Don’t set an ambush, wicked man, at the camp of the righteous man; don’t destroy his dwelling. Though a righteous man falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin. Don’t gloat when your enemy falls, and don’t let your heart rejoice when he stumbles, or the Lord will see, be displeased, and turn His wrath away from him. Don’t worry because of evildoers, and don’t envy the wicked. For the evil have no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. My son, fear the Lord, as well as the king, and don’t associate with rebels, for their destruction will come suddenly; who knows what disaster these two can bring? Prov 24:15-22 (HCSB)
In this life, all who face the challenges of this world should remember will contend with wickedness, replete with obstacles to overcome, and evil plots that will stir rebellion even in your heart. However, the righteous are equipped to overcome. With God on your side, you have not only His presence but His gift of persistence, perseverance, and patience within you. These qualities are a necessity in the life of a righteous person. They are the same traits our Lord God exhibits toward us every day.
Persistence is the unyielding attitude that urges you to “never, never, never quit!” It motivates you to get back up, no matter how repeatedly you may stumble and fall, and confront the obstacle that caused you to stumble and fall. Persistence is what it takes to overcome the forces of evil that do not want us to prosper and succeed in this world.
Perseverance is the strength to stand firm when the currents run against you because the wicked of the world desires we run away. Perseverance allows us to struggle upstream while everyone else is rushing downstream, not wanting or willing to do what is right, but rather blend in with the wicked ways of the world and become like everyone else.
Patience is the trait that says though you cannot yet reach the goal you seek, the way will reveal itself in due time. The destination you seek may not be reachable but the way exists around the next bend of the road. Patience governs perseverance and persistence to enable you to overcome all obstacles and opposition to discover the life Lord God has promised you.
There will be much resistance and rebellion along the journey. Crowds will become angry mobs because they are unable to stay the course and will blame those in authority and even God. But, do not falter. A day will come when the anger will subside when the opposing current stops rushing against you, and the preferable future comes into plain view. On that day, tears of joy will flow when you see what God intended. You will also discover all the others who like you fought the good fight and are cheering you on. And, God will declare, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Choosing the right ways in this world does not guarantee they are easy ways. Quite to the contrary, there will be times your faith will be tested to the limits, your strength seemingly exhausted, and your mind, body, and heart will falter during a test of your faith, but when you align yourself to God’s will and ways, you will always find the persistence, perseverance, and patience to pass the test.
Never, never, never quit! Never retreat, offer no regret, and go forward without reservation in pursuit of God’s will and ways for your life.
Note: Like other devotions here on CoachBrown.org, the characters in the Shiloh Mystery Series (Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories; Testament, An Unexpected Return; and Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest) reflect the same choices and consequences we likewise face in our lives. How each story plays out is rooted in the values espoused by the values you find here in CoachBrown.org–over a decade of reflections applying biblical values to our lives. Visit TMBrownAuthor.com to learn more about my inspirational Southern stories.
Listen, [my] sons, to a father’s discipline, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding, for I am giving you good instruction. Don’t abandon my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother, he taught me and said: Your heart must hold on to my words. Keep my commands and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you. Wisdom is supreme—so get wisdom. And whatever else you get, get understanding. Cherish her, and she will exalt you; if you embrace her, she will honor you. She will place a garland of grace on your head; she will give you a crown of beauty.” Prov 4:1-9 (HCSB)
What our country needs today is more fathers involved and engaged in their families. Sons need strong role models to guide them as they grow and mature in the important stages of their life. However, sadly, many families today are forced to develop without a father active in the daily lives of the children. Mothers are left alone to raise the children and are overwhelmed and ill-equipped to provide the father’s role to their children. The results are children who grow up without the solid foundation of parental support that God intended from the beginning of time.
Isn’t it interesting that long before governments and nations were established, God ordained marriage and the raising of families as the foundation of society? Even the earliest nations were nothing more than extended families supporting one another for their common good and security. However, as government and religious institutions were established the pressure for power, prestige, and pleasure within these man-made institutions became far more important than maintaining God’s intended role of parents in the family setting. Society lost the connection of how a proper perspective on the power (influence and authority), prestige, and pleasure that the family relationship was intended to provide. Instead, men sacrificed their parental roles and responsibilities for the pursuit of the benefits of fleeting power, prestige, and pleasure that they believed come from climbing social and secular ladders. The applause of men became more important than the applause of their family members.
Additionally, in recent decades women have been included in the same pursuits as men and fallen prey to the social and secular pursuit of power, prestige, and pleasure that comes outside of the family. The definition of true success and the family has been further crippled as a result. The children have become the victims and paid the price, as mothers and fathers have shuffled their parental and familial responsibilities onto the shoulders of schools and churches and other social activities.
Speaking primarily to the fathers, you have a responsibility designed and established by God to be the role model for your sons (and daughters) to promote God’s will, ways, and wisdom found in His Word. Children desire and deserve the applause of their fathers. Your most important applause should come from the eager response of your children seeking our approval for what they do, say, and achieve.
America, what made us strong for many formidable decades was our agricultural family base, where multiple generations lived together on the farm supporting and encouraging each other. Everyone in the family shared in safeguarding the common good and security of the family members.
However, as America prospered and became more successful as an industrial society, families moved into the cities for the “so-called better life,” the traditional family structure suffered. Add the information age we currently are in, and now we find our children engaged in social networks looking for their acceptance and applause. Their role models are celebrities in sports, music, and movies, and not their fathers or mothers.
Why? The answer is simpler than we realize: Our children need approval and guidance and are seeking it from convenient and welcoming connections outside of their family, such as social media because their parental role models are too busy pursuing their own lives.
Let us be reminded what God wants us to remember: When I was a son with my father, tender and precious to my mother, he taught me and said: Your heart must hold on to my words. Keep my commands and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; don’t forget or turn away from the words of my mouth. Don’t abandon wisdom, and she will watch over you; love her, and she will guard you.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord because this is right. Honor your father and mother—which is the first commandment with a promise— that it may go well with you and that you may have a long life in the land. And fathers, don’t stir up anger in your children but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Eph 6:1-4 (HCSB)
Visit TMBrownAuthor.com and check out the Shiloh Mystery Series now that Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest released to complete the saga. In the third and final novel, the concept of fatherhood plays a central role as an orphaned teenager arrives in little old Shiloh.
