In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. The sayings of the wise are like goads, and those from masters of collections are like firmly embedded nails. The sayings are given by one Shepherd. But beyond these, my son, be warned: there is no end to the making of many books, and much study wearies the body. When all has been heard, the conclusion of the matter is: Â fear God and keep His commands, because this [is for] all humanity. For God will bring every act to judgment, including every hidden thing, whether good or evil. Eccl 12:9-14 (HCSB)
At the conclusion of all understanding, God awaits. Why do so many people desire to read motivational books? Why do so many people pursue a regiment of devotional writings for encouragement in their lives? What benefit resides within the proverbs and parables and passages of wisdom? Will man’s attempts to interpret, comprehend, and translate God’s Word ever come to an end?
Why do I write what God has inspired me to express? Well, simply put, because maybe someone needs to hear what God has stirred in me. I confess the greatest benefactor for all that I’ve written after all these years is myself! As I have pondered the passages and prayerfully sought relevance of the wisdom treasured in God’s Word, my outlook on life has been altered. All the feedback received from others has also been a blessing to me. However, at the end of everything, the greatest reward I have received is a sense of God’s affirming smile along the way.
Am I wise? Certainly not. I am not any wiser than most people I know. Am I a good teacher? Certainly not. I am not smarter than many of the people I know. There are many wiser people than me who are definitely far better teachers. So what validation do I offer sharing what I have attempted to express after all these years? The only worthwhile validation: GOD’s inspiration and affirmation.
Have I written anything new and unique? Of course not! There most definitely is nothing new under the sun after all these thousands of years. All I can do is reveal how I interpret the wisdom written long ago and share what I sense is real and relevant in hopes we all may live in a better relationship with one another, pleasing God.
I pray that for a brief moment we all can take a step back from our break-neck fast and crowded lives and grasp a portion of God’s will, ways and wisdom, which reveals time and again that at the end of all things: God patiently waits for us! All our actions, attitudes, and words, even our very thoughts, spoken or scribbled, will record how we have lived our life before God. What will be the testament to your life? Will it comfort you on that day when you stand before God? What relationships can you claim that will generate a smile on God’s face, yet also which will cause us to writhe as well?
I pray what I have been able to share with you has helped you to ponder your life, your relationships, and most importantly, your awareness of God as your daily inspirational guide.
Just as the Bible records so many relevant stories and parables, God has inspired me to write stories that apply through the lives of the many memorable characters how to tackle tough circumstances and formidable challenges that life can throw at each of us in real life. I certainly hope you’ll enjoy investing in my stories for their hours of entertainment and inspiration too. Please go to TMBrownAuthor.com to learn more about my inspirational Southern mystery series.
Three things are stately in their stride; even four are stately in their walk: a lion, which is mightiest among beasts and doesn’t retreat before anything, a strutting rooster, a goat, and a king at the head of his army. If you have been foolish by exalting yourself, or if you’ve been scheming, put your hand over your mouth. For the churning of milk produces butter, and twisting a nose draws blood, and stirring up anger produces strife. Prov 30:29-33 (HCSB)
There is a difference between “strutting your stuff” before the victory and after the victory. In one case you are standing tall in confidence after the convincing victory has been won. The other is cocky swagger attempting to ward off any challenges that you may not be able to overcome. This passage has the imagery of the animal kingdom whereby confidence comes from experience, not from fear or intimidation.
To be “stately” means to be walk majestically in full confidence knowing who you are and what you truly are capable of achieving in life. You have been crowned the champion and are recognized and acknowledged as such because of your accomplishments. Such confidence comes also when you know you have worked hard and walk onto the field of competition with the best trainer and coach also on your side. In life, we can realize that confidence when we allow God to guide and direct our lives, because he promises us the crown of victory, if we do not give up and persevere in the struggles we face.
In stark contrast, there are those who “strut their stuff” only to pretend to be what they know deep inside they are not. They may dress the part, and may even appear intimidating, however their strut is founded upon their fear of failure; their fear of being exposed for what they really are! Their bark is loud; their threats fierce, but they will do about anything to not actually engage in the contest. They are more of the fool exalting one’s self and the schemer trying to get away with more than they are capable of actually accomplishing. However, all they manage to accomplish is to agitate and stir up others and to create strife.
