some would argue that boundaries restrict freedom, the truth is that boundaries expand our freedoms and protect our interests. Within the boundaries of marriage, couples create confidence, establish trust, learn the art of partnership, experience greater happiness, increase their emotional health, enjoy guilt-free sex … and all of this without looking over their shoulder, worrying about STDs or wrestling with emotional pain and guilt. Traffic boundaries also illustrate the point. By staying between the painted lines (boundaries), a vehicle will most often reach its destination without incident. Athletes try to keep their feet in bounds; businesses operate within the boundaries of the law and governments protect those who live within their borders.
Establishing personal boundaries is a healthy part of life. Dating boundaries help maintain purity. Physical boundaries help protect against abuse. Intellectual boundaries allow opinions to be shared respectfully. Emotional boundaries keep us from personalizing everything. Digital boundaries help us avoid pornography, gossip sites, cyber bullying or even attempting to impress others by embellishing our posts on social media.
The spiritual boundaries found in the Bible are also there for our protection. Just as God set boundaries for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the Bible reveals boundaries for daily living. Loving God first (Matt 22:36-38), loving others second (Matt 22:39-40) and following the 10 Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17) are good places to start. The Bible discusses boundaries regarding doctrine, conduct, friendships, business partnerships, relationships, work/rest, idols and so much more. God loves us enough to set boundaries that protect us and that allow us to enjoy life to the fullest. The bottom-line is that the boundaries established by God do not restrict our lives, they enhance it (John 10:10).
Dr. Gary A. Colboch is Lead Pastor at Grace Church (501 NE 48 St. in Pompano Beach). Contact info: 954-421-0190 or pastor@gbcfl.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Shavuot

Posted on 06 June 2019 by LeslieM

A can of beans

Three guys are alone on a desert island: an engineer, a biologist and an economist. They are starving and don’t have a thing to eat, but somehow they find a can of beans on the shore.

The engineer says, “Let’s hit the can with a rock until it opens.”

The biologist has another idea, “No. We should wait for a while. Erosion will do the job.”

Finally, the economist says, “Let’s assume that we have a can opener.”

The Desert

What was the significance of the fact that Torah was given in a wilderness, in a barren and infertile desert, not in a civilized terrain, nor on soil conducive to human living and nature’s blessing. Why did G-d communicate His blueprint for life and enter into an eternal covenant with the Jewish people in the aridity and desolateness of a desert?

1. The Torah was given on soil not owned by any particular people or community, to signify that the Torah belongs to every single soul.

2. The giving of the Torah in the wilderness represents the idea that Torah is not a product of a particular culture and genre. It enriches all cultures, but transcends them. 

3. The function of Torah is to confront and refine the “barren wilderness” within the human psyche and the world.

The Bible relates that when Moses presented the covenant before the Israelites, they responded, “We will do and we will listen” (Exodus 24:7). This expression has always been a source of wonderment and surprise to rabbis and a refutation of the anti-Semitic portrayal of Jews as calculating and self-protective. “We will do and we will listen” implies a commitment to observe the covenant even before the Jews heard its details and understood its ramifications.

The Talmud tells a story about a Sadducee who once saw one of the great Talmudic sages, Rava, so engrossed in learning that he did not attend a wound in his own hand. The Sadducee exclaimed, “You rash people! You put your mouths ahead of your ears [by saying “we will do and we will listen”], and you still persist in your recklessness. First, you should have heard out [the covenant details]. If it is within your capacity, then accept it. If not, you should have rejected it!” 

His argument was logical. Imagine somebody offers you to invest a large sum of money in a developing company. To respond, “Sure, here is the money, and then, afterward, I will listen to the details” is ridiculous. If you do not know what the company is all about, why subject your money to possible loss? And, yet, in this case, the Jews declared that they were ready to embrace a life-altering covenant, even before they heard all the details and knew what Judaism was all about! Why? How?

Rava answered the Sadducee with these words, “We walked [into it] with our whole being.”

