Let us not become weary when doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
When things are going well we should feel like nothing can stop us from continuing to do good. But, what happens when doing what is right and good becomes hard, and others are watching? Will you remain steadfast and NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT or buckle under the burden?
What happens to our enthusiasm when we receive the recognition we feel we deserve for doing good?
What about when choosing to do good means you may be the only one doing it?
No matter what, we are encouraged to stay the course, choosing to do what is right and good. There is a promise connected to staying the course, but the reward may be merely getting to see the fruit of our efforts – a changed life although nothing materially changes for us.
If such is our reward, will you continue to choose to do good? That is the test that God may place before you. Will you stay the course no matter what?
Please know doing what is right and good can be a challenge, taxing our willpower, but we also have a stronger power than our willpower — God’s spiritual power within us. Make sure God’s spiritual power empowers our willpower. Then you will NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT doing what is right and good!
My Shiloh Mystery Series carries this message. The first two books in the series are currently celebrating their anniversary. They are both available in paperback and Kindle, and Audible (coming this Summer).
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2018) T. M. Brown (9781641110730)
Testament, An Unexpected Return (2018) T. M. Brown (9781641110846)
Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Coming 2020) T. M. Brown
Visit the T. M. Brown Author page for more about my fiction stories and quick links to upcoming author events and how to order.
The paperback editions can be purchased through your local bookstore. For your convenience follow the link to IndieBound.org to locate your nearest bookstore.
The memorable characters in Shiloh will make you ask these two questions:
Would you trust God when the choice you have to make conflicts with what may be in our personal best interest and cost more than we think we can afford?
What price do you place on doing what is right and good?
Will you post your comments on my author webpage after you have read one or both books? Leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or my Facebook Author Page appreciated. You can also find me on Instagram.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.”
What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, [it returns] to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again.
All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing.
What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.
Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no memory of those who came before, and of those who will come after there will also be no memory among those who follow [them]. Eccl 1:1-11 (HCSB)
We all want to be different, or uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life that is well-traveled and well-marked by many before us, and many more will follow us on this same road. The choice you get to make is how you walk this road of life among all the others on it with you. Yet, let it be clear, there are no new paths to take, just dead-ends should you choose to wander onto your own ways. God has clearly stated that there is but one way to follow Him, and all other ways are futile and paths of destruction for those who decide to walk in their own ways.
Are there genuinely unique new ways?
Just look at the world around us and see how His creation is marked in a similar way. The winds blow and waters flow certain ways, and the stars, planets, and heavens above all guide their ways through the evening sky the same way for centuries without change either. The creatures in the forests and oceans and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in the never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given man the inquisitive mind, and pursuing the unknown and the new is an instinct of challenge that we have, but when we do not check with the Creator first along the way, we allow our eyes and ears to be filled with the prospects of things we perceive as new, but in consulting God we learn that what is new to us is not new to Him. Nothing new can be created outside the will, ways and wisdom of the Creator God.
So what must we do?
A new understanding is a part of our maturity, but we should realize just because it is new to us, an astounding revelation of eternal truth and magnitude, it is not new to God. The moment we assume something to be of original thought, a revelation of our own mind, we assume the role of God.
Our life is to be a life in pursuit of new thoughts and revelations that flow from the Creator, and He alone knows what we are capable of understanding and benefiting from for His greater purposes. Therefore, as we walk along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and comprehend God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word! Trust in Him alone, and never unto our own understanding – because its destination is a dead-end! Life eternal is God’s purpose for us. Which do you choose?
If you are a creative writer, how can this understanding influence your work? Do we really write unique stories?
Woe to you, land, when your king is a household servant, and your princes feast in the morning. Blessed are you, land, when your king is a son of nobles and your princes feast at the proper time – for strength and not for drunkenness. Because of laziness the roof caves in, and because of negligent hands the house leaks. A feast is prepared for laughter and wine makes life happy, and money is the answer to everything. Do not curse the king even in your thoughts, and do not curse a rich person even in your bedroom, for a bird of the sky may carry the message, and a winged creature may report the matter. Eccl 10:16-20 (HCSB)
Certainly, the common person relates to others who are most like them, but is that a good thing when selecting our leaders to govern over us? Do we want the best and most qualified, or do we want to relate with the people we have placed into office? Well, consider this: if you have a need for life-saving surgery, do you want a surgeon who is chosen out of your pool of friends or those most like you, or would you seek the most qualified surgeon? Governors and Presidents are not meant to be our best friends, but the most ideal person to keep us secure and maintain stability for our life.
The Social Contract theory of man says that we are willing to give up certain personal natural liberties to protect our primary interests of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property” which translates to Happiness. In that willingness to submit to a government to govern over us, we also recognize that the best government is the one that governs the least while securing our liberties the best. That balance requires competence, and we ourselves are not properly experienced and trained to govern efficiently and effectively – nor are those in our circle of friends or family. So in the end, do not choose people for positions in government because we like them the most or can relate to them best, but simply will I feel more secure with truly competent and prepared people serving our needs if placed into positions of government.
As we look ahead to a future of hope and prosperity, we need to be reminded that our government is allowed to govern only by the consent of the governed – that is the constitutional principle of popular sovereignty. Before we bad mouth those in office lets be reminded that it is the people that have authorized those in office to govern. If there is any bad mouthing, it is towards the general population for deciding to place the people in office that are there. We the people have the final say – but choose wisely at the next opportunity to support or replace those in government.
From God’s perspective, He exercises His divine sovereignty through the hearts of men and women. I pray that recognize that God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word will be ideally revealed when His people seek His guidance and approval for the selection of the servant-leaders who run our government. So when the roof seems as if it is caving in, and there are leaking breeches, we only can blame ourselves for not seeking God’s ideal servants but those we feel most comfortable with.
Please allow me to begin this story by sharing that over the many centuries, since the beginning of what we now celebrate as Christmas, our societies have painted a much different picture of the Christmas story. We have gotten sidetracked from the real story.
In each of our homes, a simple manger scene might be tucked away on a shelf or tabletop somewhere, symbolically placed without any real fanfare or notice. It has become just another ornament or decoration in our home already filled with lights, candles, bows, and assorted Christmas ornamentation. There is far more interest upon the gaily wrapped gifts under the tree, and we wonder, “What is under the tree for me?” Our attention turns to preparing and sharing scrumptious candy, cookies, and cakes with family and friends gathering while that Christmas manger depicts the real story and magic of Christmas.
Is it wrong to think about all the other wonderful treats and gifts and ornamentation that now identify with Christmas? Is it wrong to sing Jingle Bells and Grandma Got Run Over By the Reindeer on Christmas Eve? Is it wrong to talk about Santa Claus, the North Pole, and Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer? Is it wrong to watch the myriad of Christmas stories Hollywood has created that we seem to enjoy each Christmas season? No, all are a by-product of how Christmas has become shaped by our modern society.