A real champion walks in humble confidence because he or she has nothing to prove, and their reputation precedes them. All the challengers know who is on his or her side, and little needs to be said – no boasting, bragging; scheming or deception. A Christian anchored in God’s will, ways, and wisdom can realize the same confidence in life. As Paul said to Timothy:
But have nothing to do with irreverent and silly myths. Rather, train yourself in godliness, for, the training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact, we labor and strive for this, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of everyone, especially of those who believe. 1 Tim 4:7-10 (HCSB)
Exude the confidence of the Lion of Judah! When we have total faith, all fear is gone; our faith contributes to our confidence as we persevere through this life wearing the crown of victory which God promised. Do not be deceived by those who strut their own stuff, even within the Church. There are some who claim to be Christians; they openly boast and brag, even foolishly scheme in hopes they will be seen to be what they are not. But, strife and anger usually follow in their wake. Time adn trials reveal their fear, not their brandished faith.
Which are you? Humbly confident or foolishly arrogant? In the end, it matters only that God knows who the real victors are!
www.TMBrownAuthor.com for stories which identify with this message.
Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: the ants are not a strong people, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are not a mighty people, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; locusts have no king, yet all of them march in ranks; a lizard can be caught in your hands, yet it lives in kings’ palaces. Prov 30:24-28 (HCSB)
Around my house one can find an ant, a rabbit (cousin to the hyrax), a locust, and no doubt a lizard. Each one on their own is but an amusement or curiosity, but one fact of interest is that each is a member of a larger group that can demonstrate how they find safety and security in their numbers. All four of these creatures that God has placed upon our earth has demonstrated their propensity for survival that is more independent than that of man. Even when they are not obvious to us, they thrive because they understand how to survive in even the harshest environments.
Ants understand the importance of saving and storing food for the period of the year when they disappear deep into the ground during the extended cold days of winter. Long after man has been removed from the land, the ant will scurry across the landscape, because God created them with their instinct to survive by planning ahead and taking nothing for granted.
Hyraxes are rabbit-like rodents, actually more akin to the elephant, because they are hooved-animals that burrow in the cliffs of the Middle-Eastern world. They are common;y found in colonies of 50 or more. Yet, they understand for their security that they must find a safe place, a refuge from predators and the elements. The hyrax knows that to wander from the safety of the cliffs or their burrows means almost certain death. No matter how curious they become, they remain ever vigilant and close to the safety of their homes.
Locusts move in huge groups foraging for food. A single locust is a novelty, but when a horde of locusts appears, watch out! Unlike other groups of insects that have a queen or king, locusts travel in mutual cooperation with one another. Their survival rests solely upon their numbers working together for their common good.
Lizard are survivors. They adapt to their environment, changing colors, blending into the rocks or foiliage they call home. They are easy prey when found; harmless when caught, yet they thrive in many out of the way places; anywhere they can camoflage themselves to survive through adaptability. They attempt not to stand out or make themselves obvious to predators or their prey.
Each of these creatures is almost insignificant in of themselves but when we take the time to learn about their ways, God has sent us a message about our own survival. There is a lesson from each about how to live our lives successfully. And, the most important difference between them and us is this: We can know our Creator by seeking His will, ways, and wisdom, and discover a relationship that secures our life far safer than any man-made or natural scheme we may devise on our own.
God is our faithful Rock, Refuge, and Shield.
Why do you call Me “Lord, Lord,” and don’t do the things I say? I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears and does not act is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The river crashed against it, and immediately it collapsed. And the destruction of that house was great! Luke 6:46-49 (HCSB)
In my Shiloh Mystery series, Theo clings to time with God with uncertainty envelops him as he and his wife Liddy realize thay must expose the scandals and dark secrets haunting their new community. TMBrownAuthor.com
NEVER NEVER NEVER QUIT!
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!
For a story that represents this message, read Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories (2018) T. M. Brown
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? Consider the plight of John Priestly and Theo Phillips in Sanctuary.
A Heart for God Anchors Our Hope
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15
Does your heart have God as its anchor and the words and example of Christ Jesus inspiring you? If so, the hope of dwelling forever with God is real to you. This eternal hope removes all doubt that God cares for you and you discover his encouragement, empowerment, and equipment to face every inevitable challenge in this lifetime. And, all this is God’s gift for the asking because he wants you to experience life with him, and to witness to all who may ask for the reason of the hope you have within you.
So these questions remain: Are you prepared each day to explain the reason for the hope that resides within you? Do you know the heartfelt words that will testify of Christ’s influence on your life?
Our testimony before others is not about quoting scriptures or singing hymns of praise but sharing in your own words what it means to have God as the anchor in your heart! “Being prepared” is not intended to be a motto, but a new way of life for every born-again, child of God.
