Dinner with the Queen – Part 3

Sue and Jon walked into the high school meeting room together. This was their first year in the high school group, and they paused a moment to take it all in. The church had been able to remodel a couple of years before and added the youth wing which had a large room with theatrical lights, a huge sound system and room for a band to set up and play on the stage. There were also eighteen round tables with chairs around them on the main floor. Several dozen students and staff were either sitting at the tables or standing around in small groups.

Some of the latest Christian songs played from the sound system. A series of pictures displayed on the back wall changing periodically.

Jon pointed to the coffee bar. He and Sue walked over to it. Jon ordered their coffee. Andrea jammed in between them, bouncing with the music.

“Isn’t this great?” she said looking back and forth between them.

Sue turned to her. “Yeah, it is. Where are you sitting?”

Andrea pointed, “Over there to the left of the stage. I have my stuff on the chairs.”

“Jon and I will be over as soon as we get our coffees, ok?”

“Yup!”

Sue watched Andrea bounce as she walked back to the table.

“Here they are,” said Jon. Yours is the Peppermint Mocha, extra hot and mine is…”

“An Americano with chocolate and cinnamon, right?”

“Uh, yeah…predictable, huh?”

“Yeah, but I like that.” Sue smiled. “Let’s go sit down, Andrea’s holding seats for us.”

“Pastor Rene look’s like he’s ready to start, too.”

They hurried to their seats, and a young man with dark hair and a huge bright smile stepped up to the microphone.

“If you guys will all take your seats, I’d like to get started. I hope you’ve enjoyed the special mix of tunes this morning by Jimmy Barski. I especially liked how he matched up his own photography with the music. Let’s give Jimmy a hand.”

In his seat, behind the control console, Jimmy flushed a bright red color but smiled broadly.

“Ok, this morning we’re going to begin a series in the OT. That’s Old Testament for you new guys.”

A few groans and Oh, moans came from the crowd.

“I know, I think most people think the OT only shows an angry God bent on vengeance against His enemies and unruly children. Oh, and long lists of begats. Booorrriing! Right? There is so much more to it than that. The Old Testament is over 75 percent of our Bible. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that God is going to waste over three-quarters of His message to us with stuff people won’t even read. This morning I want to introduce to you the only book in the Bible that doesn’t even mention God.”

“What?” they said, murmuring to themselves like a flock of restless birds.

Sue looked at Jon, and both of them began turning to the book of Esther in their Bibles.

“I thought that might get your attention. I hear a few pages turning. That’s good. This book does not mention God by name, but the work of His hand is obvious in His provision for His people. Our story happens about midway during the seventy-year period when many Jewish people are held captive by Babylon.

Before we get into the story, I want to tell you now that some people find it hard to apply any lessons from this book to their modern lives. As we go through the story over the next several weeks, I am going to challenge you to come up with ways to apply the lessons from this story in your lives. My weekly lessons will be brief but followed by discussion periods at your tables led by staff leaders.

Please open up your Bibles to the book of…Esther!”

 

“Ok, what did you guys think of what Pastor Rene had to say? Do you think God was at work in the life of Esther and the Hebrews in Babylon?”, asked Jenny Smith, the 32-year-old mom of three who was their group’s staff leader.

Silence.

“Oh, come on guys. How about if we go around the table? Andrea?”

“Um, I’m not so sure. I didn’t hear or see any reference to God in the book. I know Pastor Rene said it was clear to him, but — it’s just not that clear to me.” Andrea glanced at Sue. “What if we were talking about today? How would we know God was at work in a situation?”

Jenny smiled, “That is an excellent question and one we hope to answer by the end of our study of Esther. Jon?”

“Oopth, I jutht took a bite of cookie. Jutht a thec,” Jon said holding a finger in the air while he took a big swig of his coffee, swallowed and then grinned. “Ok, whew! Thanks! I think it’s hard to tell sometimes. We get caught up in only what we can see and hear and taste and feel. It’s hard to step back and look at the bigger picture to see Him working.”

“Excellent thoughts, cookie boy,” Jenny winked and smiled at Jon who was known for his love of cookies. “Sue? You always have interesting insights.”