However, for some of us, we embrace our heritage and the family traditions passed down to us as our way to celebrate the “Spirit of Christmas.” Though there are more and more outside influences competing to shape the Christmas traditions our children and grandchildren are allowing into their homes, we faithfully pass on the heritage and traditions as they grow up and raise their our family.
Just maybe, if we stop and pull aside all the shiny trimmings and colorful decorations, and mute more of the commercialized messages of Christmas, we might avoid missing out on the true meaning and joy of Christmas. But, if we allow ourselves to fall prey to all the glitz, glitter, and glamour, the real reason for the season might fade totally away; we might as well follow suit with the rest of the world and stop calling it CHRISTmas, as many in the world would prefer we do.
Why does the world want to avoid the real reason for CHRISTmas? Is it because if they join us in celebrating Christmas (the CHRIST MASS, as it originally was called), they will hear the true message and the story represented by the manger scene resting on a shelf somewhere? The celebration of Jesus’s birth is so we may acknowledge God’s love. In the confusing, chaotic and combative time we live in today, there has never been a greater time for the world to grasp ahold of the real meaning of Christmas.
That very first Christmas Eve, though the term we now embrace as Christmas would not be known for decades, was a genuine, historical event involving real people; its story passed from generation to generation and recorded over the centuries so it could endure the test of time and become the anchor of our faith that God’s love was, is, and forever will remain available to us.
The Bible records that the Apostle Paul saw the Christ child event as significant because it reflected God’s deliberate act to demonstrate His love for us by introducing Himself through what would become the life and legacy of Jesus, born into this world just as we too are born into this world. In writing to the early churches, decades after the birth, Paul wrote the WHAT and WHY of that first Christmas Eve.
WHAT: But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Galatians 4:4-5 The Message
The timing of Jesus’ birth was not arbitrary. It was established by key events and came directed by the providential hand of God for His good purposes.
WHY: Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of an intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave (a nobody), but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:6-7 The Message
The why is much more important! Until this point in history, the people of God had lost contact with the personal God who led His them from slavery in Egypt and delivered them to a better place, a better life. Like many of us today, they had taken God’s goodness and love for granted and alienated themselves from God for over 500 years. In fact, many suffered exile and were driven into foreign lands – a reminder of what being a slave, a nobody felt like again. Even those who continued to live in the lands we know as Israel today, and those scattered throughout the known world at that time, faced Roman rule, no longer able to experience a “King” of their own to lead them from the oppression they endured. But, many clung to God’s promises of a Messiah, a Deliverer, to rescue them once again. They yearned for the relationship and inheritance they once trusted in because they were God’s children. Each day they prayed and hoped that “today would be that day” – and then it happened. God answered their prayers, and that first Christmas Eve unfolded into history.
About that time Caesar Augustus ordered a census to be taken throughout the Empire. This was the first census when Quirinius was governor of Syria. Everyone had to travel to his own ancestral hometown to be accounted for. So Joseph went from the Galilean town of Nazareth up to Bethlehem in Judah, David’s town, for the census. As a descendant of David, he had to go there. He went with Mary, his fiance, who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. She gave birth to a son, her firstborn. She wrapped him in a blanket and laid him in a manger, because there was no room in the hostel. Luke 2:1-7 The Message
This brief passage and a couple of equally short passages in the Gospel accounts of the Bible reveal the story. Today, we hear those timeless words at church and in the embedded lyrics of Christmas songs and carols, such as Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Joy to the World, etc. Though many churches still perform manger recreations, how you personally respond to the story matters.
How about you and your family, will take the time to share and reflect upon the story and message of that first Christmas Eve? Will you allow that manger scene in your home to be treasured above all the other Christmas decorations and symbols of today’s Christmas season?
Also, rather than read the cute but created story about “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to your (grand)children, maybe this year read them the real, God-inspired true story about “The Night that Brought Christmas into the World! Below is how Hershel Hobbs wrote about that special night, recorded in his Illustrated Life of Jesus.
In faraway Rome, Augustus Caesar ruled his vast empire with an iron hand. True to Roman fashion he was primarily concerned that his subjects should keep the peace and pay their taxes. In 8 B.C. he had inaugurated a periodical census every fourteen years in order to enroll his people for taxation. According to Tacitus (Roman Historian) even the regna, the independent kingdoms under the Roman Empire, were included in this census.
Probably two years later this census was carried out in Palestine. Herod, the vassal king, would not think of disobeying Augustus. Yet, knowing the Jew’s aversion to paying taxes to Rome, he delayed it as long as he dared. Even then he sought to placate the Jews by adhering to their customs in dealing with them along tribal lines. So when the order for enrollment was finally given, it called for every Jew to be enrolled at the place where the tribal register was kept.
Thus Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Bethlehem, for they were descendants of David and members of the tribe of Judah. Though they were peasants (poor, everyday common folks), royal blood flowed in their veins. By this time Mary was great with child (in her final days of pregnancy) and this journey of approximately 100 miles worked a great hardship on her. Nevertheless, Caesar’s decree must be obeyed.
However, she and Joseph moved under a greater word (inspiration) than that of the Roman emperor, for God had said that His Son, the Messiah, should be born in Bethlehem. Augustus knew nothing of this prophecy and cared less. But unknowingly he was an instrument in God’s hands, as his decree like an invisible cord drew the virgin mother toward her destiny.
After several days of travel, late in the afternoon, these weary travelers climbed the last rocky, steep ascent leading into Bethlehem. The streets were crowded with hundreds of other men and women bent on the same mission. Clouds of dust boiled up from the stirring of the hundreds of feet of men and animals. A bedlam of noise characteristic of such a scene filled the ears of the weary couple from Nazareth as laboriously they made their way to the village inn. But it was already filled to overflowing.
So because there was no lodging to be had, Joseph bedded his wife down in the area provided for the animals. Here Mary “gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a manger (animal feed trough)” Luke 2:7.
Thus the Son of God was born – not in a king’s palace or in a home of the wealthy or mighty, but to a peasant mother whose delivery room was a stable. No physician stood by to assist. Only the gnarled hands of a village carpenter came to her aid, but they were hands made tender by a conquering love and a devotion to God. As the newborn babe slept through the night, He was under the watchful eyes of His mother and Joseph, but most of all He was secure under the never-failing gaze of His Heavenly Father.
The next morning, Bethlehem roused from her sleep. It was business as usual as the bazaars rang with the noise of commerce. The enrollment was finished, and the crowds moved out to return to their homes. Caesar’s bidding had been done, and the village of David returned to normal. Only a few simple folks knew that on that night in the little village there had transpired the greatest event in the history of the world.
…Jesus’ birth was largely unnoticed by the world. Outside of the Bible, no ancient historian took note of the event. They were so bent on the recording the affairs of men and nations that they failed to recognize God’s history within history, whereby in the person of His Son He entered into the arena of time to answer the universal cry of men’s hearts. But it did not occur without recognition by those whose hearts were prepared to receive it.
