Two Brothers – Part 2

The day had finally arrived for their Harvest Offering. At the end of the season, the family brought together offerings to the Lord to thank Him for the bounty that He had provided for them. Each member of the family brought the best of what their labors had produced. Adam and Eve both brought their offerings first. Then it was the boy’s turn.

Cain hurriedly brought a basket overflowing with items that he had grown this season. Each one had been selected with care. Adam noticed that, even though the basket was overflowing, the produce was among the ripest, very ripe. Some were almost beyond use. He also noticed that the basket was one size smaller than last year. He was not pleased with what his son had done and decided that he would talk to him about it after the ceremony. His oldest son was quickly done with his portion of their ceremony and backed away from the altar.

Abel’s gift was from the best of his youngest lambs. They were without blemish of any sort. Some of them had already been sacrificially killed to prepare for this offering. He slowly and carefully placed them on the altar, along with the choicest fat. He took his time, making sure that everything was just so. He seemed to be talking to himself as he was working at the altar. When he was done, he bowed his head down low and backed away slowly.

Adam approached the altar slowly. He carried with him a torch and lit the wood that had been carefully arranged on the altar and the offerings were consumed. Almost. After the flames had leaped high into the sky and the smoke curled up toward the heavens, there was one item left on the altar that was left mostly untouched by the flames. It was Cain’s basket.

The rest of the family looked first at the basket and then at Cain in disbelief. Cain stared at the basket. His eyes then dropped to the ground. He then turned and ran toward his fields as fast as he could go. Eve started to go after him, but Adam held her back. “He needs to sort this out for himself, Eve. This is between him and the Lord.” Adam said.

Eve turned to her husband, looked into his eyes, and said, “Adam, what happened? Why was his basket not burned with the rest?” Adam responded, “Sweetheart, did you look at that basket? It’s smaller than last year and the produce was all past the peak of ripeness. He didn’t offer the Lord his best and the Lord rejected his offering. He needs to look into his own heart and be honest with the Lord about his motivations and his heart.”

“But, Adam, did you see his face. I have never seen him look so hurt and rejected before. His pride was severely damaged here. I’m really worried about him.” Eve countered. Adam responded, “I think that maybe his pride may have been the issue. It needs to be taken down some. This will be good for him. It’s a lesson he needs to learn. He’s just doing it the hard way.”

Eve looked at her husband and said, “Adam, I don’t see anything wrong with taking pride in who you are or what you do. I’m going to talk to him. I can bring him around. I always have.” Adam took her gently into his arms and said, “At least wait until he comes home for dinner tonight. He’ll have calmed down by then.” “All right, I’ll wait,” she said and nestled into his embrace. Adam looked around for Abel and saw him walking off in the same direction that his brother had run and thought that maybe a brother-to-brother talk was long overdue. Maybe Abel could reach his brother in a way that he had not been able to lately. He turned toward the house with Eve by his side and, together, they walked home.

Abel knew just where to look. Cain always went to the same place when things were tough and confusing. The two boys had spent a lot of time there together when they were little. It was a rock overlooking the river and shaded by a number of trees. Abel headed out across the fields toward the river in search of his brother.

Two Brothers – Part 1

Two Brothers

By: God

Adapted by: S.C. Mathisen

 

A long time ago, far, far away, back during the time when people were pretty new on this earth, there were two brothers. They were, in fact, the only two brothers that had ever lived up until that time…and they were adored by their parents.

Both Adam and Eve were overjoyed with the birth of each one, but the first one had been something special, especially to the mother. Eve was so pleased when Cain was born that she proclaimed that she had gotten a man from the Lord! He was hers! She was so…proud, of herself and of him. Always. Not much later, the second son was born. His name was Abel. Eve was very excited about Abel too, but…it just wasn’t the same as it was with Cain. Adam saw this and tried to focus more of his attention on Abel. They became very close as he grew to manhood.

The two boys seemed oblivious to what was going on with their parents. They were the best of friends. They did everything together. While Eve doted on Cain, Adam spent time with both of the boys. He worked with Cain in the fields and with Abel as he cared for the livestock, especially the sheep. Gradually, as they grew older, the boys took over the tasks on their own. Eve was full of pride for her little family.

Life was good.

Until…

“Abel! You and your sheep tramped through my fields! Again!! Can’t you control them? I have had to replant that whole lower field twice in the last two weeks.” Cain shouted and looked hard into his brother’s eyes.