Sue smiled and set her coffee down next to her Bible. “I want to agree with both Andrea and Jon. Sometimes we just don’t know. Listening to Pastor Rene, I can see it in the story of Esther. We don’t live our daily lives in retrospect though. Things are happening every minute that can affect us and those around us and looking at the bigger picture can sure help, but it’s hard to do that in real life sometimes. For me, I just have to trust God and lean on him because He does have the bigger picture and our best interests and happiness at heart.”

Jimmy had excused himself from the table and was starting up the closing music.

Jenny spoke a bit louder to be heard over the music, “It seems that our discussion will be cut short because Pastor Rene went a bit long. I hope to see all of you back here next week for the conclusion of Esther. Take some time to read or re-read the book of Esther. Take a look at how God might be at work in your life. Let’s pray. Thank you, God, for loving us and coming to die for us. Help us to see you at work in the world around us. Help us to be your eyes and ears and hands in a world that knows you not. Amen”

The music revved up as Jimmy continued the musical/photographic collage he was running before the class. People began gathering their things, talking and laughing.

Andrea joined Sue and Jon, who were talking to Jenny. They opened up their grouping to include her. Sue turned to her and said, “Are you ready to head into service? We need to get moving if we want our usual seats.”

Andrea, up on her toes, looked anxiously around the room. Frowning, she lowered herself to her normal height and saw Sue looking at her. Smiling, she said, “Huh, oh yeah! I’m ready. Save me a spot. I need to stop at the ladies on the way.” With that, she spun on her heel and headed away.

Sue watched her friend walk away.

Jenny turned to leave and said, “I need to go get my kids from their classes. See you guys later?”

Jon and Sue both looked at her and smiled. Sue said, “You bet, Jenny. See ya. Say hi to Noah and Grace for me.”

Jon leaned into Sue so he could be heard without shouting. “What’s with Andrea? She seems to be bugged by something.”

Sue spoke to Jon’s ear, “I have an idea, but — I’m not sure. Could you go get our seats? I’m going to find her and check. We’ll join you before the music is over. Okay?”

“Sure, see ya soon.”

Passing the Faith Along – Conclusion

I have been very irregular in my posting of late. I am going post this conclusion and then take time off until the end of the year. I plan to reevaluate the time spent posting stories on this blog.


 

They all put their luggage inside the old two-story farmhouse which was painted a brilliant white and was nestled in a small grove of shade trees. It sagged just a little bit on one side. Grampa Johnny said it was mostly because it was over a hundred years old, but it had been that way for at least the last fifty years because it was that way when he first met Gram Susie and that was “a long time ago” he said with a smile aimed at Gram Susie. She blushed slightly and smiled back.

It wasn’t really a big farm. It had just a few fields for pasture for the horses and cows. There was a creek that ran through the property with a swimming hole and a couple of places that were good for pretending you were fishing while you were really just taking a nap. They had a large vegetable garden, a medium sized barn, a hen house inside a fenced in area for the chickens, a pig pen and all the usual farm machinery sitting on the side of the barn under a shelter. Stanley made it his business to run all over the farmyard to look at everything pulling his father behind him and asking a hundred questions about everything. Grampa Johnny tried to keep up with them but usually arrived in time to answer one question and then off Stanley went to his next destination. They kept this up for at least an hour.

After everyone got unpacked and cleaned up. They sat down in the big country kitchen and had a big supper of fried chicken, baked ham, mashed potatoes, freshly picked peas and a garden salad. For dessert, there was a cherry pie with homemade ice cream. The men helped to clear away the dishes and then went outside to sit under a tree. The ladies washed up the dishes and then joined them just as the sun was beginning to set. They sat, looking at the setting sun, talking and laughing until it was too dark to see. Stanley had just begun chasing fireflies when Mrs. Johnson informed him that it was time for him to take a bath and get ready for bed. After some complaint, Mrs. Johnson took him by the hand and escorted him into the house. Grampa Johnny told Pastor Johnson about some new books he had gotten and wanted to show him.

As most of them were headed into the house, Gram Susie touched Susie on the shoulder, sat down next to her and said, “Susie is there something you wanted to talk about?” Susie looked up at her Grammie and said. “Yes, there is. You see while we were on the train, I met this girl named Michelle. She actually goes to my school and well, we got talking and I was able to introduce her to Jesus and she accepted Him as her Saviour.” Gram Susie took both of Susie’s hands, “I am very proud of you little girl! Leading someone to know Jesus as their Saviour is just about the most important thing that anyone can do. What are you concerned about?” Susie looked up at the stars that were beginning to fill the night sky, “Grammie, I’m not sure how to pray for Michelle. I don’t want her to lose her new faith while she is visiting with her grandparents. I want Jesus to stay very close to her and guard her.”