A man cannot help others unless he can learn to help himself, and having God as the anchor of one’s heart is the beginning of always being prepared to respond to others in need.
Don’t forget to check out the Shiloh Novel Series by T. M. Brown where Godly actions and attitude measure a man’s legacy, not by his possessions but his influence upon others.
The Futility of Expecting Something New
The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Absolute futility,” says the Teacher. “Absolute futility. Everything is futile.” What does a man gain for all his efforts he labors at under the sun? A generation goes and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; panting, [it returns] to its place where it rises. Gusting to the south, turning to the north, turning, turning, goes the wind, and the wind returns in its cycles. All the streams flow to the sea, yet the sea is never full. The streams are flowing to the place, and they flow there again. All things are wearisome; man is unable to speak. The eye is not satisfied by seeing or the ear filled with hearing. What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun. Can one say about anything, “Look, this is new”? It has already existed in the ages before us. There is no memory of those who came before; and of those who will come after there will also be no memory among those who follow [them]. Eccl 1:1-11 (HCSB)
We all want to be different, or at the least, uniquely special. However, though we may be unique in many ways, we all travel the road of life the well-traveled and well-marked road of life prodded by many long before us, and many more will assuredly follow us on this same road. The choice we get to make is how we navigate this road of life among all the others who share the road with us. Let us be clear; there are no new paths to choose, just enticing highways with dead-ends should any of us choose to wander off onto our ways. God declares there is but one way to follow him. All other ways are futile and paths of destruction for any of us who decide to navigate our ways.
Look at the world around us; see how God’s creation share his unique, undeniable hallmark. Even nature’s winds and waters behave specific ways, just as the stars and planets have predictably paraded in the heavens as reliable guides for millennia without deviation. The living creatures on land, in the waters, and in the sky migrate and roam the planet in their never-ending cycle of life as well.
However, God has given mankind an inquisitive mind. Unlike the rest of creation, man has the innate nature to pursue the unknown and seek the untraveled as a challenge. When we fail to check with the Creator along the way, our eyes and ears become preoccupied with the prospects of the new, the uncharted paths, we tend to perceive them as new to us, but is not nascent to God. It is a simple fact we too often ignore – nothing exists outside Creator God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
So what must we do? Is futility a trait of maturity? We mature as we realize just because something appears new to us, nothing is new to God. The moment we assume we have captured an original idea, a uniquely created revelation of some truth within our mind, we usurp the role of God in our life. Our life should be a constant pursuit of expanding our understanding the absolutes and realities that flow from our Creator by his grace and will. He alone knows what we are capable of comprehending and benefiting from for his higher purposes. Therefore, as we stumble and bumble our way along the road of life, seek daily to uncover and embrace the discoveries found through exploring God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Trust God alone, and never our selfish desires and understanding…because on our own, we can only claim to discover the dead-end that waits for our arrival! Life awaits all who trust God’s sure ways and perfect will. But God created us with a choice to choose? Do not let futility rule your life.
Words of Wisdom #217-01EC
For novels that espouse these truths, go to TMBrownAuthor.com
A good name is better than fine perfume, and the day of one’s death than the day of one’s birth. It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, since that is the end of all mankind, and the living should take it to heart. Grief is better than laughter, for when a face is sad, a heart may be glad. The heart of the wise is in a house of mourning, but the heart of fools is in a house of pleasure. Eccl 7:1-4 (HCSB)
Being told you have a lot of promise to run the race doesn’t make it so. Being told you come from a great family does guarantee victory in the race either. Until we have competed in life and put forth the effort, we have not earned the right to claim honor for our name, nor the victory for a race we have not run.
Success and fame are not something you can claim – they must be earned and are received. Success and fame arrive after the crown has been placed upon you by those you have impacted and gained favor from during the race of life because no one attains success or fame while still at the start line of the race. What accomplishment can you claim before the race has even begun? You may certainly look good in your fancy track shoes and your uniform may make you look like a winner, but it is in the running of the race that earns the accolades once you cross the finish line.
The Teacher in this passage clearly makes the point that one’s lifetime of achievements become worth remembering after the results of the race are posted, and thus far more valuable and rewarding than the applause and back-slapping during the race.
I have been a part of many funerals that have turned into a celebration of memories, a genuine testimony of a person’s positive impact on the lives of others. From another perspective, how sad would it be if no one attended your funeral? The tragedy in the Christmas Carol story is that Ebeneezer Scrooge gets to foresee that without a change in his miserly, lonely ways, no one will mourn his death. No one will miss him after he is gone except as the brunt of jokes and ridicule. What a legacy of a life wasted on selfish ambition and values that took from others and never shared with others. Scrooge became too enamored by his own idea of success and fame, he forgot to even compete in the race. He never lined up at the starting line. He chose only to compete with himself.