What Rava meant was this: By definition, a relationship with G-d cannot be created on our terms; it must be on His terms.

If there is something called Truth, if there is something called Reality, we cannot define it; it must define us. We cannot accept it on condition that it suits our senses and expectations. On the contrary, we must realign our condition to it. Once the Jewish people knew that G-d was communicating with them, they did not want to fit religion into their imagination; they had no pre- conditions for a relationship with truth. It was in the desert that the Jews can declare, “We will do and we will listen.”

 This process must occur each year anew. To receive Torah, we must have the courage to walk into a desert; we must strip ourselves from any pre-defined self-identity. We need to be ready to hear the sound beneath the sounds we are accustomed to. Torah is not merely a cute and endearing document filled with rituals, to satisfy nostalgia or tradition. Torah demands that we open ourselves up with our whole being and declare, “We shall do and we shall listen!”

Ten Commandments will be read at services Sunday at 11 a.m. Feel free to join our services.

Happy Shavuot 

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: Three in One

Posted on 30 May 2019 by LeslieM

We celebrate three feast days during this one week: Rogation Day last Sunday, Memorial Day last Monday, and Ascension Day on Thursday. They are all important days in the life of the church and in the life of our nation, and all three are connected by gifts we receive from our Father in heaven — the gift of joy and sustenance on Rogation Day, the gift of the willingness of our heroic brethren to sacrifice their all for the country our Father in heaven gave to us, and the gift of hope for eternal life given us by the Lord when he ascended back to our Father in heaven.  

We have celebrated Memorial Day and Ascension Day many times and most of us have a clear understanding of their significance, but what about Rogation Day? Historically, Rogation Days were times when our ancestors sought God’s mercy and blessing, particularly in connection with farming and agriculture. Agriculture is certainly critical to our 21st Century well-being but with family farms rapidly being replaced by industrial agriculture our prayers on Rogation Day, which acknowledge the mystical wonders of God’s creation, may not have the same significance as they had in the past. 

Angela Morgan, the American poet, reminds us of the mystical wonders of God’s creation in her lovely poem, God the Artist. She begins and ends with the verse, “God, when you thought of a pine tree, how did you think of a star?”  The verses in between are expressions of amazement for bird songs and speckled wings, chiseled raindrops and satin leafs, moonlit nights and honeysuckle vines, and the mystery of how God knew that Madeira grapes could be distilled into an ecstatic wine. She invites us to step out into God’s creation and be mystified anew at His gifts to us of joy and sustenance.    

We human beings often have a tendency of thinking that our greatest teachers are found in churches and universities, in concert halls and poetry readings, or in the company of a dizzying variety of counselors and annalists while forgetting the teaching power of God’s creation. The Book of Jobpoints this out to us with these words: “Ask the animals and they will teach you . . . or the birds in the sky and they will tell you . . .  or speak to earth and it will instruct you.”  Wendell Berry, the American novelist and farmer, adds his delightfully modern voice to this classical wisdom: “When you are new at sheep-raising and your ewe has a lamb, your impulse is to stay there and help it, to nurse and see to it all. After a while, you know that the best thing you can do is walk out of the barn.” We sometimes forget the teaching power of creation — God is in charge and when we try to take over what we sometimes do ends up being little more than interference with God’s plans for us.

And a final thought on this three in one week is to remind us of the healing power God has gifted to us in His creation. No place in the Bible speaks better of this than the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul.”  And a 21st Century voice also speaks of this: “The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all this is as it should be.”  These words, of course, are those of a 15-year-old girl who was exterminated in 1945 — Anne Frank.

What do we learn this week from God’s creation? We learn of its mystical wonders, its power to teach, and its power to heal. And, best of all, these gifts are there for each of us just outside our front door.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is the pastor at the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Take another look

Posted on 23 May 2019 by LeslieM

The American painter, John Sargent, once painted a panel of roses that was highly praised by critics. It was a small picture, but it approached perfection. Although offered a high price for it on many occasions, Sargent refused to sell it. He considered it his best work and was very proud of it. Whenever he was deeply discouraged and doubtful of his abilities as an artist, he would look at it and remind himself, “I painted that.” Then his confidence and ability would come back to him.