Gram Susie, smiled and put her arm around her granddaughter, “Let’s pray together. Ok?” Susie nodded her head and then closed her eyes. Gram Susie prayed, “Dear God, please watch over Michelle with some special angels, keep her safe from the devil and surround her with people that love you like Susie here & I do. We love you Lord Jesus and we thank you for coming down to earth and dying for our sins. Help us to keep telling other people about you until you come back. Amen” Susie echoed the Amen and gave her Grammie a hug, “Thanks, Grammie. I knew you would know what to pray and I feel a lot better about it now.”

The two walked back to the farmhouse in the dark, hand in hand.

___________________________________________________________________

The next morning Johnny got up to see the sun streaming into his bedroom window. “Wonderful, a sunny day for a change” he thought to himself. “Dad said that he had something special that he wanted to do with me today. I wonder what it is?”

Johnny quickly got himself ready and went down to breakfast. His father was already at the table finishing his breakfast. “Hurry up son, we’ve got to get a move on and go see that something special I told you about.” Johnny poured himself some breakfast cereal and ate quickly and talked to his dad about a variety of things trying to get a hint about what the something special was and it did no good.

After finishing breakfast the two of them walked toward the section of their neighborhood where people had their stores. They walked past Mr. Anderson’s hardware store and it was closed. That was odd because it was normally open this hour of the morning. Johnny was surprised when his father wanted to go to Uncle Klaus & Aunt Harriet’s grocery store where Johnny worked. Uncle Klaus was finishing up with a customer at the cash register and motioned for them to come to him. “Thank you very much, Mrs. Olsen, I’ll have that roast for you tomorrow,” he told the customer as she gathered up her bags and left the store.

“Robert, I am so glad that you are here now. We have a few minutes and Harriet can watch the store.” He called to his wife, “Sweetheart, Robert and Johnny are here. Can you watch the front of the store for a few minutes?” “Yes I can, I am just finishing up with the Avocados, you boys go on out back for Johnny’s special surprise” came Aunt Harriet’s voice from the produce section.

“Johnny, you and your father come with me. We have something to show you out back.” Uncle Klaus walked quickly to the back of the store and opened the big swinging double doors that lead to the back room. Johnny and his father followed closely behind.

Once in the back room, Uncle Klaus headed for the back door that leads out into the alley where the delivery trucks come. He opened the back door and held it open for Johnny and his father to walk out into the alley. When Johnny stepped out into the alley, he saw Mr. Anderson standing with a bicycle. It was just like the one that he had saved up his money for. Mr. Anderson’s face broke out into a big wide grin. Johnny’s father touched him on the shoulder, “son Mr. Anderson, your Uncle Klaus and I have arranged a little surprise for you. Do you remember that bike that you saved up for and then Mr. Anderson had to sell?” Johnny looked at the bike and then up at his dad, “Yes…I sure do.” Then he looked at the bike again and at Mr. Anderson again and then at Uncle Klaus and then at the bike again.

Mr. Peterson leaned down and spoke directly to Johnny, “Son, we sort of got together and wanted to get you another one just like it. Mr. Anderson was able to special order one from the manufacturer exactly like the other one, Uncle Klaus and Mr. Anderson and I decided that we wanted you to have this as a gift from us. You don’t have to pay anyone for it and there is nothing that you did to earn it. It is just a free gift to you from us.”

Johnny tried for several seconds to say thank you but nothing would come out. Then suddenly he let out a “Yippee!” That seemed to break open the flow and Johnny rushed over to where Mr. Anderson was standing and he just repeated, “Thank you, Mr. Anderson. Thank you, Uncle Klaus, Thank you, Dad. Wow! Wow! Wow! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

Finally, he turned to his father and said, “Would you mind if I rode it home, Dad?” Mr. Peterson was laughing and said, “I think that would be fine son. I would, I think that we all would be surprised if you didn’t”

Johnny repeated several more thank yous, put on the helmet hanging from the handlebars, jumped on the bike and headed for home.