Heaven itself rejoiced over the glorious event. For the angelic hosts burst asunder the barrier of invisibility to proclaim the Savior’s birth and to sing the Christian anthem dedicated to His praise. For their audience, they had a handful of lowly shepherds, the simple folk who counted for little in the tides of history whichever beat upon the shores of time. But their hearts were firmly fixed in God’s promises upon which they meditated in the quiet hours of the night. In Bethlehem’s fields where Ruth had gleaned in the fields of Boaz, later to become his bride and the Moabite ancestress of the Savior; where David had tended his sheep, all the while contemplating God’s glory and on Him who was to be born; there the shepherds first heard the glad tidings that unto them had been born a Savior, Christ the Lord.
The shepherds hastened to Bethlehem to find it as the angels had said. They found Mary and Joseph and the Babe lying in a manger. God in a cradle! Upon hearing from the shepherds about the heavenly declaration, Mary placed the event alongside the message of Gabriel, pondering them in her heart. And she knew that God had fulfilled His promise. The shepherds returned to their work, carrying back into their mundane sphere the memory of an experience which would forever cast an aura of glory about them and about all others who in humble trust some to Him who fills the universe with His presence, yet who for a little while was contained in a baby’s impromptu cradle – a manger!
Hope you’ll visit my TMBrownAuthor.com page and discover “Christmas in Shiloh” attempts to exemplify a grandfather’s love for sharing Christmas with his grandchildren.
A Cradle, Cross, and Crown: Christmas Gifts from Heaven
For as many of you, having been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise (God’s Covenant). Now I say that as long as the heir is a child, he differs in no way from a slave, though he is the owner of everything. Instead, he is under guardians and stewards until the time set by his father. In the same way, we also, when we were children, were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world. But when the completion of the time came, God sent His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father! So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. But in the past, when you didn’t know God, you were enslaved to things that by nature are not gods. But now, since you know God, or rather have become known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and bankrupt elemental forces? Do you want to be enslaved to them all over again? You observe special days, months, seasons, and years. I am fearful for you, that perhaps my labor for you has been wasted. Galatians 4:1-11
The origin of Christmas: Just over 2000 years ago, on this day – 2 days before Jesus was born – a young girl, in the fullness of her time to give birth to her child, and her husband, in the midst of a long, endured an uphill journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a trip of 100 miles or so. The way was difficult, but there was little to fear along the way since Roman legions were stationed throughout the land to keep the peace, and to police the highways against robbers and thieves. However, imagine the fear of a young teenage girl expecting her first child, having to handle the long walk, knowing any day she would give birth to what God had promised was to be the Son of God, the long-awaited Messiah – the Christ.
Their journey was orchestrated by God through history. Caesar Augustus wanted to take a census registration for tax purposes, and King Herod and the Roman governor decided to have everyone to register in their family hometown, which was Bethlehem for both Mary and Joseph. Both of them, though common people of the day, had royal blood in their veins. They both were from the lineage of King David, who was also from Bethlehem. It is also interesting to note, Bethlehem means “house of bread”, and it is there God had chosen long before that His Son, the Messiah would be born there – and during in His ministry, He would proclaim that He is the Bread of Life!
Why did God choose to become incarnate through the womb of a woman as a defenseless newborn child? Why not just arrive into history as a manifestation of God before men? How would a cradle serve as an appropriate throne for the promised Prince of Peace? There would be no royal processions with heralds announcing their arrival into Bethlehem. Rather, God chose to have the mother of His Son walk in the footsteps of common man, sharing the same dust along the way with her husband, Joseph, whom God had hand-picked to be the step-father to His Son. However, through the drudgery of the journey, the echoes of Gabriel’s (God’s messenger angel) message to both Mary and Joseph kept them at peace. Mary certainly would have sensed that God would not have His Son born at just any time, but rather at His chosen, right time – in a place selected for His Son to be born – of God’s choosing, not man’s.
The people had long-awaited the arrival of the Messiah, but they were looking in all the wrong places. They sought a royal birth in a royal palace to a royal family. They expected a worldly prince to come and be born, and to rise up to become the Savior King of His people. They looked to a Savior who would carry a sword and ride a great stead into battle against the enemies that ruled over them. But, God had another plan, because beyond the Cradle there would have to be a Cross to bear long before the Crown could be worn and He assume His rightful place as the King of kings, Lord of Lords, the Savior of the World. Any one aspect without the other would not provide a complete picture of who Christ was: the Son of God.
The Cradle represented the incarnation of God – Jesus was born of a woman and became a man to share God’s love message to mankind.
The Cross represented the presentation of God of the perfect, only sacrifice that would save men from his sinful nature. No sacrifice presented by man could ever live up to standards of holiness that God demanded – therefore, God offered His own Son, perfect as God is perfect to make the sacrifice acceptable to God, according to the Covenant that God made with Abraham centuries before.
Likewise, the Crown represented the coronation of God, which symbolized the source of power and authority that no kingdom or empire on earth could overcome. Despite their best efforts, even the Great King Herod could stop His birth; not even the Roman Empire and its legions could prevent Christ from fulfilling His purpose – they even were unknowing participants and pawns of God’s divine plan for man.
Christ through His death and resurrection ascended to the right hand of the Father as our perfect advocate, so that our sinful life would not have to face the divine judgment of God. If we were to stand before God on our judgment day all alone, having to present our life to Him and give our own account for all we did or failed to do, then we would have no hope. But, through the Cradle, Cross, and Crown stages of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we can know by faith that our sins are forgiven, and He will be there when we stand in judgment before God and will be welcomed as joint heirs into His kingdom.
When we think about the next few days as each of us prepares for Christmas, consider how the story might have turned out if Mary and Joseph were not obedient to God, and their storied-faith in His promises had wavered. Would they have traveled on that difficult journey knowing Mary was about to give birth? But their story unfolded with God mounted upon the wings of history dispatching heavenly and worldly heralds onto the stage announcing the birth of a child that would reshape the world…
More coming about the night before His birth in Bethlehem.
My daily prayer: Lord Jesus, it is in Your holy name that we can now enter into the throne of grace in our prayers, and share our heartfelt praises and petitions before God. It is through Your name that we know we have the Spirit of God residing within us to communicate our utterances to a Holy, Almighty Creator God. My faith is anchored in You, Your birth, Your death, and Your Resurrection – all orchestrated by God so that we may walk in the newness of life as He intended since Creation. Thank You, my Lord, and my Savior… Amen.
There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven: a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to avoid embracing; a time to search and a time to count as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to be silent and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace. Eccl 3:1-8 (HCSB)
Mankind may have devised how we measure and track TIME, but it is not a creation of man – TIME is God’s gift to mankind. TIME is finite, not infinite. TIME is marked by a beginning and an end. In eternity, TIME vanishes. God created TIME for man’s benefit. It defines our LIFE-TIME. TIME defines us and stirs a sense of urgency. TIME once lost cannot be replaced or reset. TIME for each man begins at conception and ends with our final heartbeat. For those in misery, TIME drags on. For those experiencing contentment with life, TIME races on. TIME exists only in the present; TIME once past can never be recovered; nor can we grasp TIME before it arrives. God created TIME for mankind to cherish and enjoy to the fullest.