“Cain, you know that you planted over the only path between my pastures and the river. How else am I supposed to get them to the water? We don’t really have much choice. Our sheep deserve water just as much as the crops. You planted that whole area and it would take most of a day to go around it. I chose a path for them that would affect the crops the least. You should be grateful for that.” Abel replied (as calmly as he could, looking straight back into his brother’s eyes).

Cain returned the stare. The veins on his forehead and neck began to swell, he slowly balled up both of his large hands into fists so tight that his knuckles were turning white and then turned quickly and walked away muttering oaths in his anger. Abel watched his brother walk away with great sadness in his heart.

The two brothers were much like twins in stature. They were both young, muscular and bronzed from the sun. Even though Cain was the older of the two, but you could not tell it from looking at them. In temperament, however, they could not have been more different. Abel was calm, measured and even tempered. Cain, on the other hand, was impatient, often unsatisfied with life in general and occasionally given to fits of violent temper. Working the ground to grow their food was not the easiest job. He often resented it. He resented his brother having only to tend the sheep & other livestock.

Their father had decided that this fall, they would each make an offering to the Lord. The offering was to give thanks for the food, the land, the sheep and all that they had.

Adam did not often speak of the time before the boys were born. The time in the Garden. When he did speak of it, there was a heavy sadness and melancholy in his voice. There seemed to be a great burden of regret.

He did, however, take great joy in his two sons and loved them deeply. And so, it hurt him deeply to see them face each other off like that. He wanted to step in. He wanted to take them both in his arms and, and… Well, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to yell at them, hug them or just knock their heads together. He just wasn’t sure what to do. He suddenly missed the cool, evening walks with the Lord. He yearned for them. His regret again seemed to wash over him and threatened to overwhelm him. He, too, turned and headed off. He was going to find Eve. Perhaps she knew how long this had been going on between the two boys.

Creation: The First Day

Creation: The First Day

By God

Adapted by S. C. Mathisen

Sometimes teaching the Bible to small children can be as humorous as it is rewarding. Picture, if you will, one veteran Sunday School teacher teaching the story of creation with a group of early elementary students. In this group, there is one particularly precocious student who is the youngest son of the pastor.

“Hey guys, remember we were going to start going through all the stories in the Bible? Well, today is the day we are going to start. We’ll be talking about how God created everything. The Bible tells us that it took God seven days to create the whole world. Today, we are just going to talk about the first day….”

Stanley interrupts, “Whoa! Mr. Mathisen, do you mean God created everything? Are you sure you mean absolutely, completely, positively, everything in the universe, EVERYTHING? They told us in school that it might have been something called a big boom or bang or something.”

“Yes, Stanley, I mean everything. If we look in the Bible in Genesis Chapter One, we can read all about it.

“It says here that: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness. And the Spirit of God was hovering over its surface.”

“Whoa!! What does that formless mass stuff mean? It sounds like what I get when I play with Play-Doh.”

“Well, Stanley, you’re not too far off. Let’s imagine for a minute with our eyes closed that we are floating in the air except that it is totally dark and there is nothing there at all. Then God creates something, but He hasn’t given it any shape yet. It’s just a blob like your Play-Doh. Only you can’t see it because there is no light. God hasn’t created that part yet. So there you are, floating in empty space with nothing but a blob of Play-Doh. Oh yes, it also says that the Spirit of God is there with you. So you’re not all alone. Just like today when we are never alone because when we have Jesus in our hearts, He is always with us. Isn’t that fantastic, Stanley…Stanley…(louder) Stanley!”

Stanley, coming back to earth, “Oops sorry, I was having fun floating with God’s Spirit.”

“OK, Stanley. Let’s go on. So the next part says, “Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.””

“Ooh, ooh,” injected Stanley, “we had a lamp like that once. All you had to do was clap your hands or make a loud noise, and the light came on. It was so cool!”

“I’m sure it was Stanley, but God didn’t have a lamp or electricity to plug it into or anything. The only thing that God used was His Word. The only other thing there was the blob and His Spirit.”

“And me, remember I’m floating there.”

“That’s right, and now you can see because God created light.”

“Right!! WOW! How cool!”

“Now let’s see, what comes next? Oh yes. “And God saw that it was good.” This is important because we need to remember that everything that God creates is good. We can use the good things that God created for sinful purposes.”

“Do you mean like a rock or my baseball. I can use it to play catch with but not to throw it at my sister?”

“Exactly Stanley. When you play catch with it, it is being used for good. When you do something bad with it, you are using it for evil. That is one of the choices that we get to make every day. Anyway, let’s get back to the story.”

“That would be good, right?”