Are You Content within Your Circle of Friends & Family, Proverbs 27:7-11
A person who is full tramples on a honeycomb, but to a hungry person, any bitter thing is sweet. A man wandering from his home is like a bird wandering from its nest. Oil and incense bring joy to the heart, and the sweetness of a friend is better than self-counsel. Don’t abandon your friend or your father’s friend, and don’t go to your brother’s house in your time of calamity; better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away. Be wise, my son, and bring my heart joy, so that I can answer anyone who taunts me. Prov 27:7-11 (HCSB)
What is the value of your Circle of Friends and Family Members?
There comes a time in one’s life when being content within your circle of friends and family members is not only proper but healthy! There comes a point when we need to reinforce and build upon the relationships we have in our life, rather than build upon the reach and number of relationships. There comes a point where the “law of diminishing returns” occurs in our affiliations. There may be a large universe of people that we get to make contact with and know, but they are but acquaintances by affiliations, but they are not friends or family that you know well enough to depend upon. Even Jesus had a lot of people He influenced and touched, but He also had his selected disciples, and even whittled them down to His “inner circle” of 12, with only three special disciples that He entrusted with the most intimate concerns of His ministry. Then He also had His family, and even while He was ministering, not all His brothers were real close. Eventually, James and Jude, two of His brothers would become special to Jesus and carry forward His mission of building the Church but evidently not until after Jesus was gone.
We too should be aware of the need to keep a close circle of friends and family members, and not try to be friends and confidants with too large a number of people. We should be friendly, but understand being friends is different. Build strong, healthy, reliable friendships beginning with our close family members, spouses, and special people we desire to truly call our friend.
How do you know who to invest your time and life with? Well, consider who you would trust in a time of real crisis. Who would cover your back, walk side-by-side with you, and look you eye-to-eye to encourage you when things get really tough? Who would share the risk with you in the midst of the storm? Those few are the ones you can call a friend, and are worthy of your most valuable time and effort. They are interested in you, and not about promoting their agendas and interests upon you.
Likewise, do you reciprocate the friendship commitment? Do you share that “phileo” (brotherly) love bond with your declared friends? Will you cross over from the safety of the shore to rescue your friend? Will you be willing to share the risk with your friend?
Warning: if you are always looking for contentment in your relationships, and you cannot find the kind of friend that you can be comfortable with as a close friend, maybe the discontent is not an outward problem, but an inward problem. Very likely, you cannot be content with others because you are unsettled within yourself. Remember the Lord declares that we must love others, as we love ourselves! Thus, we can never love others until we love ourselves as God accepts and loves us. So where would you begin? Begin getting comfortable seeking God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s wisdom according to God’s Word, and you will begin building a friendship with God, and He will reciprocate with you. That will help you learn how to love yourself and be able to a friend to others.
“What a friend we have in Jesus, He is the only friend we truly need!” Why? He teaches us how to be a friend so we can learn to recognize a true friend and build that “phileo” or brotherly (sisterly) love bond with a true friend.
SHILOH MYSTERY SERIES UPDATE AND LINKS:
Update: Visit TMBrownAuthor.com to see how these values play out in the creation of Shiloh Mystery Series: Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories, Testament, An Unexpected Return, and the latest and last story in the series, Purgatory, A Progeny’s Quest. Family and friendships are not measured or valued by words but actions and attitudes. Follow the travails of Theo Phillips and his wife Liddy as they settle in for what they had hoped to be a peaceful retirement in little old time-lost Shiloh, but God has other plans for them in each of the three stories… T. M. Brown
You can also go to Hearthstone Press to find out how to order your own copy of the Shiloh Mystery Novels.
…the kindness of God leads you to repentance… Romans 2:4b
It is funny, once a child of God experiences the personal joy of God’s kindness in his or her life, that joy is shared with someone else by acts of kindness in return. In sharing the joy of God by acts of kindness, God’s purpose is realized. Only His children can receive His joy, and only His children can share His joy with others through sincere acts of kindness…that is how God works through us to reach those in the greatest need of receiving His joy. Once those in need of God’s joy in their life receive joy from one of God’s children through some act of kindness and they recognize the source of that joy there can be but one response: repentance, or turning from a life of sorrow and strife towards a life of hope, optimism, and peace only found through receiving God’s joy in their life.
Right now in our community, there is a lot of bad news touching lives, and families are struggling as parents are at risk of losing jobs and homes. Our community needs to sense of joy through many acts of kindness that leads them to have a real sense of hope, optimism, and peace. The only stimulus plan that will last is the plan God has for us not what man can deliver. God’s resources are unlimited whereas man’s are certainly limited and cannot last. Share with someone today the hope of God through an act of kindness and see how it can stimulate joy in others.
(This devotion was originally written to a host of students, teachers, and friends caught up in the financial crisis of 2009. Our current crisis is not the same but the challenges and fears of uncertainty are the same as before. Kindness remains a gift of God that will save lives from despair and destruction. Whose life will you impact by your acts of compassion and kindness today and tomorrow?)
Visit TMBrownAuthor.com for stories that reflect the value of kindness in times of crisis in the Shiloh stories.
Here I am with the children the Lord has given me to be signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of Hosts who dwells on Mount Zion. When they say to you, “Consult the spirits of the dead and the spiritists who chirp and mutter,” shouldn’t a people consult their God? [Should they consult] the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the Â testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, there will be no dawn for them. They will wander through the land, dejected and hungry. When they are famished, they will become enraged, and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. They will look toward the earth and see only distress, darkness, and the gloom of affliction, and they will be driven into thick darkness. Isaiah 8:18-22 (HCSB)
We often lose our focus on what are the really important issues of life and we discover the light fades along the path we are on in life. Darkness prevails because we grow ignorant to what is happening to us and to our loved ones. Darkness morphs to distress and despair along our path and we discover only an uncertain, gloomy, fearful journey lies ahead. When that happens many of us realize they are helpless and attack anyone else for the feelings of despair. When that fails, God becomes our target for our frustration.
People will resort to consulting “dead” spirits for answers in their darkness hours of desperation. But, “what benefit can the dead be for the living?”How can light be shed from searching the darkness of the grave? Why not search for the source of all light?