All of us will experience times when we may feel doubtful and discouraged by the adversities we face. James 1:2-4 ought to serve us like the painting of John Sargent. Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well developed, not deficient in any way (MSG). As believers, we can find hope, encouragement, and motivation to go on, knowing that God has a plan in every state and stage of our lives. Troubles and trials are part and parcel of living in this fallen world. James’ advice provides an advantage in the knowledge that trials can be used to help us instead of hindering us. He causes us to consider the perspective, process and product of trials.

Our perspective influences our attitude towards our experiences. By viewing struggles not as mere annoyances but as potential advantages, we can be better positioned to endure and overcome them. James urges us to consider trials as gifts and to embrace them joyfully. Then, there is a process at work in that times of testing enable us to develop and progress. What may be stressful may also be awakening our creativity and stirring our productivity. Without the struggle, we may not know what we’re capable of doing or becoming. As muscles are strengthened under pressure, we too can benefit from the process of pain and difficulty. The product or result of testing, according to James, is maturity and a well-balanced person. In the NKJV of the passage, it relates that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. Just as the passage of time makes adults out of children, so we are designed to develop and become complete as a result of seasons of struggle.

Oyster pearls are produced as a result of grains of sand becoming trapped in the flesh of the oyster. Like dust irritates us when trapped between our eyelids and eyeball, the oyster become stressed by the experience. It secretes a substance through this distress that eventually hardens and becomes the precious pearl that we use for jewelry. Without the discomfort and struggle, the oyster would never produce the pearl and women would not have such beautiful necklaces. Perhaps we should take another look at our struggles and challenges. Seeing them differently may cause us to experience a different outcome than what initially appears to be inevitable.

God in His wisdom has given us the ability to progress despite the troubles of life. He turns our obstacles into opportunities and our stumbling blocks into stepping-stones. What may even be intended for evil, God can turn around for our good! The thing meant to break us down can actually enable us to break through. In the face of trials, sigh if you will, cry if you must, but then hold your head up, square your shoulders and keep on going. Things may not go the way you expect but be patient, hold on, hang in there! God is doing something inside of you. He’s building you, perfecting you, establishing you. You’re probably stronger today than you were on yesterday, and tomorrow you’ll be stronger than you are today. Take another look.

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: For such a time as this

Posted on 16 May 2019 by LeslieM

My wife and I love to spend Saturday mornings drinking coffee at the beach, as we watch the boats going out through the inlet for a day of deep sea recreation. When the coffee is gone, we usually take a leisurely stroll down to the Deerfield Beach Pier, as we enjoy the beautiful beach, the early morning sun and the surf. One morning, we were blessed to see sea turtles hatching; another day, we watched the pelicans repeatedly diving to catch fish; and, some days, the best entertainment comes in watching people.

Recently, we were enjoying an early morning walk and noticed the surf was a little more rough than normal. The tide was in, the waves were breaking closer to shore, and there was a large amount of seaweed. The clear path of firm sand along the shoreline was more narrow than normal and we were cautiously watching so as not to step on any man o’ war. We fixed our gaze on the ground in front of us.

I began to notice the footprints in the sand. I observed the small footprints of children, the large footprints of adults, footprints revealing those who were pigeon-toed, those with crooked toes and so on. Regardless of the size and shape of the footprint, they all had something in common – they were only there for a few moments and then washed away by the waves. I was reminded of James 4:14“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

I mentioned my observation to my wife and soon we had both stood still to watch the footprints being formed and then the waves washing them away. It was one of those “aha!” moments in my life. It dawned on me how short life really is. I realized that the impression I make in this world is here only for a moment. Others will come behind me and never realize that I had walked before them. I was walking where others walked previously. I found myself asking the question, “What is my life? Will my effort really make any difference or does it simply fade away never to be noticed by those who come after me?” I must admit that I found myself slightly discouraged for a moment, since I pour my heart and soul into everything I do.