Consider which stage of the race you are running in this lifetime? Remember, the race of life is a marathon, not a sprint. In fact, the course to run may not be clearly marked, but there will be plenty of others running the course with you. At every crossroad during the race, your life can be affected for good or for bad by the choices you make, so choose wisely. Just remember, there’s never a shortcut to the finish line. A moment to consult God’s will, ways and wisdom is always a good investment to avoid disastrous, hasty choices. And, never trust the crowd to always choose wisely either, because most often the crowd are like sheep and follow the herd, only to learn they have blindly been drawn down the hazardous and dangerous path at the crossroads.
Run the race that is set before you, knowing someone who loves you more than anyone is standing at the finish line, calling you by name, urging you to not quit and finish strong. He knows the way because he has run the race and knows the challenges and obstacles you will face along the way. But, he also knows the reward at the end! There’s the roar of all who finished the race before you encouraging you toward the finish line. Do not give up or give in, because eternal success and fame adorn the crown waiting for you.
For those, like myself, who are still running their race, there is plenty of encouragement along the journey. You will be encouraged and rewarded by those you have helped along the way as well. Run the race set before you and seek along the way to celebrate life with friends and family until you break the finish line.
Words of Wisdom #236-20EC
To my friends and fellow booklovers,
The holiday season has crept up upon us, and the number of shopping days are whittling down faster with each setting sun. May I remind you, the days are gettin’ shorter and shorter too. Simply put, the pressure is rising to get goin’ on fillin’ your Christmas shopping list for your friends, family members, and co-workers, ‘specially them that are booklovers.
So how do you know which book is best suited as a gift this holiday season? Will you simply judge the bookcover or a couple of well-scripted blurbs meant to grab your dollar before you’ve actually checked out the book?
I’d like to help you. First, checkout the LATEST Amazon reviews for Sanctuary, a Southern flavored small-town mystery that introduces Shiloh preparing for Christmas throughout the story, while the main characters are digging up the truth about scandals and dark secrets haunting their community. However, nothing can deter Shiloh from thier busy preparations for their annual slate of “Christmas in Shiloh” festivities, including the lighting of the town’s giant Christmas tree and festive parade.
How about a taste of a “Christmas in Shiloh” portion of the story? Follow the link to a video preview of Theo and Liddy busying themselves as they prepare for their family’s arrival for Christmas in Shiloh. Click the picture of Jolly Old St. Nick and me…
Otherwise, here’s my LIMITED TIME OFFER: Send me your name and email address by commenting at the bottom of this post or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send you by return email right away a 33-page preview of Sanctuary. See for yourself if it’ll make a good Chrisitmas gift for your loved ones and friends this season, or possibly you’ll order a copy for yourself too. Hundreds have invested in Sanctuary – how about you for yourself and the book-lovers on your holiday list?
I’m wagering, between taking a minute to see what others have said about Sanctuary, and reading the opening chapters, you’ll get hooked and will order one or more copies for your bookloving family and friends, and of course your own reading pleasure.
Although I am a huge supporter of all my independent book retailers, read about Sanctuary on Amazon and peruse all the reviews.
Paperback and Kindle!
Merry Christmas! From my family to yours.
T. M. “Mike” Brown
You can also reach me on Facebook @TMBrownauthor
Remember, Testament, the sequel to Sanctuary will be out in early 2018 too! Stay connected for details on its launch date. T. M. Brown’s Shiloh stories continue…
Enjoy this short video that my wife took during my opening as I shared insights and a reading from the beginning chapter of Sanctuary. Sorry it cuts out as Theo and Liddy arrive into Shiloh, but guess you’ll need to get your own copy of Sanctuary for the rest of the story…
Please support your local independent bookstore. Walk in and ask them for a copy of Sanctuary by T. M. Brown. If they don’t have it on the shelf, they can easily order you a copy. (Yes, you can get your Kindle or paperback from Amazon too, but why not support the bricks and mortar retailer investing in their community?)
I look forward to you connecting here and/or on my Facebook author page
Until December 31st, I will be collecting the names of the reviewers of Sanctuary, and twenty-five will be chosen to receive advance reader copies of Testament, the sequel, due out early 2018.
T. M. “Mike” Brown
The greatest threat to any Sanctuary, where hope, peace and the presence of God’s embrace reside, is the pervasive cancer of sex, violence and vulgarity.