“Why do bad things happen to good people?” is an age old question that many struggle with in their hearts and minds. However, God allows times of trials, testing and tribulation to strengthen our relationship with him not to cause despair. As we walk by faith in difficult and dark times seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom to guide and protect us during those dreaded dark times, the dawn will reveal a stronger faith within us that binds us closer to God than before the darkness overcame our lives.
Centuries after only the truly faithful survived the trying days that fell upon Israel and Judah shortly after the days of Isaiah, a faithful remnant huddled in an upper room in Jerusalem in the darkest days after the crucifixion of Jesus. However, where no hope is found, God’s grace restores hope and his glory sheds light upon our dark and gloomy fears. Why is it that God separated the day from the night? Is it because it makes us appreciate the light of day and fear the dark uncertainty of night? Without times of darkness how would we know to love and appreciate the light?
So why would we try to save our own life and seek light from darkness? There is but one source of light and he also is the Creator of life. No one enjoys darkness and despair, but oh how we all love the dawn of light when we darkness and despair envelop us. Run to the light!
“Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” — Exodus 25:8, NIV
Until three years ago, the former Adams County Courthouse had proudly stood since the Civil War as the landmark in Shiloh. After the powers-to-be transferred the county seat to Alexandria during the Depression, the majestic edifice underwent renovation to appease the folks in Shiloh and became the town’s city hall. The elegant lady had worn her nostalgic brick and stone exterior well, but the makeover had been superficial.
Questions have lingered since city officials reported the fire as accidental, cause unknown.
A prolonged Indian summer gripped Georgia. Though already the first Sunday of November, hot and humid weather more suitable for early September caused sweat to trickle unabated down my neck dampening the collar of the fresh cotton polo I had just yanked over my head. The moving truck had pulled away while Liddy patiently watched from her passenger window. I walked up the sidewalk one last time and locked the front door of the colonial brick suburban house we had called home for the past seven years.
I jumped into the driver’s seat, buckled up, squeezed the hand of my wife of forty years, and then reached for the gear shift. “Any regrets?”
Liddy raised her window and turned her gaze straight ahead as a silly smirk appeared. “Nope, Let’s roll! We’ve got a moving truck to meet in Shiloh tomorrow.”
My foot slid from the brake to the accelerator, and our Expedition jolted forward with the packed trailer in tow. Liddy stared straight ahead for the first few minutes. She caressed the manila envelope stuffed with photos, brochures, and paperwork about the house we contracted to purchase for our retirement, but soon dozed off after we turned south onto US Highway 19. I settled in for the long afternoon drive to our destination an hour below Albany.
The all-too-familiar gated communities and shopping centers under Atlanta’s ever-present shadow faded in my rearview mirror. I snapped a farewell salute as we passed Cornerstone Books where I served as chief publishing editor until one week ago. The historic highway narrowed as the scenic panorama of autumn colors revealed more and more farms, fields and forests along the landmark route.
Liddy stirred long enough to adjust her position and place a small pillow between her head and the window. Glancing at her as she fell back to sleep jogged my memory of the first day my eyes fell upon her on the Athens campus forty years ago. My smile over the memory faded when I glanced at the stranger in the rearview mirror. Gray had infiltrated my dirty blonde hair, and crow’s feet pointed to sagging eyelids. After an extended sigh, I reminded myself that I no longer was that spirited undergrad Liddy first met, but a second glance at Liddy returned a grin to my wrinkled face.
When Liddy first suggested early retirement, I turned a deaf ear. Undeterred, she persisted. “Theo Phillips, it’s high time you realized that you can afford to do what you’ve always wanted. Walk away from that job you’ve grown to resent and invest the time to write your own stories as you’ve always envisioned?”
Once my hard head embraced the idea, Liddy wasted little time. She arranged the sale of our home, scoured a mountain of listings, made countless phone calls, and endured long day trips, while I fulfilled my promise to my boss and worked until the end of October. Liddy strutted about the day our home landed an eager buyer, and the following evening methodically spread a collection of photos on the kitchen table of a picturesque, historic home located in a South Georgia town aptly named Shiloh. Not far from our childhood hometowns, the pictures brought back fond memories for both of us. We both felt God had answered our prayers when a day later we received acceptance of our cash offer.
On the outskirts of Albany, Liddy stirred and wiped her eyes as the late afternoon sunlight glistened between the treetops. She cleared her throat and lowered her sunglasses from the top of her head. Surveying the passing scenery, she asked with a drawn-out sigh. “Where are we?”
I pointed to a well-timed road sign. “Albany’s 30 more miles. Reckon we’ll arrive in Shiloh a little before six.” The news earned a smile as she stared back out the window.
Liddy soon turned with a curious grin. “What were you thinking about while I was asleep?”
Without losing my focus on the road, I said, “How lucky I was to have stolen the heart of the prettiest girl that ever graced the Athens campus.”
Liddy giggled. “I feel the same about you.”
We soon turned onto the Flint River Highway, the homestretch leg of our journey. The amber glow grew darker as the sun disappeared below the distant treetops.
Liddy bit her lower lip and clenched my hand. “Do you think we did right? I mean… buying this house and leaving Peachtree?”
A chuckle erupted first. “Hun, I’ve no doubt that the vetting process you orchestrated selecting this house removed any reservations I might have clung onto about my retirement or our decision to pack up and move to Shiloh.”
Her cheeks glowed. “Me neither, but I wanted to be certain you weren’t merely trying to appease me. I’m truly looking forward to sinking deep roots and making a slew of friends.”
My wink brought a smile to Liddy’s relieved lower lip. “You’re right,” she said. “But how well do you think we’ll fit in?”
“Trust me. A town like Shiloh won’t allow us to remain anonymous long.”
Liddy laughed and agreed that Shiloh would be like the small towns we remembered growing up, where even strangers passing through town were addressed as “friend” or “neighbor,” and names were exchanged during a hearty handshake or hug.
Liddy eyed a distant weathered barn donning a rusted tin roof. “We must be getting close.”
She begged me to stop when we passed an abandoned mansion with discolored columns and rickety shutters no longer protecting shattered windows. With critters and termites likely the only tenants, I convinced her we should save a close-up inspection for another day. Plantation oaks with dangling moss lined the rest of the way into Shiloh. The Expedition’s automatic headlamps attacked the growing dark shadows and distant lights welcomed us into town.
