Tag Archive | "First Baptist"

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: Fearing going to the dentist & fearing going to church — two things you cannot afford to do

Posted on 12 July 2017 by LeslieM

One particular scene in the movie Deepwater Horizon is oddly convicting. Jimmy Harrell, while in command of the oil rig, voices his dissatisfaction to BP executives for skipping the necessary tests required to verify the integrity of the well—accusing them of playing dumb toward any problems that might further delay completion of the drilling. Jimmy aptly compares their motive to his grandfather’s logic about not going to the dentist in that he “never went to the dentist ‘cause he didn’t wanna know all that was wrong ‘cause then he’d have to deal with it.”

Up until last week, for 14 plus years, I confess that I evaded the dentist myself to deny what I knew I’d have to deal with: cavities. So I bit the bullet — with my good teeth — and scheduled an appointment.

I had two cavities in need of immediate care: one onlay and one crown. Post drilling and being fitted with my temporary cap, the dental hygienist listed all the foods I would have to abstain from until my permanent fitting — essentially my grocery list: pizza and chewy candy. One day later, the temporary cap fell victim to a Mike and Ike while watching Despicable Me 3. Whoops.

Thankfully, my dentist provided me with his personal cell and instructed me to call him if I experienced any problems —probably more for pain than stupidity. After an exhaustive Google search, it was apparent that I’d have to contact him. Flashbacks flooded my mind of my pediatric orthodontist towering over me with that disappointed look on his face each time I lost or destroyed a retainer. How would my new dentist respond?

While my thumbs were busy crafting a text message, I couldn’t help but feel burdensome for disturbing my new dentist on a Saturday. I hit send and awaited my fate. Moments later, I received a reply that started with “Hi buddy,” followed by a compassionate response. He even encouraged me to “reach out again if anything else comes up.” Whoa. And just like that all my false beliefs from childhood about going to the dentist vanished.

For many, the idea returning to church or going to church for the first time yields the similar emotions that I experienced about returning to the dentist: the fear of being judged; the pain that comes with change, etc. Yet, like my retainers, at some point we all find ourselves lost or broken knowing that we can no longer deny what’s wrong: the God-sized cavity in our heart, hoping we won’t have to deal with it.

We must recognize that it is Satan, the great deceiver, who is content to keep us deceived that we are not welcome in church or in the presence of God. He breathes life to those fears. Fear not! It is Jesus who said that “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

That’s the ultimate “Hi buddy” (relief) and embodiment of the compassion that should dispel the false narratives keeping us away from church and God. The ironic thing is that we take pride in our Instagram pics that don’t require a filter, while unaware that we’re filtering what we believe about church and God through our past experiences. To quote an old MADtv skit with Bob Newhart, “Stop it!” Colossians 3:1 reminds us that when we submit our hearts to Christ, we “have been raised to new life with Christ”— a life with the strength necessary to deal with — not avoid — the realities of life, and stand securely before God.

When I finally faced my reality, accepting that decay did exist, I knew there was nothing I could do except go to the one who could do something about it. Same goes for those of you considering returning to church or attending church for the first time. You don’t have to clean yourself up before returning or going. You just have to set aside any worry and go — like I did by going to the dentist; I had nothing — except my teeth.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@dfb.church.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Fearing going to the dentist & fearing going to church — two things you cannot afford to do

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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

Posted on 08 June 2017 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@dfb.church.

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: A gracious boss and even more gracious God

Posted on 11 May 2017 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: A gracious boss and even more gracious God

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: Disciple defined

Posted on 19 April 2017 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Disciple defined

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: What’s your biggest fear

Posted on 13 April 2017 by LeslieM

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

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

No. Seriously. That is,” confirms Hatteberg.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: What’s your biggest fear

Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Posted on 09 March 2017 by LeslieM

There’s an old MAD TV sketch in which Mo Collin’s character seeks professional help for her fear of being buried alive in a box—confessing that just thinking about it makes her life horrible because she can’t go through tunnels or be inside an elevator or house — anything “boxy.” Her psychologist, played by Bob Newhart, quickly recognizes her irrational worry, leans forward from behind his desk and abruptly shouts, “Stop it!”

Oh, how apropos these two words are to Christendom, specifically in how we love others.

The first time I wanted to yell, “Stop it,” was to a guy becoming a pastor. I was in my early 20s, hungry for spiritual growth. I was excited about having been invited to join a small group of men who gathered at Chick-fil-A — obviously — for breakfast and Jesus.

This soon-to-be-pastor sat across from me and asked about my faith. I was elated! Even though I had been raised in church, it wasn’t until now that I was eager to share my personal journey with Christ. Straitening my back, and hardly pausing to breathe, I laid my heart on the table, right next to my chicken.

Interrupting, he asked, “Wait, you’ve already accepted Christ?” He explained that his assignment required him to introduce 10 people to Jesus, and since I already knew Jesus, he stood up and moved to a different table. He didn’t want to know my story — or know me. It was clear; he cared only about himself and his grade.

Romans 12:9-11 states, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them … Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.

