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!
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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.
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?