On Main Street, Liddy urged me to slow well below the speed limit as we drove into the center of town. She pointed out the quaint drugstore, barbershop, and the other storefronts surrounding the town square. We reminisced about fifty-cent Saturday matinees as we rolled past the movie theater with its illuminated marquee. In fact, Shiloh revealed family-owned shops and businesses, a fading memory in most small towns throughout the South.
The Chamber of Commerce brochure depicted a majestic, antebellum, red-brick courthouse anchoring the center of Shiloh. Instead, we discovered a newly constructed brick and granite city hall with a grand portico and well-lit main entrance. Decorative red-brick walkways cut through manicured lawn and meticulous gardens. As we crept along, Liddy pointed to an illuminated, life-like bronze statue of a young man at one corner of the town square.
“I wonder who he was?” Liddy asked. “He looks so young. There’s nothing in the literature about it.”
I managed a shrug as I searched for the street that led to our house. The word SOLD stood out on the Arians Real Estate sign in the front yard of our corner property. Liddy left little doubt about her eagerness to show me more of the house, but darkness, the growl of our stomachs and fatigue begged otherwise. A couple of blocks further into the quiet neighborhood, Liddy exchanged smiles with two red-haired girls playing out front of one of the elegant mansions among other comparable homes at that end of Calvary Street.
Shiloh’s unified school complex at the southern end of town brought back memories of our school days. The buildings and grounds appeared recently renovated. The football stadium and athletic fields behind the school appeared larger than one would expect for a town of Shiloh’s size.
Once I turned back onto Main Street, flickering yellow and blue neon lights identified our destination for the night, the Shiloh Motel. “Thank goodness! I’m so ready to crawl out from under this steering wheel. Not to mention, I’m famished.”
Liddy lowered her window. “Hey, look next door, Bubba’s BBQ. Sure smells good too.”
Inside the motel office, a silver-haired woman dressed in a blue and white flowered frock eyed us as she slurped down the last of her drink, managing a warm smile at the same time. She yanked off her makeshift paper towel bib, dabbed her cheeks, moments before she wriggled out of her armchair. A sauce-stained, white porcelain platter next to her chair held remnants of her dinner, a couple of ketchup ladened fries alongside a neat stack of sucked-clean rib bones. With a flick of her remote, she muted Aunt Bea from Andy of Mayberry. She adjusted her dress as she approached with contagious smile that made us respond likewise, but her shrill greeting we’d never forget.
“Welcome, folks to Shiloh. Y’all mus’ be Mista an’ Missus Phillips. We’ve been expectin’ y’all.”
Liddy froze but managed an abbreviated nod. I continued up to the counter, choking off an escalating chuckle. Instead, I feigned a cough before greeting the jovial hostess with a suitable grin.
“I’m Barb, Barb Patterson. Me and my husband Bubba are the proud owners of the best motel and barbecue restaurant in Shiloh.” Her cheeks flushed as her fingers sought to stifle her cackle.“Oh, me. Oh, my. The truth is, we own the only motel and barbecue restaurant in town.” A burst of self-indulgent belly laughter followed.
“Well, Barb, thanks for such a pleasant greeting,” I managed to say after snickering at first. “We’re glad to be here after our long drive.” I nudged Liddy. “I’m Theo, Theo Phillips, and this is Liddy, my wife. I believe the two of you spoke this morning.”
“Y’all mus’ be plum tuckered out.” Her fingers flitted in the direction of my hand reaching for my wallet. “You can keep your wallet in your pants pocket for now.” She slid a registration form and pen in front of me. “Please sign right here. We’ve got our best room reserved for you. We’ll deal with the formalities in the morning.”
I pointed to our name and new address already filled in as I slid the signed form back to her. “Thanks, but how’d you know?”
Barb muffled another high-pitched cackle. “Honey, Mista Nick is not just the realtor in town but also a dear friend and regular customer. He stopped by for lunch and told us all about you and that y’all are buying Miss Betty Priestly’s old home.” She stared at Liddy’s raised brow. “Hun, everyone in Shiloh knows the Priestly house. Y’all sure are getting a mighty special home.” She pulled the form from the counter. “Will you need one or two keys.”
I showed her one finger and received a brass key with the number 10 stamped on it.
Liddy’s composure returned. She reached out to thank our capricious but jovial hostess. Barb received Liddy’s hand. “Hun, if you need anything, just dial the desk. It’s a genuine pleasure to be the first to welcome y’all to Shiloh.”
“Thank you, Miss Barb. We’re glad to be here too.” After Barb released Liddy’s hand, Liddy asked, “How late is the restaurant open?”
“Just hold one second.” Barb lifted the receiver of her yellow rotary phone, dialed and tapped her cherry red fingernails on the counter. “Cecil? The Phillips just checked in, and they’s mighty hungry. Will you take special care of ‘em? Maybe seat ‘em at one of the winda’ tables? …Thanks, Ceec. You’re a doll.” Barb hung up and looked at Liddy. “Miss Liddy, y’all are all set. Hope y’all are hungry. Bubba’s ribs are ‘specially good tonight.”
Liddy smiled and glanced at Barb’s empty platter. “Thank you, Barb. We’ll be sure to give those ribs a try. We haven’t eaten since we left Peachtree.”
A tall, silver-haired African-American gentleman approached us with a broad, toothy grin as soon as we walked into Bubba’s BBQ. His white bib apron wrapped comfortably around his slim frame allowing him to tie it in the front. A damp towel draped over his shoulder and provided clear evidence of his busy day.
“Y’all mus’ be the Phillips. Welcome to Bubba’s. My name’s Cecil, and that’s Bubba over there.”
Cecil then turned his head and yelled. “Bob, say hello to the newest folks in town, the couple Mista’ Nick spoke about this afta’noon.”
Bubba, a rotund man with graying dark hair, raised his free hand and shared a sweaty smile but returned to tending the carousel of meat rotating over the smoke pit.
The table Cecil offered us provided a clear view of Main Street. Liddy and I handed the menus right back without opening them.
“Barb recommended Bubba’s ribs. How about two platters with sweet tea?”
Cecil affirmed our choice with an appreciative nod before he headed towards the kitchen and yelled, “Two more ribs.”