According to recent statistics, novels replete with explicit sex, violence, and vulgarity continue to thrive as the flavor of the month in book sales. However, should authors kowtow to earthy content to increase book numbers?
Good writers engage their audience so well, scenes calling for sex, violence, or vulgarity communicate through the actions and attitudes of the characters. Thus, allowing the story to unfold without explicitly necessitating every sordid detail.
I believe an author’s responsibility is not only to entertain but also engage readers, so they sense they are witnessing the story as it unfolds.
What images race through your mind that depicts anger and rage? Do you picture contorted faces and threatening gestures, or do you need to be explicitly told? Consider this scene from my book Sanctuary:
Hank gritted his teeth as the veins on his neck swelled, and his eyes glared through me. “Well, I think you’re putting your nose into places you’ve no business being.” He uncrossed his arms and pointed at my chest. “I’m warning you. Stay away from me and my wife!”
“Hank, I’m sorry if I’ve said or done anything to upset you. Have you spoken to your father?”
“This is between you and me. Stay out of our lives.” Hank’s effort to be more composed fell apart.
… Hank pressed his finger into my sternum. “This is all I’m going to say to you about Jessie or John…” He thumped his finger against my chest adding emphasis to each word. “I’m truly sorry about what happened to Jessie, but John got what he deserved. And you can quote me on that. Now back off! I’m warning you.”
Pete stepped out from the shadows, unceremoniously interrupting Hank’s exchange with me.
“Mister P, is everything okay?” Pete asked as he glared at Hank. “Hank, who’re you warning about what?”
Hank surveyed Pete and the four remaining shadows just out of the light. His finger fell to his side, but his distended veins on his neck swelled even more. “Pete, this has nothing to do with you or any of you guys!”
…Pete extended his finger just shy of Hank’s chest. “How in the blue blazes do you know it don’t involve us? If you think you can flex your muscles and intimidate one of my friends, you just made it my business.” His stern warning and unflinching stare froze Hank.
Granted a few expletives could’ve been exchanged, but did the scene work anyway?
John Grisham achieved his decades-long success capitalizing on his uncanny knack of drawing his audience’s attention upon his colorful characters and settings. Doing so, he exited scenes involving sex, violence or vulgarity using innuendo. In fact, Grisham’s Theodore Boone YA mysteries found a broad new audience without much of an adjustment in his storytelling to do so. Neither should we to reach a wider audience to sell more books.
Sanctuary, a Southern mystery novel that celebrates small-town life dealing with 21st Century challenges while trying to move beyond scandal and dark secrets holding the idyllic, time-lost town of Shiloh hostage as Theo Phillips and his wife, Liddy arrive in town to retire. For more information – TM Brown FB Author Page or CoachBrown.org
With Testament, Book 2 of my Shiloh series, currently in the hands of Deeds Publishing, I am enlisting those who have read my premier Southern mystery novel, Sanctuary, to become pre-launch ARC reviewers for the sequel. Those selected will receive a free “Advance Reader Copy” to read and offer a review prior to the official launch of Testament in early 2018.
If you have read or plan to read Sanctuary, please let me know if you’d like to be considered as an ARC Participant for Testament. Simply comment below or email your interest in becoming an eligible ARC prelaunch participant.
Please include your answers to these simple questions to be considered:
What was your takeaway from reading Sanctuary? What does the title Testament suggest about the sequel’s story? Which characters intrigue you the most and why?
What does the title Testament suggest about the sequel’s story? Which characters intrigue you the most and why?
Which characters intrigue you the most and why?
There’s still plenty of time for you to order and read a copy of Sanctuary to be included in this offer. Click the image below to order either the paperback or eBook version, or email me for a signed hardcopy to be mailed directly to you – postage free – a limited time offer.
ARC readers will be notified shortly after the Labor Day deadline for submitting your responses.
Thank you for joining the growing network of readers who wish to learn more about Shiloh with all its colorful characters confronting 21st Century challenges to their time-lost, tight-knit community.
T. M. “Mike” Brown
Whether you prefer reading the Kindle version or the paperback, Sanctuary will draw you into time-lost Shiloh. you’ll mosey alongside newcomers Theo and Liddy Phillips seeking to quietly retire near their country roots. But, God has other plans! Before they can kick back and relax on their porch, happenstance becomes God’s harbinger of past secrets, impacting their plans through unexpected providential encounters.
discover for yourself why Sanctuary has become a must read for “all audiences” this summer. Visit T. M. Brown’s Author Facebook Page. check out the latest reviews and purchase a copy for your upcoming summer vacation. quick links help you order your Kindle (free to Kindle Unlimited Subscribers) or the paperback versions. make sure to “like” the page before you leave!