“Right, now, where did we leave the story? Oh yes, God created the light and called it good. Next, we have: “Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” Together these made up one day.” Let’s just imagine watching God take all of the light and moving it to one side so that the light and darkness are not mixed up.”

“That’s not what I do with my Play-Doh. It gets all mixed up and looks ugly after awhile. I can’t separate it anymore. I just throw it away.”

“That’s part of what makes God so wonderful Stanley. He can do things that you and I cannot do. But we can also see here that created the first day separated it from the night, and that was His work for the first day.”

“What happens next? This is a pretty interesting story.”

“That’s all for this week. Make sure that you read the story at home and come back next week for the second day.”

The Winter Water Hazard – Conclusion

Johnny then turned and looked all the way around him said with a more determined tone, “Let’s head toward gap in the trees over there. If we can get out of these woods, I’m sure we can get back to the farm house.”

Susie immediately perked up and said, “Ok Johnny, lead on.”

So off they went. Johnny led and Susie followed closely behind him. After a bit, they were walking shoulder to shoulder. Each time one stepped on and snapped a fallen twig or branch they both jumped slightly and moved closer together.

Twenty minutes later at the edge of the forest, the sky had cleared, and they found themselves in very bright sunlight standing on an overhang that looked down over the valley that contained Susie’s grandparent’s farm. They could see the farmhouse and barn in the distance.

“Wow! That sun is bright!” said Johnny, shielding his eyes. “How did we end up all the way over here?”

“I don’t know, but I guess we walked farther than we thought. Look! There’s the old pond down there,” said Susie pointing off to her right and her familiar smile returning to her face.

“Wow! Somehow we managed to walk completely around it and end up all the way up here.”

“How do we get down there? I sure don’t want to go back the way we came.”

Johnny then pointed to the right but lower than Susie had, “It looks like there’s a trail over there that might take us down there. All we have to do is to follow this overhang till we get to it.”

Beaming at Johnny, Susie said, “Well? What are we waiting for?”

“I think we need to thank God for getting us out of the forest.”

“That’s right, Johnnie, we do. Let’s do it now.”

Once again they joined in prayer. “Thank you, Lord, for bringing us out of the forest.  Now help us to get back to the farm safely.” They looked at each other, and both said, “Amen!”

So off they went walking along the edge of the overhang and sometimes hanging onto tree branches to keep their balance.

Just as they approached the trail, they realized that they would have to cross a shallow, but wide and mostly frozen-over creek to get to it.

After looking at the creek, Johnny turned to Susie and said, “Whoa! That looks too wide to jump.”

Susie began craning her neck looking up and downstream to see if there was another spot they could cross. “The underbrush is too thick to try anywhere else. It looks like we have to cross here or go back through the woods.”

Just then Johnny spotted a low branch hanging over the creek. “You know, we might be able to grab that branch and swing across.”

Before Susie could respond, Johnny had jumped up to grab the branch. He got a hold of it and began to swing but couldn’t hold on all the way across. He dropped onto the icy creek bed, and his feet immediately began to slide downstream.

Susie watched in horror as Johnny began to fall and reached out to catch him but only succeeded in grabbing his coat pocket. That grip on Johnny pulled her off balance toward the creek bed, and she fell toward him.

Soon the two of them were sliding down the iced over creek bed like it was a bobsled course. Johnny was feet first with Susie still gripping his pocket going down headfirst.

They careened downhill at getting faster by the minute, all the time bouncing off of the creek sides until they eventually shot out of the creek bed and across the old pond. At that point, they began spinning around like cartwheels.

They eventually came to a stop near the far side of the creek where they sat up and tried to get their bearings. Johnny was just about to speak up when they heard a familiar voice, “If you two are done with your ice dancing, maybe you’d like a ride back to the house.”

They looked up to see Susie’s Grampa Johnny with his horse drawn wagon at the edge of pond chuckling. Susie and Johnny looked at each other and then they began to laugh too.

The Winter Water Hazard – Part 1

The Winter Water Hazard

By: S.C. Mathisen

“Come on Johnny, let’s go! I want to skate on the old pond today. We’re only here in Millville visiting my grandparents for a week.” Susie said trying to encourage her friend Johnny to hurry into his coat, hat, and mittens.

“I am hurrying, Susie,” Johnny said sounding like he was already out of breath.

He had already put on two extra sweaters, long johns and an extra set of wool socks and was bent over trying to reach the laces of his hi-top insulated winter boots and just barely reaching them. Between the extra layers of clothing and the extra layers of Johnny’s round stomach, the laces were almost out of his reach. But he finally did get them and was now finishing up the final knot on his right boot.