___________________________________________________________________

One month later, when the Johnson family had finished their visit at the farm in Millville, they headed home on the train. Susie wanted to see the countryside again and wanted to see if that same seat in the observation car was free. As Susie headed up the stairs to the observation level, she heard a familiar voice. “Look here in Romans 5:8 it says that, ‘God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!’ Does that make sense?”

Susie couldn’t believe her ears. She could see Michelle sitting with two other girls in that same seat sharing the gospel with them. Michelle looked up and saw Susie. She smiled a huge grin and invited Susie to sit with them.

When Susie and Michelle talked later, Susie found out that Michelle’s grandparents were also Christians and had been praying for her for a long time. They had encouraged her and taught her much about being a Christian. And that’s not all. Michelle’s mother had gotten a really good new job and found a house for them to live in within a few blocks of Susie, Johnny, and Andrea. They could all get together and become the best of friends and grow as Christians together.

Michelle did ask Susie where she had learned all of those verses that she had shared with her. Susie replied, “Oh…I learned all of these verses in our AWANA program.”

Passing the Faith Along – Part 3

Michelle fell back in her seat and looked out the window again with a very sad look on her face, “I’m not so sure where we’re gonna be living. That’s part of the trouble my mom is having. She lost her job and we got kicked out of where we were staying because we couldn’t pay the rent and she’s trying to find a new job and a new place for us to live.” Then, turning to Susie, she smiled, cleared her throat and said, “Tell me about where you live? What is it like?”

Susie smiled and said, “We live in a really cool neighborhood with lots of little stores just south of Green Lake. We live six blocks from the school and right next to Grace Neighborhood Church. My dad is the pastor there.”

Michelle scooted forward on her seat again, “Your dad is a preacher? Wow, he must be really smart about the Bible and stuff. I’ve tried to read the Bible and me and my mom go to church sometimes, but we never stick around in one place long enough to go regularly. I like church. I wish we could go more often.”

Susie lit up like a Christmas tree, “You could come to our church. If you go to our school, you’re close enough to go to our church. You’d really like it.” Susie paused for just a few seconds and began praying under her breath, “Lord, help me to tell Michelle about you.”

“Michelle” she began, “have you ever asked Jesus to be your Saviour?” Michelle looked out of the window again, “No, I like church and the people are usually nice, but…I could never be as good as that.” “As good as what?” said Susie. “You know, sweet and sinless enough to get into heaven. Church is as close as I’ll ever get to heaven. I may not look like it to you, but, I’ve gotten into a good deal of trouble, I’ve…I’ve…well, you don’t really need to know. I don’t like talking about it.” Michelle pulled her legs back up underneath her again, crossed her arms and buried her face into them.

“You know Michelle, you don’t have to be good to get saved and go to heaven. I’m not all that good all the time, but I know that Jesus forgives my sins when I confess them to Him and because I have asked Him to be my Saviour, I will get to go to heaven and you can too. Do you want to know how I know?”

Michelle looked up from her arms and began to look straight into Susie’s eyes. “How?” she said. Susie switched over to the other seat next to Michelle and pulled out her pocket new testament. “Can I show you some verses from the Bible that will tell you?” Michelle looked intently at Susie and sat up, “Yes, I’d like that.”

“It’s actually all right here in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, first we begin with Romans 3:23 which says that ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. You already told me that you know that you’re not perfect and, you know what? Nobody is.” “Boy you got that right” responded Michelle. Susie, continued, “In Romans 6:23a it says that ‘…The wages of sin is death…’ that means that all of us are going to die from our sin, but this kind of death means that we are all going to go to hell when we die.” Michelle shuddered, “I don’t like that. I thought that you were going to show me that I can go to heaven. I already know about hell.” Susie smiled and said, “Don’t worry, I’ll get to that. I just want to make sure that you understand about your sin.” “Oh, I understand all right, let’s get on to the other part” insisted Michelle. “You got it” continued Susie.

“In Romans 6:23b it says ‘…But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ You see salvation is a free gift from God to you!  There is nothing that you can do to earn this gift.” “But, I always thought that I needed to be good to go to heaven. Are you sure about that? What about all the things that I have done?” replied Michelle.