For a limited time, why not request a personalized copy shipped postage-free to you. Email “Mike” at email@example.com to request your signed copy – $18.95 delivered to your mailbox.
NOTE: Special Book Club offer available for orders of 6+ books. Email for details.
Avoid Conflict at the Crossroads
Join in imitating me, brothers, and observe those who live according to the example you have in us. For I have often told you, and now say again with tears, that many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction; their god is their stomach; their glory is their shame. They are focused on earthly things, but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait… Philippians 3:17-20
Many love the promise of God’s heavenly kingdom, but few are willing to bear the burden of conflict at the crossroads along the journey. Many desire comfort, but few accept the tribulation that waits beyond the crossroads. Many companions seek to dine at God’s table, but few are unwilling to fast to be closer to him. Who willingly pursues labor and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst; often lacking shelter and proper clothing to reach the heavenly destination?
Many desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer for him – or with him. We quickly forget that God promised that through our suffering, our comfort awaits. Many acknowledge their weaknesses before they discover their God-given strengths. As a result, many find consolation in weaknesses, in insults, in catastrophes, in persecutions, and in other pressures of life?
It has been given to us on behalf of Jesus not only to take heart in his example but also to struggle and suffer for and with him. However, do many understand what that means or are they merely words we claim?
Many follow the example of Jesus into the breaking of bread, seeking fellowship with him, but few willingly strive to share the cup of his suffering. Many revere and desire God’s blessings, but few choose to share in the humiliation of suffering. Many profess to love God, so long as adversities do not happen in their lives. Many praise him, so long as they receive comfort from him. However, if God abides in us and then seems to leave us for even a little while, how many start complaining or become depressed?
How powerful can our love for God be when mixed with self-interest or self-love? Those of us who love God for who God is and do not seek some personal comfort of our own – they are the few who bless God amidst the heartache, tribulation, and anguish of real life. There is no difference in their love manifested in a state of perfect comfort and peace. However, many always seek after the blessing of comfort and thus should be called a “mercenary,” because they only reveal their association with God when they receive their expected compensation. They are lovers of themselves, not God? They only desire to profit and take advantage of the relationship.
Who is willing to serve God seeking nothing in return? Is that not what God’s love with us reveals? Is that the example we learned from Jesus? It is rare that anyone becomes so spiritually disciplined that they willingly release their “white knuckle grasp” upon their worldly treasures. Consider how hard it is to find the truly poor in spirit, those free from the world’s afflictions and influences. Such a person would surrender all their material wealth and possessions as if they were nothing. This individual would still sense in their heart that all they have would never be enough. That same person would desire all knowledge and yet realize how little they know and far removed they are from ever knowing God. They may live an exemplary virtuous life and be fervently devoted, yet lack much because such a life would recognize one most necessary thing is missing. What is that one thing? Be willing to surrender everything, forsaking even ourselves. Turn completely away from our desires. Cling to nothing out of self-love. Release our “white knuckle grasp” on what pleases us and seek first and foremost God’s will, ways, and wisdom.
When we have accomplished all that needs to be done, so far as we know, and are able, consider it as having done nothing at all. At that point, we will realize that no one will be richer, no one more powerful, and no one freer because we can freely disregard all worldly things of value, humble ourselves, and rejoice in God, who exalts us with his blessings of comfort and peace.
My daily prayer: Lord God, I seek to understand the joy and discover the contentment found in knowing you for your sake, not for my sake. I rejoice in the blessings that flow from walking alongside you each day, no matter the conflict going on around me. May all I say and do honor and praise you. I lay all my worries and concerns that will affect my family and me that I have little control over. Direct my steps according to your perfect, good and pleasing will. Lord, may my life inspire my family and others to seek you to lead their lives as well. Amen
For additional reading: 2 Corinthians 1:5; 11:27; 12:10; Philippians 1:29-30; 2:21; Luke 9:14; 17:10; 18:14; 22:41-42; Mark 10:38; Matthew 16:24-25
Different Routes, Same Destination, Not Same Destiny
Indeed, I took all this to heart and explained it all: the righteous, the wise, and their works are in God’s hands. People don’t know whether [to expect] love or hate. Everything lies ahead of them. Everything is the same for everyone: there is one fate for the righteous and the wicked, for the good and the bad, for the clean and the unclean, for the one who sacrifices and the one who does not sacrifice. As it is for the good, so it is for the sinner, as for the one who takes an oath, so for the one who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: there is one fate for everyone. In addition, the hearts of people are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live—after that they go to the dead. But there is hope for whoever is joined with all the living, since a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead don’t know anything. There is no longer a reward for them because the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate, and their envy have already disappeared, and there is no longer a portion for them in all that is done under the sun. Eccl 9:1-6 (HCSB)
In this lifetime, both love and hate will impact our lives. We cannot control when or why either will cross our path. God purposes both love and hate to shape and mold, to enlighten and guide the course of our days under the sun, because in the end of our days, no matter how we dealt with the various love and hate challenges in our life, we all share the same destination, regardless of whether we chose for good or bad motives. It matters not whether love or hate prevailed, whether we chose the route of obedience or disobedience, or we pursued the fulfillment of promises made or we turned our back and rejected them. All our unique paths through life arrive at the same destination – the same finish line. Death waits for all without exclusion.