“There, I’ve got the boots laced up. All I need to do now is to put on my hat and scarf and coat and get my mittens on. You can never be too careful out in winter weather. Especially here in upper Minnesota! It’s really cold up here!”

“Great, now let’s go. We want to get out there and get back before it gets dark.” Susie said in eager anticipation.

When Johnny was finally ready, they headed for the back door. Johnny detoured slightly to pick up a handful of oatmeal raisin cookies, wrap them carefully in a napkin and put them in one of his over-large coat pockets.

After going out the door and walking across the wide driveway, they passed the barn and followed a path that took them across the cornfields plowed under after the harvest. The sky was a dull, steely gray and the ground was covered with white frost and. They could see each breath they took. They talked excitedly about how much fun it was going to be to skate on a real frozen pond instead of the ice rink they practiced on back home in Crescent City.

After walking across fields for a time, the path led into what looked like a small bunch of trees.

“I think the pond is just on the other side of these trees,” said Susie.

“Wow, it sure is farther than I thought it would be,” said Johnny as he slowed down to look up and around at all the tall trees.

“Come on Johnny, keep up!  It’s starting to snow.”

“I’m coming. I was just noticing how weird it is in here with all these trees covered in snow.”

“Yup, but we should be out of the woods in a couple of minutes if we walk fast.”

“Walk fast, that’s a really good idea. It’s kinda creepy in here. The snow is starting to come down real hard, the sky is getting to be a real dark gray, and it’s getting hard to see.”

Johnny picked up the pace and started walking really fast. He began walking so fast Susie had trouble keeping up with him. The only sound was their feet rapidly crunching in the new fallen snow.

After several minutes of walking, taking different turns to follow what Susie thought was the path, she said with a little quiver in her voice, “Johnny, does it seem like it’s getting darker instead of lighter?”

“Y-y-yes. I was hoping you wouldn’t notice and get scared. Why do you think I’m walking so fast?”

“Maybe we should turn around and go back,” said the quivering voice.

Johnny stopped suddenly and pointed toward his left, “look there’s a clearing over there. Maybe we should go that way.”

“Well, Ok.”

Johnny turned to his friend and said, “I thought you knew your way around on this farm. You should be the one giving directions. Are you lost?”

Susie looked around with a puzzled look on her face, “I thought I knew the way. I just don’t remember the woods taking this long to get through. I might be a little confused.”

“Oh great, you’re lost. And if you’re lost I’m lost too. Can you find your way back out of here?”

Trying to sound braver and more confident than she really felt Susie said: “Sure, we just go back the way we came.”

“Right, we took so many twists and turns on the way here, I lost track of where we came from. I bet you did too!”

“I think I know what we need to do.”

“So do I, we need to pray. God know where we are and He can keep us safe.”

Susie smiled broadly, “That’s right Johnnie. He can and He will!”

Johnny began, “Lord, you know where we are and how to get us out of here. Please show us the way out.”

Susie joined in, “Yes Jesus, please help us to find our way out.”

They both said together “Amen!”

Jairus Daughter – Conclusion

Well, by now I had figured out that this man was Jesus. He bent down and took Papa by his hand, pulling him up to his feet. Jesus looked him right in the eye and said to him, “Take me to her.” Papa stared into Jesus’ eyes for what seemed like a really long time and then he did something else that surprised me. He said in a very reverent tone, “Yes, rabbi.” and then began to quickly lead Jesus back up the street toward our house. I took off running as fast as I could back to the house so that I could tell Mama that Papa was coming home and bringing Jesus with him. Just before I reached the door of our house I heard people wailing and moaning. I had heard those sounds before, when someone had died. I got a real sick feeling in my stomach that something really bad had happened. I ran inside to find Mama and the other women wailing over Naomi. They were lamenting that she was dead. “Oh, NO!” I thought to myself, not after what Papa had just done, risking everything by defying his friends from the synagogue. Jesus is getting here too late.

I just stood there for a minute looking at my sister. She didn’t look dead to me. She couldn’t be dead. She was too young. This couldn’t happen to my sister. I was suddenly overcome with a deep sadness. And then I felt angry that God would allow this to happen. I was very angry. Then I heard a lot of voices outside. Papa must be arriving with Jesus. Mama was going out the door to stop them from coming in. I ran out right behind her to see what was going on. One of the women had sent a message to Papa telling him not to bother bringing Jesus, that it was too late. When I got outside, I could see them talking. Mama and Papa were both standing there with Jesus in the street outside of our home. One of the women kept repeating that Naomi was dead and that they should not come into the house. She said that they needed to begin the preparation of the body for burial and that Jesus would be in the way.