Susie turned a few pages to another verse, “Michelle, I know what you mean and look here in Romans 5:8 it says that, ‘God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us!’ Does that make sense?”

“Wait just a minute,” Michelle turned toward Susie, “What do you mean when you say that when Jesus died, He died for us. Who is ‘US’?” Susie looked right back at Michelle and said, “All of us. That includes me…and it includes you.”

“Whoa, I never knew that before! How does that work?” Susie’s face lit up again and turned a few more pages, “That’s my next point, listen to this…in Romans 10:13 it says ‘Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!’ it doesn’t say anything about being good. All it says is that you should call on Jesus and you can be saved.”

Michelle looked thoughtfully out the window for a second and then said, “Susie, what does it say there what I have to do?” Susie answered her quickly, “It says here in Romans 10:9,10 that ‘…If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting  in salvation.’”

Michelle leaned back against the window, “Wow, that’s a lot to take in all at once. What do you mean that if I confess my sins to Jesus and accept Him as my Saviour that I can go to heaven? Do you really think that He wants me, Susie?” Susie leaned forward, “Listen to this, John 3:16  ‘For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.’ Michelle, that means He died for me AND He died for you.”

Michelle’s eyes began to swell up & glisten in the sun, “You really think that He died for me? Oh, that would mean so much to me.” Susie laid her hand on her new friend’s shoulder, “Michelle, I know that He died for both of us. Would you like to ask Jesus to be your Saviour right now?” Michelle responded, “Oh Susie, yes I would, how do I do that?”

Susie took both of Michelle’s hands, “Pray with me, I’ll lead you.” Michelle nodded, closed her eyes and bowed her head. Susie did the same, “Lord Jesus, you know that Michelle here wants to be your child, wants to know that you love her and died for her. I have shown her that from your Bible, Jesus. Now she would like to talk to you herself. Repeat after me, Michelle. Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. I also know that you are the Son of God and died for my sins so that I can be forgiven. I want to be your child, Lord. Please forgive my sins and come into my heart and be my Saviour. Thank you, Lord for loving me so much. Amen!”

After they finished praying, Michelle’s eyes were flowing with tears and she hugged Susie tightly, “Thank you Susie.”

___________________________________________________________________

It was quitting time for the day for Johnny. He hung up his apron and said his goodbyes to his aunt and uncle and headed home. He walked past Mr. Anderson’s hardware store where his…that bicycle used to be on display in the window. There was a riding lawn mower there now and a big gas barbecue. Johnny took a deep breath and let out a big sigh and then headed for home, kicking all the little rocks that he could find on the sidewalk all the way. It seemed like an especially long walk today.

Passing the Faith Along – Part 2

In Crescent City, Susie’s best friend Johnny was at Uncle Klaus’s store taking apart those big boxes that fruit and vegetables come in so that the boxes could be put into the recycle bin behind the store. He stopped for a minute to think about his friend Susie sitting on the train having fun watching the countryside rolling by. He heaved a big sigh and went back to work on the boxes. It was still two hours before he would be done for the day.

___________________________________________________________________

On the train, Stanley was sitting in the sleeper car with Mrs. Johnson listening to stories about Gram Susie & Grampa Johnny. Mrs. Johnson was telling him about the time that Gram and Grampa rescued a boy named Whitney from a forest fire. You see Whitney and his pals had gone out into the woods to spoil an overnight camp out that the Sunday school was having at a cabin in the woods. “Oh, that must have been something like the cabin that Susie stayed in at the wildlife park when Mr. Christopherson saved her whole class from that bear and Jimmy Barski almost got killed and then asked Jesus to become his Saviour,” said Stanley excitedly. “Go on and tell more of the story mom, it’s really exciting!” Mrs. Johnson picked up at the part where they were having a really hard time finding their way out and couldn’t move fast because Whitney had broken his ankle. They were trapped in a circle of fire, and Gram Susie prayed (like she always did in situations like that), and God changed the wind so that they could get out of the fire safely. Stanley jumped up and down with excitement. “Wow! Tell me another one mom, please!” Mrs. Johnson smiled, “I’m sure that Grampa Johnny will tell you more stories during your visit. I think that now you should go for another tour of the train with your father and work off some of that energy.