In those moments, it was as though God was teaching me one of the most valuable lessons of my life. I immediately thought of Mordecai’s words to Queen Esther, “…who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mordecai knew that God had prepared Esther for what needed to be done in that exact time – not in the past and not in the future; but for that exact moment in time. Matthew instructed us not to worry about tomorrow. Solomon stated “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up”

As I stood there on the shoreline gazing at those footprints, I realized that God only wants me to consider the work He has trusted me with today — not the past, nor the future. He placed me here “for such a time as this.” We cannot change the past, nor can we dictate the future, as it applies to family, ministry, work or any other area of life. Be encouraged, realizing that God only asks us to be faithful to the task He has entrusted us with today.

Dr. Gary A. Colboch is Lead Pastor at Grace Church (501 NE 48 St. in Pompano Beach). 954-421-0190 or pastor@gbcfl.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Poway and the Struggle for America’s Soul

Posted on 02 May 2019 by LeslieM

A portion of text written By Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org in memory of the tragic events at the Chabad in Poway. Submitted by Rabbi Tzvi Dechter

If you’re a Jew in America today, there’s a good chance you’re concerned. First, the largest hate-driven massacre of Jews in American history occurred in Pittsburgh. Then, precisely six months later, with an almost identical fingerprint of hatred, was a deadly attack on a synagogue in Poway, California.

Whose problem is this?

The Jewish people are no weaker for these attacks. Synagogues are not about to empty out because of a handful of disturbed, poisoned minds and much to the contrary. As for those whose lives were taken, all very special Jews, all missed terribly: Don’t call them victims. There’s an honored title in Jewish tradition for any Jew who lost his or her life simply for being a Jew: a Kadosh, a holy Jew. Jews don’t die as victims; we die with dignity. That is why we are still alive.

My contention is that this is not a Jewish problem. It’s the world’s problem. Both these attacks, along with many other violent crimes of hatred in recent years are symptoms of a malicious disease spreading unabated in America, in Europe, and in the world at large. But that’s a problem that we, as Jews, are going to have to assist in healing, for our own best interest, as well as for the interest of this country and for the entire world.

America is suffering. According to FBI figures, hate crimes rose 17 percent last year, with similar increases over the previous two years — all this while other forms of violent crime continue to decrease. Something’s wrong.

Jews are an obvious target. Like the canary in the coal mine, we tend to get hit the hardest. And, yes, these are acts of rabid Anti-Semitism. But, if we want to solve anything, we need to take a broader perspective. Muslims, Christians and others have been under siege as well. Just a few days before the Poway shooting, a young war veteran plowed into a crowd crossing the street in Sunnyvale, CA. He told police he thought they were Muslims. Is there a medicine for this plague?

In the 60s, 70s and 80s, violence was increasingly on the rampage in America in a way not seen since the days of the Wild West. Ideas for quick fixes and long-term solutions abounded. The Rebbe’s prescription, unique and counterintuitive, was this: Fix the education system. How? Introduce a moment of silence every day into the school curriculum and take it seriously.

Why do I think that’s a good fit for today’s plague of hate-driven violence?

Think about it: America is divided over gun law restrictions, yet there is one point that enjoys universal consensus: Gun restrictions alone are not enough because the problem is not the gun. The problem is the mind of the person that holds the gun.

What has the American school done for the mind of that criminal?

We taught him how human beings first appeared on the planet. Did we teach him to be a human being [or] to respect another human being?

We taught him to use his mind to solve problems with numbers. Did we teach him to apply his mind — rather than his fists to solve problems with people?

We taught him anatomy. Did we teach him that a human life is more than the sum of blood, guts and bones? Or did we, perhaps, inadvertently, teach him that the notion of a human soul has no place in the educated mind?

We taught him about laws and prisons. Did we teach him that even if you’re so smart that you don’t get caught, you’re still wrong? Did we give him a conscience?