Our days under the sun are designed by God to help us distinguish between good versus bad; love versus hate; clean versus unclean; obedience versus disobedience; truth versus ignorance; faith versus foolishness. God introduces us into this world with the same opportunities to experience, learn and mature, because God loves each of us equally and without partiality. God even perseveres through the folly of our choices that define our routes along the journey of life, because God desires all of us to experience and understand the high price for selfish behaviors.
Until we reach the finish line marking the end of our days, God encourages and inspires everyone with the same desire for us to discover the love and truth that we can embrace by seeking God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Our daily pursuit of God reveals that at the end of our days one final destination awaits, but it marks the beginning of two bifurcating destinies – one destiny is marked “dead on arrival”; the other “resurrected to the eternal life”.
We all have the right to choose between the different routes through our lifetime, and yes, we all arrive at the same destination, but God says that destination does not offer the same eternal destiny.
Words of Wisdom #245-29EC
Choices and Consequences
If You Are Going to Sin, You Might as well Be Happy
An oracle against the Valley of Vision: What’s the matter with you? Why have all of you gone up to the rooftops? The noisy city, the jubilant town, is filled with revelry. Your dead did not die by the sword; they were not killed in battle. All your rulers have fled together, captured without a bow. All your fugitives were captured together; they had fled far away. Therefore I said, “Look away from me! Let me weep bitterly! Do not try to comfort me about the destruction of my dear people.” For the Lord God of Hosts had a day of tumult, trampling, and bewilderment in the Valley of Vision; people shouting and crying to the mountains. On that day you looked to the weapons in the House of the Forest. You saw that there were many breaches in [the walls of] the city of David. You collected water from the lower pool. You counted the houses of Jerusalem so that you could tear them down to fortify the wall. You made a reservoir between the walls for the waters of the ancient pool, but you did not look to the One who made it, or consider the One who created it long ago. On that day the Lord God of Hosts called for weeping, for wailing, for shaven heads, and for the wearing of sackcloth. But look: joy and gladness, butchering of cattle, slaughtering of sheep, eating of meat, and drinking of wine. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” The Lord of Hosts has revealed [this] in my hearing: “This sin of yours will never be wiped out.” The Lord God of Hosts has spoken. Isaiah 22:1-14 (HCSB)
How many times have your heard, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”? It is most commonly heard among those floating in and out of fad diets. Once any of us resign ourselves to not being able to stay committed to eating and living healthy, we not only jump off the wagon with a whoop and holler, we push the wagon right off the nearest cliff and feast upon our true desires without and further guilt. These words of submission offer justification for our inner self to be free to do what it innately thirsts and hungers after whenever we provide no checks or constraints upon our impulsive desires. However, somewhere during the morning after our revelrous bacchanalian celebration, we begin to regret our sloven stupidity, because we recognize sooner or later the consequences of our selfish and reckless abandon do catch up to the horrible emotional choices we made.
In fact, I believe, hangovers and upset stomachs are God’s sense of humor at play within our lives. And, then there is the headache that arises about a month later when the credit card bills arrive reminding us of the literal lavish expense of our rash, unrestrained pleasure-seeking revelry. Yes, there are consequences for all our choices, long after we have forgiven ourselves for our stupidity.