TIME is also the perfect complement to LOVE. TIME marks the breadth and depth of LOVE because who and what we LOVE demands the most TIME. Sharing TIME with those you LOVE is by far the most valuable gift one can give someone else. Wasted TIME weakens relationships, whereas invested TIME strengthens relationships. TIME establishes the true value by which LOVE is measured and cherished. Do not let TIME slip away, because LOVE will follow.
Since God created TIME, He cannot be defined by it, nor is He limited to it, however, He expresses His ultimate gift of LOVE by offering it for our sake. Yet, the greatest measure of God’s LOVE is reached when we step into eternity, far beyond TIME’s finite, Alpha and Omega limits of TIME.
Note: This passage from the Bible and the related thoughts about God’s gift of time came from the opening lines of my third novel in my Shiloh Mystery Series – Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest (Winter/Spring 2020). For more go to TMBrownAuthor.com.
My son, IF you accept my words and store up my commands within you, listening closely to wisdom and directing your heart to understanding; IF you call out to insight and lift your voice to understanding; IF you seek it like silver and search for it like hidden treasure; THEN you will understand the fear of the LORD and discover the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He stores up success for the upright; He is a shield for those who live with integrity so that He may guard the paths of justice and protect the way of His loyal followers. THEN you will understand righteousness, justice, and integrity — every good path. For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil– from the one who says perverse things, [from] those who abandon the right paths to walk in ways of darkness, [from] those who enjoy doing evil and celebrate perversity, whose paths are crooked, and whose ways are devious. Prov 2:1-15 (HCSB)
A key fact about us humans: We have an innate instinct of distrust designed into us. Therefore, the most challenging obstacle for anyone to overcome is accepting the benefit of surrendering one’s personal will, ways, and (perceived) wisdom to the perfect, pleasing, and good will of our Lord God. We prefer to trust our decision-making even when it causes us to falter and stumble. However, sooner or later, the scrapes, sores, and bruises overwhelm us. Only then we seem receptive to the fate of our shortfalls, ignorance bordering foolishness, and we begin to accept the sin (selfish shortcomings) within us that causes us to stumble and fail.
For some of us, our lack of faith continues to blind us from acknowledging God’s Wisdom. We reach out to other palatable sources of advice and counsel in our life. However, sooner or later we recognize that we are the captive of our own sin, but now also the slave to others as well. The fact remains: Even after all the detours and delays we have chosen to experience in life, God’s grace remains steadfast. He patiently waits for us to recognize our willful stubbornness is our stumbling block.
Yet, God will not manipulate us to accept His wisdom. He chose not to coerce us in any way. Of course, God certainly provides us with ample reasons to draw our focus toward Him. All we need to do is open our hearts, minds, and souls to what God freely offers us. The Book of Proverbs offers a good start to recognize the “IF and THEN” outcomes of our misguided past versus a life seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
This passage, and others throughout Proverbs, clearly testifies to the conditions of making the right choices God desires so we may realize the blessings or favorable consequences we deserve as His faithful children. Re-read this passage. Carefully identify the keywords that may spur you to make the life-changing decision to alter the future course of your life. Accepting God’s wisdom allows you to discover His ways according to His wonderful will for you.
Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1-2 (HCSB)
NOTE: Throughout my Southern Novel series, my overriding message is God’s providential guidance requires our acceptance and recognition that the circumstances in our life have a greater purpose that may require uncomfortable changes and hard decisions, but IF we trust God, THEN we will see God’s grace played out through our impact upon others.
Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (Jan 2018, ISBN 9781641110730)
Testament, An Unexpected Return (Mar 2018, ISBN 9781641110846)
Understanding the Psalms, Proverbs, and Parables – The Source of Godly Wisdom
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: For learning what wisdom and discipline are; for understanding insightful sayings; for receiving wise instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity; for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced, knowledge and discretion to a young man— a wise man will listen and increase his learning, and a discerning man will obtain guidance— for understanding a proverb or a parable, the words of the wise, and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:1-7 HCSB
Reading the psalms, proverbs, and parables found throughout the Bible is highly recommended for a daily study of God’s Word. So many common sense truths reside in them. Yet, beyond what is deemed as common sense, one discovers the spiritual connection within each of us that instinctively links truth with living rightly before God. However, how many of us take the time to truly explore the depth and breadth of wisdom found amongst the Bible’s proverbs and parables. Even Jesus referred frequently to the psalms and proverbs to justify His teachings. His parables are a legendary part of his tradition of speaking truths in riddles and proverbial truths. So what is the value of psalms, proverbs, and parables?
for receiving wise instruction [in] righteousness, justice, and integrity – In other words: they help us to become more receptive to gaining godly wisdom within the Bible, which guides us in living our daily lives in ways that please God. They offer evidence of what is the truth and how to apply it in our relationships with others, in a manner pleasing God. In essence, it helps us to live our lives according to the perfect, pleasing and good will of God.
for teaching shrewdness to the inexperienced – The words of wisdom found in the psalms, proverbs, and parables help us to walk more confidently through life as a child of God. In circumstances when we lack the practical experience to deal rightly with life issues, the Bible provides the godly advice we need to choose wisely the right course of action. Shrewdness or astuteness comes with experience unless a wise mentor steps forward offering advice. However, in the absence of a mentor, the psalms, proverbs, and parables offer the shrewd counsel to help you to handle daily situations and relationships with sound judgment.
for teaching knowledge and discretion to a young man – A teacher’s goal with any student is to become obsolete, ergo every worthy teacher desires to become obsolete because their pupil has learned how to learn for themselves, thus eliminating the need of the teacher – the foremost goal of education or knowledge one can achieve. Once one has increased in knowledge, discretion defines the proper use of knowledge to navigate life’s situations and relationships.
a wise man will listen and increase his learning – This is the test that one has grown in his or her spiritual maturity: the ongoing pursuit of knowledge and the understanding. A spiritually wise man or woman acknowledges their responsibility to pass-on understanding and knowledge with others. Yet, wisdom also reveals to a godly person, no matter how much we have learned, we will never know it all! In fact, the more we learn, the more we realize there is more to understand and learn! Only God is omniscient, or all-knowing! Wisdom is but a journey, not a destination.
and, a discerning man will obtain guidance – A wise person never attempts to walk through life alone. He or she realizes more than anyone that God provides signposts and mentors for us to seek out and acknowledge for our own good. Only an ignorant person, or a fool, walks through life eyes-closed and stumbles and falls at every twist and turn throughout life’s journey. A wise man is a discerning man, choosing his or her way without haste but with confidence.