Did we ever demonstrate to him that these are the things that really matter in life — more than math, more than science, even more than the niftiest technology? Did we ever give him a chance to stop and think about himself, about his life, about his family, about everything that bothers him in life? Is there a space and time for thinking about life in his school?

That’s all that a moment of silence in school is about. And, yes, it works wonders. Ask those who work in schools where it’s been implemented.

They will tell you that a moment of silence means that a child will go home and ask [parents] what he should think about. It means that a child will share with his teacher the troubles he’s going through. It means the school becomes a place not just for the child’s mind, but for his heart and his soul.

Jews have to adapt to the times. The knee-jerk reaction, reinforced through thousands of years of history, has been to huddle down and strengthen the internal steel grid when under attack. But America in 2019 is not Shushan, not Rome, not medieval Spain, not Poland.

It’s that attitude that prompted some Jews to believe that if Judaism were to be safe in America, G d had to be kicked out of public school. They failed to realize that, in the times we live in, the opposite is true. A moral society demands a notion of an objective, supreme judge, an “eye that sees and an ear that hears”—even if you don’t get caught by the police or the media. When that notion is lost, so is America’s soul, and that’s when the madness begins.

A moment of silence doesn’t impose prayer or belief in a Creator on anyone. But it opens the child’s mind to search for meaning, and, hopefully, for G d’s presence in the world. And there’s a good chance the child will talk to parents and grandparents, and discover that they once had faith in their lives.

True, Anti-Semitism never died, even in America, but here we have a voice, a well-respected voice, and, therefore, a responsibility to our host country. Isn’t this why we were given a Torah? Isn’t this the core mission of our people here in this world — to be a light to the nations, who will finally come to realize that the world has a Creator who cares about how we treat His world?

We can use our voices to heal America. Let America’s schools nurture the humanness of America’s children. Let children know the meaning of silence, just enough silence that they can hear their own hearts pounding inside. Let America have a soul again.

This Saturday, join us in solidarity with the call of the Chabbad emissary, R Yisroel Goldstein of Poway; Jewish communities are filling the synagogues with pride, strengh and joy!

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: The world’s greatest comeback!

Posted on 25 April 2019 by LeslieM

The world loves a good comeback story! On Sunday, April 14, Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters Tournament. After going 11 years without winning any major championships, suffering through a scandal and divorce, being arrested for suspected DUI, and having three back surgeries that hampered his golfing ability, Tiger roared back to the delight and surprise of the world. Though his true fans always had hope, many experts and sports commentators had written Tiger off. They said he was finished; they said he was a washed-up player whose best years were behind him; they looked to newer and younger pros like Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. His 11-year drought and difficulty finding his rhythm after the back surgeries convinced them that Tiger Woods’ championship days were a thing of the past. But rejecting the negative prognostications of the naysayers, fighting through the pain of his back problems, and persisting despite the failures of his previous attempts, Tiger made a dramatic comeback!

One day later, Monday, April 15, during game two of the Western Conference playoffs, the LA Clippers fought their way back from a 31-point deficit to beat the Golden State Warriors 135-131. The effort broke the previous NBA finals comeback record held by the LA Lakers, who rallied from 29 points behind to defeat Seattle in the 1989 Western Conference semis. One news headline described the Clippers’ win over the Warriors as the NBA’s biggest playoff comeback. Somehow, the Clippers had managed to fight their way back from certain defeat against the defending champion Warriors in a stunning upset victory. What made the win even more remarkable is the fact that the Warriors team boasts several superstar players (Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green), whereas the Clippers boast no major talent. Like David facing the invincible Goliath, the Clippers (on that night) brought down the mighty Warriors and gave the world of sports another great comeback story.

