Monday, April 30, 2007

Two Brothers

Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart.
It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?"
"Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor, in fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber over by the barn? I want you to build me a fence --an 8-foot fence -- so I won't need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow."
The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."
The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing. About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence at all. It was a bridge -- a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all -- and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. "You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."
The two brothers met at the middle of the bridge, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.
"I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have so many more bridges to build."

Are there any bridges you need to build this month?

The Obstacle in Our Path

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way. Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded. As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand.
***Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one's condition.

Bad ways to do a good thing.

Getting rid of mice; that's a good thing. Shooting up the house to get rid of them; that's a bad thing. But then, there are lots of bad ways to do good things. In fact, the Bible is full of examples from Moses killing an Egyptian to help free his people from slavery to Abraham trying to fulfil God's promise of a son by having a baby through his wife's servant.

There's a particularly haunting story about bad ways to do a good thing in our word for today from the Word of God. It's haunting because it exposes some of the most common mistakes we make in trying to get what we believe to be a good result. Just before Rebecca has her twin boys, Jacob and Esau, God promises her that, contrary to what usually happened in a Jewish family, "the older will serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23). Jacob, the second-born, will receive the blessing that she would expect Esau, the firstborn, to get.

But now father Isaac, who gives that blessing, is nearly blind and he appears to be dying. It looks as if Esau's going to get the blessing. In Genesis 26, beginning with verse 14, Rebecca schemes to pass off smooth-skinned Jacob as Esau the hairy outdoors man. The Bible says, "Rebecca took the best clothes of Esau ... and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands ... with the goatskins." She also gave Jacob his father's favourite meal to deliver. When Isaac asked, "Are you really my son Esau?" Jacob replied, "I am." And it worked! Jacob got the blessing. That's a good thing - the thing God promised. But it was done through manipulation and deception.

Here's the sobering question for you and me: do I sometimes manipulate people and situations to help a good thing happen? The first syllable of manipulation tells the whole ugly story - man. I can't wait for God to do it His way. Human manipulation aborts the perfect processes of God. And it almost always demands some sacrifice of the truth; making things sound or look different than they really are.

Isaac didn't die, it turns out, for many more years. Rebecca's’s scheme ripped her family apart and made one brother ready to kill the other. Her favourite son, Jacob, had to leave for twenty years, during which he was repeatedly deceived and manipulated. And Rebecca never sees her precious son again. There's such a high price when you use a bad way to do a good thing! You may get what you want, but you'll lose more than you could ever imagine. Just ask Rebecca.

Christian writer, Warren Wiersbe, has an awesome insight on all this. He says, "Faith is the absence of scheming." Here's the equation you can't afford to forget: a good thing + a bad way of getting it = a price too high to pay.

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