It is for this reason the passage concludes with this statement of truth: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. This “fear” is not fright or horror but in the sense of reverence and honor. It is the fear that we would miss out on knowing and understanding how much the Lord loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. It is the fear of never knowing the truth and not receiving the blessings that come from living truthfully before the Lord, seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
How about you? Have you made the investment in seeking to learn by investing time each day in the psalms, proverbs, and parables, seeking a fresh “aha” moment of truth and understanding? Remember, the first step of wisdom is the fear of never knowing God and His love.
He (Jesus) would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples. Mark 4:33-34 (HCSB)
What did the Lord want His disciples to learn by teaching them in parables? The closer you are to the Lord, the clearer the parables and proverbs become to you.
NOTE: For more information about how I transformed psalms, proverbs, and parables into entertaining fictional stories filled with truths about life’s challenges and choices please visit TMBrownAuthor.com.
In Chapter 21 of the Book of Revelation, God defines a Sanctuary.
The foundations of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone; the first foundation jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. The 12 gates are 12 pearls; each gate made of a single pearl. The broad street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. I did not see a sanctuary in it because the Lord God the Almighty is its sanctuary.
What defines a sanctuary? Is it what people take pride in – their wealth in gold and precious stones? However, God declares such things will be nothing more than building materials where he resides? The most valuable thing will be who not what is revered. There the Lord’s light surrounds those who seek sanctuary in him (a clear metaphor for the revelation of wisdom and truth).
Where do you invest your hope in life? Where do you invest your time and energy? Your retirement portfolio might be the envy of your peers, but what good is your grand portfolio at the end of your days?
Unlike Disney and Universal Studios where fantasies are promised to come true, there is a cost to enter their gates. However, God’s sanctuary requires only an affirming, sincere smile to enter and discover God’s invaluable, immeasurable grace.
What is the focus of your life? What relationships are more important, financial or spiritual ones? Remember, Jesus declared, You cannot serve God and money equally? One will influence your interest in the other.
This message rests within the pages of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories. Discover how the notion of Sanctuary galvanized the folks in lil’ ol’ Shiloh after Theo Phillips arrives in town and sheds light upon the dark secrets, scandal, and tragedy for all to confront. TMBrownAuthor.com
The pursuit of Wisdom is a most worthy and desirable journey. These facts remain true about the pursuit of it.
There will always be those wiser than ourselves. Conversely, this should become true too, others will see us as wise to them.
Wisdom is the application of goodness, righteousness, and justice, ergo godliness, in all choices of life.
Wisdom can never be fully reached in one’s lifetime, but its pursuit remains a worthy destination. The further one travels acquiring and understanding it, one’s relationship with God grows.
Wisdom defines one’s spiritual maturity.
Sadly, each of us recognizes wisdom residing in others long before we recognize it in ourselves.
I believe before one can truly attain wisdom one must grasp the dichotomies in the possible consequences for choices we make in life: Goodness against evil. Righteousness opposed to wickedness. Justice in contrast to injustice.
Yes, my younger friends, the pursuit of wisdom is a most worthy goal in life, and as you likely have recognized some degree of wisdom in others, others will look up to you as you look to your far wiser friends.
Wisdom should be a cherished destination in one’s life; the pursuit reveals God. The further you progress along the way of wisdom fading regrets will lose their grasp; any notions of retreat dissipate; all reserve left behind.
Again, no one attains wisdom, but the pursuit makes you wiser. Embrace the quest it takes you for the rest of your life.
After many years studying God’s Word, I wrote my Shiloh novels about a time-lost South Georgia town with colorful, realistic characters dealing with choices and consequences in life, and the response of others to our choices. I pray my grandchildren will eventually grasp the lessons that reside in the stories and become wiser as a result, and hopefully long before I discovered the value of wisdom in one’s life.
If you choose to read any of my inspirational Southern mysteries, please let me know what lessons you found within the twists and turns between the covers of each story.
At the Conclusion of ALL Understanding, GOD Smiles
In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: Â fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl 12:9-14 (HCSB)
At the conclusion of all understanding, God awaits. Why do so many people desire to read motivational books? Why do so many people pursue a regiment of devotional writings for encouragement in their lives? What benefit resides within the proverbs and parables and passages of wisdom? Will man’s attempts to interpret, comprehend, and translate God’s Word ever come to an end?
Why do I write what God has inspired me to express? Well, simply put, because maybe someone needs to hear what God has stirred in me. I confess the greatest benefactor for all that I’ve written after all these years is myself! As I have pondered the passages and prayerfully sought relevance of the wisdom treasured in God’s Word, my outlook on life has been altered. All the feedback received from others has also been a blessing to me. However, at the end of everything, the greatest reward I have received is a sense of God’s affirming smile along the way.
Am I wise? Certainly not. I am not any wiser than most people I know. Am I a good teacher? Certainly not. I am not smarter than many of the people I know. There are many wiser people than me who are definitely far better teachers. So what validation do I offer sharing what I have attempted to express after all these years? The only worthwhile validation: GOD’s inspiration and affirmation.
Have I written anything new and unique? Of course not! There most definitely is nothing new under the sun after all these thousands of years. All I can do is reveal how I interpret the wisdom written long ago and share what I sense is real and relevant in hopes we all may live in a better relationship with one another, pleasing God.
I pray that for a brief moment we all can take a step back from our break-neck fast and crowded lives and grasp a portion of God’s will, ways and wisdom, which reveals time and again that at the end of all things: God patiently waits for us! All our actions, attitudes, and words, even our very thoughts, spoken or scribbled, will record how we have lived our life before God. What will be the testament to your life? Will it comfort you on that day when you stand before God? What relationships can you claim that will generate a smile on God’s face, yet also which will cause us to writhe as well?
I pray what I have been able to share with you has helped you to ponder your life, your relationships, and most importantly, your awareness of God as your daily inspirational guide.
Just as the Bible records so many relevant stories and parables, God has inspired me to write stories that apply through the lives of the many memorable characters how to tackle tough circumstances and formidable challenges that life can throw at each of us in real life. I certainly hope you’ll enjoy investing in my stories for their hours of entertainment and inspiration too. Please go to TMBrownAuthor.com to learn more about my inspirational Southern mystery series.
Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun. For if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile. Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sights of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment. Remove sorrow from your heart and put away pain from your flesh, because youth and the prime of life are fleeting. Eccl 11:7-10 (HCSB)
Darkness by definition is the absence of light. Absolute darkness leaves no reference points to stumble around. In total darkness, only fear exists. Fear reigns because we do not know what the next step will bring. Future hope as a destination does not exist to focus our eyes.
In our darkest days there is only desolation and desperation. Yet, even in the darkest days, God provides us with sufficient light to find our way. His love is so great that even when we cower in the darkness, he seeks to draw us toward his gift of light. However, as the passage reveals, our fears of the light reveal the state of our lives. Light reveals truth. Though truth sets us free, it also reveals the shortcomings of our life.
Light is relative. In God’s presence there is absolute light; no darkness exists. In God’s presence man risks entering the “shekinah” glory of God – God’s light of truth.It not only reveals but also cleanses away what is not pure. Man must be exposed to God’s radiant light to purify him, dispelling all remnants of darkness. However, our memory of those dark days draws us closer to the light!