Liddy and I soon were ready to bust and shoved our near empty plates aside. When Cecil inquired about dessert, Liddy raised her hands and shook her head.
After we paid for the meal and expressed our appreciation to Cecil and Bubba, we decided to stretch our legs and walked into the center of town. Liddy found a bench next to the brick walkway and admired the unique architecture of Shiloh Baptist Church across the street. My interest fell upon the illuminated bronze statue we saw earlier.
JESSIE MASTERSON, BELOVED COACH AND TEACHER, SACRIFICED HIS LIFE SAVING THE LIVES OF TWO OTHERS THE NIGHT OUR HISTORIC COURTHOUSE BURNED TO THE GROUND, DECEMBER 8, 2010.
I stood arms crossed allowing my thoughts to conjure the possible bigger story that earned this young hero such recognition. Liddy walked up and clutched my elbow, disrupting my thoughts. Her weary eyes told me it was time to head back to the motel. Before we left, I peered over my shoulder at Jessie Masterson and then said, “I was thinking… what a tragic tale that memorial represents. My instincts tell me I should try to learn more about that young man. What do you think?”
Liddy squeezed my hand and winked.
Begin the journey to Shiloh with Theo & Liddy; get your copy of Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories, go to: T. M. Brown’s Bookstore
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 you 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.
The Purpose of Proverbs and Parables Lies Behind the Stories I Write
Written so we’ll know how to live well and right, to understand what life means and where it’s going; a manual for living, for learning what’s right and just and fair; to teach the inexperienced the ropes and give our young people a grasp on reality. There’s something here also for seasoned men and women, still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate, the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women. Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning. Proverbs 1:1-7 The Message
Reading the Bible’s psalms and proverbs are highly recommended as a foundation for a daily study of God’s Word. There are so many common-sense truths to be found in them. They touch upon one’s common sense to discover the spiritual sense that establishes the understanding of what it means to live rightly before God. Yet, how many of us take the time to really read and study the deep thoughts of wisdom found in the Bible. Even Jesus quoted and often referred to the psalms and the proverbs. In fact, through the telling of his parables, he continued the long tradition of speaking truths in riddles and proverbs.
So what is the purpose of these proverbs and parables? These first verses in Proverbs indicate that the purpose is as follows:
…for learning what’s right and just and fair
They help us to become more open to the wisdom found by reading God’s Word which guides us in living rightly before God. Right living offers evidence of knowing what is the truth, as well as how to live it out in our relationships with others. In essence, it helps us to live our daily lives according to God’s perfect, pleasing, and goodwill.
…for teaching the inexperienced the ropes
The proverbs and parables help us to walk more confidently and thus steadily through life as a child of God. Where we lack practical experience about many of life’s issues, they provide the advice we need to make the right decisions. Demonstrating good judgment before others come with experience unless you have someone or something to provide wise counsel. The proverbs and parables offer sound counsel for most all situations and relationships.
…for offering young people with a grasp on reality
The teacher’s goal is to become obsolete with each student because the student has learned how to learn without the instruction of the teacher. This is the ultimate goal of instruction from one generation to the next. Once the next generation has achieved knowledge, applying that knowledge in real-life situations and relationships establishes the grasp on reality needed to succeed in life.
…seasoned men and women continue to listen and increase their learning
The proof that one has matured in knowledge and understanding is his or her constant thirst and hunger to learn more and pass what has been learned onto the next generation. Wise seasoned people also realize that no matter how much we learn we never will know it all. The more we learn, the more we discover there is more to learn! Only God is omniscient—all-knowing! For us, wisdom is but a life-long journey, not a destination.
…only fools thumb their noses at wisdom and learning
A wise person never attempts to walk through life alone. Only a fool would ignore and bypass the signposts and guides God provides throughout life’s journey. Only a fool rejoices in his or her ignorance and stumbles and falls in limited vision and understanding. A wise person chooses his or her way through life without haste and with confidence, never alone and always open to wise counsel.
How about you? Do you read and contemplate God’s Word? Do you seek to justify your understanding or to discover fresh, new “aha” moments of truth and understanding? Though the Bible was written by mankind, its inspiration comes from mankind’s desire to understand and know God’s perfect, pleasing goodwill for us.
Remember, the first step of wisdom begins shuddering at the fear of never knowing God and his love for us. The Bible is a good place to start the journey.
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
What did Jesus want his disciples to learn by teaching them in parables? The closer you are to God, the clearer the parables and proverbs become for you. We are only as intelligent and mature as our ability to communicate our understanding and knowledge to the next generation.
Here lies the motivation behind the stories I write–a legacy of love for my grandchildren.
Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3
A prayer for all of us who struggle coping with this world: Lord, give me the wisdom to discern the things I can change in myself and others, and the things which I cannot, and thus need to patiently endure until your will be done. Without understanding this as the better way to walk through life our good deeds will not be enough.
Strive daily to be patient with what you deem as failures and weaknesses in others because we ourselves have our own share of shortcomings that must be endured by others. If we cannot be the kind of person we should be before others, how can we expect to be an influence to others?
Why should we expect perfection in others when we do not recognize and correct our own faults? We desire others be severely corrected when they stumble, yet we do not desire to be corrected for our faults.
Great freedom others seem to embrace and display displeases us, yet we will not have our own desires hampered. We support restraining the freedom of others, but we resist restraint of our freedom.
Who among us can claim perfection? Perfection may demand we endure suffering for the good of others. God decrees we should bear one another’s burdens, because none of us are without fault. None of us are free of burdens. None of us are sufficient to walk through life alone. None of us are wise enough to overcome on our own. We are created as social creatures. Thus, we should care for one another, comfort one another, help, instruct, and admonish one another.
When adversity comes, we should not retreat from it, rather reveal how strong we are when we help one another overcome. This world is full of faults. Some faults we carry within us, and some come our way as other people reveal their faults daily to us. However, God works even the faults in this world for the good of all in this world, no matter the source. Our responsibility before God and others is to endure the challenges that come before us and grow closer to God through those times in our life.
