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ILL. Listen to this true story. Rabbi Michael Weisser lived in Lincoln, Nebraska. And for more than 3 years, Larry Trapp, a self-proclaimed Nazi & Ku Klux Klansman, directed a torrent of hate-filled mailings & phone calls toward him.
Trapp promoted white supremacy, anti-Semitism, & other messages of prejudice, declaring his apartment the KKK state headquarters & himself the grand dragon. His whole purpose in life seemed to be to spew out hate-ridden racial slurs & obscene remarks against Weisser & all those like him.
At first, the Weissers were so afraid they locked their doors & worried themselves almost sick over the safety of their family. But one day Rabbi Weisser found out that Trapp was a 42-year-old clinically blind, double amputee. And he became convinced that Trapp’s own physical helplessness was a source of the bitterness he expressed.
So Rabbi Weisser decided to do the unexpected. He left a message on Trapp’s answering machine, telling him of another side of life…a life free of hatred & racism.
Rabbi Weisser said, "I probably called 10 times & left messages before he finally picked up the phone & asked me why I was harassing him. I said that I’d like to help him. I offered him a ride to the grocery store or to the mall."
Trapp was stunned. Disarmed by the kindness & courtesy, he started thinking. He later admitted, through tears, that he heard in the rabbi’s voice, "something I hadn’t experienced in years. It was love."
Slowly the bitter man began to soften. One night he called the Weissers & said he wanted out, but didn’t know how. They grabbed a bucket of fried chicken & took him dinner. Before long they made a trade: in return for their love he gave them his swastika rings, hate tracts, & Klan robes.
That same day Trapp gave up his Ku Klux Klan recruiting job & dumped the rest of his propaganda in the trash. "They showed me so much love that I couldn’t help but love them back," he finally confessed.
Folks, if that could happen in Lincoln, Nebraska, what could happen here in our community, in our neighborhoods, if we truly began to live lives that showed the love of Jesus to those around us?
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We need to cultivate the habit of bearing each other’s burdens. Lend a hand by lifting a heavy load. Burdens are the over loads which we can lighten by building meaningful relationships with others in the church. I read a story a few years ago about a family who found out that their un-born child had a rare disease that caused the baby to be born with out any eyes or a nose. There was just a large hole were those things were supposed to be. They brought the baby to the Pastor because the doctor’s had told them that the baby would not live much longer. The family was handling the whole situation with the strength of God. They were not angry with God; they were not ready to give up their faith. And when the Pastor asked them about their strength they replied, “If it was not for the relationships that we had formed with our friends in our home cell group we could never have made it through this.” You see, they had built meaningful relationships with some people at the their church and they were there for each other.
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WHEN IS YOUR WORK FINISHED?
How do you know when your work is finished? For some, that is a difficult question to answer because they spend their entire lives striving to get things right and make things better for those around them. It is difficult because despite their best efforts they never feel they have done enough. Often such people give all they have until one day they finally accept that they have finished.
There are others who know they are finished because they have done all they plan to do whether they complete their work or not. This attitude reflects a life ethic that limits the amount of work completed to the amount of work pursued. It’s an attitude that says whatever I get done is all that will be done. For these, a job is complete when they have done all they are going to do, regardless to whether or not all that needs to be done is done.
When is a Saint’s work done? When can a believer drop their yard tools, wipe the sweat off their brow and call it a day? When we have done our best and God is glorified. That’s when we will hear a voice that says don’t be weary in well doing. John 9:4 say’s, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." As Christians, we believe we must work until our day is done. We are not satisfied until we give our best and God is glorified. Today, do the work that God puts in your hand. Don’t be satisfied until it’s done in a way that will please him.
I think that pain and suffering is the price we pay for being alive. Being alive means living with original sin and the mighty power of Jesus’ death on the cross. When we understand that, our question will change to, What do we do with our suffering and pain? Our pain and suffering must become meaningful. It must not become pointless and empty suffering? How can we turn all the painful experiences of our lives into personal growth within our selves and within our relationship with God? We may never understand the why or be able to control the forces that cause our suffering. But one thing is for sure. We can have a lot to say about what the suffering does to us. We can determine what sort of people we become because of it. Pain makes some people bitter and envious. It makes others sensitive and compassionate. It i...