Hope, faith and love thrive in the light, whereas fear, desolation, and desperation rooted in darkness are cast away. From isolation and separation we discover fellowship and lordship. In pure light, we focus upon the “good” and discover the “truth.” Both are a gift of God as we leave behind the dark days, and pursue the light.
One final thought, once we value light, we become light to those left in the darkness. It is for this purpose God drawed us out of the darkness. His radiant light is meant to be shared, never hoarded as if given exclusively. It is a gift to share and is inexhaustible sharing with others.
Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
Three things are stately in their stride; even four are stately in their walk: a lion, which is mightiest among beasts and doesn’t retreat before anything, a strutting rooster, a goat, and a king at the head of his army. If you have been foolish by exalting yourself, or if you’ve been scheming, put your hand over your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, and twisting a nose draws blood, and stirring up anger produces strife. Prov 30:29-33 (HCSB)
There is a difference between “strutting your stuff” before the victory and after the victory. In one case you are standing tall in confidence after the convincing victory has been won. The other is cocky swagger attempting to ward off any challenges that you may not be able to overcome. This passage has the imagery of the animal kingdom whereby confidence comes from experience, not from fear or intimidation.
To be “stately” means to be walk majestically in full confidence knowing who you are and what you truly are capable of achieving in life. You have been crowned the champion and are recognized and acknowledged as such because of your accomplishments. Such confidence comes also when you know you have worked hard and walk onto the field of competition with the best trainer and coach also on your side. In life, we can realize that confidence when we allow God to guide and direct our lives, because he promises us the crown of victory, if we do not give up and persevere in the struggles we face.
In stark contrast, there are those who “strut their stuff” only to pretend to be what they know deep inside they are not. They may dress the part, and may even appear intimidating, however their strut is founded upon their fear of failure; their fear of being exposed for what they really are! Their bark is loud; their threats fierce, but they will do about anything to not actually engage in the contest. They are more of the fool exalting one’s self and the schemer trying to get away with more than they are capable of actually accomplishing. However, all they manage to accomplish is to agitate and stir up others and to create strife.
A real champion walks in humble confidence because he or she has nothing to prove, and their reputation precedes them. All the challengers know who is on his or her side, and little needs to be said – no boasting, bragging; scheming or deception. A Christian anchored in God’s will, ways, and wisdom can realize the same confidence in life. As Paul said to Timothy:
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for, the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:7-10 (HCSB)
Exude the confidence of the Lion of Judah! When we have total faith, all fear is gone; our faith contributes to our confidence as we persevere through this life wearing the crown of victory which God promised. Do not be deceived by those who strut their own stuff, even within the Church. There are some who claim to be Christians; they openly boast and brag, even foolishly scheme in hopes they will be seen to be what they are not. But, strife and anger usually follow in their wake. Time adn trials reveal their fear, not their brandished faith.
Which are you? Humbly confident or foolishly arrogant? In the end, it matters only that God knows who the real victors are!
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: the ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; locusts have no king, yet all of them march in ranks; a lizard can be caught in your hands, yet it lives in kings’ palaces. Prov 30:24-28 (HCSB)
Around my house one can find an ant, a rabbit (cousin to the hyrax), a locust, and no doubt a lizard. Each one on their own is but an amusement or curiosity, but one fact of interest is that each is a member of a larger group that can demonstrate how they find safety and security in their numbers. All four of these creatures that God has placed upon our earth has demonstrated their propensity for survival that is more independent than that of man. Even when they are not obvious to us, they thrive because they understand how to survive in even the harshest environments.
Ants understand the importance of saving and storing food for the period of the year when they disappear deep into the ground during the extended cold days of winter. Long after man has been removed from the land, the ant will scurry across the landscape, because God created them with their instinct to survive by planning ahead and taking nothing for granted.
Hyraxes are rabbit-like rodents, actually more akin to the elephant, because they are hooved-animals that burrow in the cliffs of the Middle-Eastern world. They are common;y found in colonies of 50 or more. Yet, they understand for their security that they must find a safe place, a refuge from predators and the elements. The hyrax knows that to wander from the safety of the cliffs or their burrows means almost certain death. No matter how curious they become, they remain ever vigilant and close to the safety of their homes.
Locusts move in huge groups foraging for food. A single locust is a novelty, but when a horde of locusts appears, watch out! Unlike other groups of insects that have a queen or king, locusts travel in mutual cooperation with one another. Their survival rests solely upon their numbers working together for their common good.
Lizard are survivors. They adapt to their environment, changing colors, blending into the rocks or foiliage they call home. They are easy prey when found; harmless when caught, yet they thrive in many out of the way places; anywhere they can camoflage themselves to survive through adaptability. They attempt not to stand out or make themselves obvious to predators or their prey.
Each of these creatures is almost insignificant in of themselves but when we take the time to learn about their ways, God has sent us a message about our own survival. There is a lesson from each about how to live our lives successfully. And, the most important difference between them and us is this: We can know our Creator by seeking His will, ways, and wisdom, and discover a relationship that secures our life far safer than any man-made or natural scheme we may devise on our own.
God is our faithful Rock, Refuge, and Shield.
Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great! Luke 6:46-49 (HCSB)
In my Shiloh Mystery series, Theo clings to time with God with uncertainty envelops him as he and his wife Liddy realize thay must expose the scandals and dark secrets haunting their new community. TMBrownAuthor.com
Family memories inspire the most believable stories…
T. M. Brown, Southern & Inspirational Author
Folks have asked about my Christmas in Shiloh backstory timeline and how family plays such a key role in the story of Sanctuary. Here’s a kernel of inspiration that came from one of my grandsons performing in front of the Christmas tree when he was but five. These are the moments to be treasured and worthy of inclusion in my stories of Theo and Liddy Phillips overcoming their fears as they unravel mysteries in Shiloh. Their love of family is the fiber that binds their courage as they confront scandals and uncover dark secrets in their new small-town community.
Click the book cover images below to order your copy of Sanctuary or Testament today. Buy an extra copy or two as gifts for your book-loving family or friends.
Don’t forget to share this with your friends and family.
Take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Ephesians 6:17
In the time of Paul’s journeys to plant new churches and his writings to encourage the new churches, the weapon of war was the sword. Yet, Paul stated in his metaphor in our battle as a Christian soldier, our weapon is not made of iron finely honed to rip flesh and bone, but of the Spirit of God, which is His message of salvation and truth. Yet, in another verse, the metaphor says the Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword and can cut deeper. Why is this? Well, the Word of God reveals the truth about us and our nature. God ought to know us pretty good so His Word or His Message can cut deep into our inner being to inflict change that sometimes hurts. It hurts to realize we have sinned against God by our words and deeds, yet God still loves us and desires for us to walk away from that life of sin and selfishness. God’s Word, or message of Hope and Love, is found through the life example and teachings of Jesus, the Christ.