My daily prayer: Lord God, you alone know everything. Nothing catches you by surprise especially our own faults. I open my heart, soul, mind and spirit to you. Search me and reveal the faults that I must not only endure but be open to change within me. Help me to trust your handling of faults in others, and for me to endure those faults. Father God, create a clean heart in me, and use me for your kingdom purposes. Guard me from stumbling by judging others who stumble and fall. Help me to be more understanding and available to lift them up. Likewise, help me to share my burdens and help others bear their burdens as well. May I learn to accept and endure the shortcomings in this world. Amen
Visit TMBrownAuthor.com – this is part of Shiloh Reflections that guided the daily life of Theo Phillips as he dealt with the struggles and challenges of little Shiloh.
Maintain [your] competence and discretion. My son, don’t lose sight of them. They will be life for you and adornment for your neck. Then you will go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant. Don’t fear sudden danger or the ruin of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from a snare. Prov 3:21-26 (HCSB)
Godly wise people share common traits: Competence, Discretion, and Confidence.
The Importance of Competence
Being competent comes from not only knowing what one should know about any particular discipline but as a key trait of a wise person, being competent means you know how to properly and rightly utilize the knowledge you have acquired. You want more than just knowledge but also the proper understanding to apply that knowledge in practical, every day relationships and situations in life for the benefit of everyone, not just yourself.
The Importance of Discretion
A wise person understands the importance of Discretion which understands wisdom is more than just knowing how to do something right. A wise person also understands there is a right manner, right time, and the right purpose to demonstrate Competence. Discretion prevents a wise person from taking advantage of others or doing something just because you know how to do something well. A discrete person considers the implications of their competence as it may affect others.
A Godly wise person considers relationships as more important than revelations of knowledge.
The Importance of Confidence
Beyond competence and discretion, one who has sought the wisdom that comes from God has unshakeable confidence about his or her life. Not only does a wise person know how (competence) and when to use (discretion) they also display the confidence to act in the right ways at the right time for the right purpose, even when their actions may prove dangerous to others. A wise person knows God is the source of his or her confidence. A wise person acts without fear or reservation when they know they are using their godly wisdom for the right purposes, in the right manner, at the proper time, according to God’s wisdom, will, and ways.
Competence + Discretion + Confidence = Godly Wise Person
A godly wise person knows there will be times when God uses them to confront and challenge the wrongs in this world for the good of others though that can come with a price. When a person has competence, discretion, and confidence, that person is a formidable force because they know wisdom comes from God. They know there is nothing that a wise person cannot handle because God guides and directs all that a wise person does; the former fears and anxieties that hold them back are gone. A godly wise person lives life with no reserve, no retreat, and no regret.
Is becoming a godly wise person what you desire? Seek after God’s will, way, and wisdom and you’ll discover the inseparable importance of competence, discretion, and confidence as God shapes you as a godly wise person.
For those who have read the Shiloh Mystery Stories: Which character(s) in the series demonstrate godly wisdom by their actions and attitude toward others?
Our Circle of Friends Should Spur Not Spurn Others
And let us…spur one another on to love and good deeds, and let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another… Hebrew 10:24-25
In the hustle and bustle of life, we may discover, if we take the time, there is at least one person that is hanging around our circle of friends who is looking to be asked to join you and your friends.
Why? Maybe, they feel left out or are merely curious, or even a bit jealous. Either way, they do not know what they must do to join you and your circle of friends.
Could it be you never took notice and extended an invitation?
What motivates people to want to join your circle of friends?
It could be pride: They desire to have what you and your circle of friends possess because they do not have it.
It could be fear: They are afraid they could be wrong about you and your circle of friends.
It could be ignorance: They simply do not know why they want to join but feel drawn to know more about you and your circle of friends.
Whatever their motivation, should it matter?
The fact is they have a need ripe to be spurred on and encouraged. Inviting them regardless of their motivation provides the opportunity for them to discover that your relationship with God makes your circle of friends so inviting. They will realize sooner or later that it has nothing to do with anything you and your friends have but what you share. In the end, it should never be because of who we think we are but who we represent.
Therefore our motivation for offering the hand of friendship should never be based upon what will be in our best interest, but for the one seeking our friendship. God providentially grows our circle of friends as we unselfishly connect with others and then spur and encourage one another. Fellowship and friendship are gifts we receive from others and are necessities to our social well-being in this life.
Remember what Jesus is quoted as saying on the matter. How different our society might become if more of us walked each day with this message on their heart.
“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give [mercy and forgiveness], and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:27-38
How inclusive is your circle of friends? Have you offered genuine invitations to others? Do you extend the hand of friendship with sincerity? Does your attitude toward others reflect the same mercy and forgiveness that others have extended to you?
Our daily walk was never intended to be a lonely, lifelong sojourn. Fellowship and friendship offer an eternal connection found in the many “one another” encounters we experience each day.
Remember this final point, we are not responsible for the actions and attitudes of others unless we are the cause. How would you define your circle of friends?
Never instigate a fight with others to be right, rather fight to do right before others.
I hated all my work at which I labored under the sun because I must leave it to the man who comes after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will take over all the work that I labored at skillfully under the sun. This too is futile. So I began to give myself over to despair concerning all the work I had labored at under the sun. For there is a man whose work was done with wisdom, knowledge, and skill, but he must give his portion to a man who has not worked for it. This too is futile and a great wrong. For what does a man get with all his work and all his efforts that he labors with under the sun? For all his days are filled with grief, and his occupation is sorrowful; even at night, his mind does not rest. This too is futile.
There is nothing better for a man than to eat, drink, and to enjoy his work. I have seen that even this is from God’s hand. For who can eat and who can enjoy life apart from Him? For to the man who is pleasing in His sight, He gives wisdom, knowledge, and joy, but to the sinner, He gives the task of gathering and accumulating in order to give to the one who is pleasing in God’s sight. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:18-26 (HCSB)
In history, there are many great kings, emperors, and rulers of vast dynasties that are well known. But, what happened after they passed away? What happened to their kingdoms and empires after their day in the sun had ended? What happened after others took over the legacy of fame and fortune left behind? Many collapsed and faded away into the grips of likewise foolish kings, emperors, and rulers who followed.
What caused their sad demise? Most often history revealed either sons or grandsons assumed the reins of power but stumbled and bumbled what had been built by the hard work and labors of their father or grandfather before them.