Mama and Papa looked at each other and then they both looked at Jesus as if he was going to tell them what to do. He did. He looked at each of them and then said, “Don’t listen to them and don’t be afraid. Just trust me.” He then moved past them toward the house. People were laughing at him, but he just ignored them. On the way in he told everyone to move away from the house. He called to Mama and Papa and to three of his disciples to follow him. They all went in the house with him. I ran over to the window so that I could see in. When I got there, Jesus was telling the other people that were in the house to leave. No one argued. They just left. Somehow people just obeyed him. Once everyone was outside except Mama, Papa, Jesus and his three disciples, he went to where Naomi laid, leaned over, took her by the hand and said to her, “Get up little girl.” I tell you it was like she had just been lying there waiting for him to show up and say that. She just popped right up as though nothing had ever been wrong with her. She looked at Jesus for a minute, put her hand on top of his hand and smiled at him.

Then she got up and walked right over to Mama and Papa and hugged them. It was amazing! I ran inside and got a hug of my own. I then looked at Jesus. He also looked at me. I felt something warm inside of me when he did that. I knew at that moment, deep in my heart that he had been sent from God. I understood later that He was the Son of God. But, anyway, life was never the same after that for my family.

Before Jesus left, he made sure that Mama got something for Naomi to eat. He wouldn’t stay to eat himself, but we made it a point to take food to him and his disciples every time they passed through our town. We all became followers of Jesus. I still didn’t understand a lot of things but I did understand that God loves us and cares for us more than we can ever imagine. And I will never forget the day that God sent Jesus to our house to prove how much He loves us.

Eber and the Tower – Part 7

The king made his entrance onto a balcony overseeing the courtyard, horns blaring. The guards commanded everyone to be quiet under threat of death. The king began to speak.

“Citizens of the great kingdom of Babel, thank you for meeting with me here today. It has come to my attention that the farmers of the valley do not want to sell me their crops of hay. No, I am told that they prefer to make their hay a gift to their king. Isn’t that generous?”

There was confusion and a great commotion amongst the farmers at this announcement.

“And indeed, they even wish to offer their sons as laborers for this mighty work of their king.”

Now the commotion grew louder as the farmers protested at the top of their lungs.

“I wish to thank you for your generosity and to promise you that if you should change your minds about this gift, I will have to make an example of one of your sons, to encourage you to continue your generosity until we have completed this tower that will reach up to the heavens.

As you can see, the tower is going to be completed soon because of your help. It will demonstrate the greatness of your king and his kingdom and new gods that I choose for us to worship.”

The commotion raised by the farmers continued to grow even louder in protest to what they were hearing.

“I can see that there are those among you who are not in complete agreement with my wishes, and are perhaps clinging to those old superstitions about the God of Noah. I am greater than any God of Noah; I am Nimrod, the most powerful warrior of all time. I will now show you that I mean what I say. Guards, take the boy that was selected to serve as a sacrifice to my will.”

The guards grabbed Joktan and pulled him to the center of the courtyard. He was surrounded by guards with spears pointed at him. Now instead of being filled with confidence, Joktan was suddenly filled with fear as he stared at the guards and their weapons.

The king resumed his speech.

“This tower and this city are a tribute to me, your king. You all owe me everything you have because I am the king. This tower is a tribute to me and what I can do. I will show you what happens to the sons of those that choose their mythical god over their service to me. Guards, exebla ga zornin!”

Suddenly no one could understand the king’s words any longer. When the guards asked each other what the king said, they couldn’t understand each other either.

The same thing was happening all over town and up on the tower. The workers couldn’t understand the foremen or each other, and they began to go back down to the ground where everyone was shouting at the tops of their lungs. Slowly small groups of those that could understand each other began to form and move off in one direction or another.

The same thing happened in the courtyard. The king continued to shout at the top of his lungs, but with so many other people doing the same he could not be heard. The sons and the fathers broke free from the confused guards.

Eber and Adah found Peleg. They were relieved they could still understand each other in their normal language. Together they looked until they found Joktan and sadly found that they could no longer understand him or he them. After a number of fruitless attempts to talk with him, Joktan grew angry and ran away.

When Eber and Peleg got home, they discovered that they same thing had happened there. Families were scattered all over the land as they tried to find groups of people they could communicate with. They found Joktan with a group of people that understood him, and he eventually migrated away from Babel with them, never to see his family again.

God was faithful and saved those who trusted in him. The others were scattered around the world as He had originally commanded. When you believe and obey, God is faithful, just you wait and see.