“Let’s go sport, I think that it’s time for another tour of the train,” Pastor Johnson smiled at his wife, took Stanley by the hand and off they went. They had already walked from one end of the train to the other four times today, and it was only three o’clock in the afternoon. This time, after their tour, they ended up in the snack bar telling each other riddles, knock-knock jokes and laughing a lot.

Susie spoke up to the girl sitting across from her, “Hi, my name is Susie. What’s your name and where are you going?” The girl had been alternately staring out the window and absent-mindedly turning the pages of an old magazine that had been left on the seat. “Huh? Did you say something? I was thinking about someplace else.” Susie smiled and repeated her question. The girl responded with a small smile, “Oh, my name is Michelle. I’m going to see my grandparents for…awhile. What about you?” Susie perked up and said, “Wow Michelle, I’m going to visit with my grandparents too. They live in upper Minnesota in Millville. Where are you going to?” Michelle scooted around in her seat so she could curl her legs up underneath her and then said, “St. Paul, I think. At least that’s where my ticket is to. I haven’t been to visit with them since I was really little and don’t remember them very much, but…right now…my Mom is having some…trouble so, I am going to stay with them for a little while.” Susie could see that Michelle was having some trouble of her own when she talked about her mom, so she decided to change the subject. “I’m glad that you can go and visit with your grandparents, I’m sure that you will have a great time. Where do you and your mom live? I’m from Crescent City.”

Michelle’s face lit up when she heard that, “Wow, that’s where I live too. What school do you go to?” Susie scooted forward in her seat, “Cascadia.” Michelle bounced in her seat and leaned forward, “Me too! Who do have for social studies?” Susie responded, “Mrs. Alexander, she is a really fun teacher.” Michelle said, “Wow, She is! I had her last year. I must be a year ahead of you and we just never ran into each other. How cool is that?” “Totally cool,” said Susie brimming with excitement now. “Where do you live? Maybe we live close enough to visit with each other when we get back home” she replied.

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 3

Now, Johnny was really getting a little concerned because he never spoke that way before, but he followed Jimmy and wondered where they were going and what was going to happen because he really did not know anything about any chariot.

As he followed Jimmy, he looked around him and saw that the same rough style of furniture was everywhere, the walls were rough stone and walls had large tapestries hanging from where the ceiling meets the walls. This was very confusing. He was really trying hard to figure out where he was, when this was and who he was.

When they got to the main hall where the throne room was, James leaned over to Johnny and whispered, “Jonathan, since you seem to be out of sorts, I will remind you that you need to approach the king with your head bowed and then when you get close to the throne, get on your knees and say, ‘By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.’”

While they waited for Johnny’s turn, there was an older man there who was pleading with the king for mercy. You see he owed a very great deal of money to the king and was unable to pay back the sum and had been dishonest in many of his dealings for the king. After some talking with his advisors, the king had decided that the man should be sent to prison, his land and belongings sold and his family sold into slavery.

The man burst into tears, dropped face down on the floor and pleaded with the king for mercy. He said that he repented of his dishonesty and promised to be completely fair and honest from then on.

“Please do not deal so harshly with me and my wife and small children Your Majesty! I will faithfully serve you for the rest of my days!”

The King looked at the Queen and she nodded her head. The king forgave his debts, admonished him to be honest and faithful and let him go.

“Oh, thank you, sire. You will not regret this generosity at all. I will serve you faithfully and honestly from this day forward.”  Then he bowed nearly to the floor, backed away from the throne and nearly ran from the main hall talking excitedly.

Now it was Johnny’s turn. He took a quick look at Jimmy, nodded his head and walked slowly toward the throne. Even with his head bowed, Johnny took quick looks around the room, it was HUGE! The ceilings in this room seemed to reach up to the sky. There were very tall windows on each side, making the room very light and much cooler than the rest of the castle. As he approached the throne there was a very large, thick carpet.

The king looked sort of familiar.

Finally, he reached the appointed spot and kneeled down as Jimmy had told him and said loudly, “By your leave, Your Majesty, your servant appears as requested.”

There was a long silence and then a kindly voice said to him, “Rise, young Jonathan and face your King.”

Johnny stood up, took one look at the king and nearly fainted. Uncle Klaus was the King! Aunt Harriet was the Queen! Johnny shook his head and looked again and they were still there.