Solomon was one such ruler. He received the Kingdom of Israel from his father, King David, and managed to hold onto the greatness of Israel as a nation until the end of his reign, but soon after strife and conflict rumbled throughout the kingdom. In the end, his successors fought over the kingdom and it split in two. The once-great Kingdom of Israel spiraled downward until within 200-300 years its collapsed in total devastation. If Solomon wrote this passage did he have a premonition as to what would happen in the future?
So the question arises: Why should we work so hard in this lifetime to build something when it likely will fall apart after we are gone? Will history be kind to our legacy? Should we care?
My father built a great company, but after he retired late in life, the business was sold and resold again by others. Outside of the family, my father’s legacy has slowly faded into a distant memory. The family remembers but none could dare match the fire or drive of our father. So what purpose did the legacy of his labors serve?
The good news is this: In the grand scheme of life, God uses others at the right time to pick up the pieces of others for His greater purposes, using the right person(s) to rebuild the labor of love for the greater good. Yet, though we will inevitably be long gone, we can trust that God will pass onto the future generation the same God’s grace that we enjoyed in our lifetime.
What will be the legacy of your labors? What greater good did your legacy serve? What greater purpose has your labor in this life served? Or, have you only lived a life that is like the wind – here today and gone tomorrow, leaving no trace, no footprints for others to follow? That would be meaningless.
Fame and fortune should not be the focus of your legacy. They will fade, but a legacy of love and devotion that inspires others who follow can never lose its value over time. Thanks, Pop.
The legacy of my father and his father inspired me to write my Shiloh Mystery novels. Much of my father’s and grandfather’s shared wisdom is reflected in the stories. Visit TMBrownAuthor.com
Then I turned to consider wisdom, madness, and folly, for what will the man be like who comes after the king? He will do what has already been done. And I realized that there is an advantage to wisdom over folly, like the advantage of light over darkness.The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness.
Yet I also knew that one fate comes to them both. So I said to myself, “What happens to the fool will also happen to me. Why then have I been overly wise?” And I said to myself that this is also futile. For, just like the fool, there is no lasting remembrance of the wise man, since in the days to come both will be forgotten. How is it that the wise man dies just like the fool? Therefore, I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind. Eccl 2:12-17 (HCSB)
The difference between the wise man, the mad man, and the fool is this: If all are at a busy crossing on a street corner–
The wise man will wait and look both ways before proceeding across the street, making certain there is no traffic;
The mad man will look but will begin walking across even though he sees traffic, but in his estimation, he can make it across before getting hit;
The fool, well, he starts walking assuming no one will hit him, and never bothers to look if it is safe or not.
Which of the three will likely live longer and avoid injury? Which will avoid death altogether?
The answer is clear, the wise man may outlive the other two, and the mad man likely will outlive the fool, but all have the same destiny–death!
If all three share the same fate, is there any logic that concludes why not live like the fool or the mad man, and ignore the light (clarity) that God’s gift of wisdom offers us?
Consider there are many people in this world that you may know who live like the mad man or fool. They walk a riskier path, always seem in a hurry, throwing caution to the wind. They seem to believe they are invincible, but sooner rather than later, they discover after it is too late that such a lifestyle presents risks that eventually includes hazardous consequences.
Does Life Require Some Risk?
However, is it not true, life without some risk prevents a man from exploring new horizons?
If wisdom is so good for us, then why do so many people opt not to apply it to their lives?
Why do so many walk away from the pursuit of it?
Why do some people embrace the thrill of living on the edge of danger? Is it madness or folly?
On the other hand, does God desire us to live a totally safe and cautious lifestyle?
I believe the Bible states otherwise. One can be wise yet still walk boldly and confidently in the face of danger if it is for the right purpose.
When we walk in the light of God’s will, ways, and wisdom, we realize there is a mission we have deep inside of us to make a difference in this lifetime. Sometimes that mission will undoubtedly place our lives at risk, but we are never alone to face the danger. When we are attuned to the Lord’s direction in our life, his presence is ever-present in the valley of the shadow of death, and we can feel his presence when we face our enemies (fears). The Lord’s presence will always calm our fears, comfort our soul, and guide our steps as we pursue our God-sanctioned mission in life. There lies the difference between a wise man and the mad man or the fool.
The Teacher in Ecclesiastes saw the folly in it all. He argued over and over, in the end, we all face the same inevitable fate–death. However, when we walk in concert with God’s will, ways and wisdom, death becomes merely a predestined portal to something much greater. The wise man approaches each crossroad assessing his course of action in the light of his mission in life. The mad man and fool only stumble through life unclear about their mission in life and thus rush off the street curb with reckless abandon only to cross to the other side.
Which course you pursue matters…
What about you, are you challenging the wind, chasing the wind, or are you being capturing the wind? Three sailing ships with similar rigging head out into the ocean. One is determined to navigate headlong into the wind, determined to challenge the wind. The second ship decides to chase after the wind no matter where it ultimately takes him, determined only to go fastest. The third steers a course that captures the wind and adjusts his course to make headway toward the ultimate destination that all three ships desired. Which will flounder? Which ends up chasing the wind without considering the ultimate destination?
Many of the Coach devotional messages appear in T. M. Brown’s Shiloh Mystery Novels. Visit TMBrownAuthor.com to order your copies and follow the exploits of Theo Phillips and his wife, Liddy, as they get drawn into dark secrets and scandals and solving mysteries that only lil’ ol’ Shiloh can muster.
I cry aloud to the Lord; I plead aloud to the Lord for mercy. I pour out my complaint before Him; I reveal my trouble to Him. Although my spirit is weak within me, You know my way. Along this path I travel they have hidden a trap for me. Look to the right and see; there is no refuge for me; no one cares for me. I cry to You, Lord; I say, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am weak. Rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name. The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me. Psalm 142
Alone I am Nothing!
In spite of whatever we believe about our own abilities, amidst the battles of life, we discover that we fall well short of the needed strength to overcome our many enemies that surround us each day. When arrogance and pride stand in the way, we discover too late that victory is not ours but that of our enemies. Too late, we learn our strongest adversary and foe lies within us–our SELF. We are our worst enemy amidst life’s struggles. The greatest understanding we can come to grips with is the reality that “Alone I am Nothing!”