A tragic point to this kind of regret and remorse with long-lasting consequences was as a teacher in high school I witnessed the results of “pregnancy pacts” going around among many of the young girls. They decided it was somehow cool to get pregnant. They bragged with each other about who they chose to be the father from among the evidently more than willing eligible young men. Neither the young girls nor the boys stopped and consulted the wisdom of their parents or other responsible adults before acting out their ill-conceived choices. Sadly, as time passed, each young girl discovered the consequences that made them the real losers in such a pact. The boys admitted that they were not ready to be a father, but openly boasted they fathered one. The girls learned they could certainly bear a child, but each struggled as a mother because each admitted they still needed her mother to console and help mother her own child. What about all the innocent people who got drawn into the pact unwillingly? What about the parents of the ill-prepared mother and father, who are forced to deal with their kid having a kid? Last but certainly not least: the innocent child? How sad such a hasty, ill-conceived idea was hatched as such a wonderful plan! Sadly, it was nothing but a “lose-lose” pact based upon the rationale of “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!” Now, years later, I wonder about all those former students and their children who are entering school somewhere themselves.
If only God’s people in Jerusalem had consulted the Lord of Creation? If only they had trusted in His plan for them and realized God would have protected them from the threats of their enemies. How different history would have been!
Because our choices have consequences, just like the people that Isaiah addressed long ago, we should always consider God’s will, ways, and wisdom before we decide to climb off the safety and security of his wagon. Undoubtedly, there will be far less heartache, headache, and stomachache in our life by remaining safely and securely onboard. How much better our choices when we can identify the real consequences!
The Lord sent a message against Jacob; it came against Israel. All the people – Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria – will know it. They will say with pride and arrogance: “The bricks have fallen, but we will rebuild with cut stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will replace them with cedars.” The Lord has raised up Rezin’s adversaries against him and stirred up his enemies. Aram from the east and Philistia from the west have consumed Israel with open mouths. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. The people did not turn to Him who struck them; they did not seek the Lord of Hosts. So the Lord cut off Israel’s head and tail, palm branch and reed in a single day. The head is the elder, the honored one; the tail is the prophet, the lying teacher. The leaders of the people mislead [them], and those they mislead are swallowed up. Therefore the Lord does not rejoice over Israel’s young men and has no compassion on its fatherless and widows; for everyone is a godless evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. For wickedness burns like a fire that consumes thorns and briers and kindles the forest thickets so that they go up in a column of smoke. The land is scorched by the wrath of the Lord of Hosts, and the people are like fuel for the fire. No one has compassion on his brother. They carve [meat] on the right, but they are [still] hungry; they have eaten on the left, but they are [still] not satisfied. Each one eats the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh is with Ephraim, and Ephraim with Manasseh; together, both are against Judah. In all this, His anger is not removed, and His hand is still raised [to strike]. Isaiah 9:8-21 (HCSB)
There may be times when everything seems to be stacked against you. You realize the trials and tribulations you are facing are the consequences for choices you made in your past. Is this the time to play the blame game and get mad at God? Is it time to run from the Lord because you fear his anger? Or, is this the time to ignore all the voices of those who are causing you to stumble as they cry out, “Run for your lives!”
If only Israel and Judah recognized the wrath of the Lord was not intended to destroy them, but to reveal their wicked, selfish ways. Their leaders distorted God’s word and tickled the ears of the people as they turned their hearts towards man-made idols erected in man-made temples. The people of Israel and Judah became impressed upon what they could build and the beauty and majesty of their creation and forgot why they built it in the first place – God. They forsook the covenant care of the Lord and forgot who had delivered them from their bondage in Egypt and delivered them into the land they were living. They forgot this same Lord as they began to settle in the land, They looked around and declared they wanted to have control over their lives. They begged God for a king like all the other kingdoms and everything went downhill from there.
Within three generations (Saul, David and Solomon) Israel rebelled within itself and divided. Their external troubles came as a result of their internal selfish strife. The northern tribes became known as Israel, and the southern tribes known as Judah.
Their selfish acts of jealousy, pride and arrogance caused the Lord to finally declare, “Enough is enough!” The Lord made it clear through the message that Isaiah declared – “our choices have consequences, and running won’t solve the problem.”
Just like the people of Israel and Judah, we too are subject to the same dangerous and destructive acts of jealousy, pride and arrogance. Those selfish acts still seek to turn our hearts from God’s will, ways, and wisdom. Thankfully, the biblical historical narrative testifies that God never quits on us. The circumstances we face in life are not God’s fault, but are the consequences of our choices that God allows to catch our attention. When we try to outrun the consequences of our choices, God finds a way to send the same message to us, “Running won’t solve the problem! Stop running! Quit listening to the crowd. Seek the salvation that can only come by living according to my will, ways and wisdom.” Discover by faith, not fear, that the Lord is working through what is going on in your life to draw you closer to him?
Are you tired of running?