This past Sunday, the Christian church celebrated what is arguably the world’s greatest comeback. Some 2,000 years ago, the historical Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross as punishment for claiming to be the Son of God. His enemies had rejected Him and plotted His downfall even though He operated with undeniable power. Judas betrayed Him, His disciples forsook Him, and the crowds that heralded Him on Sunday demanded His crucifixion on Friday. It looked like all hope was lost; it seemed like His work was all in vain; it even appeared that God had turned His back on Him. But He had predicted: destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again (see John 2:19). And early Sunday morning, He got up from the grave just as He said. In so doing, He made it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God. If you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved (Romans 10:9).

The Genesis account of creation reveals that the unique relationship that Adam and Eve shared with God in the Garden of Eden was severed when they ate the forbidden fruit. Consequently, all of humanity was positioned as rebellious against God, made slaves to sin, and in need of redemption. The only remedy was a sacrifice of blood by a spotless lamb. Jesus was that lamb slain for the sins of the world. His death paid the price and His resurrection certified that sin’s power was broken. We no longer have to hide from God like Adam and Eve did after they sinned, we can enjoy fellowship with Him. We’re no longer destined for His wrath, but we are the objects of His love. It was the greatest comeback! Jesus’ resurrection also inspires us to push past personal failures and setbacks in the hopes of recovery and restoration. As He suffered, He is qualified to help those who are suffering (see Hebrews 2:18). He turned His tragedy into triumph, and He can help you to do the same. Put your trust in Him and you may discover that your setback was really a set up for a great comeback.

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: Until we meet again

Posted on 18 April 2019 by LeslieM

It seems strange to begin an article about Easter talking about Christmas. However, I do begin most of my Christmas sermons talking about Easter. Usually, I start my Christmas sermon by saying something like “Today, we celebrate the second most important Christian holiday.” You should see the looks of confusion I get. Then, I say “Without Easter, today would just be another birthday.”

It is true. Without the Crucifixion and Resurrection; without Good Friday and Easter Sunday, we would be left with words and miracles from the greatest man who ever lived. But because of Easter, we celebrate his words, his miracles, his death and resurrection, and the promise that awaits us in God’s glorious kingdom.

In our culture, my statement is still quite jarring. We like Christmas, regardless of who we are, believer and non-believer alike loves presents, Santa, Christmas trees, cookies. Christmas has become so secularized that you can listen to hours of Christmas music and never hear of the birth of Jesus. Some people even avoid the word “Christmas” altogether.

You really can’t do that with Easter. Sure, there is a bunny and chocolate eggs and a couple of Peter Cottontail songs. But Easter doesn’t get the same attention as Christmas. I think this is good. Without the Resurrection, Easter would be all chocolate and jelly beans. Easter gives meaning to Easter.

I think about the years that I have served as a pastor, 25 years this coming September. I think about the privilege and joy that I have had meeting wonderful, wise, generous, lively and loving people. I think about how much better my life is because of the people I served, knew and loved. Many have died and their legacy lives in my heart.

Easter is the promise that I will see them again. Easter is the joyful reminder that they are with the Lord. This blessed assurance gives me the consolation that helps me go from day to day. Easter reminds me that the friends who I know and love now will be my friends forever.

Dear people of Deerfield Beach (and beyond), this will be my last Easter at Zion Lutheran Church. I am returning to my home with my family. Zion has been a wonderful congregation to serve and I have made lifelong friends not only at Zion, but in this community that I love so dearly. It is going to be an emotional Easter for me, but, because of Easter, I know that I never really have to say goodbye. Because of Easter, I can simply say “Until we meet again.”

So, Deerfield Beach and surrounding communities, I say on behalf of Zion and myself “Blessed Easter.” And, Because of Easter, I can say “Until we meet again.”

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: Over entertained and under challenged!

Posted on 11 April 2019 by LeslieM

It’s been many years since I first heard Andy Stanley make the statement, “Today’s teenagers are over entertained and under challenged.” His sermon, preached at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, was addressing the way so many churches were approaching student ministry and measuring success by the numbers. His observation was correct back then, and it is still correct today.

