Our Circle of Friends Should Spur Not Spurn 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.

Coach

Values shared in T. M. Brown’s Shiloh Mystery Series. Follow the link to learn more how entertaining stories can instill encouraging messages to ponder.

Wise Man, Mad Man, or Fool

 

 

Wise Man, Mad Man, or Fool

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–

    1. The wise man will wait and look both ways before proceeding across the street, making certain there is no traffic;
    2. 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;
    3. 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?

Coach

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.

Sanctuary Resides at the End of the Story

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary Resides at the End of the Story

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.

Coach

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 

 TMBrownAuthor.com

The Pursuit of Wisdom

The Pursuit of Wisdom
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.
 
Coach
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.
Southern Fiction with a message.

Light Never Forgets the Dark Days

Ecclesiastes 11 7Light Never Forgets the Dark Days

Light is sweet, and it is pleasing for the eyes to see the sun. For if a man should live many years, let him rejoice in them all, and let him remember the days of darkness, since they will be many. All that comes is futile. Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sights of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment. Remove sorrow from your heart and put away pain from your flesh, because youth and the prime of life are fleeting. Eccl 11:7-10 (HCSB)

Darkness by definition is the absence of light. Absolute darkness leaves no reference points to stumble around. In total darkness, only fear exists. Fear reigns because we do not know what the next step will bring. Future hope as a destination does not exist to focus our eyes.

In our darkest days there is only desolation and desperation. Yet, even in the darkest days, God provides us with sufficient light to find our way. His love is so great that even when we cower in the darkness, he seeks to draw us toward his gift of light. However, as the passage reveals, our fears of the light reveal the state of our lives. Light reveals truth. Though truth sets us free, it also reveals the shortcomings of our life.

Light is relative. In God’s presence there is absolute light; no darkness exists. In God’s presence man risks entering the “shekinah” glory of God – God’s light of truth.It not only reveals but also cleanses away what is not pure. Man must be exposed to God’s radiant light to purify him, dispelling all remnants of darkness. However, our memory of those dark days draws us closer to the light!

Hope, faith and love thrive in the light, whereas fear, desolation, and desperation rooted in darkness are cast away. From isolation and separation we discover fellowship and lordship. In pure light, we focus upon the “good” and discover the “truth.” Both are a gift of God as we leave behind the dark days, and pursue the light.

One final thought, once we value light, we become light to those left in the darkness. It is for this purpose God drawed us out of the darkness. His radiant light is meant to be shared, never hoarded as if given exclusively. It is a gift to share and is inexhaustible sharing with others.

Coach

Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

My Shiloh stories contain these themes in both Sanctuary, A Legacy of Memories and Testament, An Unexpected Return.

For Southern Fiction with a message, may I suggest.

Sanctuary Has a Pervasive 21st Century Enemy

Premier Southern mystery in the Shiloh series of stories by T. M. 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

The Source of My Inspiration – Family!

When the Enemy Comes

Will you flee or fight?
Will you flee or fight?

When the Enemy Comes

Observe this: The Lord God of Hosts is about to remove from Jerusalem and from Judah every kind of security: the entire supply of bread and water, the hero and warrior, the judge and prophet, the fortune-teller and elder, the commander of 50 and the dignitary, the counselor, cunning magician, and necromancer. “I will make youths their leaders, and the unstable will govern them.” The people will oppress one another, man against man, neighbor against neighbor; the youth will act arrogantly toward the elder, and the worthless toward the honorable. A man will even seize his brother in his father’s house, [saying:] “You have a cloak – you be our leader! This heap of rubble will be under your control.” On that day he will cry out, saying: “I’m not a healer. I don’t even have food or clothing in my house. Don’t make me the leader of the people!”For Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah has fallen because they have spoken and acted against the Lord, defying His glorious presence. The look on their faces testifies against them, and like Sodom, they flaunt their sin. They do not conceal it. Woe to them! For they have brought evil on themselves. Isaiah 3:1-9 (HCSB)

If we claim to be among God’s chosen people, how would we respond if “that day” was upon us today? Would we trust in God or panic because of our lack of readiness?

As an American, we may declare that we live in God’s country and are kept safe and secure, and we are free from any threat of the enemy invading our sacred land. However, what if our land fell into the enemies’ hands and all our leaders were exiled. Who would lead? Who would stand and face of the enemy? Would we still trust God, and believe he would bring stability again to our nation?

If we truly are “One Nation Under God,” would there ever be a shortage of leaders who God could draw upon to lead His people? Are we somehow more secure than the Israelites and the people in Jerusalem? Let us consider what Isaiah witnessed and prophesied, the northern tribes of Israel were driven into exile and ultimately extinction from the Promised Land, and the southern tribe of Judah, along with Jerusalem, were dismantled and likewise exiled. When we claim to be God’s people but the claim rests upon who we were, not who we are, we stand on shaky ground. Just as Jesus warned those in Jerusalem who once again fell victim to a false belief, there will be many who will cry out “Lord, Lord!” But, the Lord will say: “Go away, I never knew you!” Are we as a nation headed towards the same rejection?

Acquaintances and friends are strange bedfellows.The difference between an acquaintance and a friend lies in the depth of the relationship. An acquaintance knows of you and might even hangout with you from time to time when it suits their purpose, but a friend stands with you because they know you and genuinely care for you. God sorts us out the same way, plenty of people claim to know of God, but far less truly live as a friend of God, much less child of God.

When the enemy arrives at the door, acquaintances scatter to preserve their own lives, but true friends stand their ground to defend and protect one another. The Lord wants his people to be friends with each other and with him.

When the enemy knocks what will your response reveal? Will you reveal your superficial acquaintance with God and flee, or stand your ground trusting in your friendship with God and face the enemy? God’s Nation under his care nurtures genuine friendships that care for one another and for their common friendship with God.

Will we stand as a Nation Under God or fall into exile screaming, “Lord. Lord!”

Coach