When we carry the Word of God into the battlefield in which we war against this world, knowing our weapons are more powerful than theirs boosts our confidence.
How have you invested in God’s Word as your weapon of choice today?
How have you invested in God’s Word today? Is it the one weapon you never neglect to carry each day?
To discover relevant applications of the value of daily devotions in God’s Word, might I suggest investing in reading my Shiloh Novels, Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories, and Testament, An Unexpected Return. Both exemplify a commitment to allowing God’s Word to be a part of your daily walk and seeing God guiding our choices and the consequences of those choices. Both are fun mystery/thrillers but include how God can be a steady guide in times of scandal, tragedy, and uncertainty. Go to TMBrownAuthor.com for more information. Available in paperback and Kindle editions.
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: “It is more blessed to give than receive.” Acts 20:35
To become an encourager to others, we need to allow encouragers into our life. To encourage those who are weaker, we must identify our weaknesses. To feed the hungry, we should know the pangs of hunger.
Fasting has a personal purpose that emphasizes our dependent relationship upon God, but it also reminds us what it means to do without and experience genuine hunger.
I challenge you to fast; learn what it means to feel real hunger pangs. You will find yourself closer to God through the experience, which will allow you to better sympathize with others in genuine need. God can use you then to become a better encourager effectively reaching out and caring for others in need.
For stories that reflect the lasting benefit of being a genuine encourager, visit TMBrownAuthor.com and order a copy of Sanctuary or the sequel, Testament.
Are You Willing to Step Beyond the Safety of Your Front Porch?
I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings. 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
To what extent do you dare to reach out and touch someone? Too many well-meaning Christians stand feet-planted on their safe front porches, preferring to shout the good news some passerby might hear. Then there are some brave soles who go out beyond the safety of their surroundings and venture onto less familiar grounds where those with the greatest need reside daily. There they touch lives and make friendships so that the God’s message can be seen and heard through face-to-face conversation.
We must become like Paul; willing to leave our comfort zone to impact others in need. We must be willing to get to know them and they must get to know you before they trust you and the message you wish to share. Caring and sharing cannot be done from a distance. It only can be accomplished within arms reach! And your arms only stretch as far as your feet take them. What holds you back from reaching out to others? Are you waiting for them to come to you or crossing the bridge to meet them where they are?
Are you trying to be all things to all people to make a difference in some who will seek to listen?
TMBrownAuthor.com – my stories try to reveal these messages through the interactions and often conflict between people. Visit my author page to learn more. Fiction is nothing more than real life and truth masked to make the story more palatable and in some cases more plausible. Even the Bible carries such stories to share an underlying message or truth.
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Does your heart have God as its anchor and the words and example of Christ Jesus inspiring you? If so, the hope of dwelling forever with God is real to you. This eternal hope removes all doubt that God cares for you and you discover his encouragement, empowerment, and equipment to face every inevitable challenge in this lifetime. And, all this is God’s gift for the asking because he wants you to experience life with him, and to witness to all who may ask for the reason of the hope you have within you.
So these questions remain: Are you prepared each day to explain the reason for the hope that resides within you? Do you know the heartfelt words that will testify of Christ’s influence on your life?
Our testimony before others is not about quoting scriptures or singing hymns of praise but sharing in your own words what it means to have God as the anchor in your heart! “Being prepared” is not intended to be a motto, but a new way of life for every born-again, child of God.
A man cannot help others unless he can learn to help himself, and having God as the anchor of one’s heart is the beginning of always being prepared to respond to others in need.
Therefore, if you…remember that your brother has something against you, first go and be reconciled to your brother… Matthew 5:23-24
Okay, first of all, it is important that all our relationships are right before we can have a right relationship with God. Note in this particular verse, it is not that you have a problem with someone, but that someone has a problem with you! If someone feels slighted, cheated, or merely angered by something you have said or done it is imperative on our part to reach out to that person and seek reconciliation. Never walk away thinking it is their problem even if you are not angry. If someone is not right with you, God declares the responsibility lies with you to make it right.
More than likely, people develop issues with others due to misunderstandings or something failed to be communicated clearly. Any interpretation of the facts without your input only fuels the other person’s fears of rejection. Certainly, I cannot promise that all the fences may get mended by your earnest efforts, but the majority will. For those seemingly unmendable fences, allow time to do its work. Rest assured that you at least made a God-pleasing effort to make it right.
Remember we are God’s ambassadors and He too works daily to patch up broken relationships between people. Reconciliation is God’s goal with all His creation. It’s not that God needs our relationships for any ego purpose. He desires our relationship with Him and with all others to be right because we are His creation. So do as God is doing each day and go the extra mile when trying to make right our relationships that have gone astray no matter who is at fault or to blame.
“…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” 2 Corinthians 7:1
What about your day-to-day living causes you to lose focus as a Christian? Are there choices you’ve made that continue to hurt you physically, mentally or spiritually? The Apostle Paul rightly proclaims an urgent request of all young Christians – STOP doing what you used to do. It is interfering with your new life being like Christ. Take away the idols that hinder you and sidetrack you from enjoying the fullness that God desires for you.
Who we are as a person begins with a thought that grows and sprouts like a seed planted in fertile soil into visible attitude and action. An incorrect notion may seem innocent enough, but it may prevent you from pleasing God, pleasing only yourself.
Consider all the areas of your life. Pray about the changes you need to make in your life. Some will be harder than others, but your decision to change will reap incredible rewards. You will also discover that there is nothing you cannot change about yourself if you allow God to be the impetus for change. He will become and provide his spirit of change.
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, [it returns] to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again. All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no memory of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no memory among those who follow [them]. Eccl 1:1-11 (HCSB)
We all want to be different, or at the least, uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life the well-traveled and well-marked road of life prodded by many long before us, and many more will assuredly follow us on this same road. The choice we get to make is how we navigate this road of life among all the others who share the road with us. Let us be clear; there are no new paths to choose, just enticing highways with dead-ends should any of us choose to wander off onto our ways. God declares there is but one way to follow him. All other ways are futile and paths of destruction for any of us who decide to navigate our ways.
Look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave specific ways, just as the stars and planets have predictably paraded in the heavens as reliable guides for millennia without deviation. The living creatures on land, in the waters, and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in their never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given mankind an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. When we fail to check with the Creator along the way, our eyes and ears become preoccupied with the prospects of the new, the uncharted paths, we tend to perceive them as new to us, but is not nascent to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – nothing exists outside Creator God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
So what must we do? Is futility a trait of maturity? We mature as we realize just because something appears new to us, nothing is new to God. The moment we assume we have captured an original idea, a uniquely created revelation of some truth within our mind, we usurp the role of God in our life. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the absolutes and realities that flow from our Creator by his grace and will. He alone knows what we are capable of comprehending and benefiting from for his higher purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the discoveries found through exploring God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our selfish desires and understanding…because on our own, we can only claim to discover the dead-end that waits for our arrival! Life awaits all who trust God’s sure ways and perfect will. But God created us with a choice to choose? Do not let futility rule your life.