In his book Love Does, Bob Goff recalls a decision to leave high school and spend his days climbing the cliffs in Yosemite. A youth leader of his, Randy, decided to tag along with Bob for the first part of the journey for no other reason than to just be with Bob. It ended how you probably imagined. With no education or job, Bob was forced to return home within a week, Randy at his side never chastising Bob or saying, “I told you so.” When they arrived back to Randy’s home, Bob realized that Randy was a newlywed. Bob couldn’t believe that Randy cared enough — believed in him enough — to press pause on his own life for Bob.

Bob said, “Randy didn’t see just a high school kid who had disrupted the beginning of his marriage. He saw a kid who was about to jump the tracks. Instead of spending his early days of his marriage with his bride, he spent it with me … Why? It was because Randy loved me. He saw the need and he did something about it. He didn’t just say he was for me or with me. He was actually present with me.”

Bob said, “That’s what love does! It’s sacrificial, which was modeled by our God — at a great cost!”

Jesus says in John 15:13 that “there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

What does it take to have this kind of love? Relationship: First a real relationship with God and second with people. Knowing God intimately will allow you to understand real love and be sincere when loving others. Conversely, a counterfeit love boasts all the right elements of a legitimate relationship but fails to make a difference in the person’s life.

In That Crumpled Paper Was Due Last Week: Helping Disorganized and Distracted Boys Succeed in School and Life, author Ana Homayoun shares about a frustrated mom concerned for her son’s lack of school engagement. While the mom thought the issue was solely the son’s, Ana discovered that the mom had recently been through a divorce and failed to consider how the new family dynamic might impact her son’s school performance. Upon digging deeper than the symptom, the real issue was revealed. Now the mom and son have a stronger relationship. That’s what love does … anything less, stop it!

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Stop It

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: Quintessence of Life

Posted on 09 February 2017 by LeslieM

In 2013, the Chicago Sun-Times cut their photography staff and instructed the reporters to snap any pictures needed with a smartphone.

Three years later, the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series. Those covering the historical moment included the Sun-Times, as well as the Chicago Tribune — who still employed photojournalists. If you were to Google either of these two paper’s front pages the day after the Cubs’ victory you would immediately recognize the capacity of a professional photographer armed with more than a smartphone. Both papers captured the event, but only one captured an iconic moment.

That’s what I love about photography. Even in a world that relentlessly avoids … still, somehow, with just a click of the shutter, that frozen moment of time can tell a story. With this in mind, I grabbed my Nikon, hopped on my longboard and rolled to the Deerfield Beach Fishing Pier over the weekend in search of nanosecond stories. Though I was not expecting to shoot anything near the level of the Tribune at Wrigley Field, I did want to post images on my social media pages that added value to my viewers — pictures they would enjoy. I found plenty, but it was the snapshot I missed that I remember the most.

Atop the parking garage above Bru’s Room, I witnessed the sun sink deeper toward the horizon, engulfing the sky with a warm orange glow. Having already snapped a few pics of the sunset, I packed my gear and called it a day. I was ready for an ice cold Coke.

It was then that the iconic shot presented itself: the sun setting, Mars-esque sky, the Deerfield Beach water tower on the horizon and the Hillsboro Bridge open in the foreground. I knew by the time I unpacked my camera, configured the shutter speed and aperture settings, the moment would have passed. All I could do was follow the advice from the more recent version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a negative assets manager for Life Magazine, sets out to find a misplaced negative sent by famed photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) — supposedly capturing “the essence of Life.” The unadventurous Mitty is forced to brave a treacherous climb through the Himalayan mountains where he finds O’Connell poised ready to photograph the elusive “ghost-cat,” a white snow leopard. When the animal enters the frame, to Mitty’s bewilderment, O’Connell doesn’t snap the pic. Mitty says, “When are you going to take it?”

Sometimes, I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it,” says O’Connell.

Mind blown! Countless times since first watching Walter Mitty, I’ve been tempted to grab my phone and take a picture, but didn’t. I’m reminded, while there are definitely times for us to capture a special moment — an iconic one even — most of the pictures we take are less about storing a memory and do more to rob us of being present and experiencing the moment.

And so, there I stood. Wanting to take a picture of the setting sun over Deerfield Beach, I clung to O’Connell’s wisdom: I stayed in the moment — no distraction of the camera. It was beautiful, satisfying even … worth clearing the distractions and being fully present.

If you are like me, there are other areas in your life where this is pertinent as well. For me, it’s in my alone time with God. My serving, reading plans, book studies, small group meetings, and even mentoring, while they all serve a higher purpose and help to capture the essence of faith, just like the camera, they can become distractions from being fully present with my Creator.

This week, take a moment to inventory the distractions that cloud your relationship with God. They may be good things, but as James C. Collins says, “Good is the enemy of great.” And we can’t have a great relationship with God — one that is as quintessential as the front page of the Tribune the morning after the 2016 World Series — if we’re bogged down by all the good, never fully present and satisfied with Him alone.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Quintessence of Life

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: My Top Ten of 2016

Posted on 12 January 2017 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: My Top Ten of 2016

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

CLERGY CORNER: Away in a Smartphone

Posted on 08 December 2016 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

Comments Off on CLERGY CORNER: Away in a Smartphone

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Posted on 10 November 2016 by LeslieM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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

Advertise Here
Advertise Here