There are no forces on earth or in heaven that God cannot overcome, but He will not subdue the enemy that lies within us–our SELF–for us. That is something we must tackle on our own. We must first surrender to the Lordship of God’s Will, Ways, and Wisdom. SELF must abdicate so that God may reign within us. We must become crucified like Christ so that we may live like Christ, free from the tyrannical reign of SELF.
SIN will always dominate our life as long as we rely on our arrogance and pride to stand alone upon our own two feet.
Stop and ask yourself a simple question: Am I better off without the help of our Lord, or have I become my own worst enemy?
Your response, if answered honestly and earnestly, should be a resounding– Alone I am nothing Lor. I surrender to you and accept your refuge and shelter. It is no longer “I” that desires to live within me, but “You.” Only You will set me free from the burdens and assaults of my enemies.
Who has your back? Who will walk side-by-side with you? And, Who can you look face-to-face as a true friend in your time of need? Hopefully, you will decide to no longer walk alone.
Hope you’ll visit TMBrown, Southern Author and discover the life-like stories of Theo Phillips coping with challenges in life in his award-winning Shiloh Mystery novels.
In the Pursuit of Knowledge, the Destination Should Be God!
I, the Teacher, have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. I applied my mind to seek and explore through wisdom all that is done under heaven. God has given people this miserable task to keep them occupied. I have seen all the things that are done under the sun and have found everything to be futile, a pursuit of the wind. What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. I said to myself, “Look, I have amassed wisdom far beyond all those who were over Jerusalem before me, and my mind has thoroughly grasped wisdom and knowledge.” I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly; I learned that this too is a pursuit of the wind. For with much wisdom is much sorrow; as knowledge increases, grief increases. Eccl 1:12-18 (HCSB)
God created us all uniquely. As a unique species of God’s creation, we have an insatiable desire to understand life and to pursue all knowledge. However, what we realize in the pursuit of all knowledge is this: The more we grasp, the deeper we dive into the mysteries of life, the more we come to the realization how little we actually know. The frustration is like pursuing the bottom of an abyss or the origin of a black hole in space — at the end of our never-ending pursuits resides all knowledge of God and eternity.
Knowledge is not finite, but infinite.There will always be more to learn, more to understand. The more we know, the more we discover that needs to be understood. That was the frustration that The Teacher in Ecclesiastes expereinced as he pursued God’s gift of wisdom. That gift became a curse. We can gain wisdom yet never attain wisdom. Wisdom is the proper understanding and application of the knowledge we attain during our lifetime. The pursuit of knowledge comes with the responsibility of wisely using it. Why? God holds us accountable to how we apply the knowledge He has endowed us to understand. In that accountability comes the frustration and sorrow of gaining what we have sought after.
I believe as God’s unique creation we should be open-minded to receiving more knowledge everyday and pray for God’s guidance in its proper application. Yet, the pursuit of wisdom alone is not what life should be all about. Living the abundant life that God promised is learning to be content in our present life circumstances; though remaining open to new knowledge and opportunities that God orchestrates into our life.
We should welcome the change new knowledge creates in our life and be willing to grow daily in our understanding of God and His Creation. However, that pursuit should not comprise the totality of our desires. One of the greatest realities we should learn to accept in life, as the Teacher of this passage says: What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted.
There are undeniably some things that no matter how wise we become, we cannot change or create what is God’s to control or create. God alone is the author of creation. We are limited to acknowledging what God reveals and to comprehending what we cannot change or create. There just are some things about life that God has chosen to make crooked because He had purpose in doing so, and there are some things God chose to limit because He decided that had an eternal purpose as well. Ours is not to try and understand the mind of the Creator, but to accept the limits of our own mind.
How deep is your understanding about the things of God? To what depths to you desire to know God? Are you in pursuit of God’s will, ways, and wisdom? That is all God asks of us. God will do the rest.
Ponder the wonder of God and His creation, but do not stop living within God’s plan and purpose for you, which includes treating others as we wish to be treated. Why? They are challenged the same as us in this lifetime we share.
Words of Wisdom: Why Follow the Folly of the Fool’s Advice? Ecclesiastes 10:12-15
The words from the mouth of a wise man are gracious, but the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is folly, but the end of his speaking is evil madness. Yet the fool multiplies words. No one knows what will happen, and who can tell anyone what will happen after him? The struggles of fools weary them, for they don’t know how to go to the city. Eccl 10:12-15 (HCSB)
Confusion and chaos are the destiny of those who listen and follow a fool onto the path of his folly. Yet, so many people are susceptible to the tickling and tantalizing words the fool seems most adept employing. Most people struggle with selfishness which leads to shortcuts, ways that appear easier to get ahead in life. Even when they know better, they believe the lies and folly of the fool who paints a rosy picture of a better life.
Are the fool and his folly to blame? Or, should we brand ourselves as the fool because we have chosen to pursue the advice of the fool?
So how can we filter what we believe: the utterances of the fool versus the counsel that comes from the wise?
The Bible clearly puts it this way: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his instructions have good insight. Psalm 111:10 (HCSB) This fear infers “utmost reverence and respect” for the priority and perfection of the Lord’s guidance to mankind. It begins by committing daily to seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Within the Bible resides ample testimony to God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Our daily task is to dig these morsels of truth and apply them to our lives.
When we invest in hearing, reading, and meditating upon what God’s will, ways, and wisdom, then our ears and eyes become more sensitive to the folly of fools and their tainted advice. No matter how tantalizing their initial message sounds, the fool keeps talking to tickle ears and sway the curious to his alternative advice.
When you trust the Lord, you find his wisdom remains with you and he guides you away from the folly of the fool. However, the fool’s folly never entails the fool’s investment in his own plans. He gladly tells you how invaluable his way is to go, and challenges you to go his way, but the fool never goes with you. He is too busy swaying the ears and minds of others.
The fool’s ways are lonely ways. It is far too easy to discover that instead of a shortcut his misleading way gets us lost. Even our sacred manmade GPS system has its faults and shortcomings. and we can certainly get misdirected when we blindly rely upon our Google map or another navigation device to choose our way. Only God wisdom is absolutely reliable. He resides within us to prevent us from going down the wrong ways. We only get lost when we stop listening and trusting in the Lord’s direction.
What are you relying upon to guide through the days that lie ahead in your life? God offers his counsel to us, but he also allows us to make the ultimate choice.
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.
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.