“Whoa! What was going on?” He thought to himself.

The king spoke again, “Young Jonathan, you have been a faithful servant and as a result, I advanced you enough gold to purchase a chariot that had captured your imagination. But, according to the Royal Treasurer, you have not kept up with the payments that you promised to make. What do you have to say for yourself?”

Johnny’s thoughts were racing around in his head trying to think of something to say, for he did not want to end up in prison, even if it was a dream prison. Johnny found himself bowing toward the king again and saying “Please, your majesty, if it pleases the King and his Queen, only allow me some more time. I am sure that I will be able to catch up on my payments. Please forgive your humble servant.” And with that, Johnny found himself back on his knees, head bowed low toward the floor.

Johnny could hear the Queen talking quietly to the King. He thought to himself, “She sure sounds like Aunt Harriet.”

Then the King spoke up, “Young Jonathan, the Queen and I have decided to forgive your debt due to your faithful service to us. Please rise. Your debt is forgiven. You may depart from our presence in peace.”

Johnny could not believe what he had heard. But, he decided that the best thing to do would be to thank them for their generosity and leave quickly before they changed their minds.

He bowed again and said, “Your servant is most grateful to his King and Queen. May you live forever! I pledge myself to you and will be indebted to you as long as I live.”

He began to back away from the thrones and, at the same time wondering, “Where did I learn to talk like that? This is VERY confusing.”

When he got back to where Jimmy was standing, waiting for him. He turned around, grabbed Jimmy by the arm and hurried out of the main hall.

“What just happened?” whispered Johnny to Jimmy. Jimmy stopped in his tracks in the hallway that headed back to their room. “The King and Queen just forgave you a huge debt that you could never repay.”

The Unforgiving Servant – Part 1

Johnny, breathing heavily, begins pumping his pedals furiously in an effort to put more distance between himself and that final, lone rider closest to him.

He leans and muscles the bike around several large trees, peddles frantically up a steep hill and then around a huge rock.

Surging to the top of the final hill, with the other rider hopelessly behind him, he surveys the final part of the course.

“And here he comes, Johnny Peterson over the last hill and is racing like a pro down the hill to the finish line. His closest competitor is almost a minute behind him. What a race Peterson has ridden today. He’s on track to set the all time course record for the junior division, folks!

Look at him take those moguls.

His arms look like he’s running a jackhammer.

He looks like he was born on that bike.

Here he comes to the finish line!”

Johnny grips the handlebars and pumps the pedals for the final push across the finish line and then, just as he crosses the line, straightens up and raises his hands in victory, punching the air.

“Look at him lifting his arms up in victory! Wow, what a day for…”

Crash! Crunch!

“Oops! I just knocked over that new breakfast cereal display with my broom handle. Wow, that made a lot of noise! I’d better get it picked up pronto…” said Johnny as starting picking of boxes of Wheatios with Razzleberries and setting up the display again.

By three o’clock that Saturday afternoon, Johnny was finishing sweeping the store for his Uncle Klaus. He picked up the dustpan full of dirt, carried it and the broom to the back room where the garbage can was. It was quitting time, so he took off his apron and hung it up on the hook that was marked with his name, grabbed his coat and hat from the hook next to it and walked through the wide swinging door that led back into the front of the store. His uncle was helping a customer at the meat counter so he looked for his Aunt Harriet so that he could ask if there was anything else that needed to be done before he left for the day.

“Aunt Harriet, I’ve finished the sweeping, and it’s three o’clock, is it alright if I go home now?”

Aunt Harriet was straightening up the canned soups and saw Johnny walking toward her with his coat and hat in hand. “You sure can Johnny, thanks ever so much for all the work that you did today on the produce displays. They look marvelous!” she said, smiling broadly at him.

“Wow, thanks. It was actually a lot of fun to see how neat I could get them especially the apples. I got them all turned just right and tried to get all the varieties evened up so that they all look the same.”

“Well, you did an excellent job; let’s go find your uncle so that he can pay you for this week’s work. I know that you are saving up for that bicycle in the window of Anderson’s Hardware store. Mr. Anderson tells me that you stop by to look at it nearly every day!” she laughed. Johnny felt a little embarrassed by her laugh and began focusing on his shoelaces and shuffled his feet around on the floor for a second and then followed her as she walked over toward the cash register.

