Tag Archive | "BLESSINGS"

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CLERGY CORNER: Count your blessings!

Posted on 23 November 2016 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted on 17 November 2016 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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CLERGY CORNER: Curses vs Blessings

Posted on 28 July 2016 by LeslieM

The portion of Balak tells the fascinating story of Bilaam, a prophet, who was summoned by the Moabite king to curse Israel. In the end, in lieu of curses, the prophet gushes forth the most splendid poetry ever written about the uniqueness and destiny of the Jewish people. His poetry has become classic, a wellspring of inspiration for thousands of years, recited daily in Jewish liturgy and prayers.

Yet there is something profoundly confusing about the narrative. The Bible relates how the emissaries arrive from Moab and Midian. They state their mission: They want Bilaam to curse the Israelites. Bilaam tells them to stay the night, while he consults with G-d. G-d’s answer is unequivocal: “G-d said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’” Bilaam obeys. He refuses to go. Balak, the Moabite king, redoubles his efforts. Perhaps more distinguished messengers and the promise of significant reward will persuade Balaam to change his mind.

He sends a second set of emissaries. Bilaam’s reply is moving: “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my G-d.”

However, he adds a fateful rider: “Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else G-d will tell me.”

The implication is clear. Bilaam is suggesting that G-d may change His mind. But this is impossible. That is not what G-d does. Yet, to our surprise, that is exactly what G-d seems to do: That night G-d came to Bilaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Bilaam followed G-d’s latest instruction. He got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. “But G-d was very angry when he went, and the angel of G-d stood in the road to oppose him.”

The narrative now shifts to the famous scene of Bilaam’s donkey. What is going on here? Why did G-d change His mind four times?! First G-d says no, than it becomes yes, then it is no again, and finally it’s a yes! What was Bilaam suppose to do? Not go? But G-d told him explicitly to go. The story seems like an unfair setup for Bilaam. G-d tells him to go, and then gets angry at him for going!

Initially G-d prevented Bilaam from cursing because “the nation is blessed.” Therefore, he says “Do not go with them”. Bilaam passed along this message of G-d, but Balak did not believe him, and proceeded to increase to honor him with greater messengers and promised him greater reward. Bilaam answered the second group that the issue is not the money, and it is not up to him, rather it is up to G-d. He agreed to inquire again what G-d will command him. In this, he conducted himself properly, because Bilaam knew the Higher Knowledge, and that G-d’s advice is always good. Now G-d told him: “I already told you that this nation is blessed and unable to be cursed. Now, why have they, Balak’s ministers, returned to you? If they only want you to go with them and not curse at all, then get up and go with them, but only the word that I place in your mouth shall you do, and even if I command you to bless them you must bless them without being afraid of Balak.

So G-d wanted Bilaam to go with the ministers after telling them first that He would not be able to curse the Jews, and would only follow G-d’s instructions.

G-d wanted that the Jews be blessed by a prophet of the non-Jews. Bilaam was supposed to tell all of this to the ministers of Balak. However, Balak specified the second time as well, “Come, please curse this nation.” He only wanted Billam to curse, not prophesize or anything else.

But, Bilaam, in his overeagerness to go, did not tell them any of this and, instead, “he woke up early in the morning, saddled his own donkey, and went with them” as if he was going to fulfill their request.

From here, you see that “man is led down the path he wishes to travel” because, originally, Bilaam was told “Do not go with them” but since he had audacity, he went. That is why it says “G-d’s wrath flared because he was going.”

G-d said to him: “Wicked one! I do not want the destruction of the wicked, but since you insist on your own destruction, by all means, go!”

Choose your path wisely!

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

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