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)
Being told you have a lot of promise to run the race doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does guarantee victory in the race either. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name, nor the victory for a race we have not run.
Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.
The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s lifetime of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.
I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.
Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.
Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way because he has run the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorn the crown waiting for you.
For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.
In Sanctuary, my premier Southern mystery, readers are introduced to the quaint, time-lost South Georgia town of Shiloh. The story begins as Theo and his wife Liddy desire to relocate and retire back to their country roots, after investing four decades of their lives in the shadows of Atlanta. According to the story, it is Liddy who discovers an advertisement for a quaint Craftsman home that convinced her Shiloh would be a perfect fit for them.
But, it’s what readers sense early on as they arrive in Shiloh that draws them into the story? First of all, Shiloh’s reputation paints a serene picture about this time-lost town, but like its namesake from biblical lore, reputation and present reality are subject to the whims and shortcomings of men.
Like the Shiloh of old, Sanctuary reveals that the once proud Shiloh had lost its luster and position as the county seat decades earlier. Alexandria, like Jerusalem in biblical lore, surpassed Shiloh as the center of power and influence, leaving the proud people in Shiloh with their beautiful, antebellum courthouse on the town square a victim of progress. According to the story, Alexandria blossomed during the post-WWII boom and expansion in Georgia, while Shiloh stagnated and struggled, like many real-life small towns in South Georgia. Shiloh’s conciliation came in the preserving of its beloved courthouse as it received a facelift and became reconfigured into the town’s city hall. However, the facelift and remodeling of their sesquicentenary courthouse left the edifice’s skeleton of 19th Century hewn timbers and ornate woodwork intact. Decades later, their beloved historical courthouse would be razed to the ground and steal away the life of a town hero, who rescued others from the growing inferno.
Biblical Shiloh became the first seat of governance once Joshua and the nation of Israel completed their conquest of the Promised Land. The ark of the covenant and tabernacle that had traveled for forty years found a seemingly permanent resting place in Shiloh. Israel’s priests and judges (leaders) established Shiloh as the central seat in the Promised Land until Israel felt unsettled about the way Israel was governed, and desired to be like the other nations. Not long after Israel turned to the rule of king’s, rather than priests acting on God’s behalf, Shiloh fell victim to King David’s selection of Jerusalem as his site for his palace and the building of the new temple. A rival army burned and ransacked Shiloh not long before David ascended the throne as the second king of Israel. However, he turned his back on Shiloh and chose Jerusalem for his palace.
The name Shiloh to this day still paints a different picture than the historical reality which its namesakes have experienced. One of the bloodiest and decisive battles fought during the Civil War became known as the Battle of Shiloh, in Tennessee.
Even the Hebrew origin of the name Shiloh means “place of peace,” but as history revealed, “peace” requires the cooperation of men to live up to the expectation of maintaining peace in their community. Sanctuary and its sequel play on the dichotomy of Shiloh’s reputation and the reality of its present state as Theo and Liddy soon discover upon their arrival to Shiloh that there’s a rift in the tranquility of the community.
I’d love to connect with you and offer the latest on my book tour schedule and insight into this Southern author.
Please leave any comments or questions you may have about Sanctuary or about me. Also, feel free to ask other questions concerning the upcoming sequel, Testament, An Unexpected Return, coming out March 29, 2018.
All good fiction is deeply planted and nourished in the soil of truth and reality. The settings and characters in our novels do not spring up ex-nihilo (out of nothingness). Good novels blur the lines between what is fact and fiction allowing the reader to enjoy the totality of the story as though it is real. Nothing brings a smile quicker than to be asked, “Where is Shiloh, I want to go there.”
Love is patient; love is kind; love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in truth; bears all things; hopes in all things; endures all things. Love never ends… Now, these three things remain faith, hope, love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13
Lovedesires to be free and separated from all worldly attachments so that its inward sight will not be obstructed and it will not be entangled by any temporal prosperity or conquered by any adversity. Nothing is sweeter than love, nothing more courageous, nothing higher, nothing wider, nothing more pleasant, nothing fuller or better in heaven or earth, for love is of God and can rest only in God, who is above all created things.
Those who love, fly, run and rejoice – are free and cannot be restrained. Those who lovegive all and have all in all because they rest in the one who is highest above and, from all good comes. Those who love do not esteem gifts but turn themselves above all things to the giver.
Love knows no limit and is fervent beyond measure. Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of trouble, attempts what is above its strength, does not complain about impossibility, for it thinks all things lawful for itself, and all things possible.
Loveis able to undertake all things and complete many of them and cause them to take effect – where the person who does not love would faint and give up.
Love is watchful and alert even when it is dormant. When weary it is not tired, when pressured it is not stressed, when alarmed it is not confused, but like a living flame and burning torch it forces its way upward and securely passes through everything.
Anyone who loves knows the cry of the voice. For the ardent affection of the soul is a loud cry in the ears of God when it says, “My God, mylove, you are all mine and I am all yours.!”
Love is swift, sincere, affectionate, pleasant, amiable, courageous, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, and never seeks its own. For in whatever circumstances when we seek ourselves (our own interests) there we fall from love.
Love is circumspect, humble and upright. It does not give in easily, act frivolous, or pay attention to meaningless things, but it is sober, chaste, steady, quiet, and guard all its senses.
Love submits to its superiors and obeys them, but is unkind and contemptuous toward itself. It is devoted and thankful to God, and trusts and hopes always in Him – even when God does not impart sweetness to it, for without sorrow no one lives in love.
Those who are not prepared to suffer all things, and to submit to the will of their beloved are not worthy to be called lovers of God. A lover should willingly embrace all that is hard and distasteful for the sake of God, and not turn away from Him because of adversities.
My daily prayer: Lord God, my Savior, my Salvation, my Strength, the Spirit of Truth and Life that dwells within me, I humbly come before you to share that I love you with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I am completely yours, and I believe in my heart you love me, and nothing else in this life I live matters otherwise. I pray likewise that I am able to love others, beginning in my family with the kind of love that you exemplify within me, so that they may discover your love for themselves and surrender their lives to you as well. Thank you, my Lord and Savior, my Heavenly Father for the greatest gift of love that defines what love truly is: Yourself for me so that I can share that love with you. You are truly an awesome God, you are my God, and if all other things in my life were lost, I know your love will remain.
Lord, as Thomas a’ Kempis prayed, so do I pray these words and thoughts to you as well: Increase my love so that with the inward mouth of my heart, I may taste how sweet it is to love, to meet and bathe myself in your love. Let love possess me so that I rise up above myself in exceeding fervor and admiration. Let me sing the song of love; let my soul lose itself in your praise, rejoicing in love. Let me love you more than myself and not love myself but for your sake, and in you let me love all those who truly love you as the law of love that shines out you’re your commands. Amen
For additional reading: Romans 8:19; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Mark 12:30