Uncle Klaus was just finishing up with the customer that he had been helping with a meat order and smiled as he saw the two of them coming toward him.

He looked up at the clock on the back wall and said “Let’s see, its three o’clock on Saturday so that must mean that our best helper Johnny is ready to be paid and go home for the day. Am I right, Harriet?”

“That’s right, my dear, do you have his check in the cash drawer?” she asked cheerfully.

“Yah, yah, you bet I do, and I want to thank you, Johnny, for all of your hard work this week. You are a very good worker. We put a little bonus in your check this week. We want to help you get that bicycle you have been saving for.” he said with a little laugh in his voice smiling his great big smile.

Uncle Klaus almost always had a smile on his great big kind face.

“Wow, thanks a lot!” Johnny thanked his aunt and uncle and headed home…by way of Anderson’s Hardware store. He stopped for just a few minutes to look at the bicycle of his dreams and then headed on home.

Two Brothers – Part 3

Cain had already arrived and sat staring into the whirling pools of the shallow water near the rock. His face was contorted with anger as he stared into the water. His heart was so heavy that he thought that it was going to fall out of his chest into the river. He had never felt so depressed or oppressed before in his life. Just as he was considering what to do next, he heard a voice. A voice he had never heard before, but he had no doubt about whose it was.

“Why are you so angry?” the LORD asked him. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you respond in the right way. But if you refuse to respond correctly, then watch out! Sin is waiting to attack and destroy you, and you must subdue it.”

Cain stood staring at the sky for what seemed forever and then collapsed on the rock in a heap. He knew the Lord was right. But, there was something in him that would not accept it, that the wrong way against it. Pride had entered into his heart and would not relinquish it. Even for the Lord.

“Cain! Cain?” Abel shouted as he reached the spot where the two boys had spent so much time in their younger years.

When Cain heard that, he jumped up and turned quickly in the direction of his brother’s voice. “What? Haven’t you had enough of being the perfect one? Did you have to track me down to gloat?”

“That’s not why I came. I was worried about you. I had never seen you run from anything before in your life. I just came to see if you were all right, that’s all.” Abel stood next to his brother and tried to put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!” Cain shouted as he shoved Abel away. “I don’t want your sympathy or your sniveling superior attitude.” He began stepping toward his brother and pushing him violently away back toward the edge of the rock away from the river. Then he suddenly stopped and sat down on the rock.

Once he had regained his balance, Abel stood and stared at his brother for a few long moments and then said, “What is it Cain? We used to tell each other everything. We used to be best friends. But, the last couple of years…it…it seems like I don’t even know you anymore! What happened? Is it something that I have done? If it is, tell me. Let’s work it out. You’re my brother and I love you!”

Cain looked up at his brother with a thoughtful look on his face. He started to speak, “I…I…”, but nothing would come out. Then a thought occurred to him and Abel could see that something flashed across Cain’s face. Something that contorted it for just a moment into something horrible and disfigured. Then Cain’s face softened and looked like his brother again. The brother that he loved.

Then Cain said, “You’re right Abel, let’s talk about it and work it out. You know that section of the lower field that you brought your sheep across? Let’s walk over there and see if we can’t figure out a path for you to use regularly.” He stood up walked toward his brother, stretched out his arm and put it around Abel’s shoulder. They began walking toward the lower field together talking and laughing like the old days.

Once they reached their destination, something seemed to change in Cain. He got quiet suddenly. He stepped away from and behind his brother. He stooped as if to pick up a clod of soil to examine it, but picked up a rock instead. He then swung that rock in the direction of Abel’s head. The rock collided with Abel’s head and Abel slumped to the ground in a heap. Blood began to seep into the ground.

Cain stood over his brother’s body. Then he quickly dug a shallow grave with his hand out of the soft earth. He quickly buried his brother and then began to wander back in the direction of the river. He didn’t know where else to go. He walked slowly at first and then he began to run. Finally, he ran as fast as he could until he reached the rock again.

His chest was heaving and his heart racing. His mind also was racing, thinking trying to figure a way out of, out of…what he had done. He was a tangled knot of emotions. Angry, sad, fearful, defiant, happy, confused and dazed. Into that fog came the voice he had heard just an hour or so ago.

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.”