For almost forty years, Margaret lived with the memory of one soul-scarring day in the one-room schoolhouse she attended. From the first day Margaret came to class, she and Ms. Garner, her bitter and harsh teacher, didn’t get along. Over the years, the animosity between them only worsened until one fateful day when she was nine years old, Margaret’s life was forever altered.
That day, Margaret frantically raced into her classroom after recess, late again. Ms. Garner was furious, “Margaret!” she shouted, “we have been waiting for you! Get up her to the front of the class right now!”
Margaret walked slowly to the teacher’s desk, was told to face the class, and then slowly the nightmare began.
Ms. Garner ranted, “Boys and girls, Margaret has been a bad girl. I have tried to help her to be responsible. But, apparently, she doesn’t want to learn. So we must teach her a lesson. We must forcer her to face what a selfish person she has become. I want each of you to come to the front of the room, take a piece of chalk, and write something bad about Margaret on the blackboard. Maybe this experience will motivate her to become a better person!”
Margaret stood frozen next to Ms. Garner. One by one, the students began a silent procession to the blackboard. One by one, the students wrote their life-smothering words, slowly extinguishing the light in Margaret’s soul. “Margaret is stupid! Margaret is selfish! Margaret is fat! Margaret is a dummy!” On and on they went, until twenty five terrible scribblings of Margaret’s “badness” screamed from the blackboard.
The venomous statements taunted Margaret in what felt like the longest day of her life. After walking home with each caustic word indelibly written on her soul, she crawled into her bed, claiming sickness, and try to cry the pain away, but the pain never left, and forty years later, she slumped in the waiting room of a psychologist’s office, still cringing in the shadow of those twenty five sentences. To her horror, Margaret had slowly become what the students had written.
Remember Margaret? After decades of depression and anxiety, she had finally sought help and was having the last meeting with her psychologist. Two long years of weekly counseling helped Margaret to finally extricate herself from her past. It had been a long an difficult road, but she smiled at her counselor (how long it had been since she smiled!) as they talked about her readiness to move on.
“Well, Margaret,” the counselor said softly, “I guess it’s graduation day for you. How are you feeling?”
After a long silence, Margaret spoke. “I…I’m okay.”
The counselor hesitated. “Margaret, I know this will be difficult, but just to make sure you’re ready to move on, I am going to ask you to do something. I want to go back to your schoolroom and detail the events of that day. Take your time. Describe each of the children as they approach the blackboard, remember what they wrote and how you felt – all twenty five students.”
In a way, this would be easy for Margaret. For forty years she had remembered every detail. And yet, to go through the nightmare one more time would take every bit of strength she had. After a long silence, she began the painful description. One by one, she described each of the students vividly, as though she had just seen them, stopping periodically to regain her composure, forcing herself to face each of those students one more time.
Finally, she was done, and the tears would not stop, could not stop. Margaret cried a long time before she reali...
I WAS BLIND, BUT NOW I CAN SEE
There were two boys who grew up together. They were close friends as children, but as they entered their teen years their paths began to diverge, and they ended up in very different places. Ernie was always in trouble. He began by shoplifting small things from stores and worked his way up to stealing cars. Next it was armed robbery. Finally, on one of his stealing sprees he killed a man. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
Mike took a different track. He turned away from the rebellious tendencies of his friend and continued through school. He worked his way through college, graduated and became a successful businessman. However, Mike had much difficulty with his physical health. His eyes in particular were weak. As he grew older, his eyesight deteriorated until he was legally blind.
One day, Mike heard the news about his old friend Ernie. He felt a terrific sense of compassion and sorrow for what had happened to his childhood friend, and he reached out to him. After writing letters to renew their old relationship, he went to visit Ernie in prison. They had a very touching and emotional reunion there, speaking by phone across the security window at the penitentiary. In spite of years of hard-hearted living, something in Ernie warmed as he talked with the man with whom he had played as a boy so many years before.
An idea began to grow in Ernie’s mind, as well. Ernie was about to die; his friend Mike was sightless. Was it possible that Ernie could do something wor...