In a church culture that measures success almost solely by numbers, it only makes sense that youth pastors are prone to entertaining students and striving to gather the masses in order to be viewed as successful. Sadly, the same entertainment mentality is true with adults. Too many adults choose a church based on the length of the services, whether the church has a softball team, how humorous the pastor is, and whether or not they like the music. These superficial factors show the shallowness plaguing the Christian church today.

The long-term effects of the entertainment focus in ministry can be seen in the spiritual adolescence prevalent among today’s believers. We are in dire need of discipleship. The effectiveness of discipleship can be measured by whether or not those who call themselves disciples begin to disciple others. In essence, the student should eventually become the teacher. But, how is someone who has been over entertained and under challenged supposed to gain the knowledge necessary to teach? The Apostle Paul describes this dilemma in Hebrews 5:12-14 NIV“ In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.”

Not only has the focus on entertainment in ministry caused a shallowness of knowledge, but it has also resulted in fewer people being exposed to real ministry opportunities. Churches used to “do“ ministry, go on mission trips, serve their communities, and impact their world. That exposure to ministry often resulted in growing churches and people surrendering to become vocational ministers. Today, fewer people are entering vocational ministry, seminary enrollment has declined nationally, as well as church attendance across denominational lines. The common denominator is that too many church-goers have been and continue to be over entertained and under challenged.

So, which word best describes the church you attend – “entertainment” or “discipleship?” It’s never too late to start challenging others to grow spiritually. Jesus challenged 12 men, and in just three years He prepared them to impact eternity! Think how different the world would have been if He only entertained them. Think how different our world could be, if today’s churches will rise up and challenge those who God has entrusted to us!

Dr. Gary A. Colboch is Lead Pastor at Grace Church (501 NE 48 St. in Pompano Beach). Contact info: 954-421-0190 or
pastor@gbcfl.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Three necessary items for internal liberation: Wine, Maror, Matzah

Posted on 04 April 2019 by LeslieM

The three most important ingredients at the seder table [for Passover] are the wine, matzah and maror (bitter herbs) for these three items capture the three foundational ideas that can allow us to set ourselves free.

A) The first step is wine. Wine possesses deep potency.

“When wine enters, secrets come out,” says the Talmud. 

Wine represents the “secrets” in us — for wine itself is a “secret:” It is initially hidden and concealed within the grape, and it takes much labor to extract it from the source; the grapes have to be crushed and the wine to ferment. Wine, an intoxicating beverage, represents the deeply concealed powerful forces lingering within the human psyche.

The first step in setting yourself free is realizing how much more there is to you than what meets the eye. You must recognize your potential — what you were really meant to be, what you are capable of becoming — for you to break out of the chains.

B) This comes together with step two — maror, which represents the bitterness caused by slavery. In order to set yourself free, you have to be able to stare the pain you endured in the face. Repressing pain and making believe it does not exist, only buries it deeper into our psyche. On the night of our freedom, we have to return to the “maror.” We must gaze into our pain, feel it, sense it, grieve for our hurt and, then, as we are staring into the pain, we will find the inner, secret spark of hope and light buried within it.

If we avoid the pain, we can’t discover its inner light. Only when we gaze at it, can we extract the ember hidden within the ashes.

C) Then we have the critical step of matzah. We eat the matzah, says the Haggadah, because the Jews did not have time to wait until the dough had risen; they rushed out of Egypt. I want to ask you … They waited for 210 years… They could not wait another few hours? What was the rush? And even if they were in a rush, why is that such a central theme in the narrative that for thousands of years we are eating only matzah and avoiding all leavened bread? What happened to the virtue of patience?

Answer: The greatest enemy to setting yourself free is delaying things: tough decisions and bold moves. The message of matzah is when it comes to setting yourself free, you have no time to wait even an extra 18 minutes. Do it now! Make that call now. Send that e-mail now. Make that move now. Set up that meeting now. Make that decision now. Start the new behavior now. Confront the situation now. Start doing it now. If it is worth doing, then do it now. Because, as my Rebbe would say, “We want Moshiach NOW.” We want redemption now.

Community Passover Seder — R.S.V.P. at www.JewishLHP.com.

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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